Four Seasons in Five Senses – Things Worth Savoring

By David Mas Masumoto

W.W. Norton, 2003
Hardcover isbn 0-393-01960-8
Paperback isbn 0-393-32536-90

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Editorial Reviews

Four Seasons in Five Senses Book CoverCalifornia peach farmer David Mas Masumoto’s Four Seasons in Five Senses is about awareness–of the process by which peaches are grown and enjoyed; of the sensual “stories” by which farmers learn their work and place in it; and of farming itself, whose cycles of birth, growth, and decay make it a telling metaphor of life. In a series of short essays, such as “How to Eat Peach,” “Got Umami,” and “The Art of Grunting” (an amusing exploration of work sounds), Masumoto shows readers his inner-outer world. Masumoto’s eye is, however, always fixed on the narratives we tell ourselves. “The best farmers of personalized products strive to create true stories and personal connections through our fruits,” says Masumoto, “a journey through four seasons in five senses.” But Masumoto also lives in the world of commercial imperatives. “We [farmers] work for pennies,” he says, “and people of America spend a smaller percentage of their income on food than do people in any other country.” A provider of a highly perishable “handmade” product that must nonetheless reach consumers in a state worthy of his commitment to it, Masumoto is frustrated by the plight of “slow food” in a fast-food world. “Farming must be circular in contrast to the straight lines of business,” he says.

Readers will follow Masumoto’s tale avidly, enjoying particularly his depictions of the peach growing process. For those of us lost to modern industrial life, the realization that there is a farmer behind every piece of fruit our supermarkets sell, and that his or her whole awareness can be in that fruit, is a revelation. That disclosure is at the center of Masumoto’s enlightening tale. –Arthur Boehm

From Booklist

We must eat to live, but to eat without savoring the food we consume is to deprive ourselves of a sensuous experience, one that sustains the spirit as it strengthens the body. For farmer Masumoto, such experiences are honored rituals, as essential to his peach farm as sun and rain. Writing lovingly, lyrically of a year spent in his orchard, Masumoto passionately engages every fiber of his being in both his work and his writing, bringing the land to life for his readers. Through his eyes, we see the translucence of peach blossoms about to burst. Through his ears, we hear a symphony as his shovel uproots encroaching weeds. His hands pluck a ripe peach and we brush away the dew, breathe in its musky aroma. He takes a bite and we drink its nectar as we would fine wine. Masumoto is a poet in the guise of a farmer, a philosopher in coveralls and workboots. His elegant memoir should be read slowly, and savored. –Carol Haggas

Praise for Four Seasons in Five Senses

“A peach will never slurp the same.” Peter Hoffman, Savoy Restaurant; national chair of Chefs Collaborative

“There are unexpected pleasures to be found… in the unforced rhythms of the farming life and the quiet sense of enduring family traditions that Masumoto celebrates along with his Sun Crest peaches.” San Francisco Chronicle Book Review

“Our poet laureate of peaches… delectation personified.”
William Kittredge, author of The Nature of Generosity

“Masumoto’s sensual exploration of the fruit farming always rises to the occasion with well-chosen words… his paens to peaches had me longing for summer.” David Takami, Seattle Times

“Vivid and compelling… The experience of growing, harvesting, sell and tasting fruit becomes the central metaphor for a kind of philosophy of sense-celebration, which, like much of Walt Whitman’s poetry, becomes a catalogue of affirmation… Simple pleasures, Masumoto might well have called this book.”
Washington Post Book World

“Masumoto, as with Dillard and Thoreau, has a message for us about living differently, living better, playing close attention to nature, knowing our neighbors and valuing the process as much as the product… Agriculture chews up dilettantes and spits them out. The mere survival of Masumoto’s farm… argues for this seriousness.” Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Masumoto brings me to tears just describing a walk through his orchard. What does he treasure most? The peach, his family memories, or the written word. He treats all three with eloquent compassion. Profound stuff!” Jeff Smith, the Frugal Gourmet

“Because I too farm my small vegetable plot organically, I am always taken with Masumoto’s struggle to maintain his hard-won crops organically. But I found the most touching part of his memoir to be the account of his parents’ sudden evacuation, post –Pearl Harbor, to a concentration camp in the Arizona desert. We need such reminders especially today.” Maxine Kumin, author of The Long Marriage

“[Masumoto’s] graceful storytelling and easy authorial voice make the book an agreeable reader for anyone who enjoys food and quality of life… [He] writes with a fine lyrical hand.”
The Bloomsbry Review