by Beth Rotto, Cheese and Chill Buyer
It isn’t often that a new food book comes along and transforms my thinking, but here’s onet hat does. “An Everlasting Meal” really delivers what it says in its subtitle “guidelines for cooking with economy and grace.” This book offers a lovely approach where everything is used, energy is economized and meals are prepared using ingredients on hand, especially leftovers. Adler says, “The amount of food you have left from a meal is always the perfect amount for something.” And later, “I subsist contentedly through the winter on a basic bread soup that’s true to the spirit of bread, which is that if you have it, all you need to turn it into a meal is whatever else you have.” She give ideas such as “Mint stems should be soaked in red wine vinegar, creating minty vinegar with which to make minty vinaigrettes” and “rice has a knack for making any small thing you top it with seem like what you’re tasting the whole time.” It’s like you’re sitting across the table from her.
With a minimum of equipment (“consider.. .not filling your kitchen with tools, but becoming, rather, the kind of cook who doesn’t need them”) and using ingredients often tossed out, beautiful food is prepared to the satisfaction of both cook and diners. Chapters such as “How to Live Well” (discussing beans), “How to have Balance” (talking about bread and cheese), or “How to Light a Room” (using herbs) are packed with ideas but only contain one or two actual recipes in the traditional form. I’ve started re-reading this book, only this time I’m underlining and writing in the margins.
“An Everlasting Meal” is a book I plan to give to newly-weds, graduates, friends and family who love food and good writing. It’s an empowering, practical, integrative and delightful book. Look for it at the Co-op.
FROM THE CHAPTER “HOW TO BOIL WATER”
“Once your water reaches a boil, salt it well. The best comparison I can make is to pleasant seawater. The water needs to be this salty whether it’s going to have pasta cooked in it or the most tender spring peas. It must be salted until it tastes good because what you’re doing isn’t just boiling an ingredient, but cooking one thing that tastes good in another, which requires that they both taste like something.”
FROM THE CHAPTER “HOW TO TEACH AN EGG TO FLY”
“Always salt an egg directly. This is something every good egg cook does. Do it when it’s hot. It makes all the difference in the world. Also drizzle your eggs lightly with olive oil, even if they’re going to get another drizzle when they get put on top of something else. The same salting rule holds for soft-boiled eggs, halved or quartered. Salt each one, especially its yolk.”
FROM THE CHAPTER “HOW TO CATCH YOUR TAIL”
“The bones and shells and peels of things are where a lot of their goodness resides. It’s no more or less lamb for being meat or bone; it’s no more or less pea for being pea or pod.”