At Mesa’s Edgeby Eugenia Bone
Houghton Mifflin Company
ISBN 0-618-22126-3Hard Cover, 330 pages, $24.
Eugenia Bone is a New York writer with heavyweight credentials (Saveur, Food & Wine, Gourmet, etc.). In At Mesa’s Edge she has created an intriguing memoir and cookbook.
When her architect husband decides that there’s room in their urban life for a part-time existence in Colorado’s North Fork Valley, Eugenia packs kids and cooking supplies to spend a summer in the West. Ranch property has been purchased, but it needs work. The theme may seem familiar, but who of us hasn’t daydreamed of moving—at least on a temporary basis—to someplace completely different? Crawford, Colorado isn’t Italy or southern France, but it might be as different from New York City as those locales.
In addition to tending sick children and rehabbing the long-abandoned ranch house, she must deal with snakes, skunks, feral cats and neighboring cattle wandering through her vegetable garden. As the newcomer ingratiates herself with the locals, she finds a substantial number who’re deeply food-conscious. The area has long been famed for its fruit production and seems to have a significant number of latter day specialty food producers.
Her recipes acknowledge shared experiences with newly-found Colorado friends and acquaintances, as well as the contributions of family and friends in New York who shaped her love for food and her cooking style. Marilee Gillman’s Tortilla Soup includes broth from her own pheasants, but chicken broth will suffice, says Bone. Asparagus Vinaigrette is a treatment of this basic vegetable dish as prepared by French-born Yvon Gros, who with his wife Joanna, runs the Leroux Creek Inn in Hotchkiss. Bone uses purchased asparagus stalks as well as wild examples found growing in area ditches. The recipe for Fettucine with Wild Mushrooms is from the author’s brother, Cham Giobbi, who discovered Porcinis growing wild in the nearby West Elk Mountains. Leek and Cilantro Pesto Tart is a recipe the author says she took to “a potluck winetasting at Ela Family Farms on Rogers Mesa.”
Bone’s intimate introductions to the recipes makes them seem all the more appealing. Anecdotes from the preceding narrative are in a style similarly personal. Bone’s recollection of little details when old Greek men barbecued lamb at the home of the uncle of her friend painted a vivid picture. Her story of taking a hunter safety class with 12-year old boys to qualify for a Colorado license was funny—and provided a window to a western ethos untroubled by political correctness.
--reviewed by Dan Clarke