All the Wild Hungers: A Season of Cooking and Cancer

Karen Babine (Author)


"My sister is pregnant with a Lemon this week, Week 14, and this is amusing. My mother's uterine tumor, the size of a cabbage, is Week 30, and this is terrifying."

When her mother is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, Karen Babine--a cook, collector of thrifted vintage cast iron, and fiercely devoted daughter, sister, and aunt--can't help but wonder: feed a fever, starve a cold, but what do we do for cancer? And so she commits herself to preparing her mother anything she will eat, a vegetarian diving headfirst into the unfamiliar world of bone broth and pot roast.

In these essays, Babine ponders the intimate connections between food, family, and illness. What draws us toward food metaphors to describe disease? What is the power of language, of naming, in a medical culture where patients are too often made invisible? How do we seek meaning where none is to be found--and can we create it from scratch? And how, Babine asks as she bakes cookies with her small niece and nephew, does a family create its own food culture across generations?

Generous and bittersweet, All the Wild Hungers is an affecting chronicle of one family's experience of illness and of a writer's culinary attempt to make sense of the inexplicable.

Product Details

$16.00  $14.72
Milkweed Editions
Publish Date
January 08, 2019
5.4 X 0.6 X 8.4 inches | 0.55 pounds
BISAC Categories:

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About the Author

Karen Babine is the author of Water and What We Know: Following the Roots of a Northern Life, winner of the 2016 Minnesota Book Award for memoir/creative nonfiction, and a finalist for the Midwest Book Award and the Northeastern Minnesota Book Award. She also edits Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies. She holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from Eastern Washington University and a PhD in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She lives in Minnesota.


Praise for All the Wild Hungers

"Profound . . . Anyone who has experienced a family member's struggle with cancer will be stabbed by recognition throughout this book . . . In the end, the overriding hunger referred to in this lovely book's title is the hunger for life. . . . Praise, sympathy and thanks to Babine, who has given us this ode, lament and meditation."--Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Babine exudes a passion that is inseparable from action . . . She is cooking against cancer . . . All the Wild Hungers is composed, in both senses of the word, calm, and put together with care."--Los Angeles Review of Books

"Babine's essays focus on food as a vehicle for handling the pain of her mother's cancer diagnosis. . . . her lines are like poetry--which is exactly how good food, and family, should be."--Book Riot

"The book is replete with style. . . . Achingly sad and incredibly beautiful, Karen Babine's All the Wild Hungers is a welcoming invitation to dinner, family, and laughter, evoking a warm, full kitchen and good company."--Foreword Reviews

"Lucid, funny, and jarring . . . Moving without being maudlin, tautly written without being sparse or barren . . . It's hard not to whip through the whole work in one sitting, so propulsive is the book's pacing and so effective is Babine's writing."--The Growler

"Babine writes the way she cooks: with a fierce and stubborn tenderness, with passion and precision, savoring each nuance and detail. She cooks, and writes, with the steadiness and strength of someone in full command of both her kitchen and her craft."--Brevity

"Refreshing . . . [the reader] is left with a sense of thoughtfulness about food and family, and so much more."--Cathy Erway, Eat Your Words

"Transportive and vivid . . . Babine's writing brims with tenderness--for her family, her home, and the food she prepares--warming readers' hearts."--Publishers Weekly

"For the author, food sustains like a lifeline or even a bloodline. . . . [Babine] continues to navigate her way through extraordinary challenges with ordinary comforts, finding poetry in the everyday. Reading this quiet book should provide the sort of balm for those in similar circumstances."--Kirkus

"A lush gem of a book, both heartbreaking and heart-making. Karen Babine's language is the plush dough she kneads, her observations as elastic as gluten bubbles. By the book's conclusion you will become a child again, standing on a chair to peer into the pot, not wanting the process of making--of cooking, of understanding, of as she says, 'consuming the knowing'--to ever end."--Amy Thielen, author of Give a Girl a Knife

"In this beautiful and haunting book, Karen Babine leads us into the kitchen and cooks healing meals for her mother and herself. With humor and imagination, she names each of her cast iron pots, reclaimed from thrift stores, and simmers the elements of grief and longing, hope and love, with acceptance, insight, and wisdom."--Beth Dooley, author of In Winter's Kitchen: Growing Roots and Breaking Bread in the Northern Heartland

"In All the Wild Hungers, Karen Babine welcomes us into the small consolations and quiet moments that define a life. These elegant meditations on food, faith, and family ring with absolute truth and clarity."--Dinty W. Moore, author of Between Panic & Desire

"As Karen Babine astutely notes, cancer divides us, sharpens distinctions, isolates, and quarantines. But All the Wild Hungers reunifies (mother and daughter, sufferer and witness, writer and reader) through metaphors of food and family as a private grief is made bearable and shareable in brief, calm, threatening essays about how everyday life must continue amidst uncertainty and pain. The book powerfully and beautifully enacts the stillness we need to survive."--Patrick Madden, author of Quotidiana

Praise for Water and What We Know

"What is the effect of place on character? Of our birth landscape on how we see the world? This wonderful, meditative book asks all the right questions."--Will Weaver

"Writing with the eloquence of [Barry] Lopez and the compassion of Terry Tempest Williams, Babine is also reaching toward a new generation, ensuring the continuity and the legacy of what she has learned."--Los Angeles Review of Books

"Babine's focus is on the call of the west and the mountain and rivers that carved its shape. Eloquently, passionately, she strips back the mythology of this land, seeks out the truth lying beneath our American stories, and embraces the complications we must all accept in calling anyplace home."--Booklist

"The value of essays in this tradition of Thoreau and Olson is to share the insights of others, to measure by our own sentiments and ultimately to examine better how we meet and see the world."--Lake Superior Magazine

"Whether you're a kindred spirit to the north woods or the most confirmed city dweller, Babine reminds us that the only way we can be grounded in this world is to know our place in it."--Split Rock Review

"The stories in Water and What We Know bleed together the places of Babine's childhood--lake, forest, and sky--until, as in the Minnesota she so loves, land and water become one."--Mid-American Review