books

a booklist


When I was fifteen I read a book called, Are You Really Going to Eat That? by Robb Walsh. 
It detailed all the disgusting things the author had eaten and the stories behind them. 
It wasn’t the food, but the stories surrounding the food mesmerized me.
I became obsessed. 
I read cookbooks the way other people read novels. 
I read about the history of barbeque, the art of sushi, the architecture of the perfect loaf of bread. 
I read the food encyclopedia,
The Man Who Ate Everything, cover to cover. 
All five hundred and twenty-eight pages of it. 




My favorite books, however, were the food memoirs, because the lives of the authors wrapped around recipes and meals. 
Eating and love and destiny and history and romance-- in the lives of these magic people-- it was all interconnected and intertwined through food. 
These writers were the kind of people I wanted to know. 
They were all somewhat troubled, and clever, with strange childhoods. 
They had sexy lives-- slick with travel and encounters with famous chefs, rare cheeses, wine, cloud-like pastries, and sensuous lovers that entertained them in between courses. 
However, more than anything, I was fascinated that these magical people lived in pursuit of beauty. That an entire way of life could be structured around the ceaseless pursuit of flavors that lasted just long enough to be remembered and written about. 

And so eating and drinking, became for me, about the story. 

This year is almost over. 
I'm trying to comprehend all the stories, all the meals, all the drinks. 
Maybe it doesn't matter. 
But I can't help it. 
Do you remember? 
I want to say. 
Do you remember? 

Remember the butterscotch budino? 
Remember the time I cried, and he gave me the cookies for free?
Remember when I dropped the bowl of whipped cream?
Remember when we sat in Central Park and I gave you the rest of the pastries? 
Remember the rum, and the beach, and the lobster pasta?
Remember the Halloween samosas at 2am, and you were too drunk and I was too sober and everyone came and sat on the sidewalk, all in costume-- just to eat doughnuts? 
Remember the time I asked for “a pink drink please” and you touched my hand across the table?  
Remember the gelato and cheese and grapes, and rescuing a dog in the rain and I was barefoot? 
I didn't want an entree, but you insisted. 
You ate all the pizza, asshole. 
We only ever ate breakfast tacos. 

Do you remember? 

So it's been a hungry year. 
Very hungry. 
I have been learning that it is impossible to hold too tightly onto people. 
However, it is possible to love the memories and collect the recipes. 
And to remember this bitter and sweet year, with gratitude. 
Because if nothing else, at least we ate. 
And at least I got a story. 

XOXO
mary 


Some Food Memoirs You Might Read If You Are So Inclined 

* My favorites are italicized. 

The Man Who Ate Everything -- Jeffrey Steingarten

Are You Really Going to Eat That? -- Robb Walsh

The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food -- Judith Jones

Garlic and Sapphires -- Ruth Riechl 

Comfort Me With Apples -- Ruth Riechl 

How to Cook a Wolf -- MFK Fisher 

A Homemade Life -- Molly Wizenberg 

My Berlin Kitchen -- Luisa Weiss 

Blood, Bones and Butter -- Gabrielle Hamilton 

Toast -- Nigel Slater 

My Life in France -- Julia Child

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen -- Laurie Colwin 

The Sweet Life in Paris -- David Lebovitz

I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti -- Giulia Melucci

Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating Food in China -- Fushia Dunlop 

Climbing the Mango Tree: A Memoir of Childhood in India -- Madhur Jaffrey 

My Life from Scratch -- Gesine Bullock-Prado 

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle -- Barbara Kingsolver 



Luscious Cake

I just read Molly Wizenberg's book A Homemade Life. It was great, about life and food and love and everything in between. But what I really loved were the recipes, they all seemed so simple and different and original. I knew, the second I finished the book, that I had to make her 'Winning Hearts and Minds Cake'. It's a very simple, french cake. It's ridiculously rich and chocolately and a snap to make. Almost like a brownie. It's luscious. That's the perfect word to describe this glorious cake. Luscious. 

'Winning Hearts and Minds Cake' from Molly Wizenbergs, A Homemade Life

7 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 3/4 sticks (7 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 375, and butter and flour an 8 inch (I used a nine inch.) round cake pan. 
Pour chocolate and butter in a medium microwaveable bowl. Microwave on high for 30 seconds at a time, stirring often, until just smooth. When mixture is smooth, add sugar, stirring well to incorporate. Set batter aside to cool for 5 minutes. Then add eggs, one by one, stirring well after each addition. Add the flour, and stir to mix well. The batter should be dark and silky. 
Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake for about 25 minutes, or until top of cake is lightly crackled and the edges are puffed and center of cake looks set. (Molly says to set the timer for 20 minutes to start with and check cake every 2 minute after that, until it's ready. At 20 minutes the center of cake is still very jiggly. The cake is done when when the center jiggles only a little.)
Remove cake from oven to cooling rack, let cool in pan then flip and magically transfer cake to serving platter so that crackly side is up. 
Eat. 

I'm just going to say, that this cake is especially good cold. Of course, it's delicious warm and melty, but cold. Oh it's just sooo good. 

To sum it up

I have had a very busy summer. I've been involved in three shows, in the span of about two months. It's been hard, getting out of my comfort zone and meeting new people, as well as challenging myself as an actress and singer, but in the end it's all been very rewarding. 
I've spent all summer learning how much I don't know, and while it's been frustrating on the one hand, on the other, I'm very excited about the coming school year, because I love to learn new things. 
Some interesting books I've read lately:
Bird by Bird, an interesting, thoughtful book on the joy and pain of writing. 
The Pursuit of Love. An enjoyable, short novel on the large, very British Radlett family, the descriptions of Paris were lovely. Very witty. 

Around the Bloc. One of the best travelogues I've ever read, the narrator is a young woman, struggling with her identity as a Texan-Chicana. She travels through Russia, China and Cuba. Now I want to visit all those places. Even Russia, a country, which I had previously never in a million years wished to visit. I ate it up, truly an awesome read. 
I liked this book, but didn't love it. I love fairy tales but this book felt rather heavy, as if everything had Meaning. Perhaps this says something about my lazy thinking, I simply let things slip by me instead of reading closely and really figuring out what the author was really trying to say. The parts about painting, tulips and art were very interesting. It is however, a good book.