Do not forget to move domestic arguments out of the kitchen during food preparation. Or else saucepans banged against the kitchen top will change shape and the lid will never fit properly again.
–from The How Not To Cookbook
The introduction to this book starts with the usual poetic musings about the ways food connects us through space and time to people and places–long past or dearly missed.
And just as a meal can connect us, so can writing about it. These essays are brisk and intelligent musings that bring a little salt to the sweetness of family meals, making them that much tastier.
For example, in baking for a crew of Polish builders working on her Brooklyn co-op, Sarah Shey recognizes that her generous impulse is spiced with pride. And in cooking for her daughters, Deesha Philyaw parses when fried chicken is a stereotype and when it’s heritage.
Most of us face that challenge of challenge of duality at some point, and sometimes it happens in the kitchen. When my husband asked to be “on the meal plan” at my apartment when we were courting, was I working my way into his heart via his stomach or is it just human impulse to respond to care and attention?
In these essays, brothers make cakes with their little sisters, a chef makes a soup to please a customer, and perhaps a cassoulet can save a marriage–or at least help a couple reflect on the value of a family and friend ritual they’ve created that revolves around cooking a three-day cassoulet of duck, lamb, and beans. Whether it’s a civilized dinner party or a resolute toddler asserting his food preferences, the table is an arena to explore our humanity.
They’ll make you think and laugh, and yes, there are recipes that will make you cook. Maybe you’ll be moved by chef Dennis Leary’s Caramelized Pear Tart with Gorgonzola Cream and Black Pepper Syrup or maybe you’ll fall into the comfort that is The Roast Chicken That Everyone Will Eat.
Whatever you do, read, cook, and eat.