Moving the Feast from the Library to the Kitchen

Reading has again become a feast of riches. Maybe it’s all the New Year resolvers and their healthy Instagram pictures, or the fact that three of my friends are getting married in the next eighteen months and talk of caterers, fancy meals and food in general, are popular. Regardless, my reading life is paused in the kitchen, and I’m not only reading up a storm, but cooking up a storm too.

My current feast is A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. More than because of my deep, undeniable love of food and cooking, I picked this up because I watched Midnight in Paris with my roommate. While Hemingway’s posthumous memoirs of his time living in Europe, mostly in Paris, is not traditionally “food” writing, it hits the spot that wants to read sumptuous descriptions and imagine the simple, lovely food that I have imagined the French eat since I read that cultural diet phenomenon French Women Don’t Get Fat.

Midnight in Paris wasn’t even over before I was parked on my floor in front of one of my bookcases trying to find the copy of this novel that I was completely positive my dad had given me.

I didn’t find it.

But thanks to the internet, I found a copy at my local bookstore the next day and ran right in to pick it up before someone else could grab it right out from underneath me. I’ve had that happen, you know. It’s not right.

Don’t the bookstores in my ‘hood know they need to stock all the books all the time?

It happened the last time I wanted to read Rebecca. I fully expect it to happen again in the near future.

Anyways, I’m reading my way through this book and am again reminded of the glories of food in their most simple form because, I have found, that when people describe French food it is often mouthwatering. I mean when they’re not describing butter, butter and more butter – oh and reduction sauces.

For the most part though, the everyday French food that I see described in books usually describes vegetables blanched with some kind of delicious sounding vinaigrette that I should, theoretically, be able to whip up in no time in my own apartment. It always sounds more appetizing than the most beautifully photographed frozen pizza I pull from the depths of my freezer on the nights I just can’t be bothered to make more of an effort than punching some buttons on the front of the microwave. I can’t cook a four course meal every night, and sometimes, a girl just wants to pop something in the microwave so she can get back to her Harry Potter marathon.

The beauty of reading something like A Moveable Feast is that it makes me want to cook. I find myself at the farmer’s market, picking up things like leeks and brussel sprouts, and not even approaching the bakery stands. It makes me do things like read up on different ways of making time-intensive meals like French onion soup from scratch (four hours) and labor-intensive meals like ratatouille (there’s a lot of chopping involved). I read the description of some incredible meal like blanched asparagus with dill vinaigrette and lemon-roasted chicken, and for the next week you can expect I’ll be eating leftovers from roasting a whole bird and making all together too much vegetables for one girl to eat in a meal.

While I haven’t been driven to exactly recreate a meal from the book yet, I am calling A Moveable Feast an apértif to this trend in my reading habits. It is cleansing a lot of other fiction from my brain. It is preparing me to dive into Blood, Bones and Butter – it’s a food book, I swear – when I am finished, and after that I may venture into some Anthony Bourdain, one of the only chef-cum-writers I haven’t tasted yet.

Needless to say, I hope we get a lot of house guests in the near future. Because when I stray down this path of reading, I tend to spend a good deal of my spare time cooking up a storm and trying to prove that I am perfectly capable of turning out healthy and delicious food whenever I want.

It’s either house guests or I’m going to put on all the resolution weight other people lose this spring.

Do you have a favorite food book?

Image via Shutterstock

  • Amanda Schwartz

    You’ll love Blood, Bones and Butter. I’d also recommend anything by Ruth Reichl. And if you’re enjoying A Moveable Feast, see what you think of M. F. K. Fisher, she’s kind of the original modern food writer (and spent a lot of time in France).

    • Rachael Berkey

      Oh thanks! I’m writing all these down to add to my to-read list!

  • Erica Bauwens

    I just finished Gail Simmons’ book, “Talking with My Mouth Full.” It’s got some really great insights into the culinary world from someone who is more of an eater than a chef, and what goes on behind Top Chef, and it has lots of recipes at the end! Amanda’s right, Blood, Bones and Butter is awesome too, it makes you think.

    Personally, I’m not a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain’s writing. I’ve been trying to finish “Kitchen Confidential” for almost two years but I just can’t do it. He sets so many cynical guidelines that it’s a little snooty and frustrating: “if you like food you CAN’T do this,” or “good chefs WON’T EVER act like that.” Enough with the rules, let a girl eat!

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