What a treat! This month, I’m pleased to share the following interview with our very own Palouse author: Paula Coomer. Paula will JOIN US (!) for our Book Club gathering in May.
We’re featuring your book Blue Moon Vegetarian in celebration of our theme of “Rediscovering” our local Palouse. As a local author, what do you love most about the Palouse?
The Co-op—OF COURSE! I love that 40 feet under our toes there are the Rocky Mountain foothills. I have felt mothered by the Palouse. Parented. Or re-parented, as it turns out. I've been allowed to find my own way here. Somehow or another this maternal landscape fosters that.
You’ve written on other non-food topics in your earlier career, so what inspired you to write Blue Moon Vegetarian?
It was a complete and total accident. I never once in my life thought to write a recipe, much less a food memoir. My husband and I decided to switch to a vegetarian diet in 2010, and I started keeping track of what we were doing in a blog that I never advertised. I think maybe three people read it, and one of them was my son. Seriously, I started it the day after we watched Julie and Julia, thinking it might be fun to have a blog. I started doing a great amount of research about vegetarian living and various food items. Phil created a recipe for a daily protein shake that we both loved and still make almost every day, and I put that on the blog. I kept writing things down.
I shut down the blog after a few months but kept writing in that space because I liked the voice that had developed. I'd always been a poet and fiction writer, had never been able to find my non-fiction voice, and I wanted to be able to do that and do it well, so I thought the continued practice would be helpful. After about 18 months it occurred to me that I had a book manuscript. I printed off what turned out to be more than 200 pages and started working with a pair of scissors, tape, and a highlighter. I sent it off to Booktrope, a small Seattle press that had published my first novel, thinking it was just a throwaway book. I had no idea it would end up selling over 2,000 copies and spending several weeks on a number of Amazon's bestseller lists.
Do you have any new books coming out now or in the future?
A number, actually. I have a new novel coming out September 8—Jagged Edge of the Sky, which is in line for a Pulitzer nomination—and two more in the Blue Moon series. Blue Moon Medicine Woman, which is a series of essays about various medicinal plants, herbs, and spices, and Blue Moon Folkways in the Kitchen, which will try to capture and preserve the wisdom of my Appalachian heritage—updated with instructions for things like nut milk cheese and homemade tofu. Both will come out in 2016.
What is your favorite thing about the Palouse food scene?
Gosh, this is going to sound like a plant (no pun meant). My favorite eatery is the Co-op deli. I love it that I have a place to go for the same kinds of food I would prepare at home. And I do love it that other restaurants like Nectar and Bloom have gluten-free and vegan options. I hope we get more and more creative food choices coming to our region. We have The Mystic in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley now, which is quite wonderful as well.
If you could give readers any piece of food-related advice, what would it be?
Experiment! Try weird combinations. Some of our most interesting recipes come from trying oddball flavor intersections. Think of cooking as an art form. Follow your gut. And I did mean that pun.
Please join us—and author Paula Coomer—to discuss Blue Moon Vegetarian: Reflections, Recipes, and Advice for a Plant-Based Diet (Booktrope, 2013) on Sunday, May 31, from 7:00 - 8:30 p.m. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for the meeting location and directions and/or to receive email reminders about the Good Food Book Club.
Blue Moon Vegetarian by Paula Coomer is available through your local library. If you are interested in buying the book, check out the area’s local used bookstores or visit BookPeople of Moscow where Book Club members receive a discount. For more information about the Good Food Book Club, check out the Outreach section of the Co-op website at www.moscowfood.coop.
So far, there’ve been three meals that included fresh asparagus from the garden, and Rachel’s family is eager for snow pea season to begin.
The Third Plate Follow-up
The Good Food Book Club met at BookPeople in March to discuss The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food (Penguin Press, 2014) by Dan Barber. This is a rock-star kind of a book. Really, a visionary dive into the future of food in America, and the world. Barber is a superb, compelling storyteller who draws you in and takes you for a delectable walk into the inroads and byways of the bright future and shifting terrain of our food system. He illuminates where we’ve been and why and what we can do to powerfully create a relationship with food that serves humans and the planet. Read this book—it’s a feast for hope in the world.