As a cook and recipe writer, other people's food stories are a constant inspiration. Friends, family, strangers -- anyone is fair game as a jumping off point for a new idea. The Artists and Writers Cookbook, Natalie Eve Garrett’s imaginative and beautiful new compilation, is a goldmine. It was inspired by a 1961 book with the same title, that earlier book included contributions from Man Ray, Marcel DuChamp, and Marianne Moore, among others. This totally new version features 76 celebrated contemporary artists who each share a story and a recipe. It's one of the most exciting, poignant, and eclectic "cookbooks" I've come across in a long time -- maybe ever. Garrett has wisely given each artist total freedom to bring his or her own interpretation of what a recipe is to the page -- what it can inspire or recollect. Garrett herself writes, “the connection between art, writing and cooking made sense … they engage the senses, surprise, and sustain us, and can be evocative. And at their best the can even be transformative." I would venture to say that this book, and the 76 stories within, do just that.
Francesca Lia Block, author and poet, offers a recipe for 'How to Fall In Love' through a poem that touches on magic, dating, loss, and heartache, and culminates in a pretty good recipe for an Apple Betty. The multi-talented James Franco insists on the proper way to make a PB&J, what he calls “the artists best friend:” "Two slices of wheat bread. Not too thick … stay away from the orange colored jellies."
The Iranian painter Kamrooz Aram recalls his mother’s lamb stew and picnics in his family’s basement as bombs flew overhead. In one of the more heartbreaking pieces, “Recipe in Defiance of Grief,” Joyce Carol Oates offers simple instructions for eggs with smoked salmon and onions, while grieving for the partner she used to share them with. She admits that a recipe in defiance of grief is one of those gestures “thrilling in poetry but unrealizable in life because in life we are often not strong enough.”
On the other side of that sentiment is author Lev Grossman’s recipe for pan-seared scallops. His instructions are straight-forward, “Start by neglecting yourself … Nothing dramatic, just be a little lazy.” At the end, after giving us a spot-on recipe for bearnaise sauce, he asks us to “notice that its sour and sweet and salty and creamy … that it's the greatest thing you’ve ever tasted. You’ve made something for yourself -- a small thing that makes you happy. Keep going. Keep doing that, forever.” This is what makes this book so special. It's a magical blend of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and prose, this book will teach you something while making you feel it all.