Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace isn’t really a cookbook, though it has recipes and one could easily learn how to make several dozen meals by reading it intently. Nor is it a memoir, though it certainly has a few nostalgic, almost wistful, moments. It is Adler’s story of the art and love of cooking simply in one’s own home. As such, it was a perfect read here at the genesis of Wholly Food!
When I finished the book, Mia asked me what the Adler’s thesis was. I’m not sure if she was entirely serious or trying to cause me flashbacks to senior English class, but here it is: anybody can and should cook comfortably in their own home, intuitively, and eventually without recipes. The book is somewhat of a pep talk on how to do just that using a few basic principles:
- Use the freshest, highest quality ingredients you can find. These will often be expensive. That’s perfectly okay, because you should…
- Use almost every part of every ingredient and…
- Use all of your leftovers, particularly in new, creative, and tasty ways
The entirety of the book is a compilation of variations on this theme and real-world examples and strategies for how to do this. She covers nearly all the basic cooking one can do in their own kitchen and how to reconsider and elevate it.
A particularly handy section for new cooks is how to rescue “failed” attempts. Nearly every kitchen catastrophe has a new recipe and remedy in here ready to salvage your dinner party. It’s kind of mind-expanding to realize that one culture or cuisine’s mistake is another’s delicacy (one man’s treasure… and all that).
I really enjoyed the book. I found myself skimming over the recipes, because I knew I would come back and use it as a kitchen reference, and will eventually end up cooking quite a few dishes out of here.
The only drawback I felt the book had was a result of it only having one author. Adler has a very close relationship with the foods and countries surrounding the Mediterranean, particularly Italy, and that shows in her preferred ingredients and recipes. Additional authors would have widened the scope of the book and given the home chef more options, but it would not have had the resonance as this one person’s work of love.
If you’re just starting out cooking, or are stuck in literally interpreting recipes and want to break out and cook more intuitively, then I highly recommend this book.