Friday, February 20, 2015

Tamar Adler's An Everlasting Meal

If there is one cookbook that changed my life more than any other, it is Tamar Adler's 2011 book, An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace.




Tamar unequivocally says that An Everlasting Meal is not a cookbook but rather "a book about eating affordably, responsibly, and well."

It is a book of essays much like M. F. K. Fisher's classic How to Cook a Wolf, and Adler models her book after Fisher's. In the chapter called "How to Catch Your Tail" she taught me that even though I frugally save the roasted chicken carcass to make my own chicken broth, and meat scraps to make beef broth, I had not even thought about saving "tails." 

Tails, the intensely flavored drippings in the bottom of the pan that can be saved to flavor rice. Other tails: the oils left from dried tomatoes or anchovies, the stems of any fresh herb, shrimp shells, fish bones, citrus peels, so many things I threw away that have many uses to enhance food flavors.




Her chapter on How to Feel Powerful? How to Make Peace, How to Live Well, How to Light a Room, How to Weather a Storm. All amazing chapters!




But my very favorite chapter of the entire book, one that alone was worth the price of the book, is titled: 
"How to Build a Ship"

How do you build a ship? Adler lets Antoine de Saint-Exupery answer this question:

"If you want to build a ship,
don't drum up people to collect wood,
and don't assign them tasks and work,
but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea."

And dear friends, those of you who sometimes wonder how you're going to get excited about cooking one more meal…
How do you fall in love with cooking again?

How does Tamar Adler answer this question? She says:

"My answer is to anchor food to somewhere deep inside you,
or deep in your past,
or deep in the wonders of what you love."




After reading this chapter I reached far back in my memory and wondered…

What foods or meals tasted better than anything?

My mother's cold coconut cake!

And I do not have her recipe, do not. I tried this one, Coconut-Cream Cake from LUNA in Spokane, Washington. I had clipped it from Bon Appetit magazine (but could not find it in their archives to link to it for you).  It was an all day deal for slowpoke me with a Coconut-Custard Filling to make and chill for 3 hours, the Buttercream frosting to make the base for and chill for 2 hours before completing the steps when ready to frost the cake--and I should have doubled the frosting--and the cake itself to be baked, cooled, split in halves, and then frozen, yes frozen, for 1 hour before assembling the cake.

And it was not like my mother's. Hers must have had a whipped cream frosting. This cake was, still is, delicious, but not as swooningly marvelous as my mother's coconut cake.

So what next? My next memory of the best tasting meal I ever had as a child was eaten once a year. Not Thanksgiving Day meal. It was eaten at Lee's Inlet Kitchen in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina. We vacationed each summer while I was growing up in Myrtle Beach, SC, rented a cottage, and Mama, along with any aunts visiting that year, cooked all our meals.

But one night each year we always drove to Murrells Inlet and ate at Lee's Kitchen. I remember the big platters of seafood my father and uncle always ordered but I can still taste the fried shrimp plate I always ordered, year after year. 

I found out that Lee's Inlet Kitchen is still there, still owned by the same family since 1948. Here's a link to it in case you ever are near. I can still remember sitting there with sunburned arms and biting through the crispy crust to that juicy South Carolina shrimp!

I have 52 other things on my How to Build a Ship list of memorable delicious foods now to consult when I want to cry at the thought of cooking one more meal, but I think good fried shrimp has got to come soon.


[Spode's Albion Ships pattern. I only have 3 of them.]



Tell me now, please,
what is one of the most memorable
meals or dish that you would love to eat soon?


43 comments:

  1. Hmmm, that's a tough one. So many meals, so many memories. I see why you love that book. -- so inspiring! Your coconut cake looks fantastic, even without a double batch of frosting, and although it's not the same as your mom's. I had to check out the link for Lee's. It looks like my kind of place!

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    1. I hope to go back there someday, Amy, and to Brookgreen Gardens my father always took us too. I wonder if the teenagers still dance the Shag in the dance pavilions in Myrtle Beach?

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  2. What a gorgeous post! I feel so inspired. And craving some cake. On my way to amazon right now. Have a lovely weekend!
    Amalia
    xo

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  3. I was a very picky eater as a child; one would never suspect that of me now! My best food memories are from my dad's garden in the summertime, red ripe juicy tomatoes and leaf lettuce wilted with hot bacon grease dressing. I also picked the crispy bits from my mother's fried chicken. I would choose the neck as my piece, not much meat but a lot of crispy bits! I also loved the white cream gravy Mom made from the "tails", and I ate it over torn pieces of white store bought bread.

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    1. I had a father with a garden too, Brenda! And yes, my mother's fried chicken and gravy. Thank you for sharing your beautiful food memories with us here!

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  4. Lee's in on my bucket list now. ;) Hmmmm.... I'm going to think on the meals that bring that kind of joy in their memory. This book looks like a perfect companion to the passion and purpose project! I think I may need to track it down.

    Your coconut cake is BEAUTIFUL. I'm sorry that after all that process it wasn't as wonderful as your mom's, but I can tell it was delicious anyway!

    Have a wonderful weekend, Dewena. blessings ~ tanna

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    1. You know, Tanna, I think you're right about the book being perfect for Jemma's project! I hope you make it to Lee's, and find Adler's book!

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  5. Every time I visited my mom and dad in Georgia she made chicken pot pie. How we loved it. And sitting around the table with them.

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  6. My mother's cooking comes to mind - but nothing specific. She is a wonderful cook. I remember Sunday dinners - she got up early and started frying chicken or browning a roast or getting a ham ready to pop into the oven before we left for church. My father would peel potatoes and they would sit in the pot, covered with water until we arrived home. There was always a dessert ready - something chilled in the fridge or a baked pie or cake.
    It seems that not many people do the Sunday dinner thing any more - or at least not at midday.
    Your coconut cake looks scrumptious and fried shrimp sounds mmmm good.

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    1. Oh, my goodness, Lorrie, my mother also did the Sunday dinner thing! One Sunday fried chicken and all the fixings and the next was roast beef and all the fixings. How did she do that and get 4 daughters ready for church? Of course she was always the last one out the door, my sisters and I in the car, motor running, Daddy drumming his knuckles on the steering wheel. But he always told her she looked beautiful when she got in the car. Such good memories.

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  7. what a delightful brand-new-idea for a book. those are hard come by now, it would seem. a brand-new-idea for a book!

    a memory food, I would love to eat soon.......? trouble is, there are so many great foods, which I can not eat any more. and ways of cooking, like deep frying, that I can't consume any more.... that that question is difficult.

    but! what if I was still 18 and could eat anything???? -grin- I remember making fudge, back then. that is what I would choose! home made fudge! :-)

    just sayin'. you asked. :-)))))

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    1. Homemade fudge, women, and girls, used to know how to make that all the time when I was a girl, not just at Christmas. I have to leave that alone too, Tessa, too much sugar in one little bite but oh the memory of it melting on my tongue!

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  8. what a wonderful book! even for a non cook. just the attitude and love of the ordinary in life. i'm so glad you have it.
    and that cake. it's actually gorgeous. you can almost taste it just by looking at the picture! and coconut is a favorite of mine. i love also ... custard in a cake.
    boston cream pie probably the winner for me!
    my mother made scrumptuous scalloped potatoes. i remember them well.
    and the mundane tuna casserole was probably my favorite as a child. LOL.
    i love the memory of you all in the car and waiting for your mother... who'd been busy preparing the feast for after church possibly... and what your dad said to her. how wonderful is that to remember!!! lucky girl.
    xoxo♥

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    1. Tammy I love Boston Cream Pie too! It is on that memorable foods list for me and some day I'm going to make it!

      Scalloped potatoes, love them but haven't had them in years.

      I made tunafish casserole recently and was too tired to take pictures and thought, who would want to see a post about that! I have to make one with goat cheese for R.H. who is lactose intolerant. And one to share with Gurn!

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  9. haha, Dewena, here I am, even after you warned me!! That book sounds wonderful; I have enjoyed reading MFK Fisher.
    I'm actually trying to think of how to re-train myself to not equate food so much with comfort, although of course so many food memories are. I really can give up most stuff, but home-made baked goods will always spell comfort, and get a special place on my list. Your cake does look delish.

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    1. Aww, Deborah, you came anyway! Just didn't want you to crave cake but you are so smart just to have bought a tiny Valentine's cake for you and your husband as a treat and then no leftovers!

      I did send a lot of this cake home with my son and will send the rest to the job next week for R.H. to share with the crew. He has not even had one bite of this as he is lactose intolerant and doesn't often indulge. I try not to tempt him too often but some times that baking urge overcomes me!

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  10. I started watching Nathalie on PBS when I was newly married and living in Charleston, S.C.. We moved from Charleston and she moved to Charleston. I have Tamar's book sitting right beside me waiting to be read!! And, I love M.F.K. Fisher. I never eat a tangerine without thinking of her putting the sections outside her window in cold weather--her description of biting into that lovely cold fruit has never left me. Nice to meet you.

    Best,
    Bonnie

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    1. Yes, Fisher's tangerines! I had to pull down my copy of Joan Reardon's M. F. K. Fisher Among the Pots and Pans and there it is in the foreword:

      "After you put the tangerines on the paper on the hot radiator, it is best to forget about them…On the radiator the sections of tangerines have grown even plumper, hot and full. You carry them to the window, pull it open, and leave them for a few minutes on the packed snow of the sill. They are ready."

      And then she eats them, the perfume and cold pulp magical! I wish I had a radiator. Do you?

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    2. No radiator but we have cold, very cold! It is winter in the midwest (Chicago suburb) and we are used to being cold.

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  11. re: my post...

    "Slow Bloggers" rock too!!!!!!!

    hugs, hugs, hugs,
    Tessa~
    (who spends way too much time, on her computer! ,-) )

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    1. Hugs back to you too, Tessa. I'm so glad you put up with this Slow Blogger!

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  12. Dear Dewena,

    Your pretty Coconut-Cream Cake, is more than just a cake, isn't it? It's a sweet concoction of the senses, each one, playing a special role in your memory, and they've all done such a fine job, too, as you are still able to taste your mother's cold coconut cake, and that cake will always be the best tasting version of a coconut cake for you, because: it's connected to the kitchen of your childhood, your mother beating the batter, the aroma tempting you to open the oven, then, minutes later, (which seemed like hours!), gently pressing the top to see if it would spring back, which meant that it was done, carefully placing the pans on a rack to cool, and finally, enjoying that silky, smooth sweetness on the palate - sight, sound, smell, touch, taste!

    I was watching a Greek cooking show the other day, when the celebrity chef remarked that, even if we were to taste THE best ever, award winning, internationally recognized dish of something that our own mothers/grandmothers/fathers/etc., used to make, the latter would always, for us, rank #1, since it was the very FIRST version of it that we experienced, a kind of blueprint that has made an imprint in our understanding, and anything else doesn't compare, since we always base it on that first taste. Makes sense, doesn't it?

    My mother is a fantastic cook, but she never baked, except for this one, very simple orange cake, dusted with icing sugar, a recipe given to her by her younger sister, who is a marvellous baker. To this day, no orange cake compares to my mother's - (except my own;)), since it's the very same recipe, and one which I enjoy baking with my own daughter.

    Thanks for saving me a piece, as requested!

    Love,
    Poppy

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    1. So beautifully put, Poppy, those memories of mother doing all of the things you wrote about are there in my mind. And of Daddy using an ice pick to get the milk out of the coconut and then breaking the nut apart and grating the raw coconut. Each year on Christmas Eve, their joint effort. And you are right, I experienced it with all 5 senses!

      I know you're not fond of tea, shall I put a pot of coffee on, or rather have R.H. do it as I don't know how to make it, or drink it? It might not be as strong as that Greek coffee you make but people say it's good.
      Love,
      Dewena

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    2. Your cake got me craving cake, and although I haven't baked in days, I did manage to cure the urge with a delicious bakery bought muffin - chocolate chip/marble - and I am sipping on orange pekoe, as I type! I was an exclusive tea drinker until my mid 40s, when one day, I woke up wanting coffee, but I have at least one cup of tea a day. I would love to try R.H.'s coffee; I'm sure he makes a fine brew!

      xx

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  13. If I could have anything right this minute, it would be my grandma Bonnie's poundcake. I remember standing on that old chair stool and her letting me sift the flour. Years ago, after she had died, I asked my grandpa, Ox for the recipe and he sent it to me. Sadly, for some reason, I can't find it. I really wish I would have been more careful, but it was right before a move and it went missing. Hopefully one day it'll appear again, because I never had the chance to make it.

    I hope you find a recipe like your mother's one day, Dewena.

    I think I need that book ;)

    xo,
    rue

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    1. Do you remember if your grandmother's pound cake had whipping cream in it, Rue? I have an old recipe that I later found out was Elvis' favorite from his mother. It's very good. Your grandfather's name is Ox? How unusual! I think you'd like the Adler book.

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  14. Dewena Dearest,
    This is a yummy post for nearly all of our senses, and I personally savored each and every one of your descriptive sentences, photos and memories. Indeed this cake is representative of so much more. For me and many other's including your self, we are reminded of what Mamma baked and Mamma is synonymous with love, safety, nurturing and good food. So, for me, I have tried and tried to replicate Mamma's cinnamon rolls. I truly thought I had her recipe, as I have all of her recipe books. I now believe she altered the recipe somehow and I will never know what her secret touch was! Or perhaps it was the taste buds of a youngster that made all of the difference...
    Love,
    Jemma

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    1. Yes, we have so much to be thankful for in our mothers, Jemma. And nothing tastes as good as their prize recipes.

      And you have got to be right--taste buds aren't what they were when we were young!

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  15. Dewena, this coconut cream cake looks amazing! It looks so soft and yummy, especially the frosting. I think my favorite dish that I miss is my mom's homemade enchiladas. Nel and Jess make them sometimes, but my mom's were the best.

    This book sounds delightful, Dewena. Have a peaceful Sunday.

    ~Sheri

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    1. Homemade enchiladas sound great, I've never made them but can't resist enchiladas when we eat out at our favorite Mexican restaurant, a family owned one.

      Thanks, Sheri!

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  16. Well since I love coconut and you have several pictures of that cake in this post of course I wish I had a piece to eat soon,lol!! Go Figure! :)

    But I could sure go for Summer Corn, Tomatoes, and Peaches about now, in the dead of winter.

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    1. Corn, tomatoes and peaches sounds wonderful on this day with ice sliding off the roof, Deb, I would add some fried okra and cornbread too!

      Those months will be here before we know it and then we'll be wanting cold weather, or at least I will!

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  17. Have to admit I read this post "lightly"...that CAKE! Oh my! :-) I loved the quote about inspiring people to long for the sea instead of loading them down with wood to build a boat. Awesome quote. The entire post was interesting...a different approach to cooking. But, I didn't linger....now...away from the cake! :-)

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    1. I understand, Marie, you are doing so well on your new eating plan. That's much more important that cake! I'm glad you liked the Saint-Exupery quote, I like it too. I love his Little Prince quote too about "what saves a man is to take one step and then another one" or something to that effect.

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  18. The cake - oh Dewena, it had me drooling! I hope you are able to replicate it one day.
    The most memorable meal of my entire life - and there have been many fabulous meals, both simple and elaborate, at home and abroad - was a pizza, cooked in a stone oven under the stars -eaten at a rickety table while seated on rickety chairs. It was, simply, the best.

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    1. I love your memorable meal, Honora. I can just taste that stone oven pizza eaten outside under the stars!

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  19. as a child of the depression and wood burning kitchen stoves, I loved it when my aunt would scrub off the top of the iron stove, pop a pork tenderloin right on the surface and let it fry. Oh my... talk about good. You can't get that same flavor cooking one in an iron skillet so those days are long gone.

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  20. My mother was an 'ok' cook. Good, not great. My grandmother on the other hand was a true italian cook, but interestingly my mother did most of the day to day cooking (my grandmother lived with us). On holidays, especially Christmas Eve, my grandmother would pull out the stops and make the traditional 7 fishes. It's funny, but as delicious as it was, it's the scent of that meal that has stayed with me and one that sadly I have not be able to duplicate.

    Now about that cake. Anyone who knows me knows I would rather have a piece of coconut than the Hope diamond, a date with Clooney or a cellulite free butt (I reserve the right to change my mind though). Coconut tea, coconut ice cream, coconut smoothies, coconut cookies...you name it. It's my weakness. As fabulous as that cake of yours looks, I will say I think I would prefer your mother's recipe too. Whipped cream always trumps buttercream in my book.

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    1. A fellow coconut lover! With me it is anything coconut and anything lemon. Doreen, not a date with Clooney now--he's a married man! (Just kidding!)

      Have you posted about the 7 fishes Christmas Eve meal?

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  21. I have this book, gifted from a client who has provided myriad epiphanies.

    Time to read it deeply. Not a cook, all things domestic were disdained in childhood for me. I was to get a college degree, never depend on a man. Check, and check. However, I do not know how to cook.

    San Jacinto Inn was our childhood restaurant once/year. Seafood served family style. Building was on a pier over the water. I was the only one who liked fried oysters. That platter was MINE. To this day, never tasted anything so good.

    It was near San Jacinto monument, and Battleship Texas, and dad would always drive slowly pass each before parking. Fine memories.

    http://houstonhistorymagazine.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/V4-N2-Oliveira-San-Jac-Inn.pdf

    Thanks for jogging them !

    Would love some of your mom's coconut cake, figure it out !

    Garden & Be Well, XO T

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    1. Thank you so much, Tara, for giving the link to the San Jacinto Inn here! I loved reading the history of this special restaurant you enjoyed with your family as a child. Maybe restaurants today serve healthier food than your favorite, and my Lee's Kitchen, but oh, those delicious seafood meals they turned out!

      My husband studied the picture of the Battleship Texas as he's both a battleship history fan and a Texas born and bred.

      And we've both been reading your lovely The Garden View and talking about garden axes. If any of my readers who are gardeners happen to read this comment, Tara's The Garden View will inspire you!

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  22. There only seem to be a few days out of a month that I may "fall in like" with cooking again! Those days are ones I slice, peel and measure to cook most of the day -- things like soups and stews and roasts that I can put into meal-sized containers for us to take out, thaw out and warm up. I likely try to bake banana breads and blueberry muffins the same day, so I can use up those unfortunate "over-ripe" bananas. (We're also trying to cut some of the fat and sugar out our diet, so, what fun is that??) So -- I bake with that in mind, too---which made me salivate at the sight of the coconut cake you made. My aunt used to make the most wonderful multi-layered coconut cake frosted with what she called "boiled, seven- minute frosting", if I remember correctly. It was oh--so smashing!

    So..the kind of cooking I do now? Well, most of the "Joy" is all out of it---but I certainly enjoyed it when our children were young and we were, too. Still, it does give me a sense of peace, knowing there will be things to take out of the freezer on those days when Fibromyalgia keeps me on the heating pad much of the time. My husband does not cook a single thing, can barely make himself a sandwich, and doesn't really know how to heat up the things I've taken out of the freezer! (And absolutely doesn't want to learn, either. Wish his mom had taught her 6 boys some of the things she made sure her 3 daughters knew how to do in the kitchen.) ;)
    Besides a wonderful seafood dinner we had in Charleston a few years ago at Anton, I think any meal my mother-in-law is on my list of favorite meals. She was a true "Southern cook"--- her homemade biscuits, fried chicken, Brunswick stew, chocolate meringue and coconut cream pies.... anything she put her hands to in the kitchen was just...um, what good memories!

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