Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Good Northwest Reads: Closer to the Ground

While I usually write about everyday adventures here in the Pacific Northwest or  occasional essays or recipes, this is my first book review. Why?

I just love this book because it so authentically evokes the taste and feel of the  Northwest, and I suggest anyone living here (or anywhere) and raising kids (or not) read it. Beyond its Northwest ethos, the themes of family and respect for the environment are universal and applicable anywhere.

While I've been doing battle for a few weeks with a nasty bug and not getting out much,  I was vicariously transported to the forests, tide flats, and waters of the Puget Sound region and western Washington through this lovely and joyful book. 

In his first book Closer to the Ground, Bainbridge Island author Dylan Tomine writes sweetly and vividly about foraging, gardening, fishing, shrimping, crabbing, clamming, cutting wood, and more here in western Washington with his family, including his two small children. And amazing kids they are, eager and excited to join their dad on outings for wild edibles.

Organized by the seasons, Tomine writes about the different offerings of the sea and forests throughout the year.  From a wet and chilly weekend on the Washington coast with a group of friends harvesting razor clams, to fishing for salmon on the Sound near his Bainbridge home or in the Columbia River, to scanning for chanterelle mushrooms on the way to the grocery store, I thoroughly enjoyed going along for the ride.

In fact, I was sad to have to take leave of the Tomine family when I finished the book. The author takes you into the woods and on the sea and then writes enticingly about preparing and enjoying the fruit of their labors with family and friends.  

"Candace has a big crab pot loaded with clams, butter, garlic, white wine, and parsley. A couple of big crusty loaves from the bakery up in Port Townsend are warming in the oven. Stacy's tossing winter greens with dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, and vinaigrette...Stacy yells 'Soup's on' and the feast begins. The crisp oysters burst with the briny flavor of the sea...A rich, citrusy amber ale from 7 Seas Brewing down in Gig Harbor quenches thirst and complements the food. We are getting down to some serious eating now."

Can I just be there for their next party?

Puget Sound mussels

Here's a family who, although not foraging for subsistence and survival, chooses to involve their children in food gathering and production.  

"For us," writes Tomine "I think it's more about living and raising our children in a way that keeps us in touch with our surroundings." 

Edible lobster mushroom


And kudos to the author for working in messages of concern for and protection of the environment as well as meaningful ties with family, friends, and community.  In this day of sedentary kids glued to their iPhones and games, I'm heartened for the future by Tomine's children Skyla and Weston, who are getting a solid grounding in respect and enthusiasm for the natural world, outdoor pursuits, and healthy food.

Thank you for this beautiful book Mr. Tomine!

Where to Buy
For starters, if you're in the Seattle area, how about making a trip to Bainbridge Island to pick up this book at the author's home community at Eagle Harbor Books. Or buy online via their website


8 comments:

Ed said...

Awesome suggestion! I think I will need to add this to my local book collection....

vwin said...

Great review for a great book. Eagle Harbor Books is having a local author holiday event this Thursday, Dec. 6th, at 7:30, and Dylan will be there (along with Greg Atkinson, Claire Dederer, Jack Prelutsky, Carol Cassella, Bruce Barcott, Susan Wiggs, and more) to sign books and talk about some of his own holiday gift suggestions. Seattle residents can take the ferry over, have a light supper, meet the authors, and catch the 8:55 back home!

jill said...

Thanks for the info on the event at Eagle Harbor Books! If I'm feeling better I would love to come....wish me a speedy recovery :)

JT said...

Very cool!

April De Nonno said...

Nice review, Jill. Book sounds fabulous. A sure thing for xmas for my mom. Cheers :)

anne said...


sounds lovely, this could have been 100+ years ago except for the crusty bread from the bakery and I don't think the Suquamish had wine.
They were living somewhat like their predecessors.

Anonymous said...

thanks so much for the review. I am requesting this book be added to the Orcas Island Library collection..
Hope you have beat that nasty flu bug, the sinusitis on top of that is just wrong!
my sympathies,
Carol O

Anonymous said...

So bought the book Closer to the Ground on your recommendation- stellar read. It's
beautifully written, heartfelt and fabulous. And it kind of killed saturday; laundry can
alway wait, the pleasure of the time to read a wonderful book front to back in one
sitting can't. My rural and, what I now understand to be, quite poor grandparents and
parents were hard at it in all seasons stocking up whatever was wild in season. Eating
well and in season certainly takes the edge off the shortage of cash.