Review: Flat Broke with Two Goats

by Terry B on February 7, 2018

This week, we share a book review and a recipe from the book—for Snow Cream.

Author Jennifer McGaha

We’re big fans of goat cheese. So when we were asked to review Flat Broke with Two Goats, a memoir with recipes, we answered with an enthusiastic yes. We didn’t find the goat cheese recipes I was expecting. Instead, we found something much richer.

Flat Broke with Two GoatsPublished last month by Sourcebooks, Jennifer McGaha’s book chronicles her family’s journey from comfortable, harried suburban living to sudden crushing financial disaster to finding their roots—and strength—in a hundred-year-old Appalachian cabin. Like her life, the cabin is falling apart; and it’s infested with mice and the occasional venomous snake.

Flat Broke with Two Goats isn’t an easy read at first. The tale of the family’s downfall is so harrowing and so familiar. The financial crisis of 2008 devastated many families, leaving thousands broke and homeless. McGaha’s situation was made even worse because her husband David, an accountant, had stopped paying their taxes. Besides their first, second and third mortgages, they owed back taxes—”a lot of back taxes.”

What shines through the entire book, though, is McGaha’s writing. She is unflinchingly honest, especially when discussing her feelings toward her new life and her husband, her part in their downfall, and the tough existence they must face head on. There is also quiet beauty in her words, often at unexpected moments, contemplating her surroundings in all seasons and drawing strength from her ancestors, particularly her grandmother.

McGaha and David tentatively become the most amateur of farmers, making all the amateur mistakes—including naming their animals and thus becoming too close to them. They start with chickens, then add goats. I learned more about raising goats than I ever expected to know—for one thing, it is incredibly hard and smelly work. I also learned a lot about toughness and human spirit and love.

The recipes. McGaha is not a former chef. The recipes are often simple and straightforward, and are always woven into the story. There is a taco soup, made in large quantities for a week’s worth of meals. A “prenatal piña colada” recipe, made while they awaited the birth of twin kids, includes these instructions: “Drink in barn. Refuse to share with pregnant goat no matter how much she begs.” There is a molasses cocktail for finicky goats—warm goat milk and backstrap molasses, made for a splindly orphaned doeling. And there is this recipe, which reminded me of my childhood.

Snow Cream

Snow
Milk or cream
Sugar
Vanilla

Go outside. Scout a patch of snow that is free from dog pee, cat pee, rabbit droppings, pine needles, and other contaminants. Scrape off the top layer of snow. Being careful not to touch the ground below, fill a chilled mixing bowl with loosely packed snow. Once you are back inside, add just enough milk or cream to create a slushy mixture. Add more sugar and vanilla than you deem reasonable. Then add some more. Serve with straight whiskey or, for children, hot chocolate.

Flat Broke with Two Goats, Jennifer McGaha. Available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other booksellers. Find sellers on McGaha’s website.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

John / Kitchen Riffs February 7, 2018 at 8:25 am

Sounds like a fun book! In my youth I wanted to homestead. Then I came to my senses. :-) I was actually thinking of making snow cream a few weeks ago. Haven’t made that since I was a kid! You can also make it with maple syrup — good stuff. :-)

Susie February 7, 2018 at 8:14 pm

I made snow cream when I was a kid!!

Dani H February 8, 2018 at 12:14 am

I have an online friend who lives in Canada raising sheep and llamas (to herd the sheep.) She also makes her own maple syrup/maple butter, has a large garden and small orchard. She’s gotten three concussions from sheep head butting her and chases away coyotes and wolves with an air horn. It’s a hard but fulfilling life. And she makes sushi. Reading her emails is like reading a book one chapter at a time.

Thanks for reviewing ‘Flat Broke with Two Goats’ – it sounds like my kind of read.

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