I confess that this time of year it's often hard for me to focus on being able to relax and focus on my reading so I really love anthologies of essays or short stories--books that give me a taste (food pun intended) of a story or experience, without having to commit to spending a lot of time and effort on it. That's why I wanted to make Eat Joy: Stories & Comfort Food From 31 Celebrated Writers, Edited by Natalie Eve Garrett (2019) our pick for a busy December into January. Also, I was drawn by the comfort food in the title. If any year has had us deserving of comfort, 2020 has certainly been it!
This collection of intimate, illustrated essays by some of America’s most well-regarded literary writers explores how comfort food can help us cope with dark times—be it the loss of a parent, the loneliness of a move, or the pain of heartache.
Lev Grossman explains how he survived on “sweet, sour, spicy, salty, unabashedly gluey” General Tso’s tofu after his divorce. Carmen Maria Machado describes her growing pains as she learned to feed and care for herself during her twenties. Claire Messud tries to understand how her mother gave up dreams of being a lawyer to make “a dressed salad of tiny shrimp and avocado, followed by prune-stuffed pork tenderloin.” What makes each tale so moving is not only the deeply personal revelations from celebrated writers, but also the compassion and healing behind the story: the taste of hope.
There are recipes from the various authors or you can take inspiration from your own experiences and the dishes that brought/bring you comfort. I look forward to seeing what these essays inspire!
Deadline for contributing your post: Sunday,
Remember that anyone can participate in Cook the Books: simply pick up a copy of the selection from your local bookstore or library, take inspiration from said reading, cook and post the inspired dish.