Economy and Grace

The past few days of my life have consisted primarily in an obsession with a cookbook: An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace, by Tamar Adler.

In it is a chapter entitled “How to Live Well,” and it is a chapter about eating beans.  If you know anything at all about me, you will understand how deeply this moved me.  This chapter’s epigraph is a translation of a Tuscan saying: “We were better off when things were worse.” Unbelievable. Amazing.

This is a cookbook by a philosopher, a theologian.  The kind of book you want to stay up til all hours reading, under the covers with a flashlight.

An Everlasting Meal is, as one of my favorite professors at Duke used to say of every book he assigned us to read, “worth its weight in gold.”  Because it will teach you to eke out more edible food from your kitchen.  And how to make it delicious.

Chapter titles like:  “How to Make Peace”  and “How to Snatch Victory from the Jaws of Defeat.”  Epigraphs at the beginnings of chapters from the likes of St. Exupery and Lewis.  A verse from Proverbs.

She teaches you how to boil water, how (and why) to boil things in water, how to use the water from boiled vegetables and meats (yes, she says, boil meat in water!), how to use all the parts of vegetables that you usually cast aside: a stem and leaf pesto, for example.

She teaches you how to make your own mayonnaise from scratch and entices you to truly want to give it another try (for those of us who have been betrayed by our precious attempts…) and for those who aren’t ready for it, she bestows consolation and a way to make store bought mayo taste a little better.

A whole glorious chapter on eggs.

Most of the recipes aren’t really recipes, just paragraphs explaining how you cook food, because really cooking is not so much about using teaspoons and measuring cups and using every single ingredient that some fancy person tells you, spending $20 on spices that you didn’t have in your cupboards already.  She teaches you to cook simply, with what you have.

It’s a gorgeous book, completely worth purchasing to keep as a reference, and as inspiration for those days when you just have some leftover vegetables and an egg in the fridge.  She will teach you to turn those into the most delicious meal.


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