“Where did you get that bowl, mom?” She asks me, while staring at a crude piece of pottery sitting on our book shelf. “Can you tell me the story?”
Lately, the girls have been asking us the story behind the stuff in our home. Fortunately we live in the type of house where almost everything has a story: it’s either been handmade, thrifted, or given to us.
I jump off the couch, grab our Bolivia photo album and start flipping through the pictures, but Susanna stops me before I get very far.
“Wait,” she says, placing her hand firmly on the plastic pages. “I didn’t know Daddy knew how to cook!” She is staring at a picture of her Dad kneading bread.
“He doesn’t cook much now, does he? He used to cook a lot.” I say it kind of wistfully, but not because I’m disgruntled; I’m quite happy with our roles around the home. Rather, I’m remembering how he wooed me with some tomato, basil, and jalapeño soup…
After looking at the pictures I decide I will make the soup for old time’s sake.
I learned many things living in Bolivia; one was how to make soup. I remember watching women dice up shriveled carrots, peel potatoes (leaving only wisps of curled skin), toast rice, gather parsley a few feet away from their fire, and produce bowls of soup–all without consulting a recipe book. I realized then that cooking is not so much plodding through directions as working magic with whatever ingredients you have on hand.
Sometimes, ok–very rarely, the magic awes the audience. Most of the time though, I feel like I have to persuade the crowd to give me a chance. Like last week; I made roast chicken with apricots, almonds, ginger and cream, set it on the table with a flourish… and my dinner companions eyed it skeptically.
I end up having Tuscan Chicken for lunch the next day, the day after that, and the day after that.
Last week I picked up An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace on a whim. I was drawn by it’s cover, and although I’m not particularly interested in food writing, I brought it home anyway.
I find recipe books tiresome, even ones with beautiful, mouth-watering photographs. Tamar Adler’s book is not a recipe book. It is a book with recipes embedded in essays on grace, living well, and “snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.” If you are mildly interested in eating or good writing, I highly recommend it. It is the kind of book that makes you want to make mayonnaise from scratch at eleven o’clock at night, and stock your cupboards with anchovies.
Today, it made me start on a soup of roasted cauliflower. The recipe, of course, is non-existent.
…But, enough of soup and salt, let’s get back to the pottery on my bookshelf. I am trying to find a picture of Sabina, the Guaraní lady who made it for me, to show Susanna. When we study the photo together I’m amazed that something in my 1950’s bungalow has come from the other end of the earth.
Watch this 4 min. video clip and you’ll see what I mean. We found it the other day when Stan was doing some research on animal traction. Stan traveled to the Guaraní community (and met some of the men) featured here; it also shows some of what our life was like.
Have a tasty weekend,