@onebigtable – Loving Molly O’Neill

Actually, as I’ve been perusing One Big Table, published by Simon & Schuster, producers of great books AND Carly Simon, I realized that I don’t just love Molly O’Neill, but I also love more than 500 people across the United States who look at food as a source of pleasure and entertainment and renewal, as well as required fuel.

I won this book in a Twitter contest and have been waiting what seems like years for it to arrive – although obviously that’s just my impatient 5-year old inner self talking.  So far, I haven’t cooked anything from it (which is partly because we were at my in-laws from where I picked it up, and partly because, as you may have read, we’re packing and cooking & packing don’t go together well), but I’ve already got about 14 little stickies hanging out with stars & exclamation points to indicate this must be made as soon as the pots are unpacked!

I will be making Chris Burrill’s Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette on Friday, when we go to Sally & Michael’s for dinner. (They eat from their root cellar all winter long and while Strattons Farm produces great pork, chicken & veg, I think by March they are probably getting a little bored with squash and cabbage so we’re bringing salad.)  Plus, I’m very tempted to make some ice cream, any ice cream, before we store the Italian ice cream maker away for the next two years.  Sigh.  There is no room where we are moving for the ‘fun’ appliances so it has to go away for a while….

Gosh, talk about detours… I did not intend to talk about ice cream makers when I started this.  I want to talk about this book.  I read on another wordpress blog that there is a bit of a contretemps about how a couple of the recipes in One Big Table wound up in the book, and I’m really sorry to hear that, and I’m quite sure that any challenges this may raise will be solved because…. the book is amazing!

All those contributors, all those kitchens & gardens, the families & friends who have been part of some many wonderful meals…. It’s making me homesick!  Can that make sense?  It makes me think about dinner with my parents and five siblings, and whatever neighbourhood or school friends who wandered and managed to stick around to have supper with us, when my mother would make “goof”, her peculiar hamburger-noodle-vegetable casserole that became so famous the hometown paper profiled it.  Or, before foodies (re-)discovered organ meat, having tongue or heart or liver and enjoying them because my mother made them taste good.  And then discovering new cooking methods and new ethnic cuisines, never forgetting the hearty Mennonite meals we came from.

What happened to us, our North American culture, that we have broken cooking and eating and food into two separate and definitely not equal camps:  One side tells us that food is fuel and we should stop glamorizing it or advertising it or doing anything with it other than eating a little of it, and making most of what we do it vegetable based (and in the extreme, not even cooked).  The other side waxes poetic about esoteric ingredients and demands authentic preparations, even if they don’t know what that is, and bores easily before moving on to some other craze.

Yucky!  On both your heads!

Cooking is a pleasure – it’s a way to take wonderful ingredients, as many of them locally produced and sourced as I can possibly do, and with the help of a couple of good kitchen implements, turn them into something that’s hot (or cold!) and savoury (or sweeet!) and comforting and delicious and… renewing.  I am not a crafty person – I don’t sew or knit or scrapbook.  I cook.  I turn raw pork into “pork brown betty” and make composed salads at the drop of a hat and will turn a package of pasta, two tins of crushed tomatoes and some shrivelled veg in the bottom of the crisper intoa Sharing the meals, even if just with Jeff, is renewing.  We have some time to talk or laugh or share, we argue a little over who’s turn it is to wash up, and we have renewed our marriage in a tiny but important way.  We have learned over the years that being in the kitchen at exactly the same time, sharing the work load 50-50 is a great way to argue a LOT, so when we are in the kitchen together, one of us definitely takes the helper/small task role, but even so, that’s great fun.

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