This book is organized into four different sections; stews for all seasons, worldly casseroles, roasting pan complete, and big summer salads and grilled platters. The emphasis of the cookbook is to have a whole dinner in one dish, though there are dessert recipes included as well. While I love to cook, I am absolutely terrible at timing my meals. By this I mean that I cannot estimate how long certain dishes are going to take to cook. I end up with the main dish ready to go and the sides still in progress. I have been known to pull out roasted sweet potatoes to serve alongside dessert. So, a book like this immediately relieves the pressure. I can plan a basic one-dish meal and when that one-dish is done, we can eat!...just don’t ask me when that will be.
I have tried the Spicy Chicken Enchiladas Verde recipe on page 143 and the recipe was so good that I have made it three times in the past two weeks. The best part about it was how easy and fast it was. I am also really excited to try the Chicken Biryani American-style, and the One-pot Penne with turkey-feta meatballs. But the recipe that I am most excited to try is the Paella (pictured on the cover). Paella is notoriously complex to make and is a little more work intensive in general so it will be a recipe that I attempt on a day when I have more time to commit to it. But if it is anything like the other recipes in the book it should be worth it.
Did you know that 99% of insects are “harmless to human life and endeavors?” Some are even beneficial to a garden, though you wouldn’t know it with all of the push for insecticides. Well, this book talks about some of those beneficial insects. It also has a little section dedicated to these little guys. There are sketches as well as a little informational blurb about these “beneficials.” Also, there is quite a large section in the book that outlines which plants attract beneficial insects and little tips for how to grow them.
There is also a nice little section which I enjoyed on how to plant a hedgerow in order to attract birds and wildlife. It is nice to think about gardening not only as a useful endeavor, but also as a way to provide shelter for wildlife. Really this book is so helpful that I do not want to return it. I will definitely be putting it back on hold so that I can read it again and glean more information from it.
Chiger’s story demonstrates how incredibly trying times, highlight individuals’ strengths and weaknesses. The “good” people are described as being absolutely good, and “bad” people are equally bad. One of the sewer workers, Leopold Socha who found himself responsible for keeping this group alive by bringing them food and supplies, is spoken of very highly. He is always described as being fair and good despite his past in petty crime and multiple times, Chiger describes him as an angel. Likewise, Chiger's father is described as an amazing role model who was not only gentle and kind, but also incredibly smart. He crafted multiple secret hiding places for his family and managed to become the obsession of the Nazi leader in charge of Lvov. This obsession is depicted as a strange cat and mouse game, with Chiger’s father continually outsmarting this dangerous (and deranged) man. He seemed to be a perfect father who always knows just what he needs to do to keep his family safe. These two men were no doubt amazing people, but the extreme circumstances they were placed in, forced them to rely on their strengths, bringing them to the forefront and obscuring any faults that they had.
Like all books on this topic, there were hard to read moments, but it was a very worthwhile read. I would not call it entertaining, but it was informative and overall, is an amazing story. Also, if you want to see a film based on the events in this book, you should check out In Darkness.
My only concern is that I know that there are entire books written on any one topic contained in The Backyard Homestead. However, maybe it is good to have a broad overview to get started. Otherwise I might become paralyzed with information. One section of this book that I was able to apply right away was the small section on pruning. It is very strait forward and the pictures that the book includes are very helpful.
I loved just looking through the book in the winter months and thinking about all of the possibilities. It touches on such topics as the different varieties of chickens/goats/etc… how to tap a maple tree, and many other little tips for handling a vegetable garden. I have definitely checked this book out more than once, and will most likely buy it so that I can mark it up and reference it whenever I want to. It is definitely geared toward the beginner gardener so all those master gardeners out there might not find it very helpful.
Sections of this book seem to fall into two categories. Hard to read (cock fights and domestic abuse) and hilarious, but you feel slightly guilty for laughing (story about children being encouraged shoplift).
The book begins on a humorous note and highlights some funny memories, but the dark aspects of Walsh’s childhood soon overshadow the humor. His account of sexual abuse as well as the physical violence his father subjects him to, is sometimes a bit much to read about. These are real issues that need to be addressed, but it is difficult to think of a solution when many of these issues stem from how a specific group identifies itself and is wrapped up in the group’s cultural pride. There is also the issue of Walsh’s sexual identity and how that conflicted with the culture he was surrounded by, thus causing him tremendous pain (emotionally, psychologically, and physically).
While this book left much to be desired, it was a worthwhile read. It challenged certain assumptions and brought issues to my attention that I would not have thought of otherwise. Just because something is not comfortable, does not mean it should be avoided.