Thursday, May 26, 2011

Reading the Day Away

Between all my walking forays, including a few trips up and down the stairs each day, I have been reading, almost a book a day. Yesterday was Edward Espe Brown's Tomato Blessings and Radish Teachings, which combined his Zen approach to mindful cooking with simple vegetarian recipes. Several of the essays were also in the documentary on Brown, How to Cook Your Life, including the explorations on battered teapots, the "right" biscuits, and the admonition to "wash rice when you wash rice." Today I started and am almost finished with Christopher Kimball's Fannie's Last Supper, an exploration of high-Victorian cuisine based on Fannie Farmer's 1896 Boston Cooking School cookbook. Not only does Kimball, founder of Cook's Illustrated, meticulously recreate complicated dishes using calves' heads and calf's feet gelatin and serve them up at a fancy dinner attended by the likes of Mark Bittman, he outlines the social history of Boston's markets, the South End, daily lives and clothing of maids, and how to use a coal-burning cookstove. All of which is for me fascinating reading (and the website has recipes that the book doesn't, like Baked Rosewater and Cardamom Custards with Pistachios). Tomorrow, I think I'll be reading Geraldine Brooks's new historical novel Caleb's Crossing, based on the first Native American graduate of Harvard. I'd been enjoying Sally Gunning's novels of the 18th century and had previously enjoyed Brooks's People of the Book, Year of Wonders, and March (well, that one not as much), so I'm looking forward to it.

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