Julie Davis's Reviews > An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace

An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler
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's review
Nov 08, 2012

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Read from November 02 to 05, 2012

I noticed this book popping up in various spots and have been waiting for the library to cycle through others who requested it before me. One thing I noticed that I thought was fantastic was that the readers actually were feeling bolder in the kitchen, more willing to experiment and throw together a meal from inexpensive ingredients on hand ... and coming up pleased and increasingly confident thanks to the meals they produced.

I like any cookbook which does that.

Having finally gotten a copy I can say that Adler has a very practical viewpoint, which she herself mentions time and again. She talks about various ingredients and cooking approaches in a pleasant, discursive manner with very few actual recipes. It is this quality that emboldens her readers and a very good quality it is to have.

Adler says that she was inspired by M.F.K. Fisher's "To Eat a Wolf" which was a 1942 book written to encourage good cooking with minimal ingredients. As a long standing fan of Fisher's I can vouch for Adler being a descendent of that thinking, albeit a very practical one. Also as a longstanding fan of Fisher's, however, I would like to mention that, despite blurbs on the cover, Adler's style is nowhere near that of Fisher's.

M.F.K. Fisher wrote some of the most beautiful prose imaginable about cooking or about anything else you can imagine. Just to be sure I picked up my copy of The Art of Eating and flipped through it. I do not say this to take away from Adler, who does a very nice, practical job in her book ... which is a nice read in itself. I say this to encourage anyone who has read Adler's book to pick up a copy of any of M.F.K. Fisher's books for some of the most enjoyable food writing ever penned. My particular favorites are An Alphabet for Gourmets and Serve It Forth, but she made an entire book about oysters into something that I read again and again.

With all that said, An Everlasting Feast is not a book I'd actually recommend to someone who doesn't come across it on their own. The advice is crammed together in what I can only think of as one "sound byte" paragraph after another. She also likes to present her particular taste as being something everyone would love ... and I'm gonna say it now - a cold cooked greens sandwich just ain't ever gonna make me light up with joy, no matter how often she says it or how charming the venue in which she tasted her first sample. Etcetera.

I understand what she's getting at and, as I mentioned, I have seen testimony that Adler's book has helped a couple of friends to think of cooking as something more than recipes. Hence, the three stars instead of something lower.

I would advise instead though, to those inquiring, Pam Anderson's How to Cook Without a Book, Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking, James Beard's Beard on Food, Julia Child's The Way to Cook, Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything (the first edition, not the newest edition), or M.F.K. Fisher's How to Cook a Wolf.
I will continue reading Adler's book with interest. As I say, she does a fine job and I think this book is the one for our times when we are all hurried and harried. And I appreciate the gift she has given me in prompting me to pick up M.F.K. Fisher's books again. It has been much too long since I've reread any of them.

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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Melanie (new)

Melanie I totally agree about disliking how Adler elevates her personal taste to some sort of universal rule.

I think this book spoke to me mainly because I've been in a major rut. Pregnancy with the nausea and food aversions really throws me off my cooking stride even once I'm feeling better I have gotten out of the habit of cooking and find it hard to get it back. I actually liked the dearth of recipes and the profusion of prose. I needed something to make cooking sound fun and remind me that it can be an interesting challenge to make do with the ingredients I have on hand.

I do look forward to picking up some Fisher soon. You've really made her sound intriguing. Right now I'm reading Bake the Bread, Buy the Butter-- was it you who recommended it? She covers a lot of stuff I already know or figured out on my own, a lot of recipes that I'm not interested in making. But... I've found myself bookmarking a few to come back to and I'm entertained by her adventures with the chickens and gardening and various culinary exploits. I like the format and that she sometimes comes down on the side of making things despite the hassle. Not always the choice I'd make; but interesting to read about other people's decision process.

Julie Davis I really loved Bake the Bread, Buy the Butter ... she's up front about her discoveries, entertaining, and honest. :-)

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