Contest: Win a Copy of Wisdom of the Last Farmer by David Mas Masumoto


This month’s contest prize is a copy of author, farmer, and slow food activist David Mas Masumoto‘s latest book Wisdom of the Last Farmer: Harvesting Legacies from the Land. (Free Press/Simon and Schuster, 288 pages, Hardcover, August 2009, ISBN 978-1-4165-9930-2)

David Mas Masumoto is the award-winning author of Epitaph for a Peach and other books, popular columnist, spokesperson for organic farming, and a fellow at The Kellogg Foundation. A third-generation farmer, he grows much praised certified organic peaches, nectarines, and grapes on his family’s eighty-acre California farm. Masumoto began writing stories about his family in journal form after his father suffered a massive stroke in 1997 and the family struggled to nurse him back to health. The result was Wisdom of the Last Farmer.

I’ve enjoyed reading the first few chapters of this touching memoir, it really strikes me as a touching, highly personal story about a man’s love for his father and family’s love for their land—and the food they produce. This is a book about how a dedication to farming can produce tremendous results—an crops in high demand among foodies long before terms like “organic” or “local” were trendy.

Hailed by The New York Times as “A poet of farming” and the Los Angeles Times as the “Rockstar Farmer” who “uses his farm as Thoreau did his Walden Pond,” David Mas Masumoto book is a series of stories weaved together about his family, farming, life and death. His beautiful prose takes the form of a memoir, but feels more like a wise sage passing along some much needed guidance. There are lessons in this book.

In order to win this book, tell us in as few words as possible, a compelling story about your fondest family food memories. Include a recipe if possible! We’ll award the book to our favourite on September 30th. Feel free to post something on Twitter as well and include our hashtag #foodists.

Good luck!


5 Responses to “Contest: Win a Copy of Wisdom of the Last Farmer by David Mas Masumoto”

  1. Posted on September 2nd, 2009

    My most vivid and fond food memory with my family has my Japanese mother in her kitchen with a grid of about 40 gyoza or wonton skins laid out before her on the counter. My 10-year-old sister and I (then 12) would take her special mixture of ground pork, ginger and onions – minus some other ingredients – and roll it into timbit-sized balls, place them in the middle of the skins, wet the skin’s edges with some water to make it sticky and then fold the skins into little dumplings that could easily pass as pale fortune cookies. The four of us would sit around the table and pop them in our mouths for the next hour, occasionally pausing to dunk the gyoza in a dip we mixed right there at the table of white vinegar, sesame oil and soy sauce.

    The simplicity of dish, the warmth of the fresh ginger and the ease in which you could grab them with chopsticks made this dish irresistable to me and they still makes my knees weak. As for the recipe? You’ll have to get that out of my mom, but it’s not easy. If you do find out, can you give me a shout? I’m still trying myself…

  2. Posted on September 4th, 2009

    As far back as I can remember my Grandpa Horn (my Moms Dad) had no teeth. This made for interesting meals at his house. The one recipe that I fondly remember watching him make was “Chicken Mamaliga”. It was a cornmeal porridge with diced dill mixed in and a mix of chicken parts that were submerged into it. This was cooked in the oven until the chicken was falling off the bone. A a little boy it was very exciting to watch because he included his (my Grandfathers) favorite parts, the neck, the feet, and the fatty butt triangle that he referred to as the Kudu … I’m not sure of the spelling. When he would eat these parts, we kids would all smile and scream Eeeww! Which would bring a toothless smile to his face and a hearty laugh which would warm our hearts … I wish now that I’m much older that I could tell him that I still think about him often …

  3. Posted on October 1st, 2009

    What is it about goat balls this week?

    Earlier this week, an old friend of mine posted a bunch of ancient band promo pictures, mostly from his band, on FaceBook. This was circa 1976, and yes, it’s true, in those dark days there were many crimes against fashion committed. One of the pictures featured a great guy I used to play with by the name of Vince Nardulli. Vince passed away tragically in a tugboat accident many years back, but he is remembered fondly by all who knew him. A great singer and front man, he was also known for two very prominent physical attributes: he had a truly immense afro, and also perhaps the largest scrotum known to man. His nickname in the band? “Goat Balls”.

    You might well ask, “How do you know this?”. I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’m a musician, and I’ve spent a lot of time on the road. When guys in bands get on the road, it can get a little stifling. Travel. Play show. Eat bad food. Repeat as necessary. Sometimes you need to blow off a little steam. According to my friend Joe Alvaro, who played bass in the band “Zingo”, Vince had a very special way of blowing off steam that he had been known to do on at least two documented occasions.

    After a gig, when the usual bevy of party girls and hangers-on had found their way back to the band’s hotel for the inevitable after party, Vince would wait for an opportune moment to sneak into the bathroom armed with a roll of duct tape, a section of newspaper, and a lighter. While all the other guys in the band were furiously trying to get lucky, and the local boys were trying their best to pick up the surplus girls, much like remoras looking for edible crumbs around a shark’s mouth, Vince would get busy in the bathroom. He would remove all of his clothes, and then carefully fold his enormous scrotum up over his unit, covering it completely. Using the duct tape, he would judiciously apply a strip of tape so that the monster sac was then attached to his belly, thus completely obscuring Mr. Johnson from sight. The whole package bore a stunning resemblance to processed poultry skin, and therefore earned the name “The Cornish Game Hen”.

    The public unveiling of “The Cornish Game Hen” to stunned partygoers was only phase one of the operation. Phase two is best related in a private message, but suffice to say that it was a spectacle of dance that even now is only spoken of in hushed tones of awe by those who have seen it and lived to tell the tale. Years later, I actually played with Vince in a band called the Electric Lunch Orchestra. When I mentioned the Cornish Game Hen and the accompanying sacred dance, he blushed a little. He never denied it. I miss Vince.

    Later this week, our new friend Gee, who is also on FaceBook, proposed that despite my porky faux pas of the previous week, we return to his friend Anwar’s farm in order to film a special dish, “Mutton Dum Biryani”. Sajna, who is Anwar’s charming wife, is an expert at making this very special dish, She was kind enough to let us into her kitchen to document this amazing recipe. It takes about 4 or 5 hours to prepare, and while not technically complicated, it is a great example of what the Italians call “insaporire”, which loosely translated means “flavour” or “taste”. It really means so much more than that. It means giving each ingredient the proper time and attention it needs when cooking in order to develop the maximum flavour. Sajna gave us a master class over the course of almost 5 hours.

    First of all, you need to have mutton. About three kilos worth to feed the 25 people that had be invited for lunch that day. Mutton is a mature lamb or young sheep in European and North American parlance. In India, mutton means goat. Yes, I’m talking about those all-pervasive, pellet pooping, poster-eating, city dwelling horny critters. Notice I am no longer talking about the band here. Sajna had a few kilos of goat meat on the bone already cut up waiting to be cooked in the pressure cooker.

    As Laurel asked questions and I manned the camera and recording gear, Sajna took this huge plate of mutton and slid nearly all of it into the pressure cooker, along with some spices and a little yoghurt. I did say nearly all of it, right? Bits of liver, kidney, and heart were tossed into the pot. There were two somewhat suspect chunks left on the plate. “Why aren’t you putting that part in? What is that?”, Laurel asked innocently. Sajna did not answer immediately. I began to have my suspicions, but I kept them to myself, as I involuntarily crossed my legs. Sajna sort of blushed a little and pointed in a southerly direction. She silently mouthed the word “Balls”. “You mean testicles?”, Laurel asked. Sajna quickly nodded and pushed the plate aside and locked the pressure cooker up tight. “Goat Balls”, I thought to myself. Twice in one week.

    Sajna prepared the masala, or spice mixture, for the biryani by sauteing onions for nearly an hour over low heat until they were meltingly soft. Then she added large amounts of garlic, ginger, green chili, tomatoes, and spices. Each ingredient was cooked for at least 20 minutes before the next one as added. The cooked goat meat was finally added and left to simmer, along with cilantro and mint.

    Outside, a fire was lit with coconut shells and wood, and a massive volume of basmati rice was cooked and then drained into a wicker basket. In a large pot, the goat masala was put in, and then a layer of rice was placed on top. Then came some crispy fried onions, raisins, and cashews. More rice, then onions and nuts again. A splash of rosewater and then nearly a pint of ghee, or clarified butter was drizzled over the top. Then came the “Dum” part. The dum is a simple flour and water dough that is applied to the lip of the pot, so that when the lid is placed on it, there is a very complete seal created. No moisture or steam can escape. The huge pot was then placed on the fire, and some coals from the fire were heaped on the metal lid, effectively forming an oven. The whole mixture was left like this for about an hour, until the coals died completely down.

    Guests arrived, drinks were poured, children played, and spirits were high as everyone anticipated the arrival of the biryani. And with good reason. It was truly amazing. Rich and flavourful, the meat just melted off the bone. Laurel and I agreed that this was the finest biryani either of us had ever eaten. It was a real thrill to document the whole recipe from start to finish, and a real pleasure to watch a true master at work. Sajna made cooking for 25 people look easy.

    Good thing 27 people didn’t show up…

  4. Posted on October 12th, 2009

    Thanks to the few who shared their memories with us. Unfortunately we didn’t get an overwhelming response this time, or any recipes as hoped.

    As much as we appreciate Rob Bailey’s contribution, we had asked for “family memories in as few words as possible”, so the winner of a copy of David Mas Masumoto’s book Wisdom of the Last Farmer goes to Gen Handley for account of her Japanese mother’s gyoza.

    Congratulations Gen.

  5. Posted on March 6th, 2012

    Hey Rob Bailey
    I too knew your great friend Vince,and at the time
    was the lead singer for the Band Zingo
    I was shocked to hear of his passing

    Please get a hold of me

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