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Book Review: An Everlasting Meal

A year (or more) ago a customer/friend from the Sweetwater Market eagerly thrust a book into my hands. She said, "You will like this book. Here, read this chapter on beans." So, while I should have been paying attention to my customers, I was surreptitiously devouring Chapter 9, titled "How to Live Well."

I was hooked both by the writing style and the author's approach to cooking. I have assembled meals (for better or worse) for most of my adult life. But you could hardly call it cooking. Growing up I spurned my mother's offers to teach me the ways of the kitchen. (Sorry, Mom. I really was a pain.) And that lack, along with my careful approach to most of life, has made me stay in the shallow part of the pool--the place with predictable results. 1 cup of this + 1 pinch of that = something that would fill bellies.

I came home from market that day and placed the book on my PaperBack Swap wish list. I use PaperBack Swap as a way to slow down my acquisition of books, as it forces me to wait until someone puts their copy of the book I want up for swap. If I'm impatient, I use the library.

Eventually, someone mailed me a very nice copy of the book I was hoping for, and I've decided it's a keeper.

From the chapter on beans: "Our beans are rarely as good as they can be. They're usually so bad, in fact, that basing an opinion of their merit on prior experiences is very much like deciding you don't like Bach after having heard the Goldberg Variations played on kazoo."

"I suggest you set your doubt aside, fill a pot with cold water and two cups of dried beans, put it on your counter, and leave it there overnight. You will be on your way toward making beans that taste like those that have fed laborers and fighters for centuries."

Other chapters focus on herbs ("How to Light a Room"), rice ("How to Make Peace"), meat ("How to Be Tender"), mistakes ("How to Snatch Victory from the Jaws of Defeat"), and more. The author sprinkles tips and recipes throughout the book--things that I was eager to try and that I have incorporated into my cooking since first reading it all the way through last summer.

The book's whole approach can be boiled down to cooking (and living) simply and well. The author suggests keeping a well-stocked pantry, using what you have on hand, and folding the little bits of leftover into the next meal, making it an everlasting meal.

An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace, by Tamar Adler, is so much more than a cookbook. It's an approach to cooking, and to life, that makes me want to slow down and savor the moment. Check it out from your local library if you can. If you love it enough to own it, buy it from an independent bookstore or check out PaperBack Swap.


  1. This book is magnificent. If you cook you'll like the recipes and ideas. If you like to read about food you'll love it. The author, who I had the pleasure to meet, has a personal view of food that all of us can benefit from.

    1. Lucky you, to have met the author! Thanks for adding to the discussion.


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