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The characters are well drawn and memorable. First love and self discovery, as well as a search for one's place in the world are themes worthy of exploration.
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Wild berries of merit are divided into three sections and those found in the first two chapters are described in a basic layout with: Introduction, Description & Locality, Edibility & Recipes, Etymology, History & Folklore plus Reputed Medical Virtues. It also goes through various common names given to many wild berries. All of these details, which include some idea for bloom season and ripening season, are mostly provided for general idea, kept very basic. With even less information highlighted in the following chapter aptly labeled Minor Berries. Before the book ends it also furnishes a brief notation of fifteen poisonous berries, in common and Latin names but simply says to avoid them, giving no visual description beyond the four pictures, or any other useful clarifications for awareness. So the book is not very consistent with providing adequate information and a few times I had questions come to mind and where not being answered as I continued to read. For the more than thirty different berries found within, this book alone is not really well suited as a source for indentification.
The many recipes supplied are quite interesting and most are vintage. One recipe that struck me as curious, found on page 32 was for a 17th Century Blackberry Wine, I also loved the author's trick for a Bloddy Mary drink on page 100, using juniper to get a flavor of gin without the alcohol. Not all recipes are very practical or necessarily healthy, calling for generous amounts of sugar, but there is at least something to experiment with. Recipes to be found range from jellies, jams, syrups, wines, drinks, pies, puddings, other desserts and more. Not much is provided for instructions on making remedies. Mainly just interesting American Indian medical folklore and comments on past usage and beliefs throughout history. A sample of the wild fruits highlighted in this book (in common name) range from strawberry, blueberry, blackberry, various raspberries, elderberry, bayberry, gooseberry, cranberry, currants, mulberry, mahonia berry, may apple, hawthorns, rosehips, sumac, saw palmetto, wintergreen, pokeberry, snowberry and many, many more.
In addition to her wonderful introduction on the topic, the author does a lovely closing chapter to the book as well, telling more of her personal accounts, memories and opinions on the beneficial aspects of harvesting from the wild, which uniquely, is where an added touch of romance falls in. Certainly is great as casual reading for the experienced berry hunter and because of its good advice it's a decent introductory book for the beginner.
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Lyle spins us stories of the real histories behind two dozen American railroad disasters that spawned folksongs that will not themselves die, though death figures prominently in their stanzas. Having learned most of these songs by heart as a child, Lyle writes this book as a labor of love and makes it the most readable history book in print, imbuing its historical facts with the pathos and the frailty of real humans, whose all-too-human errors occasioned many of the disasters described in these pages.
Of course, this is also a song book, and the music and words of the old railroad ballads are woven into each story. The sole disappointment in the book is that it comes to an end. Found by happenstance, it quickly became a cherished addition to my library, though whether to put it with my railroad collection or my folklore collection remains a bit of a question, but that really doesn't matter since it's in my hands much more than it's on the shelf! Readers of railroad folklore and singers of railroad ballads will surely find the lure of Lyle's writing irresistible.
Also, while you're browsing here, be sure to check out Norm Cohen's "Long Steel Rail," a thoroughly researched and scholarly work on railroads in American folksongs. Together, Lyle's book and Cohen's will provide hour upon hour of enjoyable reading to everyone whose interest includes folk music and iron rails!
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If you enjoy outdoor cooking, and foraging for your own food then this is a very good book to own. "The Foraging Gourmet" has ten chapters including fungi: mushrooms, green things, nuts, flowers & herbs. This book has black and white drawings for almost every plant that is used in the recipes. It also contains 16 pages of color photos. Every plant in this book is given a description, habitat, season, history, and lore. A description of how it looks, tastes, and smells (if there is a smell). The author describes the habitat of where each plant grows. This book teaches what the best seasons are for each plant. It also tells of what different minerals each plant contains. The history describes who first started eating it. The lore tells about cures (if any) it was used for. Other helpful uses of plants are talked about such as dyes. Throughout the book there are educational side notes about a variety of subjects that I found very interesting. This book contains 195 pages and is a very good investment.
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