THIS IS THE BOOK THAT inspired me to cook for myself. It demystified for me the cooking process, shored up my nascent resolve, and gave me the mental tools I needed to commit the revolutionary act of not settling for or eating processed food anymore (aside from cheese, bread, and other fermented eatables, of course). It also contains, as Chapter 12, the greatest food essay ever written, which — as I have noted elseblog — adjures you to call upon your inner chef to arise when you’re sick of cooking. (No mean feat, that.)
Written in spare, elegant, how-does-she-do-that prose, An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace gently takes would-be home cooks by the stirring-spoon and guides them down the kitchen-garden path to the lost realm of Culinaryland. Ms. Adler credits the great (and late) food writer (and former Sonoma Valley resident) M. F. K. Fisher as her muse. But let’s let her tell us about that. From Chapter One, titled How to Begin:
IN 1942, M. F. K. Fisher wrote a book called How to Cook a Wolf. How to Cook a Wolf is not a cookbook or a memoir or a story about one person or one thing. It is a book about cooking defiantly, amid the mess of war and the pains of bare pantries. Because food was rationed, it is about living well in spite of lack, which made a book “devoted to food and its preparation” as the New York Times called it, spiritually restorative.
The essays it contains make it seem practical to consider one’s appetite. It advocated cooking with gusto not only for vanquishing hardship with pleasure but for “weeding out what you yourself like best to do, so that you can live most agreeably in a world full of an increasing number of disagreeable surprises.”
I love that book. I have modeled this one on it.