On the Shelf: The Tenth Muse, My Life in Food

Wednesday, 4 February 2015
I'm reading yet another book (when I'm not working on my dissertation which is never) by Judith Jones. She is a book editor and wrote the book The Tenth Muse; My Life in Food. The book is amazingly excellent and as usual, I have full inspiration to lean more, more, more about cooking, preparing food, and even growing produce and scavenging for edible plants.

Image from Jones' book: The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food

Jones explains in details some of the meals that she remembers over her life with amazing foodies and chefs. Please allow me to share just one of the many passages that give passion and depth to her involvement with food. When I'm not completely stressed out about my dissertation or the job search, I find cooking to be an amazing stress reliever. Peeling and chopping red onions and garlic and hearing the sizzle when they hit extra virgin olive oil is soothing. Here's how Jones explains it:

I gravitate toward the kitchen... and can't wait to bring it to life, to fill it with good smells, to start chopping or whisking or tossing and smelling up my hands with garlic. I turn on some music and have a glass of Campari or wine, and it is for me the best part of the day, a time for relaxation.

Jones writes about cooking after her husband of 50 years Evan (also a foodie) has died. She recalls a quote from Alfred North Whitehead that he posted on their refrigerator. "Cooking is one of those arts which most requires to be done by persons of a religious nature." She was touched by the quote and her interpretation is meaningful to me:

We take raw materials of the earth and work with them - touch them, manipulate them, taste them, glory in their heady smells and colors, and then, through a bit of alchemy, transform them into delicious creations. Cooking demands attention, patience, and above all, respect. It is a way of worship, a way of giving thanks.

Who knows why exactly but this book has helped to highlight a special food moment in my life. In 2006 (when I was earning my Master's degree in London at the University of Westminster) my mother, father, and grandmother traveled to Paris and I met them there. We stayed in a two bedroom apartment with an impressive view of the Eiffel Tower.

One evening during the week, after studying the book of recommended eateries by the owner of the apartment, we ventured across the street to a small market with a bistro in the back. They were closing but the young owner invited us in. He recommended a serving of foie gras for each person as a starter. We balked but he offered to pay for it himself if we didn't enjoy it.

Our table had one-slice toasters for each guest (Have you ever even heard of that!?) and we dutifully toasted our homemade bread slices in anticipation of the arrival of the foie gras. As the soft bread popped up with a newly crisp exterior, we spread a generous helping of the foie gras on the surface and tasted. The texture and buttery flavor was glamorous and exotic.

I'm not sure if I'll ever have foie gras again because of the concerns raised with how animals are treated while fattening the liver but I'll never forget that intimate evening. We were the only people in the restaurant, with the full attention of the owner, and his insight into what would be delicious and memorable. He was right.

Many thanks to Jones for her hard work editing cookbooks from the greats and also sharing her own relationship with food while inspiring others. 

No comments