more winter reading

Quiet days off are perfect for catching up on reading, and I had a slew of books come in on library holds over the last few weeks--funny how they all arrive at once.

some christmas gifts are more photogenic than others...

I finished The Everlasting Meal, and while I liked it a lot, there was a little cringing at times.  Its sort of like being at a party with someone who shares your political views, but with a bit more fanaticism.  You (mostly) agree with what they are saying, but internally flinch at how it sounds to those a little less inclined in that direction.  If a book or idea is meant to be a bit proselytizing, I think some temperance is useful at times, to make the message more receivable (digestible?).  So I can imagine a new cook, dipping their finger into local and seasonal cooking, feeling overwhelmed at the elitism of all the ingredients and preferences.   Still, I do think this book would be great for CSA customers learning how to get the most out of an abundance of weekly veggies.

For a book with the word economy in the title, there was a lack of real-life frugality at times.  There was a section on how it was okay to purchase frozen meat--she did encouraged it even--but really, in what world can you buy locally produced meat fresh from the farmer?  I live in a mecca of local foodie-ism, and our market vendors sell rock-hard paper-wrapped packages.  Fresh meats are sold at our co-op  (but were probably frozen previously) and some regional meat markets, but at premium prices.  Buying in bulk and planning meals around frozen foods (even your own veggies) is a skill in itself, and rarely discussed in books these days.  If people are to eat more healthfully and frugally, this is something worth learning.  And teaching.

Also, as someone who lives in a "flyover state" I get a tired of the seasonal eating recommendations of Californians.  I know this is a silly criticism, as so many great cooking and food books come from the East and West coasts, but am I the only one who gets tired of pasta primavera having zucchini and artichokes?  It just seems a little too easy to live in a temperate climate and wax poetic about spring harvests of figs and apricots!  But perhaps I am a grumpy Midwesterner in mid-winter. 

Somehow, though, I am more accommodating to English gardening books, despite their happy tales sowing of seeds outdoors in February.  So I am also reading Tender, by Nigel Slater.   I don't watch cooking shows on TV, so don't really know much about him, but saw this book recommended in several spots.  It's lovely, and so far I like his take on growing and cooking your own.  I had to laugh when I saw photos of his veggie beds wrapped in box hedges, and thought "how beautiful, but impractical".  Several pages later, he admits to the same thing, and I found myself warming to his style even more. The book has growing tips, specific recipes, but also vaguer-tips on seasonings and cooking styles for each veggie (pairings of herbs and cheeses, for example) which seem useful. 

Finally, since Everlasting was such an homage to How to Cook a Wolf, by M.F.K. Fisher, I figured I should go back and read the original  (I KNOW, I'm late on this one).  What a delightful book, and one I intend to own for myself.  Like Californian foodies and British gardeners, there is some translation that has to occur to apply to today's real-life.   I am glad to appreciate having reliable refrigeration, and also kind of fascinated by the difference in food and economic struggles our country had in the 1940s.  As for the modern reinterpretation of the book, I found myself wondering why it had to be rewritten at all?  I totally understand the inspiration behind it, but like the re-make of a classic or foreign movie, it seemed mostly unnecessary. 

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  1. Thanks for confirming my "pass" thought on Adler's book.

    I got Tender from my boss as a gift this year. He'd been on my list for a while...but his works had remained in Britain too long before this one. I do like it, like his suggestions, and am just sad I got it when my veg selections are at their fewest. Sometimes you just need a bit of a kick so tonight I am going to try one of his recommendations for my last remaining kabocha squash, a lamb-chickpea stew thing without the lamb.

    Hope you get more good reads in on your time off. One of my favorite MFK Fisher books (worth owning that is) is the compilation The Art of Eating, mainly because I love hopping around her life, reading about sea sickness and having crushes and cooking for her daughters in the big French farmhouse. Sigh.

  2. I've yet to read any of these, but am glad to hear your take on them. And Maine may not be a flyover state, but my chances of growing artichokes enough to use as an ingredient, rather than the star of the show, are slim!

    I'll have to live through your reading, as all I'm managing these days are travel guides as we work on planning our big trip. I need a month for Utah alone! How am I going to squish so much gorgeousness into mere weeks?

    Love the Fiesta teacups! I got my first batch of Fiestaware nearly 10 years ago and have yet to tire of it. I just love the colors. Happy new year, and enjoy the reading!

  3. El: Yeah, its been on hold for me for months, and I finally got it in December, good for garden planning inspiration if not meal inspiration :)

    Ali: The trip sounds awesome, what fun! We just started on the Fiestaware last year--we were still using hand-me-down plates that I had in COLLEGE and finally decided to pick out something we liked. :)

    Happy New Year!

  4. I love this post! I love food/gardening books, and reading your post reminded me that I read How to Cook a Wolf last year (and really enjoyed it!). I think I'll be off to the library to find some of those mentioned above. Thanks!

    1. You're welcome, and thanks for stopping by :)


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