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