Or is that Desert Terror? I didn’t know what a terroir was either, until I illustrated this book of food history and stories by Gary Paul Nabhan last winter. Desert Terroir will be published by The University of Texas Press in 2012.

Book cover: Desert Terroir, by Gary P. Nabhan, illustrated by Paul Mirocha
Cover design featuring a Paul Mirocha painting.

graphite illustration of Raven, black vulture, and turkey vulture
Scavengers have to eat too.

Terroir, of course, comes from the French word terre, meaning “land,” and refers to the sometimes undefinable tastes and quality given to food or drink by the native soil, geography, climate, etc. in which it is grown. Specifically the natural aspects of the environment that are not under human control.

The concept, or concrete fact, as some would say, of terroir is the basis for the French appellation system for wines. A Burgundy wine has to come from Burgundy, and they can trademark and protect that from imitators.

Now terroir is apparently a borrowed English term. So you can use it at your next cocktail party to start a conversation.

graphite illustration: makeing mesquite flour tortillas
Making mesquite flour tortillas

Terroir originally referred to wine production, but has been applied more recently to many other local foods around the world. So yes, this book is part of the local foods culture by one of it’s originators.

“We crave food with stories,” says the author. Some of thestories are more apealing than the food they are about, but that’s what books are for. We crave stories, I think.

graphite illustration of place setting  with landscape and sky
Hungry for home: the three year walk of Esteban the Moor across the Southwest.

graphite illustration of a date palm
Date palms: from the Middle East to Baja California.

graphite illustration of Mexican cowboy posing with large fish
Mexican cowboys turn to fishing in the Gulf of California to make a living, sometimes catching endangered fish.

graphite illustraiton of Mexican Corriente cow
Mexican Corriente cattle, descended from the cows brought to the new world on ships by the Spaniards, are now being raised by Arizona ranchers as a specialty meat and grazed on the stinking hot desert.

graphite illustration of Mexican oregano plant
Mexican Oregano and the essential oils that give desert plants their distinctive and addictive flavors.

graphite illustration of Rio Grande catfish and coke bottle lure
Living off the land around the Big Bend.

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