In Field Days: A Year of Farming, Eating, and Drinking in California
(UC Press, $24.95), Sonoma State professor Jonah Raskin writes about more than just day-to-day operations at family-run, organic Oak Hill Farm alongside Mexican immigrants, an Irish mechanic, and a French beekeeper. Raskin also describes the growth and history of the organic movement, touching on Jack London (who named Sonoma the Valley of the Moon), Luther Burbank, Robert Rodale, Adelle Davis, Wendell Berry, and even Rudolf Steiner, the mystical German father of biodynamics. Other inhabitants and chroniclers of Sonoma, including M. F. K. Fisher, Alice Waters, Slow Food's Carlo Petrini, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Michael Pollan, show up -- dare we say organically? The author also shows us the local (and international) problems of development, global warming, and honeybee colony collapse, as well as the organic agribusiness that fuels Whole Foods. Though Raskin is not a particularly lyrical writer, you may find yourself putting down the book to prepare a meal like the one he describes on page 167: "three ears of freshly picked corn with butter and black pepper and sliced tomatoes with vinegar and DaVero olive oil ... I stopped and looked at the ear of corn in my hands. I thought of where it was grown; I remembered the day it was picked, and then I took another bite and chewed slowly. It was delicious." When Raskin quotes Wendell Berry's "eating is an agricultural act," it doesn't take long to realize that writing can be one, also.