Arguments for the Tart, Tender, and Unruly (with recipes).
Inspired by twenty-six fruits, the essayist, poet, and pie lady Kate Lebo expertly blends natural, culinary, medical, and personal history.
A is for aronia, berry member of the apple...Read More
A is for aronia, berry member of the apple family, clothes-stainer, superfruit with reputed healing power. D is for durian, endowed with a dramatic rind and a shifting odor - peaches, old garlic. M is for medlar, name-checked by Shakespeare for its crude shape, beloved by gardeners for its flowers. Q is for quince, which, when fresh, gives off the scent of "roses and citrus and rich women's perfume," but if eaten raw is so astringent it wicks the juice from one's mouth.
In a work of unique invention, these and other difficult fruits serve as the central ingredients of twenty-six lyrical essays (with recipes). What makes a fruit difficult? Its cultivation, its harvest, its preparation, the brevity of its moment for ripeness, its tendency toward rot or poison, the way it might overrun your garden. Here, these fruits will take you on unexpected turns and give sideways insights into relationships, self-care, land stewardship, medical and botanical history, and so much more. What if the primary way you show love is through baking, but your partner suffers from celiac disease? Why leave in the pits for Willa Cather's plum jam? How can we rely on bodies as fragile as the fruits that nourish them?
Kate Lebo's unquenchable curiosity promises adventure: intimate, sensuous, ranging, bitter, challenging, rotten, ripe. After reading The Book of Difficult Fruit, you will never think of sweetness the same way again.
Kate Lebo is the author of the cookbook Pie School and the poetry chapbook Seven Prayers to Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and is the coeditor, with Samuel Ligon, of Pie & Whiskey: Writers Under the Influence of Butter & Booze. Her essay about listening through hearing loss, "The Loudproof Room," originally appeared in New England Review and was anthologized in The Best American Essays 2015. She lives in Spokane, Washington, where she is an apprentice cheesemaker to Lora Lea Misterly of Quillisascut Farm.
"[A] glorious mash-up of memoir, love note, and cookbook. . . Every sentence is as sensuous as the first bite into a cold, juicy plum." - Hillary Kelly, Vulture
"[A] dazzling, thorny new essay collection." - Samin Nosrat, The New York Times
"Darkly funny... often fascinating, sometimes juicy, rarely dry... The Book of Difficult Fruit is brimming with obscure knowledge that's going to loom over every gin martini I drink for the next decade, and there are fantastic recipes too... Delicious and meaningful." - Alex Beggs, The New York Times Book Review
"A collection of personal essays about family, illness and nature, each linked to a different fruit that--over the years, warranted or otherwise--has developed something of a bad reputation. It is a beautiful read." - Stuart Heritage, The Guardian
"[A] richly researched food history, gentle memoir and left-field recipe book... It would be a shame if this book didn't attract readers without an existing curiosity in the subject, because Lebo brings as generous an eye to its broader topics--relationships, reproductive health, illness and death--as she does her fruits and their histories and uses, their beauty and their terror." - Sophie Morris, i newspaper
"A zingy blend of natural, culinary and personal history... A prickly, piquant delight." - Hephzibah Anderson, The Observer
"Delightfully unexpected.... Eloquent, well-researched, and thoughtfully conceived and organized, this genre-defying book will appeal to foodies as well as those who appreciate both fine writing and the pleasures of domestic arts and crafts. A one-of-a-kind reading experience." - Kirkus Reviews
"Witty.... Unusual and piquant, this... will hit the spot with readers hungry for something a little different." - Publishers Weekly
"Intriguing [and] wonder-filled. Lovers of food and nature writing will appreciate Lebo's rangy, researched ode to wildness." - Booklist
"Lebo effectively uses fruit as a starting point for exploring raw feelings and offering wry observations about her life, friends, and family. Perhaps the most moving chapters are where Lebo turns inward, focusing on her hopes and dreams and how reflecting on the tastes and textures of various fruits has inspired her to write. . .A genre-blending work that will intrigue readers of literary nonfiction, personal essays, or food history." - Library Journal
"A glorious blend of cookbook, memoir, and love notes." - The Helm
"I loved this sage and sensuous book, and was enraptured by its curious tour through a Wunderkammer of plants, history, and personal narrative. Kate Lebo's introspection and intelligence gleam on every page as she looks inward and outward through these colorful lenses. Her essays are ripe with illumination, enchantment, and a dash of the haunted." - Melissa Febos, author of Girlhood
"With rich, puckery prose, Kate Lebo takes us on an engaging journey into her culinary world and offers surprisingly complex stories of neglected fruits that need a little more coaxing than your average blueberry. Here, too, are uncommon recipes for treats like faceclock coffee, gooseberry cheese, juniper bitters, and thimbleberry kvass. And Lebo even generously includes the Osage orange. Its best use? Ha! Read this book and find out." - Erik Larson, author of The Splendid and the Vile