Monday, September 26, 2011

Cook up a Homemade Life and Some Cabbage with Molly Wizenberg

There are times when you are in the mood for a light read to let you escape into another world; there are times for a chunky doorstop of a novel to distract you from the miseries of a stubborn cold; and then there are those occasions when a great book of essays or short stories is just the thing to see you through bouts of stop-and-start appointments and other life interrupters. Molly Wizenberg's "A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from my Kitchen Table" (NY: Simon and Schuster, 2009) was the perfect book to tuck into during a busy last few weeks and I thoroughly enjoyed reading and dog-earing the pages of this lovely book of food essays.

The author has chronicled her journey from anthropology grad student to popular food blogger and author on her blog Orangette and expands upon these writings in "A Homemade Life". The pivotal moment that changed her life focus came after the death of her gusto-laden dad, known affectionately as Burg. Burg smacked his lips when cooking and eating; he sometimes laughed so hard that he gagged; he showed his family how to live "wholly, hungrily, loudly" and to appreciate the whole process of cooking and gathering together around the table. The pages of "A Homemade Life" are packed with the author's memories of various members of her family and friends, but Burg is the one that cartwheels out of the pages with his effusiveness and charisma.

I was also tickled by Molly's memories of a first date with a health food aficionado who served her a salad made of seven kinds of sprouts--plus three cherry tomatoes!-- and then serenaded her with some sort of Chinese lute. She lurched home to her peanut butter jar to muffle the roar in her stomach. It reminded me all too vividly of some one and only dates in my past, including one strange encounter on Halloween night (I should have known better) with a cute but twitchy reporter who played opera music at Def Leppard volume while we poked at our bowls of not-quite-defrosted lentil soup with blocks of frozen legumes in the middle.

The book is stuffed with recipes for desserts and sweets, but I was lured in by her recipes for savory delights. Someday I will try her intriguing recipe for Pickled Grapes with Cinnamon and Black Pepper and those Tuna Buchons, but for a recent dinner, I made up a batch of her homey Cream-Braised Green Cabbage. The cabbage sections come out caramelized, yet sweet and this simple, luscious recipe has won a place in my brassica recipe rotation.



Molly's great book is the present selection of the online foodie book club, Cook the Books, that a couple of food blogger colleagues and I started back in 2008. We take turns hosting the bimonthly rounds of Cook the Books and this time round it was my Hawai'ian blogger buddy Deb of Kahakai Kitchens who picked this gem for us to delve into. Today is the deadline to submit a blog post for the roundup that Deb will put up with all the blogger contributions, so be sure to check back in later to see what others thought about the book and what they cooked up. Molly herself will be taking some time out of honing her next book to serve as the guest judge for the CTB submissions.

7 comments:

Foodycat said...

I was so tempted by that cabbage! It is definitely on the cards for this winter.

Deb in Hawaii said...

Wonderful review Rachel--I am so glad you liked the book. I tabbed the cabbage recipe to make and after seeing your post I want to make it even more. ;-)

Claudia said...

Great review Rachel! We loved that cabbage too and I'm still trying more of her recipes.

Eliotseats said...

Maybe we should all do a post on our most bizarre worst dates! This cabbage recipe looks awesome!

Simona said...

The story of your Halloween night date is funny. I wonder if it made you dislike opera or lentil soup afterwards, at least for a while. The cabbage looks very nice and going into the winter months I can see this recipe will play a role in your meals then.

DaniD said...

Loved your review of the book and the cabbage. You made it sound delicious!

Gluten Free Jesus Freak said...

Just found your blog (via Gluten Free Cat). I love it! My husband and I are looking to eat less meat, so we're going to try a bunch of your recipes. Thanks!