Thursday, October 13, 2011

Simple Food for the Good Life; Book Review by Grace Olson

Nearing, Helen. Simple Food for the Good Life. White River Junction, VT. : Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 1990.

    When the air turns crisp and evening walks begin smelling like wood smoke and fallen leaves, gardeners reap the harvest of their season-long labors. Tomatoes travel from vine to kitchen. Onions are braided and hung. Potatoes and carrots are transformed into breads and soups. It is a part of gardening that is cherished and looked forward to throughout the sun-soaked days of summer spent weeding, watering and whining about rabbits and deer.

    In Simple Food for the Good Life, Helen Nearing captures the joy of cooking with one’s own, bountiful harvest. Her extremely simple recipes focus on the wholesome nourishment of the fruit or vegetable itself. She takes her “random acts of cooking and pithy quotations” and boils them down into a quick, easy celebration of the land’s offerings that many a JeffCo gardener will be able to relate to.

    Her recipes focus on one ingredient, and bring out the best of its flavor: gingered pears, raisined rice, baked mushrooms or potatoes Tyrolienne. The seasons are highlighted, as well: winter supper salad, springtime soup. Each dish takes only a few minutes to prepare, yet some are elegant enough for a dinner party—and all would impress the most discerning connoisseur when made with fresh-from-the-garden produce.

    Nearing’s love of literature and “a good read” comes shining through as well. Quotes from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries are mixed into the batter of each chapter, giving perspective and humor to each section.

    “I want to show how delightful the old cookery book is as a book to read, not merely to keep handy on the kitchen dresser,” Nearing quotes Elizabeth Robbins Pennel, 1903. Indeed, whether you are gleaning ideas for that evening’s supper or simply wish to be entertained by a few morsels of culinary wisdom, glancing at a few pages of Simple Food for the Good Life will do the trick every time.