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It’s been a few months since I finished An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler, and yet I can’t stop thinking about it. It might seem a little odd to choose this book for the first review on this site. It was published a while ago. The author has even written a more recent and also very well regarded book! But, it seemed right to shout the praises of An Everlasting Meal from the rooftops, using any platform I could.
The past year or so was a bit of a whirlwind, and this book transported me to a warm and cozy place every time I cracked it open. For a non-fiction book, that is pretty special. An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace is part memoir, part cookbook, part thesis ,and full love letter to the humble components that make up a great meal. Each chapter zeros in on an ingredient or a technique and thoroughly examines its selected target. My favorites are the chapters on beans and making great sauces — “How to Live Well” and “How to Feel Powerful,” respectively.
While the book does contain recipes, it isn’t a cookbook. While I’m sure each person will interpret it differently, this book felt to me like a senior-level course for home cooks. If you already have a handle on the basics, it will help you to push the boundaries of what cooking “should” be or sticking within the stifling boundaries of a recipe. The included recipes read more like suggestions and offer techniques and new ways of thinking about the ingredients instead of dictating what to do with them.
One afternoon after I put the book down, I felt a gravitational pull to the kitchen, and found myself soaking some small white beans in water while chopping an onion, some celery, and a fennel bulb… not quite sure where the dish would take me. While I was cooking I heeded her advice (add a lot of olive oil, plenty of salt) and moved at a swift but comfortable pace. I had a couple of mini-baguettes from the bakery down the street, so I sliced those up and make some garlic bread to go along with this glorious pot of beans. (Note: it’s not normal for there to be baguettes at my house — it seems like fate they should be present on the same day as my bean inspiration.) I felt happy, content, and blissful — not bad for a meal that only cost a few bucks.
More recently, I had the same feeling when I was making a pesto out of various bits of greens, herbs, and nuts I had laying around. I wasn’t going to be able to use the greens and herbs before they went bad, and I had a weird amount of pistachios leftover from another recipe. As I blanched the greens and toasted the nuts, I thought to myself: “This is some Everlasting Meal shit right here.” This might be the closest I ever come to meditating.
If you would like to read this book, check it out from your local library or find it here on Amazon.
Note: As a lover of food and the culture and media that surrounds it, I read a lot of content about cooking, hospitality, and anything adjacent. The books and content I review were not gifted to me by the authors or publishers and as always the content on this site is 100% honest.