“I had seen too many people on drugs — their personalities hardly recognizable, their voices slurred, their eyes glazed. I resented drugs. Drugs concealed who people were. I didn’t want drugs concealing what my crops were. And what are farm chemicals but drugs by a different name?”
That’s the beginning of Farmer John’s Cookbook: The Real Dirt on Vegetables: Seasonal Recipes and Stories from a Community Supported Farm, by Boone County’s walking collection of ironies, biodynamic farmer John Peterson. Its generous format encompasses more than 200 recipes (organized by vegetable and season) in more than 300 pages, and it’s one of the few cookbooks you can enjoy reading when you’re not hungry.
Which is good, because Peterson himself acknowledges being more interested in the stories, the reflections, and the connections between the soil and your dinner plate than in the recipes themselves. It was a team effort, and it’s by turns personal, mystical, and practical. Slick-paper photos of his community-supported farm, Angelic Organics, are scattered among the rough workaday pages with identification charts and tips and recipes for everything from asparagus to winter squash.
Ideally you’d view the Farmer John movie or check out the Reader‘s 1994 (May 13) and 2006 (January 20) coverage first, so as to know where this guy is coming from. He’s a farmer and an artist; a steadfast local whose neighbors almost ran him out of town; a Midwestern original who revitalizes himself with periodic visits to Mexico; and a businessman who believes, with Rudolf Steiner, that “the root primarily nourishes the head particularly; the middle of the plant, stem and leaves, primarily nourishes the chest particularly; and fruit nourishes the lower body.”
OK, well, maybe you don’t need to know. The proof is in the eating.