In Our Summer 2015 Issue
For the past month I have been going through the cathartic exercise of moving from my home–and my kitchen–of 20 years. Thinking loosely about the article you may have also read about the Japanese author and home organizer Marie Kondo, I attacked my cookbook shelves, ready to give away anything that didn't give me the "spark of joy" Kondo says we need to feel–otherwise out it goes.
Then there is the faded and frayed copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The dust jacket long gone, I remember buying it with my grandmother in a favorite bookstore in Vermont. I still use it for reference (Julia was exacting), soufflé, a favorite leg of lamb recipe–and of course, the beef bourguignon.
Three volumes from what I'd call The Silver Palate era–kind of what Ina Garten is to folks today. Mainly the first volume but all three cookbooks were a treasure trove for the home cook, and in the '80s they got people thinking about fresh vegetables in a whole new way. Plus, the Chicken Marbella–sweet, savory and still adored by party guests. I haven't made it in years but I think I'll bust that recipe out in the new house for old times' sake. Into the box they go.
Then there is Alice Waters. Her short, concise and seasonal Pasta, Pizza and Calzone Cookbook was a turning point my first year after college. Her pasta recipes turned me into a farm stand, fish market junkie and forever changed the way I shop and cook. The squid, basil and green bean pasta, still a seasonal favorite, converted my then beau (now husband) into a lover of squid. Before Alice, he thought it was bait.
It does not bode well if I haven't made it out of the '80s yet! What about Mark Bittman (weeknight survival with The Minimalist), Judy Rogers (the asparagus soup and her mock porchetta), Deborah Madison (best way to know your vegetables), Rose Levy Beranbaum (the family favorite chocolate roll cake)?
And these are just the cookbooks. We're not even talking about Calvin Trillin, Gabrielle Hamilton, Michael Pollan or Wendell Berry.
All these old friends continue to spark joy though I have managed to cut back on a few, especially when I switched from the spark of joy theory to the "if you haven't cracked the cover in five years, pass it along" theory. One thing is for sure: I can't wait to unpack them. When we're all together again, my new kitchen will feel just like home.
I hope you break out some of your old favorite recipes this summer. Get behind the stove and share a spark of joy with your friends and family with the season's delicious local bounty.
Genie McPherson Trevor