Saturday, June 23, 2012

Weekend Cooking Book Review: Tamar Adler's AN EVERLASTING MEAL

If I told you that I might never make a recipe from a cookbook I’d read faithfully, you’d think it was a flop, wouldn’t you? So if I then told you that this has become one of my favorite books, inspiring and heartwarming, you might think I was a bit loony. But I can make both statements without reservation when discussing Tamar Adler’s outstanding meditation on cooking from the heart and pantry, An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace. I cannot recommend this book highly enough for people who love food: cooking it, sharing it, and just thinking about it.

Adler’s book shares the life lessons she has learned while working in the kitchen. The chapter entitled “How to Feel Powerful,” for example, explores the tactical use of strong ingredients like anchovies, capers, olives and cornichons that should always occupy your pantry. Another chapter, “How to Make Peace,” discusses turning a small amount of anything into a meal through the use of rice and polenta. It’s more philosophy than cookbook, really, and thought-provoking in its simplicity.

In the chapter entitled “How to Build a Ship,” Adler discusses how to regain your love of the kitchen when you’re overwhelmed or frustrated. Here’s some great advice:

Let smells in. Let the smell of hot tarmac in the summer remind you of a meal you ate the first time you landed in a hot place, when the ground smelled like it was melting. Let the smell of salt remind you of a paper basket of fried clams you ate once, squeezing them with lemon as you walked on a boardwalk. Let it reach your deeper interest. When you smell the sea, and remember the basket of hot fried clams, and the sound of skee-balls knocking against each other, let it help you love what food can do, which is to tie this moment to that one. Then something about the wind off the sea will have sttled in your mind, and carried the fried clams and squeeze of lemon with it. p. 142
So why won’t I make a recipe from the book? Because Adler’s recipes are simply meant as a starting point for the readers own imagination, tastes and circumstances. I can’t help feeling that I’d fail Adler miserably by making up one of her recipes as written, as she’s inspired me to do so much more. But she definitely provides some wonderful templates in the book, including a recipe for Ribollita I intend to work from this week.

The cover notes indicate that Adler was an editor at Harper’s Magazine, as well as a cook at Prune and Chez Panisse. This book brings together both her talent with words and her love of food in a really beautiful way. I can’t think of a real cook who wouldn’t enjoy this book, and I’ve already picked it out as a great Christmas gift for at least two people, as I think it would be especially comforting to read in winter.


Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. Thanks to Beth Fish Reads for hosting!

24 comments:

  1. This sounds like an inspiring book!

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    1. It really was, Kathy! One you can turn to again and again.

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  2. My kind of book. Have you read The Blue Strawberry? I read that in the 70s and it changed the way I cooked.

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    1. I haven't read it, but it's on my TBR now!

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  3. I've been doing a lot of cookbook reading lately (with the little one it seems to be the only thing I can focus on as I have to constantly pick up and put down). I know just what you mean about reading but not necessarily cooking from it. Will check this one out...as well as Beth F's suggestion for The Blue Strawberry.

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    1. The chapters here are very short -- perfect for new baby time :)

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  4. One of the best books I've read on cooking. It definitely inspired me too.

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    1. I'm glad to hear others enjoyed it as much as I did!

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  5. Thanks for the heads up on this book. Will add to my Wish List!

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  6. What a unique concept for a book. Great post, Colleen!

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    1. Thanks, Di. Adler really has a unique voice.

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  7. Wow, interesting. I would love to have a look at this book...

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  8. I love reading cookbooks. And I mean that - just READING them. There's often so much soul in the words, so much heart that goes into the food and preparation. It sounds like this is one of those books. I'll have to check it out.

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    1. I agree, there's often so much of the author in the cookbook -- I really love it when that happens!

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  9. This is a cookbook I'd love. I read them like novels. Sounds like a great read!

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    1. I find that cookbooks are so relaxing, I read them when I'm stressed. It really helps :)

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  10. Oooh, sounds great. Will have to look out for this one. Have a great week.

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  11. Am adding it to my wishlist too.

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  12. This sounds like a book I would really appreciate... just requested it from the library. Should be a short wait, I'm second on the list.

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  13. What an inspiration. Putting it on my TBR!

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I absolutely love comments. Thanks for taking the time to share! Col