Friday, October 11, 2013

Midwest Nature Quote of the Week

The wild, untrammeled character of this landscape, its relatively large remaining prairies, and its unusual and rare species have attracted national attention in recent years. The Loess Hills have become the focus of scientific research, education, and conservation. Such efforts are not misplaced, any more than efforts to preserve Rembrandt’s paintings or Bach’s music would be misplaced. The Loess Hills can feed our spiritual hunger and our intellectual curiosity as richly as the highest products of human civilization would feed them. We are now coming to realize that maintenance of biological diversity and healthy natural systems, such as those in the Loess Hills, is necessary for the perpetuation of human life as well. Wisely used and managed, the Loess Hills can continue to satisfy the needs of both humans and native species indefinitely.

Cornelia F. Mutel, Fragile Giants: A Natural History of the Loess Hills

NECESSARY COURAGE presentation for Educator's Week

We are pleased to announce that the UI Press's managing editor, Charlotte Wright, and acquisitions editor, Catherine Cocks, will be presenting stories and ideas for lesson plans from Necessary Courage: Iowa's Underground Railroad in the Struggle against Slavery, by Lowell J. Soike, as part of Educator Appreciation Days.

They will be presenting Sunday, October 13, from 5:00-6:00 P.M. at the Cedar Rapids Barnes & Noble. Please stop by if you are able! In the meantime, join our Facebook event. We can't wait to see you there!

Praise for Necessary Courage

"For far too long, Underground Railroad histories have ignored the important role that Iowa played in the fight to end slavery. In a nice overview, Soike tells the stories of those individuals—enslaved and free, black and white, male and female—who had the 'necessary courage' to prevail against the tragedy of slavery."—Deanda Johnson, Midwest regional manager, National Park Service's Network to Freedom

Iowa City Book Festival: THE WIFE OF MARTIN GUERRE by Janet Lewis

Are you planning on hitting the Iowa City Book Festival this weekend? We’ll be selling books from presses around the Midwest tomorrow and are excited to be featuring The Wife of Martin Guerre, by Janet Lewis from the Ohio University Press. Based on a notorious trial in sixteenth-century France, this story of Bertrande de Rols is the first of three novels making up Janet Lewis's Cases of Circumstantial Evidence suite (featuring The Wife of Martin Guerre, The Trail of Soren Qvist, and The Ghost of Monsieur Scarron).

Praise for The Wife of Martin Guerre
“Flaubertian in the elegance of its form and the gravity of its style.”—The New Yorker

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Nina Mukerjee Furstenau reading

Can’t make it to the Iowa City Book Festival? No worries! Nina Mukerjee Furstenau, author of Biting through the Skin: An Indian Kitchen in America's Heartland, will also be reading at Barnes & Noble in Cedar Rapids tomorrow (Friday) evening. Stop by at 7:00 P.M. to hear her read from her new book. If you're planning on going, join our Facebook event!

Praise for Biting through the Skin
"Lush and lyrical, Nina Mukerjee Furstenau's memoir, Biting through the Skin: An Indian Kitchen in America's Heartland, blends food and childhood, cuisine and family into a story that resonates and lingers like the spices she lovingly describes."—Kansas City Star

"A beautiful and sensitive memoir—with recipes!—about life in Kansas for a Bengali family."—Star Tribune

Iowa City Book Festival: featuring THE PRAIRIE SCHOONER BOOK PRIZE: TENTH ANNIVERSARY READER, edited by James Engelhardt & Marianne Kunkel

The Iowa City Book Festival starts today! Come see us on Saturday in downtown Iowa City, where we’ll be selling great books from presses around the Midwest, including The Prairie Schooner Book Prize: Tenth Anniversary Reader, edited by James Engelhardt and Marianne Kunkel. This book, from the University of Nebraska Press, features excerpts of fiction and poetry from ten years of Prairie Schooner Book Prize winners.

Praise for The Prairie Schooner Book Prize
“The Prairie Schooner Book Prize series has brought a host of wonderful writers to us. This anthology shines with new and familiar voices—voices often made familiar by being chosen as contest winners. An anthology to cherish.”—Stephen Dunn, author of the Pulitzer Prize–winner Different Hours

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Interview Lawrence L. Rettig: part 3

Lawrence L. Rettig is the author of Gardening the Amana Way, which will be released this month. University of Iowa Press editor Holly Carver asked him a few questions about the upcoming book. Here's the last section of our interview with him.

HC: Tell us more about your seed bank.
LLR: The seven plant varieties in our bank were all grown in pre-1932 Amana communal kitchen gardens. Seed for each of these varieties was brought from Germany first to the Ebenezer settlements in New York (beginning in 1843) and subsequently to the Amana Colonies. There were many other vegetable varieties in communal Amana kitchen gardens. Unfortunately, they were no longer grown when we returned to the Amanas in the late 1970s. Here are the varieties we found and continue to preserve.

Amana radish (Vielfarbiger Rettich): With two sowings, this radish provides both a spring and a fall crop. It’s a fairly large, mild variety that has amazing storage qualities. A fall harvest will keep in a refrigerator’s crisper until the following spring. Some local families still break out the radishes on January 1 to celebrate the new year.

Amana string bean (Grüne Bohnen): Typical of many European varieties, this green string bean is flat, as opposed to its more rounded American counterpart. Its flavor is delicious and superior to that of any other variety we’ve tried. It dries well and can be stored this way for rehydration and consumption during the winter.

Celeriac (Knollecellerie): Celeriac, or root celery, is still a popular vegetable in Europe and has enjoyed increasing popularity in the United States recently. It’s a celery that is grown not for its stalks but for its bulbous root, which has a mild, pleasing celery flavor and is used raw in salads or cooked in soups. The stalks are small, strong-tasting, stringy, and generally unpalatable.

Citron melon (Zitter): Looking for all the world like miniature watermelons, citrons are bound to disappoint anyone who attempts to eat one raw. The flesh is hard, white, and practically tasteless. Citrons are eaten primarily in a pickled form, with the dominant flavoring usually that of cloves and cinnamon.

Lettuce (Eiersalaat “egg lettuce”): This unique leaf lettuce variety is known locally as egg lettuce, because it was usually served in communal kitchens with chopped hard-boiled egg in the dressing. The leaves are almost completely yellow in color, very tender, with a slight buttery flavor and texture. Other advantages include heat resistance, slowness in bolting, and retarded development of bitterness.

Ebenezer onion (Zwiwwel): A popular onion in the Northeast and Upper Midwest because of its winter keeping qualities, it was introduced by the Amana Inspirationists during their sojourn at Ebenezer, New York. Huge surpluses in the Ebenezer kitchen gardens resulted in the sale of this onion on the nearby Buffalo, New York, market. Its popularity was quickly established because of its superb keeping qualities.

European black salsify (Schwarzwurzel): Schwarzwurzel (“black root”) is still a popular vegetable in German gardens today. Amana folks prepared it by scraping the black skin from the root (in carrot fashion) and simmering it in water or stock, perhaps with onions, the liquid being thickened to a sauce before serving. The flavor is unique, mild, and delicious, quite unlike the American salsify or oyster root.

HC: What gardens do you like to visit in Iowa?
LLR: Reiman Gardens, Iowa State University, Ames, tops the list. The rest are in no particular order of preference: Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden, Des Moines; Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Garden; Iowa Arboretum, Madrid; Seed Savers Exchange, Decorah; Brucemore, Cedar Rapids; Living History Farms, Urbandale; and Noelridge Greenhouse and Park, Cedar Rapids.

HC: ou are definitely an expert in all things gardening. But I bet that you learned something from writing this book. What did you learn?
LLR: I think the most important thing, personally, concerns the trellises that still grace the south and west walls of many Amana residences. Their purpose and origin are often among the first inquiries I get from visitors. Their purpose is well established. They provide shade during the summer to keep residences a bit cooler, and the grapevines that grew on them (and in some instances still do so today) provide food. But no one seemed to know how their construction and use came about. I found the smoking gun. I’m a bit of a tease, so you’ll have to read the book to discover their source.

I also realized for the first time how powerful a flower can be in facilitating social change. I’m speaking here of the lotus lily that somehow showed up once the Lily Lake had formed. Its grand display in July and August drew hordes of visitors to Amana—up to 1,500 on a Sunday—breaching the comparative isolation of Old Amana in the 1920s. Young members of the community waded into the lake to pick lily bouquets and sold them to eager tourists, which provided pocket money that members were not supposed to have. This so raised the ire of Amana elders that they threatened to annihilate the lilies. Eventually they relented, but the course toward the Great Change and an end to communal living had been set.

Beyond trellises and lotuses, it was a great joy to learn the details of how communal Amana gardened. I was especially impressed with the organizational skills involved and how smoothly the production and preparation of food were carried out.

HC: What advice would you give to budding authors who want to focus on gardening?
LLR: Write from experience whenever possible. If you’re going to write about a plant, grow it. If you’re going to write about techniques, be sure you’ve mastered them. Always keep your target audience in mind. Speak to them. Consider joining the Garden Writers Association ( Their mentoring program is outstanding. They have a great database of authors you can contact for advice.

Gardening the Amana Way by Lawrence L. Rettig


The Iowa City Book Festival is coming up! Look for our table downtown on Saturday, October 12, where we will be selling our titles as well as books from various presses around the Midwest. We're very excited to say that we will have Fried Walleye and Cherry Pie: Midwestern Writers on Food, edited by Peggy Wolff, coming to us from the University of Nebraska Press!

Praise for Fried Walleye and Cherry Pie
“A brilliant collection of Heartland food stories."—Publishers Weekly

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Douglas Bauer reading

Douglas Bauer will read from his new book, What Happens Next? Matters of Life and Death, this Friday, October 11, at the Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, VT. The reading will begin at 7:00 P.M. For more information, please visit our Facebook event page. We hope you can make it!

Praise for What Happens Next?
"This remarkable memoir-in-essays respects time but is not enslaved to it. Bauer moves in circular fashion among incidents that foreshadow later ones and recall earlier. It's not a linear but a spiral history, which touches us and then touches again. As for the language: in each sentence each word seems the only possible choice. How easily the prose lets us read it; what artistic intensity made it that way."—Edith Pearlman, author, Binocular Vision, winner of the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award