An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace

Tamar Adler

Book cover

As I’m writing this, I’m making something from this book, a recipe that Elise and I (affectionately) refer to as “butt pesto.” (You’ll have to ask me.)

This is one of my favorite books about food I’ve ever read. It’s patterned as a modern homage to MFK Fisher’s book “How to Cook a Wolf.” While I also enjoyed the MFKF book, TA’s book has had much more of an actual impact on my life with food.

What I think makes this book so special is that it is not about food in isolation (“here are a bunch of things that taste great!”), as most books about food tend to be. Rather, it provides a vision of the place of food and cooking in one’s life. If you think about it, there are a lot of possible versions of this, more or less as many as there are people. TA’s vision happens to be fairly aligned with the way I think food fits into mine and Elise’s lives, but she articulates it in a way that is inspiring and thought-provoking.

Her way of thinking of course owes a lot to MFKF, and is also pretty close in style to Robert Farrar Capon’s “ferial” cooking from “The Supper of the Lamb.” Basically, as the title suggests, this view centers around treating meals not as independent events, to be separately conceived and planned in advance, but as a sort of unbroken chain in which the leftovers or leavings of one meal provide substance and inspiration for another in the future. In practice it involves having lots of little glass jars in the fridge, which I enjoy a lot, containing basically anything you didn’t use, down to the liquid from your can of chick peas.

It’s certainly a frugal method, and one that really encourages creative cooking. But more than these things, I love it because it establishes a sort of living rhythm to the food in one’s life, in a way that reminds me of the following words from Nel Noddings’ book “Caring” which have stuck with me for a long time:

“The one-caring, then, is not bored with ordinary life. As the Christian-Catholic finds new truth and strength in repeated celebrations of the mass, so the one-caring finds new delight in breakfast, in welcoming home her wanderers, in feeding the cat who purrs against her ankle, in noticing the twilight. She does not ask, ‘Is this all there is?,’ but wishes in hearty affirmation that what-is might go on and on.”

My Goodreads rating: 5 stars