The Kitchen Reader: An Everlasting Meal

by Stacy

The October Selection for The Kitchen Reader book club was An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler, chosen by our fearless leader, Sarah of Simply Cooked.

It’s been far too long since I’ve participated in our book club, but I’m so glad that Sarah encouraged me to pick this book up. I loved it.

Tamar Adler has cooked at well-known restaurants Prune and Chez Panisse, but isn’t a classically trained chef.

“This is not a cookbook or a memoir or a story about one person or one thing. It is a book about eating affordably, responsibly, and well, and because doing so relies on cooking, it is mostly about that.”

Adler doesn’t preach or tout the benefits of good nutrition, she simply presents a straight-forward approach to eating that isn’t fussy, complicated, or difficult. The first chapter, “How to Boil Water,” proposes that you’ll decide what to put in the pot by the time the water comes to a boil. Traditionally formatted recipes are sprinkled throughout the book, though each section sketches out a framework for various meal ideas.

Adler’s elegant descriptions linger with you for a moment: “[Soups] needn’t taste of their ingredients, but only give their ingredients somewhere to be left off and picked up again.”

She explains how to add ambiance with fresh herbs in “How to Light a Room” and how to use beans in “How to Live Well.” Food isn’t just about technique or nutrients, but about transformation, sustenance, and how we live our lives. Adler demonstrates “nose-to-tail” eating with herbs, produce, and animal products alike.

One fascinating chapter covers “How to Snatch Victory from the Jaws of Defeat,” and rescues you from common kitchen mishaps. An appendix in the book even has several pages of recipes based on over-cooked or burned ingredients, nothing that “Textural reconsiderations can be your best friend.”

Her lack of pretension comes through statements like:

“I cook grits and polenta interchangeably. This might affect my credibility, but they are both ground corn, and they both taste good with the other’s traditional accoutrements. Whether I cook grits or polenta, it’s not the side, it’s the dish.

The same non-judgement permeates her tips for entertaining, reminding us that “No one ever comes to dinner for what you’re cooking.”

There are no photographs to make you salivate, but the picture she paints of preparing satisfying food with ease inspired me to get in my kitchen and see what’s possible.

A beautiful and enjoyable book that I’m happy to have read.

Have you read An Everlasting Meal? What did you think? Check out the Kitchen Reader for more opinions.


Stacy Spensley is a healthy life coach, recovering stage manager, lover of the Oxford comma, and vegetarian. She's bossy because she loves you.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah, Simply Cooked November 4, 2012 at 4:26 am

Yay, I’m glad you enjoyed it. :) I found a lot to resonate with me in the book. Alder’s writing was a bit quirky at times, but in a loveable way. I was touched by descriptions of how a perfectly cooked egg is “teaching it to fly”. Also this: “A gently but sincerely cooked egg tells us all we need to know about divinity… [It] gives us a glimpse of the greater forces at play.”

You hit the nail on the head when you said she is non-judgemental. It was lovely to read simple ideas for anyone – no cheffiness required.
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Stacy November 10, 2012 at 3:18 pm

Thanks again for the great choice, Sarah! My mom is in town and I’m having her read it before it goes back to the library, and she’s loving it, too. =)

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Iris November 5, 2012 at 12:21 pm

I really liked the chapter on fixing kitchen mishaps too. I especially love the way she suggests simply renaming dishes something else when they didn’t come out the way they were supposed to. I have a tendency to feel crummy when my food doesn’t come out as it should, even if it tastes great nonetheless. Next time I have a kitchen “failure”, instead of beating myself up I’ll think about what Adler said and call it something else :)
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Stacy November 10, 2012 at 3:20 pm

Nothing like a little semantics and a mindset shift to put mishaps into perspective, right? ;-)
Julia Child said to never apologize for the food you make, and I’m still working on that, but I think I have some new strategies from this book!

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