For eight months, the unopened Instant Pot box leered at me from a high shelf. I acknowledged it, always with a hearty dose of optimism, When I have time, I will learn how to use it. What started out as a week became six, then dovetailed into almost a year later before I made time. I needed a reason, and it came to pass in the The Gluten-Free Instant Pot cookbook by Jane Bonacci and Sara De Leeuw. I eagerly ripped open the envelope from Harvard Common Press and ended up reading the book cover to cover in one sitting, my skepticism that I might never actually take the contraption out of the box slowly warming to another outcome.
I tend to get swept into a good story, head and heels first. Nothing compares to descending into this kind of delicious alternate universe. So, when I read the tale (and later saw the movie) of a guy named Chris McCandless, I couldn’t help but be pulled into the beautiful ideal of his to live off the land. But then, things went awry and anguish sets into what becomes his excruciating final days. The culprit: misreading a leaf he thought was edible and instead eating one that looked similar and is toxic. He dies. The curtain falls. His story stayed with me and activated some self-preservation switch in me. I didn’t grow up in anything you could remotely describe as outdoorsy. We never camped. In fact, you could say we were taught to regard the woods as suspicious. Untenable. Wild.
It’s not often you meet people equally passionate about food and poetry in conversation. At the Association of Writers and Publishers conference a few years back and MFA friend of mine had suggested I meet poet Stephen Massimilla. She said that he also wrote poetry about food. What I did not know until we met is that he had penned a food poetry cookbook called Cooking with the Muse with cookbook veteran, Myra Kornfeld! I beelined over to the Tupelo Press booth and promptly bought a copy. It is a feast of poetry and food that will delight fellow foodies who indulge in poetry (and a great holiday gift!). I dove into Cooking with the Muse more deeply over on Poetry International. At the last AWP, we caught each other at the bookfair and our conversation bubbled with enthusiasm. Recently, I had a chance to chat with Massimilla and Kornfeld on the nitty gritty of how Cooking with the Muse came to life.
If someone asked you the question, Are you a cook or a baker, the answer comes quickly for most. I am and always will be a cook first—I like the tactile process of tweaking along the way, tasting until a dish is just right. For a long time I didn’t think there was a baker inside of me. Two things changed that: my sourdough starter, Salvatore, and Kate McDermott. Kate and I met in New Orleans at IFBC years ago. After that food conference, I sought out her blog and discovered a post she wrote about her neighbor Sadie, a story that started me on the road to finding my inner baker. She wrote, “In her gentle way, she taught me that baking from the heart always tastes best, even if it doesn’t turn out quite like the picture in the magazine.” The post and quote made me rethink everything I had ever presumed about baking and question when Kate would write a book about her unfussy perspective on pies and baking.
Let’s say you’re a beer drinker. And, by beer drinker, I don’t mean no-other-adult-beverage-is-in-the-fridge-so-I-guess-it’s-a-good-night-for-beer drinker. Instead, you’re someone who first evaluates a restaurant by what’s on their beer list. What’s on tap first only to be followed by the bottled options. It may be very en vogue to be a beer drinker now, what with the explosion of amazing craft brews available from independent outfits, but I know someone whose delight for hops and yeast knows only the limits of what’s available in IPA. I can appreciate that kind of fixation with my gaze on tea (and have been noted to say more than two handfuls of time that “kombucha is my beer.” But let’s be honest, I can’t imagine tacos without Negra Modelo and have a penchant for Ranger with its elderflower notes. I’m a fan of dark oatmeal stouts too, but it must be said, anything I appreciate or know about beer originates with my main squeeze). Oh, husband. Lover of India Pale Ales. My dear heart. The man to whom I once gave an anniversary gift of a new-to-him-brand six-pack of IPA and a smattering of cheeses. Man whose dad once owned a t-shirt emblazoned with the sentiment, “Wisconsin: Beer, Cheese, and a Few Weirdos.” He’s my weirdo and as such, I’ve never seen the kind of enthusiasm he laid down when he picked up Lori Rice’s first cookbook, Food on Tap. It should be known I’m a fan of adding beer to food (hello, frijoles borrachos!) and every autumn I make my Beer Braised Lamb and Leeks and, now to add to the list will be Warm IPA Braised Cabbage Salad.
I should start by telling you anything I could possibly write about Irvin Lin’s first cookbook would be biased. I hung the equivalent of a save-the-date postcard for cookbooks of Irvin Lin’s Marbled, Swirled, and Layered in the coveted spot on the front of my fridge months before his book had even reached his hands hardbound. I bought the book. Attended a book signing. Asked at least one inquisitive question during Q&A. So, as my full disclosure to you, I can give you more than you might ask for in a cookbook review. I can go behind the scenes.
Thanks go out to Touchstone Publishers for sending a complimentary copy for a Feast of Sorrow book review.
We eat with our eyes first and so it shouldn’t be such a surprise to say that the way I found Jennifer Farley was through her photography. Her sense of minimalist style mirrored my own desire to let the food speak for itself without much adornment. Last Fall, her cookbook The Gourmet Kitchen came out and I toted it along with me on a trip, doing my first pass of marking recipes to cook and making annotations in the margins.
First of all, it feels so good to be back blogging again. For the first time in two months, my kitchen has come out of lockdown. I’m back in Oakland and planning some delicious things for coming weeks.