an everlasting meal


I want to take a moment to share some of my thoughts on Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal because this is one of those books I’m sure I’ll keep pulling off the shelf for inspiration.  It’s not just a book of recipes that we can pull out for one occasion or another; it is a book meant to completely alter the way we think about cooking and about the ingredients we have in our kitchen.

I am horrible about using leftovers.  Which is why I generally try not to keep them.  My mom always says that my fridge is the opposite of hers (pretty bare), and while some of this probably has to do with my obsessive organizing, a lot of it has to do with that fact that we tend to throw leftovers away.  Because, really, what are we going to use them for?

But An Everlasting Meal (which is beautifully written by the way…she talks about food in the way Barbara Brown Taylor talks about faith) is making me think about it in new ways.  It is making me think that perhaps I should save that rice or risotto and do something with it the next night, like fry it or transform it into fritters.  It is making me think about saving the stalks to broccoli to use in stock or to make some core stem and leaf pesto.  And while I may not be doing these things all the time, I’m thinking about them, which at least counts for something.

Adler writes about cooking, not about recipes.  She writes about how you move about the kitchen and how you think about food.  She writes about how to make your water perfectly salted and how to save your overcooked meats by transforming them into something else.  She shows us how to use the bits and pieces of the things we find in our kitchen, the parts of foods we don’t always use.

At the beginning of last month, just after I had started reading this book, Gerrit and I both came down with a horrible cold.  And, feeling inspired by the way Adler talks about boiling vegetables and turning simple stocks into soups and meals in various ways, I made my first ever homemade chicken noodle soup from the bits and pieces I could find in my kitchen.  I had a chicken I was cutting up to freeze, so I cut the wings off and tore off the scraps of meat that didn’t come off cleanly with my knife and threw them into a pot of salted water.  I chopped up some baby carrots that were starting to get a little old.  I added a shallot and some garlic.  And then, in the end, boiled some noodles right into the stock.

It wasn’t the most perfect recipe.  In fact, it wasn’t a recipe.  It was just me moving around my kitchen and pulling scraps into a pot.  It was a new way of moving for me, something I’m not used to.  But I could feel the way the pot of boiling water spoke to me and told me what to put in when and guided me through making a soup.  And it was refreshing to be listening to that that pot instead of to the words of a recipe.

An Everlasting Meal is one of those books that is changing the way I’m thinking about cooking (kind of like Dinner A Love Story did).  It’s making me think about meals I can make that are more simple than what we often do (we’ve already tried one from the book that was lovely).  It’s making me think about saving the things I would normally throw away.  It’s challenging me to get away from meat more often and to make full and simple meals from pastas and vegetables.

And I think most importantly, this book has reminded me that getting in the kitchen isn’t always about trying out new and fancy recipes.  It’s about feeding family and using the ingredients we have to do something that can be akin to magic.

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