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An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace Paperback – June 19, 2012
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Amazon Exclusive: Michael Ruhlman Reviews An Everlasting Meal
Michael Ruhlman is the author of The French Laundry Cookbook and The Making of a Chef.
I'm sent countless advanced proofs of books asking for "blurbs," words of praise that the publisher can use to entice book buyers. I get so many, in fact, that they can feel more a burden than a pleasure. An Everlasting Meal by a writer I didn't know was one such book, so it was all but accidental that it came with me on a July trip to the beaches of the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where I opened it, reclined on a towel on a gorgeous stretch of sand. By the time I was half finished, I'd already contacted the editor to say I'd happily write something on behalf of this book, because I love it. It's smart, graceful and strangely, beautifully reassuring.
Tamar Adler, a writer and cook who has logged serious time behind the line in actual restaurants, sets out to model her book on How to Cook a Wolf by the doyenne of literary food writing, M.F.K. Fisher--an audacious, incredibly presumptuous intent. Adler does neither Fisher nor herself a disservice in the comparison. The essays in this book are truly fine, formed from both thought-provoking ideas and practical advice about food, cooking and eating. I've read few books that ask us to think about food with this kind of elegance, whether discoursing on how to cook an egg or how to set a table. I always looked forward to picking this book up, and I always felt an ease and comfort while reading. It's hard to imagine a more elegant book of essays on the subject.
A worthy companion to Fisher, highly recommended. --Michael Ruhlman
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“An Everlasting Meal is beautifully intimate, approaching cooking as a narrative that begins not with a list of ingredients or a tutorial on cutting an onion, but with a way of thinking…. Tamar is one of the great writers I know—her prose is exquisitely crafted, beautiful and clear-eyed and open, in the thoughtful spirit of M.F.K. Fisher. This is a book to sink into and read deeply.” —Alice Waters, from the Foreword
"It can be tricky, in this age of ethically charged supermarket choices, to remember that eating is an act of celebration. Tamar Adler's terrific book wisely presents itself as a series of how to’s—How To Boil Water, How to Have Balance, How to Live Well—with the suggestion that it's not only possible to do all these things, but in fact a pleasure. An Everlasting Meal provides the very best kind of lesson (reminding us we enjoy being taught), that there is real joy to be had in eating, and eating well." --Dan Barber, Chef/Co-Owner of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns
“Tamar Adler understands a simple truth that seems to evade a lot of cookbook writers and self-proclaimed ‘foodies’: cooking well isn't about special equipment or exotic condiments or over-tested recipes (and it sure isn't about ‘quickfire challenges’ or kicking it up a notch). It's about learning some basics, respecting the ingredients, and developing a little culinary intuition, or maybe just plain common sense. A book can’t necessarily teach you how to do that, but An Everlasting Meal will almost certainly inspire you to teach yourself.” --Colman Andrews, author of The Country Cooking of Italy and Editorial Director of TheDailyMeal.com
“In this beautiful book, Tamar Adler explores the difference between frugal and resourceful cooking. Few people can turn the act of boiling water into poetry. Adler does. By the time you savor the last page, your kitchen will have transformed into a playground, a boudoir and a wide open field. An Everlasting Meal deserves to be an instant and everlasting culinary classic.” –Raj Patel, author of The Value of Nothing and Stuffed and Starved
"An Everlasting Meal is a great thrill to read. Anyone who cooks is engaged in a re-creation of the Enlightenment Age--beginning with alchemy and mystery, always grasping towards chemistry and a tasty supper. With this book, Tamar Adler has chronicled our epic. Her tone manages to make the reader almost feel like he is thinking out loud. A marvelous accomplishment." –Jack Hitt, contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine
“Lessons so right and so eloquent that I think of them as homilies." --Corby Kummer, The New York Times Book Review
“Reads less like a cookbook than like a recipe for a delicious life.” --New York Magazine
"Reading [An Everlasting Meal] is like having a cooking teacher whispering suggestions in your ear.... Mindfulness, I’m discovering through this terrific book, can be delicious."
--Novella Carpenter, author of Farm City
“Tamar Adler has written the best book on ‘cooking with economy and grace’ that I have read since MFK Fisher.”
"What it really is is a book about how to live a good life: take the long view, give to others, learn from everything you do, and always, always, always mindfully enjoy what you are doing and what you’ve done. The fact you’ll learn to be a great cook is just a bonus." --Forbes.com
"Adler proves herself an adept essayist in this discourse on instinctive home cooking. Though highly personal, it’s much less a food memoir than a kind of cooking tao." --The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"Simultaneously meditative and practical, about how to appreciate and use what you have and how to prepare it appropriately with a minimum of fuss, space, equipment, or waste." --The Austin Chronicle
The perfect synthesis of literature and self-help. I really think it’s a profound book. (Sheila Heti The Believer)
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Top Customer Reviews
Tonight I had a few (lovely, organic) chicken breasts in the fridge that were getting perilously close to the date. As it is the end of the weekend, I haven't shopped in days and I don't have the ingredients to make any of my glossy paged cookbook recipes. There was some stuff in the fridge, yet I would have thought "nothing to make". Thanks to Tamar Adler, I pulled out my trusty pot, boiled some very salty water and starting by boiling the chicken (who does that???) with a handful of Tuscan spice blend. Then I sauteed a diced onion with some leftover mushrooms (that also would have gone bad), chopped celery ends my kids didn't eat from their Ants on a Log, then made a little roux. I created a sauce with a couple of cups of the broth from the chicken breasts and a cup of milk and random cheese bits. Then I tossed some random leftover cooked veggies and the diced chicken breasts in my lovely mushroom sauce. I also found some too-stale-for-salad croutons in the pantry, so I threw them in the rest of my seasoned broth, making a kind of stuffing, and put it on top of my mushroom saucey chicken concoction and baked for a few minutes. My family declared this makeshift casserole the best thing ever. And there was enough to put another one in the freezer, so I have solved "what's for dinner" twice, never having touched a single recipe. Everything except the chicken, onion, and cup of milk was what Tamar calls "ends", most of which would likely have been in the garbage.
If this sounds like the sort of thing that regularly happens at your house, then you probably don't need this book. If kitchen economy and/or grace are sorely lacking in your home, you will probably save the price of this book in one meal.
I did read the Kindle version, which I normally wouldn't do with a cookbook. However, this book is prose, not glossy photos, and meant to be read in order, so Kindle works great.
I thought I knew a lot about food and cooking. Food is never far from my mind, and on a daily basis, I am the primary cook for a three generations deep family of six with widely varied tastes and nutritional requirements. I learned to provide for myself and others in the kitchens of my great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother, from my father, who brought the traditions of his homeland, the Philippines, and from my brother, the professional cook, as well as the cauldron of necessity that is poverty, of the usual sort as well as that enforced by the demands of having to carry not only one's entire kitchen upon their back, but also their larder, as you might have guessed by my mention of Horace Kephart's classic, above. Among my friends number gourmands, foodies, gastronomes, food bloggers, food magazine columnists, and cookbook authors, and I myself have a growing collection of my own developed recipes which I am gradually turning into something of a cookbook for public consumption. I thought I knew a lot about writing. I am a lifelong writer of songs, poetry, and commentary on diverse subjects, an avid reader, and again, personal friend to authors who names you would recognise if I were to drop them unnecessarily here.
Yet, within only a few chapters of opening Tamar Adler's book, I found myself overwhelmed with the sense that the universe was both a much larger, and simultaneously smaller, place than I had ever dreamed, both more expansive and more simple than my perceptions had previously grasped. "An Everlasting Meal" is a book which has me reaching for all my social networking resources practically every other page, so replete is it with quoteworthy material and distilled insights that will startle you to think that you'd never considered them before, especially if your culinary milieu is garnered primarily from modern culture, with its emphasis on the freshest and choicest of everything and the finest in kitchenwares, all delivered to us by way of a profligate expenditure of our dwindling energy resources. I find within this book validation, recognition, kinship, and more than a little laughter; Tamar's well-stained casserole would find its sister in my kitchen, as would the glass roasting pans she has had since college--mine are of similar vintage, and if you have heard what's happened to Pyrex these days, you know that the old ones are the good ones. I will forevermore make certain to have at least one extra good wooden spoon in my stash for throwing at an opportune moment. One never knows who might be passing by!
I will not, in this review, give you a thorough run-down of what the book is, as others have already done that job, so you will know that this is not a cookbook, per se, nor is it a mere culinary memoir. It is both of those, and more. It is abstract, in a way, mystical, even, and above all imbued with an intimacy with its subject that simply cannot be feigned. "An Everlasting Meal" will, soon after you begin its inspection, have you thinking in new ways about both what goes into your kitchen and your meals, and what comes out of them, about how you might change your meals, and how they might change you. I honestly can think of no higher praise for a cookbook, if this book can properly be called such a thing, than that. I will make no bones of it--buy this book. Years ago, I developed a little saying which I often trot out with a hearty wink when people question why it is that in this era of convenience and abundance, my kitchen and its products are so central to my life: "There are two things I will not compromise in my life: things I put on my body, and things I put in my body, and you may take that however you like." If that proverb of mine resounds with you, this book is definitely for you. If it does not, buy the book anyway, and by the time you are halfway through it, I guarantee you, if you care at all about what and how you eat, it will.
I also love the writing, which is easy, flowing, personable, and often quite funny ("use fish that is strong-flavored by design or mis-calculation"). She is the best kind of mentor, one who meets you where you are, offers grace for your mistakes, and inspires you to keep trying to improve. She also emphasizes that the journey and effort are worth it, that we can make delicious food at home even without professional training or expensive ingredients.
I love cookbooks, and even though this isn't a typical cookbook, it's one of my favorites.