Friday night dinners at our home were inviolable.
We rarely ate dinner out the rest of the week, but there were exceptions: good pasta con ceci at the Italian restaurant in the mall where my father drank sambuca with coffee beans floated in it, adventures in the city to find Peking duck.
Friday night dinner at home was an unbreakable rule, though. It was an amazing one in inciting no protest, even as my brother and I grew, and adolescent imperatives began to press against parental constraints.
As the saying goes, too many cooks in the kitchen can be disastrous. But for Tamar Adler, author of “An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace,” which came out this month, it’s a way of life. A former Harper’s magazine editor-turned chef, food educator and now cookbook author, Adler comes from a food-obsessed family. Indeed she, her mother and her brother are all professional chefs.
“An Everlasting Meal” highlights Adler’s passion for simple, seasonal cooking, which she discovered in her mother’s kitchen and honed while working at restaurants like Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse (Waters contributed the book’s foreword). Part cookbook and part literary food book, it focuses on cooking with instinct, employing all five senses to the task, promoting thrift by using every part of an ingredient, and elevating simple food to the sublime. Unlike most cookbook authors, Adler offers just a handful of traditional recipes, filling in the book’s pages with recipe riffs and kitchen wisdom. For example, she writes:
All ingredients need salt. The noodle or tender spring pea would be narcissistic to imagine it already contained within its cell walls all the perfection it would ever need. We seem, too, to fear that we are failures at being tender and springy if we need to be seasoned. It’s not so: it doesn’t reflect badly on pea or person that either needs help to be most itself.
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