Food, Food Artisans

Inspiration from Tamar Adler

An Everlasting Impression

For as long as I can remember, I have been a fanatical cookbook collector. Based on my last count, I’m tallying about fifty-five titles and the number just keeps on growing. In the midst of books starring celebrity chefs like Alice Waters, Ina Garten, and Jacques Pepin is, in my opinion, the most important book of the bunch; a skinny burgundy volume entitled An Everlasting Meal by writer and chef Tamar Adler.

I first heard about Tamar’s book while browsing one of my favorite food blogs during my junior year of college. This particular blogger listed Tamar’s book on one of her “favorites” lists for the summer of 2011. Unfamiliar with the title or the author, I performed a quick Google search and was instantly floored by Tamar’s resume. Editor at Harper’s Magazine, cookbook author, chef at Chez Panisse and Prune restaurants. She was living my dream life! I was sold and promptly ordered myself a copy of her book. Two days later, I entered into a brief period of literary paradise where Tamar’s book did not leave my hand.

Using stunning prose and approachable cooking tricks, Tamar takes her readers on a journey through the kitchen by sharing easy tricks for crafting quick meals out of “nothing,” and finding joy in the simplest of foods. The book is broken up by various “how to” chapters with MFK Fischer-inspired titles, such as “How to Boil Water,” “How to Season a Salad,” “How to Fry the Littlest Fish,” and shows readers how to get the most out of their kitchens by looking at everyday ingredients and cooking techniques in new ways. In Tamar’s world,  a can of sardines holds as much allure as a tin of fine caviar, kale stems and carrot tops aren’t considered scraps but rather the base for a vegetable stock, and stale bread is no longer seen as disposable but as the star of an Italian bread salad or thickened soup. Her approach to food is simple and her voice pragmatic, providing anyone—novice or amateur—with the tools they need to become an artist in the kitchen.

Despite cooking with frequency and grocery shopping more times a week than I can count, my crazy foodie self still slips into some major culinary slumps from time to time. Just as I tend to do when looking at my closet,  I will often look into my pantry—well stocked mind you—and see nothing. Tamar’s book is helps appease such anxiety. In one of the later chapters, she reflects on this common sentiment and poses a question in response:

“How do you fall in love with [food], or if t has never made you truly happy, fall in love with it for the first time? 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.”

Tamar’s approach to cooking and eating does exactly that by combining passion for food with an anchored sense of love and curiosity.  While reading An Everlasting Meal, Tamar seemed to take on the role of my foodie fairy godmother, watching over me and assuring me that no matter what happened in the kitchen, I had the power to create something beautiful. Since finishing the book, I feel a renewed sense of calm in my kitchen. The pantry no longer daunts me, but now presents an ever-changing array of possibilities. Humble dishes don’t feel like “settling” anymore, but rather have become some of my favorite food indulgences. I can honestly say that there are few dishes I find more satisfying than a soft boiled egg, a hardy pot of beans, or a whole tin of sardines atop toast.  Thank you Tamar for helping reshape my love for cooking and making my kitchen the best place to be.

— Maddie