The Dirty Life leaves you hungry for more

I’m not a big fan of New York writers who consider America’s heartland to be a vast wasteland of the Great Unwashed, and (perhaps ironically) I’m not a big fan of farming.

ThedirtylifeBut I thoroughly enjoyed Kristin Kimball’s The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love, a memoir of her transition from uptown girl to country gal who found love in an organic farmer and his farm.

My mother recommended this book for, I’m guessing, two reasons. Kimball has a nice way with words, and she puts her poetry to work about a subject I would normally consider, well, dirty (Mom grew up on a farm that some might have considered, um, dirty, too). Kimball successfully connects farming to food, and she makes both sound delicious (except for the description of blood soup — even she couldn’t make that sound edible).

Take her description of milk, which most people would probably describe as “white” and maybe “sweet” (or “washes down cookies well”). I read her passage to my milk-loving stepson who swears he can taste the difference between brands of milk (which amazes me). It begins like this: “Once you’re used to farm milk, commercial milk has a lot of drawbacks” and continues for several pages about pasteurization, breeding and feed, making a powerful case for nuances in flavor between types, brands and time of year.

Kimball has two things going for her: Her fiancé is a unique character (he’s got some anti-capitalist ideas and ironclad work ethic), and she molds her story arch around the first year on the farm, building up to their wedding.

In the end, I was impressed with her description of the differences in culture between city folk and country folk without insulting either one. Her farm animals became characters (I like that). And she made me hungry. If not for the dirty life, at least for farm-fresh vegetables.


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