Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal transforms our experience of reality through the sheer act of telling the truth. That she does so in a book about food, about the process of making it and foraging for it, makes it all the more remarkable a feat. Adler’s subject matter is modest — she writes about sustenance and the work of our own hands and the value of oft-discarded things — but with her beautiful, lyrical prose, and her felt sense of the things that matter, she elevates the food-writing form, giving us the gift of gratitude, that we have enough in a world where so many others do not.
An Everlasting Meal taught me the simple grace of having bones with which to make stock, whether or not you have meat. Of having stems and leaves with which to make another satisfying meal, after the treasured parts of vegetables have already been consumed. Of having a simple bowl of rice, and the vision — which she offers up in spades — to make it wondrous with few beans, or a bit of broth or a scrap of this or that — which, in the end, will prove to be enough. People the world over have worked culinary magic just like this. It’s where the world gets most of its cuisine. As we weigh the choice whether to pay more for quality food at a time when our budgets may strain against it, we might remember this simple truth, and choose ingredients that nourish, even at a higher cost, armed with the age-old knowledge of how to turn a very little into an awful lot.
That Adler’s approach to food is in-line with our green living, nose-to-tail, locavore, waste-not times must be happenstance, for Adler has no agenda to push — or least that’s how it seems. She’s simply weaves a tale made from love and the work of her hands. In so doing, she causes us to see what is right before our eyes: that the way we shop, and cook, and eat is not political — or not only that. As wars rage all around us, wars that matter, about sustainable farming or cruelty free husbandry, and GMOs, Adler reminds us that the choices we make about food — individually and collectively — are, in the most important sense, choices about whether we will be nourished, and whether we will thrive.
We’ve come a long way from the days when we hunted and gathered, or farmed our own land for food — and no distance at all. The truths about food, where it comes from and what it means are ever so. Whether we can feel it or not, food still comes from the Earth, and from other beings. By teaching us again how to be with this fact, Adler reconnects us to the true source of our sustenance, and to ourselves. And she teaches us this: that eating well is not a luxury (though those who live in the most impoverished communities still do not have access to quality food). The problems of hunger are easy to solve. There is enough.
An Everlasting Meal is an invitation to remember the simple fact that food is holy and eating a sacrament. It is so full of grace, I implore you to read it yourself. Among the many things you will find there is this little gem that I leave you with now:
“As for what else you need in order to cook, there are too many equipment lists in the world already. A meal is cooked by the mind, heart and hands of the cook, not by her pots and pans. So it is on the former that I recommend focusing your investments.”
PAULA PURYEAR is a Lawyer, Film & Television writer, HuffPoster and Founder of Revel In It Mag.