Not every cookbook also offers life lessons, tales of heart-rending tragedy, and stories of dramatic triumph. But not every cookbook/memoir is The Blue Heron Ranch Cookbook: Recipes and Stories from a Zen Retreat Center (North Atlantic Books 2008). Nadia Natali runs her center near Ojai and feeds those who attend. This book collects recipes from 25 years of such work and stories from many years surviving in the still wild Los Padres National Forest. For instance, the recipe for Black Bear Apricot Pudding gets its name from the black bear that devoured apricots, even as the Natali dogs barked away. The mostly vegetarian recipes are simple, direct, and soothing and reach around the globe for influences (from raita to borscht to scones). The interspersed narratives tell of homesteading, homeschooling, and the fierce ravages of fires and floods. Overall, the book feeds both body and soul, as one would expect from a Zen center.