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?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Obnoxious Women

Poor starlings…does anyone love them?

"The insatiable bluejays have finished every scrap of food--
what does one do?

My poor chickadees flutter around while
the three fat pompous rusty things
beak into all the best.

How to remove starlings
and not disturb the small ones?

It's like getting obnoxious women
off the club committees."

Gladys Taber in
Stillmeadow and Sugarbridge

R.H. bangs on an old pan to scare the
starlings away from the feeders.

Do you love obnoxious women--
I mean starlings?
Or do you try to scare them away?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Bird Butt to Bird Butt

I woke this morning to this view from my dressing room window…

Brrr, it's cold outside…

I went to the kitchen where R.H. had sausages and fried potatoes
keeping warm in the oven.

He had already fed the birds once and was ready to again.

He said they were "bird butt to bird butt."

We ate R.H.'s good breakfast and looked out at the welcome sunshine,
R.H. using the zoom lens to capture our visitors...

The sun disappeared for a while but the birds stayed.

And other guests stayed at R.H.'s smorgasbord…

I'll stay too, but inside where it's cozy and warm.
I won't think today about the -3 degrees predicted for tomorrow night.

"I feel so completely content on a snowy day.
My home, my family, life itself, even me, all is perfect--
all is safe from harm.
Nothing has been.
Nothing will be.
Just the present,
bounded by the peace and the hush of the snow."
Agnes Sligh Turnbull

What I will think about is family,
praying for all of them everywhere to stay safe and stay warm
and be happy.

Nora may not be warm in this picture her daddy sent me yesterday,
but she is one happy little girl, isn't she?

Be safe everyone, stay warm and be happy.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Our Valentines

Gurn (R.H. Jr)


Gurn & Christy



Zack & Defee

Zack, Defee, Gurn, Christy

Happy St. Valentine's Day!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Night of the Green Velvet Dress

St. Valentine's Day Sweetheart Banquet, 1960

Mama made me many pretty dresses when I was a girl. 

My favorite, because it made me feel beautiful wearing it, was a bottle green velvet dress for the Sweetheart Banquet at church when I was 17. 

It was a fitted dress with long sleeves. Down the back were tiny buttons that Mama self-covered with the velvet.

Did you ever read The Enchanted April? In it the author wrote, "You didn't take your clothes to parties; they took you."

This was one party dress in my life that I didn't feel that way about. I wore that dress, it did not wear me. I owned that dress and had males from 14 to 49 tell me they loved it, including R.H.

I had my hair done in a French twist at Chester's and R.H. bought me gardenias for my corsage, my favorite.

We may all look glum there--it was a conservative church and there were as many chaperones as there were young people--but no two ways about it, I looked good that night. Of course, I still had poreless skin then and a 23" waist.

I forgot that I was shy and sparkled with wit the whole evening. R.H. looked at me with new eyes that night, I remember, and he had never looked more handsome, himself.

I'm telling you, there was magic in that green velvet dress.

Have you spotted us yet?

P.S. When my sweet friend Poppy saw this post she emailed me to see if I minded letting her fool around with trying to improve this old photo. Did I mind? I was thrilled to let her try. Here is the result she came up with. 

Thank you, Poppy, for this much improved editing!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Men Like Red

"It is axiomatic:

all men like red.

"They decorate their clubs in that fiery color;

"if they are gardeners,
they use red abundantly
in their borders;

"many of them, did their wives permit,
would fancy themselves in red cravats."

Richardson Wright

Editor in chief of House & Garden
for 35 years

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Love At First Sight

My grandfather met my grandmother at music class.

She was the teacher, he the student.

It was love at first sight for him.

She took a little wooing before saying yes.

They were married until death did they part.

Added on February 4th: 
I've just returned from visiting Nancy at Created for a Journey. Nancy is the latest guest writer at Jemma's Passion, Purpose and Productivity Project. It is clear to me that Nancy not only knows what her purpose is but is comfortable with it and excited about it. Please visit her and see for yourself. And her latest passion, photography, beautifully illustrates the other passions in her life. 

It has been such fun being a part of this project. To review, the other bloggers taking part in this have been:

My own post as part of this project is at this link.