WHO MAKES AND EATS A SOUP, THE SAME SOUP, DAILY, FOR LUNCH, HUNDREDS OF TIMES? REID BRANSON, OF SEATTLE, THAT’S WHO. The subject line: “Lentil soup.” The sender: Reid Branson. Someone unknown to me. The receipt of emails from unknown senders with such subject lines are not atypical for cookbook writers in the era of Googleability. When I see one,… Read More
How we feed our hungers and what we feed them with, is rooted in every part of human life.
History, agriculture, environment; ethnicity, class; community and family, celebration and famine, health and disease, religion and ritual, ethics and economics, migration and science: look to food and you’ll find these and countless other connections between what we eat and who we are.
Look to Deep Feast, and you’ll find provocative discussion about this. Almost anything could be on the table we’ll share here.
Does Deep Feast contain recipes? Sure, you’ll find some here. What about ooh-and-ahh photographs of, say, pear-cherry upside-down cake, or illustrated pictorials of step-by-step how-tos, like, say, how to make, and put up, green tomato mincemeat? Sure, you’ll find some of that here, too.
But there are good recipes and gorgeous photographs on many, many other food and cooking blogs (indeed, we explore, and link to, some of them here).
Deep Feast, though, is “writing the world through food.”
Deep Feast’s food writing includes, but transcends, the recipe.
In every bite we eat — whether it’s a wedge of skillet-sizzled buttermilk cornbread with beans and a green onion on the side, a Big Mac, or local artisanal sheep’s milk cheese on a homemade oatmeal cracker with a crisp Northern Spy apple from your own orchard — we take in not just (hopefully) nourishment and pleasure, but connection with our world.
In every bite we eat, we sign, over and over, a usually unrecognized contract. That contract inheres in inhabiting a body on earth: you eat, and are, eventually, eaten. Ashes or flesh and bones return to that same earth, to become sustenance for other creatures who will also, in their turn, eat and be eaten.
In every bite we eat, we confirm the story of life: both an individual life and life itself. This story is told over and over again. Meal by meal, bite by bite, plate by plate. This story is always particular and universal. This story is many stories — some of which we explore in Deep Feast.
For this is where the narrative of humanity begins: food, shelter, and story. Our forbears killed the mammoths (food), dragged them back to the cave (shelter), and then painted what they had done on the ceiling (story).
It’s this last act that makes us human. All other animals, after all, also seek food and shelter. But we Homo sapiens also feel that third component, and with deep urgency: to narrate, whether through art, oral storytelling, or writing, what happened to us. To explore why; to discover who we are. In this exploration, though we may serve food, food serves us, and serves us generously.
We need the arc of beginning, middle, and end, because, as human beings, we are aware that we had a beginning, live (and eat) somewhere in the middle, and will meet an end. Because we are aware of our mortality, we are, as anthropologist Roy A. Rappaport wrote, “meaning-making animals.”
Let’s make meaning together.
Let’s make dinner. Let's talk, as we gather around a table as big as the world.
Let’s celebrate, together, the Deep Feast: life itself, the whole world, bite by bite.
The circle turns. The green world again goes gold, yellow, red. Instead of the zucchinis, the excess of which we may have complained about only six weeks ago, we now coo over adorable gourds and mini-squashes, admire big honkin’ pumpkins and sweet, bright creased or crook-necked winter squashes. So pleasing aesthetically, sculptural, decorative, signal of the season. And then! Beneath those… Read More
OH those first tomatoes; the kind, we eat out of hand (from our own garden, if we are lucky, a tomato eaten as one would a piece of fruit, parting that hairy aromatic foliage to find that first globe, still-sunwarmed). These are the tomatoes we wait all year for; even after we tire of them plain, mostly of us still wouldn’t… Read More
THE ONLY SUMMER SOUP RECIPE YOU WILL EVER NEED. SO SAVE YOUR GORGEOUS SUMMER-RIPE TOMATOES FOR SOMETHING ELSE. BECAUSE, FRANKLY, THIS LEAVES TRADITIONAL GAZPACHO IN THE SHADE. It got up to to 96 degrees yesterday. In Vermont! And it wasn’t even quite July yet! This struck me as cruel and unusual punishment, because part of the reason I adore Vermont… Read More
THIS IS (SHE SAID MODESTLY) AMONG THE BEST CLASSIC CHOCOLATE DESSERTS I EVER CAME UP WITH: A GUINNESS STOUT CHOCOLATE LAYER CAKE THAT PULLS OUT ALL THE STOPS. AND CERTAINLY, IT’S PERFECT FOR ST. PATRICK’S DAY, WHICH IS WHEN I’VE OFTEN MADE IT. BUT THE STORY BEHIND IT — WHICH CONCERNS MY ONE-OF-A-KIND FATHER, WHO BELIEVED THAT, WITH NO FACTUAL… Read More
There’s no doubt of this: New Orleans is a city which knows its beans. So when Camellia Beans, a well-respected and well-loved brand of dry beans based in that municipality approached me about using some of the lima bean recipes from my book Bean by Bean, of course I gladly said yes. They have just put up the post featuring three… Read More
“I had a farm in Africa,” begins Meryl Streep, portraying Isak Dinesen, in the movie Out of Africa. Well, I had an inn, in Arkansas. It is elegiac for me, because I loved it deeply, and because I loved my time there, and because both are gone — as vanished as Dinesen’s farm, about which she wrote so many years… Read More
I am in the waiting room of the Springfield, Vermont office of Dr. Richard Lane, absent-mindedly, slightly anxiously, working on a jigsaw puzzle (blue Victorian house, hanging flower baskets, edges almost complete). This is my first visit. I was referred by my regular eye doctor, because I needed minor outpatient surgery. I know it’s minor but jeez, it’s my eye, plus there… Read More
Note: the recipe for my lovely, nourishing, satisfying (if not too photogenic) Almond Iced Tea is told, italicized, in the photo captions, while the text tells a story. It is loosely part of my #DinnerwithDragonwagon series. Though I usually drink tea not at dinner but in late morning/early afternoon… too caffeinated for later in the day, for me. My mother’s great friend,… Read More
The Alpha Male in my life was still asleep. He’d leave later that day, on the 12:30 pm train, Vermont to New York. I knew, when he awoke, that we would almost surely dalliance (which I wanted as much as he would). I also knew we would inevitably run short on time. And yet, I also wanted to make him… Read More
In Ruth Reichl’s first novel, Delicious!, the protagonist coyly alludes to a secret gingerbread recipe. At the end of the book, she shares it. Reichl joins a large, diverse party of writers who’ve referenced gingerbread in a non-cookbooks. There’s Chaucer ( “royal spicery/ Of gingerbread that was full fine/ Cumin and licorice, I opine…”), Shakespeare (“…had I but one penny in the world, thou should’st have… Read More
“Um, Bill, so it turns out I have to be in Nashville this winter, for a month or so,” I said to my old friend, who lives alone (contentedly), in a small house in that city. “I was wondering, could I possibly stay with you?” “You know I love you… ” said Bill. He, and I, let the words hang. We… Read More