Thursday, January 26, 2012

Reading in the Kitchen

"As long as you taste curiously, and watch and feel and listen, and prick your way toward food you like, you will find that you become someone about whom people will say that cooking seems to come naturally, like walking.  They will say it and it will be true."

Tamar Adler's An Everlasting Meal:  Cooking with Economy and Grace is that rare cookbook--more prose than prosaic instruction, more musings than exact measurements.  And while I usually prefer to follow exact recipes from standard cookbooks (and I do that a lot, from the many books I have), this book inspires me to want to cook, giving me the confidence and the ideas how to do it, without really giving me too many recipes.  Take the chapter "How to Stride Ahead."  Adler describes cooking all your vegetables as soon as you get home from the market so that you have the not-quite-raw ingredients for meals the rest of the week---they can be turned into delicious dishes with little work, which means you are much less likely to let them rot in your fridge. "By the end of the week, you will have eaten vegetables a dozen ways a dozen times, having begun with good raw materials only once." Her description of her dance from roasted vegetables to sauteed greens is beautiful.  And easy looking. Her first chapter, "How to Boil Water," similarly suggests how easily a meal comes together with a pot and water, as it has for 10,000 years. (See articles in NYTimes here.)

Adler was an editor at Harper's before she ever stepped foot in a professional kitchen.  But a stint at Prune (with chef-cum-writer Gabrielle Hamilton) and then at other restaurants turned Adler into an accomplished cook.  Thankfully, following in the footsteps of M.F.K. Fisher, she has written about it both at Salon and in this her first book.  I'm only a few chapters into it because I read a bit and then muse upon it.  And cook!  Yesterday, between chapters, I made black bean soup for my lunch and broccoli noodle soup for our dinner.  And I'm ready to be back in the kitchen for dinner again today.  Where I'll be cooking a meal based on Adler's dictum to use what you have between reading such enticing sections as "How to Make Peace," "How to Weather a Storm," and "How to Drink to Saints."

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