In "My Organic Life", the reader is treated not only to a memoir of a truly exceptional woman and businessperson, Nora Pouillon, but also to a veritable genesis of the organic movement, tracing how organic food touched the life of one woman over the course of several decades.
Nora Pouillon is perhaps most famous as the founder of the very first certified organic restaurant, Restaurant Nora in Washington, D.C., but her journey to organic food began long before that. From her childhood on a country farm in her native Austria during World War II, to her young marriage and subsequent move to the United States, the story of Nora as a person is the driving force in this memoir. Nora is strong, decisive and unapologetic, and this is what makes her words such a pleasure to read, her life such a pleasure to discover. The book tells the tale of a person who, without the words to name what she wanted, knew exactly what good food should look like and sought out the certifications, producers, suppliers, and people who could make this a reality for her.
Nora's own discovery of the word organic and its meaning is wound into this discovery in America as a whole. The foods she was looking for, resembling the market-fresh produce she had found in Europe, did not exist for her when she first began her work. She discusses the difficulties of sourcing organic meats, the necessity of buying whole animals, and finding uses for pounds upon pounds of mince, the critic who noticed her zealous use of carrots and dill when no other seasonal vegetables and herbs were available to her. She offers a personal tone in describing the professional choices that forced her to distance herself from her family and the sacrifices she had to make personally to realize her dreams.
The only parts of this memoir that fall flat are the times when Nora calls direct attention to her position, her role in the organic movement. It's a shame, because the events speak for themselves without the narrator having to step in and tell the reader exactly what her role was in boosting this movement. It is clear, without this additional narration, how key Nora was to the development of organic food in the States and how her actions brought organic to the public eye in Washington D.C. The result is the portrait of a woman who refused to believe that any obstacle could stand in the way of her desire to create a restaurant that served the sort of food she knew she wanted to serve.
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