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Rainbow Kitchen

Transformational Cooking – New Thinking, Not Techniques

By Allison St. Claire
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So if food preparation has become a chore, a bore, or seemingly not worth it because (choose one or more): the kids are gone, the grandkids have too many allergies or parental restrictions, your spouse is gone, you never learned how, your health demands dietary restrictions, you’ve run out of ideas or enthusiasm – I think An Everlasting Meal will be the biggest boost of a new, improved, easier, healthier life you may ever get.

Seldom have I read a book this good. If it had been a college textbook, I would have gone through at least two highlighters marking it up. (Whoops, that was 50 years ago – highlighters hadn’t been invented yet.) But this is now, and after reading a library copy of An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler, I counted over 50 Post-it tabs I’d stuck on its pages, many marking only the beginning of long passages of memorable ideas. It looks something like a hardbound, book-shaped porcupine with Day-glo green quills sitting on my table.

But inside? The subtitle “Cooking with Economy and Grace” probably says it best.

Those of us who lived with families who had come through the Depression years by eating economically; or who lived during the war years, cooking with grace despite the shortages and rationing and stress of family members missing from the table while off to war; or even those of you who came after and tried to salvage healthy, real food despite the marketing onslaught of mass-produced, highly processed “convenience” foods – are supremely lucky now in our senior years to have a book such as this take us back to, or re-inspire us to revert to, real cooking. Simply, economically, deliciously.

As Adler begins: “In 1942, M.F.K. Fisher wrote a book called How to Cook a Wolf...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 it’s preparation’ as the New York Times described it, spiritually restorative.”

Food is not rationed today, except by our inability to keep up with rising prices. Our kitchen storage and preparation space may be diminishing as we downsize to more age-appropriate housing. Our mobility may be less than optimal so that a quick dash to the store to pick up a missing ingredient is out of the question. Adler’s book is about “eating affordably, responsibly and well, and because doing so relies on cooking, it is mostly about that.”

So if food preparation has become a chore, a bore, or seemingly not worth it because (choose one or more): the kids are gone, the grandkids have too many allergies or parental restrictions, your spouse is gone, you never learned how, your health demands dietary restrictions, you’ve run out of ideas or enthusiasm – I think An Everlasting Meal will be the biggest boost of a new, improved, easier, healthier life you may ever get.

Again from Adler: “This book doesn’t contain ‘perfect’ or ‘professional’ ways to do anything, because we don’t need to be professionals to cook well, any more than we need to be doctors to treat bruises and scrapes: we don’t need to shop like chefs or cook like chefs; we need to shop and cook like people learning to cook, like what we are – people who are hungry.”

So even if you’ve been cooking for decades, don’t be put off by a beginning chapter as simple as “How to Boil Water.” Or “How to Light a Room,” “How to Have Balance,” and “How to Be Tender.” And revel in multiple, innovative quick fixes for any seeming cooking failures such as rice or lentil pancakes (below).

I’ve been a fanatic cookbook reader and cook for decades, yet 50 Post-its later, I’m still discovering inspirational gems in Tamar Adler’s words. Get this book. Read it, savor it, devour it. And then, get cooking.

 


Recipe:

Rice or Lentil Pancakes

 

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Allison St. Claire loves to dream about, study, grow, play with, prepare and ultimately enjoy eating great food.

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