EPS Review #35 - Driving Over Lemons

by Chris Stewart, 1999

I read this one a while back. It's the same sort of story as A Year in Provence or Under the Tuscan Sun, but grittier and funnier, both because of the land (southern Spain), but also because Stewart is tougher: he builds his own house, shears sheep, guts pigs, and he and his wife have a baby daughter. He's funny about crazed vegan expats, and the fairly despicable former owner of his farm. I suppose he's a bit less successful when reaching for depth about his great neighbor, or some winsome artists. I like the recipe for papas a lo pobre -- vegetables deep fried in olive oil, with the garlic still unpeeled so it doesn't burn. Also, I like any book that recommends other favorite books. They love Juliette de Bairacli-Levy, "a woman obsessed with herbs and natural ways of healing." Her "Spanish Mountain Life" is about the time Juliette spent in the same region (now lives in the near east). The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable has "all sorts of testimonials from no-nonsense bodies like the British Horse Society and Farmer's Weekly." And they dub the "Herbal Handbook for Everyone" as "Toward a Healthier and more Wholesome Husband through Herbs." There follow some anecdotes about potions applied to his wounds, and a very laborious attempt to preserve with herbs a rotting sheep carcase for dog food.

We all stood and gaped in bafflement at the empty hole with its useful herbal matting.
"Where's it gone, Daddy?" asked Chloe with a touching faith that I was somehow lurking at the bottom of this mystery.
"I don't know, Chloe. I thought you might have come and gobbled it up in the night."
"EEEyuk, " she squealed, running behind some bushes as if to hide from the thought.
"Well, that was certainly a useful exercise. I can't wait till the next sheep drops dead so we can do it again."
"Mmm, " said Ana. "You win some, you lose some, and being facetious won't make blind bit of difference."

He also recommends Oleg Polunin's books on botany, not only because Stewart had him as a biology teacher at school, where he was known as Ollie Pollie.