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Barolo (At Table)by Matthew Gavin Frank
Synopses & Reviews
After eight months in his childhood home helping his mother through her bout with cancer, Matthew Frank and his wife were themselves desperate for comfort. They found sanctuary in the most unlikely place—amid a collection of outcasts and eccentrics on a plot of land miles outside their comfort zone: a “mostly medical” marijuana farm in California.
Pot Farm details the strange, sublime, and sometimes dangerous goings-on at Weckman Farm, a place with hidden politics and social hierarchies, populated by recovering drug addicts, alternative healers, pseudo-hippie kids, and medical marijuana users looking to give back. There is also Lady Wanda, the massive, elusive, wealthy, and heavily armed businesswoman who owns the farm and runs it from beneath a housedress and a hat of peacock feathers. Frank explores the various roles that allow this industry to work—from field pickers to tractor drivers, cooks to yoga instructors, managers to snipers, illegal immigrants to legal revisionists, and the delivery crew to the hospice workers on the other end. His book also looks at the blurry legislation regulating the marijuana industry as well as the day-to-day logistics of running such an operation and all the relationships that brings into play.
Through firsthand observations and experiences (some influenced by the farms cash crop), interviews, and research, Pot Farm exposes a thriving but unsung faction of contemporary American culture.
After a childhood of microwaved meat and saturated fat, Matthew Gavin Frank got serious about food. His “research” ultimately led him to Barolo, Italy (pop. 646), where, living out of a tent in the garden of a local farmhouse, he resolved to learn about Italian food from the ground up. Barolo is Franks account of those six months.
At once an intimate travelogue and a memoir of a culinary education, the book details the adventures of a not-so-innocent abroad in Barolo, a region known for its food and wine (also called Barolo). Upon arrival, Frank began picking wine grapes for famed vintner Luciano Sandrone. He tells how, between lessons in the art of the grape harvest, he discovered, explored, and savored the gustatory riches of Piemontese Italy. Along the way we meet the regions families and the many eccentric vintners, butchers, bakers, and restaurateurs who call Barolo home. Rich with details of real Italian small-town life, local foodstuffs, strange markets, and a circuslike atmosphere, Franks story also offers a wealth of historical and culinary information, moments of flamboyance, and musings on foreign travel (and its many alien seductions), all filtered through food and wine.
About the Author
Matthew Gavin Frank worked for over fifteen years in the food and restaurant industry in positions ranging from dishwasher to sous-chef, server to sommelier, menu consultant to catering-business owner, farmhand to janitor. An assistant professor of creative writing at Northern Michigan University, he has published essays in Gastronomica, Creative Nonfiction, and Best Food Writing 2006 and is the author of Pot Farm (Nebraska, 2012).
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