Thursday, June 21, 2012

Book Review: An Everlasting Meal

This book could be called Leftovers and What to do With Them instead of An Everlasting Meal.  Hey, that is not a bad thing, the subtitle of this book by Tamar Adler is Cooking with Economy and Grace.  While it is modeled after MFK Fisher, I am not sure that it quite achieves that affect.

This book has its own virtues. Adler pays mind to the modern way of life and so this book is more of an anti-cookbook.  In truth, there are few recipes and most appear to be pauses in the conversation about food.

Chapters are arranged around ingredients or classes of ingredients and given whimsical names such as How to Build a Ship or How to Teach an Egg to Fly.  Each piece outlines approaches to cooking these things as a series of progressive dishes or to embellish a meal or even tips to save a bad dish.  Because of this conversational and non reliance on recipes, this would make a good read for those who want to cook without recipes but aren't sure how to go about it.  The philosophy is sound but will drive people who needs the measures mad.

There is more in this book to hook the eye rather than hook the mouth.  Every so often, an apt phrase stops the reading cold and makes you relish the morsel on the page.  Since I have two young boys, I will include a sample from a place that is close to their heart...
Once the sun has set and risen, drain the beans through a colander and cover them by two inches with fresh, cold water. What gets flushed out of the beans on their overnight wallow is what inspires musicality in eaters. Feed their soaking water to your plants, who will digest it more quietly, if you like.
This is by no means the best but rather one that struck me as I was making a Farter's Day (Father's Day) menu at the time.

Even if you are an accomplished home cook, there is always time for gentle reminders to challenge your beliefs.  Her challenge for cooking vegetables just a little more will get some consideration in my house.  She suggests that too often, vegetables are left a little too al dente.  In my reading of Greek cookbooks in the last while, at least one culture appears to agree with her.

There were three takeaways that I was happy to have.
1. I had forgotten what a joy boiled meats were.
2. Dress a salad by starting with the more substantial ingredients.  Dress them and then add the greens to prevent overdressing.
3. The grease off stock can be used in a similar manner to bacon grease or butter.

All in all, I found this to be a decent read.  I can see how it could provide a similar comfort to reading MFK Fisher but somehow feels a little more relaxed and lazy approach to cooking.  But I think that we could all relax a little around the kitchen.

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