The Book of Difficult Fruit: Arguments for the Tart, Tender, and Unruly (Paperback)
  • The Book of Difficult Fruit: Arguments for the Tart, Tender, and Unruly (Paperback)

The Book of Difficult Fruit: Arguments for the Tart, Tender, and Unruly (Paperback)

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Paperback 416 Pages
Published: 28/04/2022
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‘A richly researched food history, gentle memoir and left-field recipe book.’ i newspaper

‘A dazzling, thorny new essay collection.’ Samin Nosrat, New York Times

‘A beautiful, fascinating read full of surprises – a real pleasure.’ Claudia Roden

‘Inventive and charming . . . profound and deeply felt.’ Buzzfeed

Inspired by twenty-six fruits, essayist, poet and pie lady Kate Lebo expertly blends the culinary, medical and personal.

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.

Publisher: Pan Macmillan
ISBN: 9781509879267
Number of pages: 416
Weight: 292 g
Dimensions: 196 x 130 x 27 mm


Darkly funny . . . ”Deeply researched” doesn’t begin to describe how far into ancient texts and their subtexts, obscure cookbooks and corners of the internet Lebo excavated to tell us the stories of these fruits. What she digs up for each is often fascinating, sometimes juicy, rarely dry . . . The ingredients, like words, get thoughtfully measured and weighed and mixed into something delicious and meaningful. - New York Times

A zingy blend of natural, culinary and personal history . . . A prickly, piquant delight. - Observer

[A] glorious mash-up of memoir, love note, and cookbook . . . Every sentence is as sensuous as the first bite into a cold, juicy plum. - Vulture

[A] richly researched food history, gentle memoir and left-field recipe book . . . It would be a shame if this book didn’t attract readers without an existing curiosity in the subject, because Lebo brings as generous an eye to its broader topics – relationships, reproductive health, illness and death – as she does her fruits and their histories and uses, their beauty and their terror. - i newspaper

From aronia to zucchini, The Book of Difficult Fruit takes readers on a journey across medicinal, aromatic, historical, cosmetic, culinary, and cultural borders. - 'Electric Lit’s Favorite Nonfiction Books of 2021', Electric Lit

Weaving botanical and medicinal histories, relationships between people and land, and the idea of nourishment, this book (which includes recipes) is inventive and charming, but it’s also profound and deeply felt. The connection between food and land is never forgotten, and the writing is superb. - BuzzFeed

Essayist, poet, and cookbook author Lebo undertakes an intriguing creative exercise in this wonder-filled book. Lovers of food and nature writing will appreciate Lebo's rangy, researched ode to wildness. - Booklist

Kate Lebo has written a thorny and twisty memoir disguised as a compendium of problematic fruits (and grains, and stems, and seeds). She doesn't so much describe as confront her subjects: their poisonous pits, their treacherous thorns, their offensive odors and invasive roots. But her buckets of foraged berries, her tart jams, and her bright and potent cordials live in the real world alongside troubled families, rampant wildfires, and the prickly terror of a newfound tumor. Kate Lebo is the best kind of poet-naturalist: her writing is savage and lyrical and scientific all at once. The Book of Difficult Fruit is feral and fierce -- and I never thought I'd say that about a book on fruit. - Amy Stewart, author of The Drunken Botanist

'Intriguing and beautiful . . . insightful and funny . . . Science and folklore co-exist comfortably together, with neither looking down on the other. - Suzanne O'Sullivan, author of It's All In Your Head

With rich, puckery prose, Kate Lebo takes us on an engaging journey into her culinary world and offers surprisingly complex stories of neglected fruits that need a little more coaxing than your average blueberry. Here, too, are uncommon recipes for treats like faceclock coffee, gooseberry cheese, juniper bitters, and thimbleberry kvass. And Lebo even generously includes the osage orange. Its best use—ha! Read it and find out. - Erik Larson

A gorgeous mixture of food writing, recipes and personal essay which innovates with form in the best way. - Rebecca Tamás, author of Witch and Strangers

[A] dazzling, thorny new essay collection - Samin Nosrat, New York Times

A beautiful, fascinating read full of surprises – a real pleasure. - Claudia Roden

I loved this sage and sensuous book, and was enraptured by its curious tour through a wunderkammer of plants, history, and personal narrative. Kate Lebo is a warm and erudite guide and her essays are ripe with illumination, enchantment, and a dash of the haunted. - Melissa Febos, author of Girlhood

Unusual and piquant, this off-kilter collection will hit the spot with readers hungry for something a little different. - Publishers Weekly, starred review

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“Strange Fruit”

From Durian fruit to xylitol, from rhubarb to huckleberries, Lebo takes the more challenging end of the spectrum of fruits and explores what, if anything can be done to them to make them edible and enjoyable.... More

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