Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pausing to Honor a VIP

We interrupt our current programming to honor my friend, author Luisa Perkins on her birthday. Since I promised I'd give away a book every day this week, I'm making good on that promise, and giving away a copy of her book, Comfortably Yum to one lucky commenter today.

Here's the review I posted a little over a year ago. (It remains one of my most popular posts of all time, so I think you'll enjoy it). --But first, I have to add that after enjoying it for nearly a year and a half now, this cookbook is the best-loved and most used cookbook I own, pushing aside even the Barefoot Contessa herself. You haven't lived until you've tried Luisa's buttermilk pancakes! (I especially love them with Magleby's buttermilk syrup). Also highly recommended are Patrick's Pasta Sauce, the Applesauce Cake with penuche frosting, and Wedding White Cake with Lemon Curd Frosting (all are to die for). Two particular favorites are the Cream of Vegetable Soup and the Mother-of-Invention Muffins, where she encourages the reader to experiment and come up with infinite variations on a standard, and explains exactly how, where and what you may substitute, and with what results. These two appeal to my creative spirit in a most satisfying way, as I continue to reinvent various forms of deliciousness with rapturous results.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Open Letter to Luisa Perkins, Author of Comfortably Yum: Food for Body and Spirit

Dear Luisa,

Once upon a time, when I was first married (and still in the knight-in-shining-armor phase of our relationship) I truly viewed my husband as a future King (okay, I still do) and believed with all my heart he should eat like one. I had been the unofficial cook in my family for years, but still had an arsenal of very few recipes that were fit for a king. So late at night, while he was shooting footage for film school, I was up reading cookbooks. Studying the way ingredients were combined and herbs were used. Drooling over the ones that sounded truly delicious. Experimenting on a daily basis. And expanding my repertoire exponentially.

I haven't done that for years...

Until last night. Your new cookbook, Comfortably Yum: Food for Body and Spirit arrived in the mail, and I sat down and read the entire book, cover to cover. I couldn't put it down, despite the deadlines that are gripping my psyche, and the dustbunnies that are not only multiplying but rapidly becoming ferocious dragons all over the house.

I read. I laughed. I nodded in agreement. I found a soulmate. I was inspired.

This made me laugh:
Elga called it a dessert when she gave me the little handwritten index card, but I know she must have been kidding, because, um, see, Elga, it doesn't have any chocolate in it. But it makes a fantastic breakfast item...
This spoke to me in words I hadn't yet found to describe:
Cooking well is an art and a joy and a way to nurture yourself and your household all at the same time.
In this aspect, and many others, you are my twin separated at birth (although I am quite possibly not "as far down the food obsession continuum" as you are.):
We don't just savor delicious things; we are transported, practically Meg-Ryan-in-When Harry-Met-Sally-style.
(I would add here that Brillig just sent me a hilarious laughing-out-loud email busting me for using the word orgasmic in reference to the restaurant where we ate last night. My sister-in-law literally let out a rhapsodic squeal over the layer-upon-layer-of-chocolate dessert, as if she had just won not only the Showcase, but also the new Corvette...and I countered to the waiter, "I'll have what she's having.")
Our food addiction was enabled for many years by the fact that we lived in New York City, which is pretty much Mecca for restaurant goers. We never could bear to repeat-visit places because there was always something new to try.
Substitute Pasadena for New York City, and I could have written the west coast version of this paragraph, verbatim.

I read the excerpts from your travel journal and think about the way Jeff and I ate our way through Italy, and sixteen years later we still remember where we ate the best risotto, the best gelato, and the truly transcendent ribollita (which set Jeff on a quest to find the perfect recipes so I could duplicate it all at home. When we returned we invited our friends over...not for a slideshow or a travelogue, but an authentic Italian dinner.). I can't wait to try Patrick's pasta sauce.

I read about the way you're training your children to love good food, and thought of one of our family mottos: "Parkins aren't picky". (We're just very, very choosy.) I read about your son wondering aloud why he's the only one of his friends who doesn't like school cafeteria food, and it reminded me of this classic:

We took our youngest to preview several preschools when he was three, one of which actually had its own lunchroom. Mr. Cool saw a poster on the wall showing the food pyramid, pointed to it and said, "Mmm. Yummy fish!" The woman guiding our tour said proudly, "Yes. We have our own lunch room. Do you like fish sticks?" Mr Cool gave her a blank stare. "Actually," I explained, "he's never had fish sticks." "Oh," she said, recovering nicely,"but I bet you like tater tots!" Again, a blank stare. "I don't think he's ever had tater tots either" I explained. "Well, what do YOU like to eat?" she asked him directly, and without missing a beat he responded, "Salmon and couscous." Just like that. I pray we haven't ruined our children.

Even now, as I read...
  • I am thinking of all my wonderful food snob friends with whom I've shared many excellent meals and cherished recipes, and would now like to share this book.
  • I am wondering how you manage to stay so impossibly thin while eating so much bacon and cheese and potatoes and heavy cream.
  • I am reveling in the commentary, delighted by the way you were able to put so much of yourself on every page, in every recipe.
  • I am loving that you quote Laura Ingalls Wilder, J.R. R. Tolkien, Broadway musicals, and name a dip after Lynard Skynard.
  • Most important, I am reminded why I love to cook. How the alchemy of the kitchen, the flavors and aromas, has such power over me. I am reminded that I LOVE to nurture my family through good food.

I longed to tell you that when I made a local restaurant recommendation to our wonderful Kimberly during her writers' conference weekend, I noted: "I'm positive Luisa would LOVE Pizzeria 712 (sustainable, organic, gourmet wood-fired pizzas)" I guess I wanted to let you know, I get it. I might not always do it, but I get it.

I find myself wanting to have long conversations with you Debating, for example, the merits of sea salt over kosher salt. Sharing recipes and philosophies. Breaking bread. I especially want to tell you that my grandmother made those very same beloved salmon patties, but no one's quite been able to reverse-engineer the recipe, so I'm grateful for yours.

And, while I'm certain that house next door to you is WAY out of my price range, and would make for a long and tiresome commute for my hubby, I'm finding it very, very tempting.

Thank you for this wonderful book. The title is perfect. (And, after reading, I have to concede that the subtitle is even more fitting than my own clever half*).

Well done, my friend!



*Backstory: I won a copy of Comfortably Yum: Food for Body and Spirit in a contest a few months ago, in which Luisa challenged her readers to come up with a title for her new cookbook. There ended up being two winners, one for the Comfortably Yum (me) and another for the subtitle (Deb Barshafsky).

Leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway. And wish Luisa a happy birthday! It's on me.


ME said...

I can't help but drool. Sounds like a great cookbook to add to my library. Happy birthday to the author of such delicious prose and tasty treats!

Mary Ellen

breckster said...

Apparently Luisa and I have many mutual friends--as we were both in the same ward, just a different times. From all I've heard I'm sure we would be fast friends.

Kimberly said...

I'd forgotten that you came up with the name!

Such a fabulous way to honour a fabulous woman. Please don't count my entry though, as I would love for someone as yet unfamiliar with Comfortably Yum's delectableness to be the winner!

The Mom said...

Sounds like my kind of cookbook! I have always wanted to experiment with my cooking, but I am too chicken, and too frugal, to chance wrecking it and having to throw it away!

Heather Richardson said...

I love to eat. I don't always love to cook. I love Pink Floyd and puns. I've lived in both New York City and Pasadena! I would love to have a copy of this cookbook which I should probably already own.

And Happy Birthday to Louisa! A friend of many of my friends!

Luisa Perkins said...

What a wonderful birthday gift! I am beyond honored. Thank you SO MUCH. xoxoxo

Heather Richardson said...

Forgive me for spelling your beautiful name incorrectly Luisa! Obviously I rely too much on spellcheck...

Happy Birthday Luisa!

Melanie Jacobson said...

I love the muffin recipe, too. I do banana, cashew and coconut sometimes. That one is fun.

I like you. (I don't need a copy, btw. Got one!)

L.T. Elliot said...

Luisa's cookbook sounds like a veritable heaven! And Happiest of Birthday's to her. She's just wonderful, isn't she? =D

Redi-Kilowatt said...

Happy Birthday Louisa (even belated!)
This Comfortably Yum food sounds like the best of all worlds...I remember reading about this book before and I can't wait to try some of the recipes.

val of the south said...

Sounds like a fabulous book! And I love the name.

Happy (belated) birthday Luisa!

Shari said...

So sad I missed the giveaway. It may be just as well. I'm a terrible cook and quite frankly, would rather do anything than spend time in the kitchen. So, I'm a little in awe of your salmon and couscous talent.

deb said...

I saw this posted on Kimberly's blog.
I was nodding to every word here.
I will visit Luisa's blog and no doubt buy the book,

we love to eat and cook here.