If not for it being “assigned” as a Book Club choice, I would probably have never heard of it.
I don’t even know what category it falls under. Cookbook? Culinary read? (Is that a category?) Memoir?
It’s parts all of the above. And more. A little parenting advice. Memoir-ish. A picture of the author’s life. (A slice of it, anyway.) Non-fiction. Directions for a specific meal. Recipes. Dinner party plans. Life help. Social commentary. Amusing. Downright hilarious at moments. Poignant.
Is that too much to ask from a book? Probably. But he’s delivering it anyway.
It’s a little like this – imagine your grandfather, whom you love, respect, admire, adore, roll your eyes at, wants to tell you a recipe. And he does. But he also tells you how to prepare the meal and he also tells you where to buy the best knives, why cooking with gas in the only option for a serious cook. He tells you how to get your teenager to dine seriously and why your cakes always turn out flat. He adds in how he met your grandmother, what he believes is beautiful. And everything he is saying, or has ever said, also tells a story about his relationships – with people, with food and with God. That’s what it’s like. You stopped by for a quick recipe but you got instead his life story.
The detours are a plenty. The detours in fact, ARE the book. And they are as pertinent and valuable as any recipe he includes.
It’s a different sort of read than I am accustomed to, but I’ve probably been indulging in far too many easy reads of late any way.
My book copy is dog-eared and underlined. Some pages have a circle drawn around the entire page. As if every single word seemed important at the time, like art.
I really did chuckle loudly and often. I sort of want to give a gas stove a chance now. I want to own better knives. I’ve tried a recipe or two and I plan to try more. I think onions are far cooler now than I did before.
I read pages and paragraphs out loud to the kids, whether they cared or not. (Mostly, not.)
Several quotes from this book have found their way to our chalkboard wall, to the week’s copywork assignment and to the weekly Travelers Rest Here newsletter.
Some of my favorites are here:
On parenting and feeding your teens:
Don’t worry then. Their tastes in food are only as important as their grades in school and their choices in marriage. Under the Mercy, we shall all live to become friends, provided we don’t set each other’s teeth on edge too badly in the meantime. The best we can do is let them see, between the bursts of bad temper and the dire warnings of imminent shipwreck, that we ourselves are still mainly concerned to be lovers of being, and that we hope they will in due time manage to be the same.
Feed them, yes; but do not cook for them. Cook for yourself. What they need most of all in this vale of sorrows is the sight of men who relish reality. You do them no lasting favor by catering to their undeveloped tastes. We have not acquired our amplitude for nothing. No matter what they think, we know: We are the ones who have tasted and seen how gracious it all is. What a shame if we were to hide that light under a bushel. On the subject of vegetables, therefore, I urge you to please yourself first, last and always. Until they awake out of their youthful and dogmatic slumbers, even lettuce is too good for them.
On appreciating life:
The plainest things in the world, prepared with care and relished for what they are, are better than all the commercial flummery in the dairy case.
Unfortunately, we live in an age which is too little impressed by the small and too easily intimidated by the great.
There are more important things to do than hurry.
I love reading books and I love reading the books you guys recommend or a friend suggests. Always I learn something. About the novel or the author or myself or a new facet of life.
This book is getting placed right on the shelf beside Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. I think they’re sort of kindred spirits.