A Noble Pursuit: Food

I should be writing my article.  I have a deadline tomorrow.  But my heart is still mulling the rich shelves of the local bookstore’s food section.  My Mom watched our kids for an hour and I happily got lost walking book spines through countless countries and the luscious table lores from France, Holland, India, and Italy… before leaving to buy diapers.   I picked up Blood, Butter & Bones by Gabrielle Hamilton.  I think I could spend thousands of dollars on cookbooks.  All at once.  But then you’d get overwhelmed as a cook and don’t give each authoress a chance to woo your plates with her wares.

Lately, I’ve been cooking from old family favorites but also still trying new dishes.  Dishes culled from the mountainous pile of cookbooks I have in our Butler’s Pantry.  Yes, we have a Butler’s Pantry.  It’s awesome.  An old perk from our 1880’s farmhouse.  And ours is filled with family glassware, funky treasures, Anni’s preschool art, and my ever-growing collection cookbooks.    There may be a second pile in the guest room holding up a bookshelf… but you didn’t hear it from me.

Some women buy new shoes often.  And aside from a rather astute investment into Uggs amazingness, I laregly buy cookbooks and food books.  I think I may almost have a problem but my heart and the soul of our family, the kitchen table, is better for it.  Richer and full of warmth and love.  And new foods!

I love to feed good people – the friends and family who fill our lives with shared laughter and a togetherness felt nowhere else besides around a happy table with chilled wines in our glasses, nurturing foods on the plate, and the stove still ticking it’s way back into a cooling slumber.

And for whatever reason, the cookbook authors and writers I’ve been loving lately are all women.  Ruth Reichl, Dorie Greenspan, Julia (always), Lidia Bastianich, Sondra Bernstein, Alice Waters, Madhur Jaffrey, and a new songbird – Elizabeth Bard.  I just finished her book, Lunch in Paris: A Lovestory with Recipes this afternoon. Book Jacket

It may seem overly light at first glance but inside Bard’s simple, direct prose unfolds a woman waking to the simple, truer pleasures of food, love, and marketing.  Not marketing as in “advertising” but marketing as in buying freshly grown vegetables and fruits, grains and meats in an ever revolving door of changing seasons.  Granted, Bard is brave enough to jump countries and find herself in Paris (easier said than done) and a huge undercurrent of the book is devoted to this New Yorker navigating French culture and red-tape, some of it heart wrenching.  But Bard builds herself plate after plate and finds solace and inspiration at the stove during a time when the food revolution was NOT in full swing.  She encounters many of the strident feminist objections I faced when leaving professional life to cook and make wine, and later babies.  Perhaps that will ring truer for me than for you.  But what Bard shares with her fellow female authors and cooks – indeed what I’ve warmed to most as I get a handle on this cooking thing and my worship of the plate and glass – is the returning to the table as a source of happiness.  And beauty.  And love.  Those are not anti-feminist pursuits.  Women authors and chefs are increasingly coming forth from the largely male-dominated professional kitchens and cooking publications to celebrate that stewardship of the hearth and home and pantry can be a significant source of happiness.

Whether you are a woman or not, gay or straight: Feeding loved ones and doing it well is a return to the natural rhythms of our humanity.  That finding happiness amidst our pots and pans is noteworthy and admirable.  And worthy of ardent pursuit, the written word, and press.

All this from a former NASA wonk and Los Angeles politico.  Pretty progressive, huh?  But that’s it for tonight. My article on buses and commercial tourism won’t write itself.  That, and I’m stewing Pomi tomatoes, pancetta, butter beans, and baby kale tonight for the family – topped with a softly fried egg.  YUM.