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Inspired by twenty-six fruits, essayist, poet, and pie lady Kate Lebo expertly blends natural, culinary, medical, and personal history. A is for Aronia, berry member of the apple family, clothes-stainer, superfruit with reputed healing power. D is for Durian, endowed with a dramatic rind and a shifty odor--peaches, old garlic In this work of unique invention, these and other Inspired by twenty-six fruits, essayist, poet, and pie lady Kate Lebo expertly blends natural, culinary, medical, and personal history. A is for Aronia, berry member of the apple family, clothes-stainer, superfruit with reputed healing power. D is for Durian, endowed with a dramatic rind and a shifty odor--peaches, old garlic In this work of unique invention, these and other difficult fruits serve as the central ingredients of twenty-six lyrical essays (and recipes!) that range from deeply personal to botanical, from culinary to medical, from humorous to philosophical. The entries are associative, often poetic, taking unexpected turns and giving sideways insights into life, relationships, self-care, modern medicine, and more. What if the primary way you show love is to bake, but your partner suffers from celiac disease? Why leave in the pits for Willa Cather's Plum Jam? How can we rely on bodies as fragile as the fruits that nourish them? Includes black and white illustrations


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Inspired by twenty-six fruits, essayist, poet, and pie lady Kate Lebo expertly blends natural, culinary, medical, and personal history. A is for Aronia, berry member of the apple family, clothes-stainer, superfruit with reputed healing power. D is for Durian, endowed with a dramatic rind and a shifty odor--peaches, old garlic In this work of unique invention, these and other Inspired by twenty-six fruits, essayist, poet, and pie lady Kate Lebo expertly blends natural, culinary, medical, and personal history. A is for Aronia, berry member of the apple family, clothes-stainer, superfruit with reputed healing power. D is for Durian, endowed with a dramatic rind and a shifty odor--peaches, old garlic In this work of unique invention, these and other difficult fruits serve as the central ingredients of twenty-six lyrical essays (and recipes!) that range from deeply personal to botanical, from culinary to medical, from humorous to philosophical. The entries are associative, often poetic, taking unexpected turns and giving sideways insights into life, relationships, self-care, modern medicine, and more. What if the primary way you show love is to bake, but your partner suffers from celiac disease? Why leave in the pits for Willa Cather's Plum Jam? How can we rely on bodies as fragile as the fruits that nourish them? Includes black and white illustrations

30 review for The Book of Difficult Fruit: Arguments for the Tart, Tender, and Unruly (with Recipes)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Oriana

    From Vogue: Lebo, a pie maker—who has published several cookbooks, manifestos, and poetry zines that explore sweets in the past—weaves in historical and scientific information about fruit with her own personal history. There is discussion of invasive species and the way stone fruits' pits contain a compound that the body can digest into cyanide. Samin Nosrat has called the text at once “dazzling” and “thorny.” Wow, yes please! From Vogue: Lebo, a pie maker—who has published several cookbooks, manifestos, and poetry zines that explore sweets in the past—weaves in historical and scientific information about fruit with her own personal history. There is discussion of invasive species and the way stone fruits' pits contain a compound that the body can digest into cyanide. Samin Nosrat has called the text at once “dazzling” and “thorny.” Wow, yes please!

  2. 4 out of 5

    anklecemetery

    I've liked Kate Lebo's work since I first read her cookbook (Pie School) and her illustrated zine (Commonplace Book of Pie), the latter of which seems like the origin story for her alphabetical approach to this collection. Framed by difficult or unusual fruits, Lebo's essays discuss her family's secrets; her own disability (Lebo is hard of hearing and has an autoimmune disorder); and her depression. She also explores the impact of white colonialists on indigenous communities, as well as how myth I've liked Kate Lebo's work since I first read her cookbook (Pie School) and her illustrated zine (Commonplace Book of Pie), the latter of which seems like the origin story for her alphabetical approach to this collection. Framed by difficult or unusual fruits, Lebo's essays discuss her family's secrets; her own disability (Lebo is hard of hearing and has an autoimmune disorder); and her depression. She also explores the impact of white colonialists on indigenous communities, as well as how myth and folklore shape our understanding of the natural world. Lebo's writing is a little mystical, intimate, and it's also practical. Her recipes are written in a slightly lyrical style. This book will likely appeal to fans of Amy Krouse Rosenthal's memoirs (though Lebo has more bite and drama to her writing), or to those who enjoy poetic language but aren't quite sure if they like poetry. It may also appeal to experimental home cooks and foragers.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Nina Furstenau

    This book had me at the description of author Kate Lebo as essayist, poet, and pie lady. This delightful combination of talents comes fully into play in The Book of Difficult Fruit and I adore the results. There is art in Lebo’s words, contemplations on life and love, and exact measurements--sends chills down my spine just typing those words. As you explore the world through Lebo’s ornery fruit, the author offers tantalizing bits of personal narrative, and culinary history. The recipes included This book had me at the description of author Kate Lebo as essayist, poet, and pie lady. This delightful combination of talents comes fully into play in The Book of Difficult Fruit and I adore the results. There is art in Lebo’s words, contemplations on life and love, and exact measurements--sends chills down my spine just typing those words. As you explore the world through Lebo’s ornery fruit, the author offers tantalizing bits of personal narrative, and culinary history. The recipes included in each chapter feel like a warm invitation and are artfully, clearly explained. Full disclosure: our farm’s Osage Orange (hedge apples) feature in the pages. That unruly fruit, and each one included in the book, become an intimate journey in Lebo’s hands. Each meditative chapter teases out bedrock practical advice on handling the tart, tender, and unruly in the kitchen and in life. So delectable.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Joy Matteson

    I love good food meditation essays, and this author does not disappoint. Her walk through the rare and unique alphabetized list of fruit is probably too specifically weird for some readers, but I loved her writing that is smattered with intimate gleanings of her personal life so much that I really flew through it. I do wish she had written an afterword to sum up so much depth of knowledge on her long journey discovering all these difficult fruits, but otherwise, I would happily recommend it to f I love good food meditation essays, and this author does not disappoint. Her walk through the rare and unique alphabetized list of fruit is probably too specifically weird for some readers, but I loved her writing that is smattered with intimate gleanings of her personal life so much that I really flew through it. I do wish she had written an afterword to sum up so much depth of knowledge on her long journey discovering all these difficult fruits, but otherwise, I would happily recommend it to foodies and lovers of good writing everywhere.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    Date reviewed/posted: November 24, 2020 When life for the entire universe and planet turns on its end and like everyone else you "have nothing to do" while your place of work is once again closed and you are continuing to be in #COVID19 #socialisolation as the #secondwave is upon us, superspeed readers like me can read 300+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today. I requested and received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley, the publisher and Date reviewed/posted: November 24, 2020 When life for the entire universe and planet turns on its end and like everyone else you "have nothing to do" while your place of work is once again closed and you are continuing to be in #COVID19 #socialisolation as the #secondwave is upon us, superspeed readers like me can read 300+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today. I requested and received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley, the publisher and the author in exchange for an honest review. From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do 😸. Inspired by twenty-six fruits, the essayist, poet, and pie lady Kate Lebo expertly blends natural, culinary, medical, and personal history A is for Aronia, berry member of the apple family, clothes-stainer, superfruit with reputed healing power. D is for Durian, endowed with a dramatic rind and a shifty odour—peaches, old garlic. M is for Medlar, name-checked by Shakespeare for its crude shape, beloved by gardeners for its flowers. Q is for Quince, which, fresh, gives off the scent of "roses and citrus and rich women's perfume" but if eaten raw is so astringent it wicks the juice from one’s mouth. In this work of unique invention, these and other difficult fruits serve as the central ingredients of twenty-six lyrical essays (and recipes!) that range from deeply personal to botanical, from culinary to medical, from humorous to philosophical. The entries are associative, often poetic, taking unexpected turns and giving sideways insights into life, relationships, self-care, modern medicine, and more. What if the primary way you show love is to bake, but your partner suffers from celiac disease? Why leave in the pits for Willa Cather's Plum Jam? How can we rely on bodies as fragile as the fruits that nourish them? Lebo's unquenchable curiosity leads us to intimate, sensuous, enlightening contemplations. The Book of Difficult Fruit is the very best of food writing: graceful, surprising, and ecstatic. Includes black and white illustrations. This book is kind of all over the place - it goes through fruits that I have mostly never heard of in a confusingly poetic essaying way. I liked the information, I just did not like how it was written. I guess I am more of a non-fiction/information kind of a girl. It was just kind of .... hinky ... for me. You may like it, I did not, beyond the recipes and data I seem to crave reading about. As always, I try to find a reason to not rate with stars as I simply adore emojis (outside of their incessant use by "🙏-ed Social Influencer Millennials/#BachelorNation survivors/Tik-Tok and YouTube Millionaires/snowflakes / literally-like-overusers etc. " on Instagram and Twitter... Get a real job, people!) so let's give it 🍏🍏

  6. 4 out of 5

    Olivia

    Much like a neglected Italian plum harvest, this book was an absolute mess. It tried to do way too much within the overly rigid, contrived structure of A-Z fruits (including some that are decidedly not fruits at all: wheat, xylitol) and therefore didn't quite do enough? Nevertheless, some interesting tidbits here and there and a few flagged recipes to try. Much like a neglected Italian plum harvest, this book was an absolute mess. It tried to do way too much within the overly rigid, contrived structure of A-Z fruits (including some that are decidedly not fruits at all: wheat, xylitol) and therefore didn't quite do enough? Nevertheless, some interesting tidbits here and there and a few flagged recipes to try.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    *This book was received as an Advanced Reviewer's Copy from NetGalley. So this book took some time to grow on me, but once it did, I really started enjoying it. It's partially my fault, for reading more into the title and not enough into the actual book description. I thought it was going to be a reference book on weird fruit. And in a way it was, but it was also a memoir and sociological commentary. Lebo runs the gamut through interesting fruit, from A-Z. Well, sorta. Not all is fruit (lumps, etc *This book was received as an Advanced Reviewer's Copy from NetGalley. So this book took some time to grow on me, but once it did, I really started enjoying it. It's partially my fault, for reading more into the title and not enough into the actual book description. I thought it was going to be a reference book on weird fruit. And in a way it was, but it was also a memoir and sociological commentary. Lebo runs the gamut through interesting fruit, from A-Z. Well, sorta. Not all is fruit (lumps, etc.), and some relate more to her experiences than any kind of food product you would find on shelves. She does include recipes for most (of the ones that are of an edible nature) and while I can't say I'd be trying all of them due to complicated steps and time and sourcing of materials, there are a few in here I think I'd return to. I think if I were to truly classify this book it would be as a memoir. Most of the contents involve the stories and experiences of Lebo, moreso than the information on the fruit itself. Don't get me wrong, it's there (and I have a good many of them growing in my yard). But really, the focus of this book is on the storytelling. And while I was a bit irritated as I said at first (why the mystery with the aunts) as I continued reading through I began to appreciate how the weaving of these events with the different fruits came together. Lebo manages to write it in a very relatable way, even if you haven't had those particular life experiences yourself. I will say though, in terms of recipes, there's some, uh, interesting stuff in here that I think she is far braver than me (I will not be messing with any kind of pits that contain cyanide if I can help it), so if you're looking for something adventurous, this may be it, but please proceed with sooooo much caution. An interesting book, that while not what I expected, still ended up being thoroughly enjoyable. Review by M. Reynard 2020

  8. 4 out of 5

    Annie

    Originally posted on my blog: Nonstop Reader. The Book of Difficult Fruit is a foodie's dream, full of essays about rare/exotic/difficult fruits written and presented by Kate Lebo. Due out 6th April 2021 from Macmillan on their Farrar Straus & Giroux imprint, it's 416 pages and will be available in hardcover and ebook formats. There are 26 entries included in this collection arranged alphabetically - something of a rogues' gallery of the fruit world. They range in inclusion from aronia to zuc Originally posted on my blog: Nonstop Reader. The Book of Difficult Fruit is a foodie's dream, full of essays about rare/exotic/difficult fruits written and presented by Kate Lebo. Due out 6th April 2021 from Macmillan on their Farrar Straus & Giroux imprint, it's 416 pages and will be available in hardcover and ebook formats. There are 26 entries included in this collection arranged alphabetically - something of a rogues' gallery of the fruit world. They range in inclusion from aronia to zucchini and have been included according to a broad range of criteria from difficult taste to thorny unpleasant or difficulty in preparation and use. Each of them includes a charming essay along with a couple recipes from the author's collection. I really enjoyed reading the essays. The recipes have limited use for me personally, and I haven't tried any of them (yet). A fair few look intriguing: hiker's toilet paper, thimbleberry kvass, spider balls (it's not what you're thinking, I promise), and durian lip balm (!!!) to name a few. My only quibble (and it's a very small one) is the author's use of Xylitol for the X chapter. Then again, what else would have fit there (xylophones aren't fruit)? Some of the entries do have an ever so slightly pseudo-scientific new-agey feel. It's not too much, but it is there. I found it mostly charming. Four stars. I would recommend it to foodies who enjoy reading food related books. Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

  9. 5 out of 5

    André

    “In eighteenth-century England, gin earned its nickname “mother’s ruin” not only for its one roaring effects, its addictive properties, and its reputation as a woman’s drink, but because juniper, its primary botanical ingredient, contains terpene-rich essential oils that thin blood, regulates menses, and in higher quantities cause miscarriage. Juniper has its own nicknames and aliases: savin, bastard killer, emmenagogue, menses regulator, menses bringer, and the clearest of them all, its meaning “In eighteenth-century England, gin earned its nickname “mother’s ruin” not only for its one roaring effects, its addictive properties, and its reputation as a woman’s drink, but because juniper, its primary botanical ingredient, contains terpene-rich essential oils that thin blood, regulates menses, and in higher quantities cause miscarriage. Juniper has its own nicknames and aliases: savin, bastard killer, emmenagogue, menses regulator, menses bringer, and the clearest of them all, its meaning apparent in English at the Latin root—abortifacient.” Thoughts: Once again, Molly Young knocks my socks off with a recommendation from her monthly book email (Read Like the Wind). At times, the personal angle felt a little forced, but when Lebo successful braids together personal experience, beautiful food writing, and esoteric history (from Molly Young: “read if you like browsing Wikipedia”), this is a magnificent collection of essays; there are twenty-six, one difficult fruit for each letter. Highlights: Gooseberry, Huckleberry, Juniper Berry (chiefly about herbal abortion—it’s absolutely incredible), Medlar (another major hit, featuring medlar as asshole joke in Shakespeare, and many instances of the terrific word “bletted”), Yuzu.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Linda Bond

    When people write books about a set of things, they frequently resort to aligning their selections with the 26 letters of the alphabet, as does Kate Lebo in her book about fruit. But that’s where the similarity ends. This is a mouth-watering (and sometimes off-putting) review of fruit. Not just any fruit but a lot of unique fruits that are usually overlooked by cooks, eaters, and gardeners but should be considered the next time you want to put together something, well, unusual. But this is not j When people write books about a set of things, they frequently resort to aligning their selections with the 26 letters of the alphabet, as does Kate Lebo in her book about fruit. But that’s where the similarity ends. This is a mouth-watering (and sometimes off-putting) review of fruit. Not just any fruit but a lot of unique fruits that are usually overlooked by cooks, eaters, and gardeners but should be considered the next time you want to put together something, well, unusual. But this is not just about fruit. This is about life situations that cry out to be memorialized by something strange, something beautiful and something edible. The author is skilled in so many ways, its difficult to pick just one, but I will say I LOVED her narrative style – poignant, funny, insightful, educational and engaging. Read for the fruit, read for the ideas about people, or just read for enjoyment. It’s one of those books… I met this book at Auntie's Bookstore in Spokane, WA. Kate lives in our fair city, so we're pleased that she has written this fine book!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Luis Cuesta

    I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway. When it comes to "difficult fruits", Kate Lebo knows what she’s talking about. Each chapter is a personal essay braided with history, ethnobotany, cooking and herbal lore, and concludes with a recipe for food and a recipe for medicine. Quince, for example, will end with a recipe for quince jam and a recipe for bandoline, a 19th century hair-gel preparation made from the mucilage of quince seeds that does double-time as a sore-throat soother when diss I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway. When it comes to "difficult fruits", Kate Lebo knows what she’s talking about. Each chapter is a personal essay braided with history, ethnobotany, cooking and herbal lore, and concludes with a recipe for food and a recipe for medicine. Quince, for example, will end with a recipe for quince jam and a recipe for bandoline, a 19th century hair-gel preparation made from the mucilage of quince seeds that does double-time as a sore-throat soother when dissolved in hot water. In addition, Lebo combines different history,usages, and medicinal and culinary recipes with graceful, surprising, ecstatic and deeply personal memoirs that she associate with each particular fruit. Also worth to mention the black and white illustrations that accompany her essays.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Rynecki

    26 chapters - one for each letter of the alphabet and a correspondingly difficult piece of fruit. Fruit is always at the center, a launching point for essays that explore personal, historical, medicinal, or botanical difficulties. Each chapter contains recipes and advice for cooking with said fruit. Lebo is lyrical and scientific, culinary, and self meditating about fruit and its various appearances and roles in our lives. I picked it up mostly from a craft perspective - to understand how she wo 26 chapters - one for each letter of the alphabet and a correspondingly difficult piece of fruit. Fruit is always at the center, a launching point for essays that explore personal, historical, medicinal, or botanical difficulties. Each chapter contains recipes and advice for cooking with said fruit. Lebo is lyrical and scientific, culinary, and self meditating about fruit and its various appearances and roles in our lives. I picked it up mostly from a craft perspective - to understand how she wove together so many strands. Ultimately I love her style and have come to be more pensive about fruit.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Melise

    I knew nothing about Kate Lebo before starting this book, and was expecting a fairly standard cookbook with short introductions to the fruit item before each recipe. Instead what I got was a alphabetic compendium of essays about (mostly) fruit that included a beautifully written essay about the particular fruit of interest, followed by a recipe or two featuring that fruit. After finishing, I read that Lebo has also published a book of poetry, and was not at all surprised. All in all, this was an I knew nothing about Kate Lebo before starting this book, and was expecting a fairly standard cookbook with short introductions to the fruit item before each recipe. Instead what I got was a alphabetic compendium of essays about (mostly) fruit that included a beautifully written essay about the particular fruit of interest, followed by a recipe or two featuring that fruit. After finishing, I read that Lebo has also published a book of poetry, and was not at all surprised. All in all, this was an unexpectedly beautiful read, and highly recommended. Thanks to Farrar, Straus and Giroux for providing me with an advanced reading copy via NetGalley.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Dang

    A delightful book filled with recipes, essays, and stories from Kate Lebo. This was such an interesting read and I definitely enjoyed reading it. It had nice recipes and drawings, while also being a collection of essays from her. In her essays she discusses her family, her own disability, and her depression. She also explores so much more, seriously this was a great read and I definitely would recommend it! *Thanks Netgalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux for sending me an arc in exchange for an h A delightful book filled with recipes, essays, and stories from Kate Lebo. This was such an interesting read and I definitely enjoyed reading it. It had nice recipes and drawings, while also being a collection of essays from her. In her essays she discusses her family, her own disability, and her depression. She also explores so much more, seriously this was a great read and I definitely would recommend it! *Thanks Netgalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux for sending me an arc in exchange for an honest review*

  15. 4 out of 5

    Molly

    My Saturday Ritual is reading the WSJ book review and the NYTimes digital book reviews. This one was reviewed in the NYTIMES and I immediately bought it. For me it was really a no brainer. I love books about fruits! I will buy anything about plants, fruits, herbs.....whatever! This one was very interesting and I love that the author explored unusual and different fruits. I enjoyed her personal essays, and had a hard time putting this one down. I will look for more from this author. I highly reco My Saturday Ritual is reading the WSJ book review and the NYTimes digital book reviews. This one was reviewed in the NYTIMES and I immediately bought it. For me it was really a no brainer. I love books about fruits! I will buy anything about plants, fruits, herbs.....whatever! This one was very interesting and I love that the author explored unusual and different fruits. I enjoyed her personal essays, and had a hard time putting this one down. I will look for more from this author. I highly recommend.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Camilla

    To be fair, I think it's a difficult thing to write within the confines of an alphabetized list of "difficult" fruit, some of which frankly seemed like a stretch. I was already familiar with so many (all?) of the fruits and it felt like there were some missed opportunities to discuss their qualities that was instead given to personal/familial history only tenuously related to the ostensible subject. It was well-written, but just not what I was looking for from this book. To be fair, I think it's a difficult thing to write within the confines of an alphabetized list of "difficult" fruit, some of which frankly seemed like a stretch. I was already familiar with so many (all?) of the fruits and it felt like there were some missed opportunities to discuss their qualities that was instead given to personal/familial history only tenuously related to the ostensible subject. It was well-written, but just not what I was looking for from this book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Writing a personal memoir through the history of fruits is genius. The author reveals so many family stories as well as a couple of love stories. A poet, a pie maker, a great writer, Kate Lebo is my new idol.

  18. 5 out of 5

    John

    Just received the book. Love it. Really nice way of going through different fruits and stories from the author. Very creative and a wonderful read

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    I was so delighted by this book I could have finished days ago, but I wanted to mete the pleasure out a few chapters each morning and let them color my world. Nonfiction lives or dies by voice, and Kate Lebo’s voice is a pleasure to live inside. Smart and perceptive, expert but accessible, fun and eccentric and pleasure loving, but unafraid of its own pettiness and depression and occasional revenge-fantasy. Lebo is a friendly and familiar guide, but also has this incredible ability to familiariz I was so delighted by this book I could have finished days ago, but I wanted to mete the pleasure out a few chapters each morning and let them color my world. Nonfiction lives or dies by voice, and Kate Lebo’s voice is a pleasure to live inside. Smart and perceptive, expert but accessible, fun and eccentric and pleasure loving, but unafraid of its own pettiness and depression and occasional revenge-fantasy. Lebo is a friendly and familiar guide, but also has this incredible ability to familiarize the reader with each part of her world. Fruit and food are not nominal subjects here, but frames for a whole life, and the writer made me care about each element--even those I wouldn't have imagined I could care about, like trash apples (my new best friends!) Lebo moves deftly between personal narrative, philosophical musing, scenic action, literature, obscure culinary history and back again. These moves are always fascinating and urgent—they never feel arbitrary or like filler. This is a book in service of beauty, life, and art—and every bit of it is nourishing.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sydney

  23. 5 out of 5

    Katje

  24. 5 out of 5

    Biba

  25. 5 out of 5

    Carol

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lea

  27. 4 out of 5

    Claire Luchette

  28. 5 out of 5

    Chris Barsanti

  29. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

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