Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Gracious living

 Life is Meals: A Food Lover's Book of Days by James and Kay Salter
Alfred A. Knopf  2010

The start of a new year seems a good time to look at this charming book. A free-flowing collection of stories, recipes, trivia, food facts and memoir, there is nothing quite like it. While it can be used as a reference, it's much more a book for pleasure reading.

Arranged neatly by the days of the year, the entries are sometimes very specific to the day; at other times they nod at seasonality, and sometimes the authors abandon any strict time constraints and ramble on joyfully.

The Salters clearly have spent years compiling this collection. Interwoven among the hard facts are reminiscences of meals eaten, various dinner guests, and thoughts on food, entertaining, and the place of dining in our lives. They also have a special affinity for other writers, and there are many literary nuggets, some only tangentially related to food.

Throughout, there are sweet watercolor illustrations by Fabrice Moireau. Paging through this on a gloomy winter day, the images conjure up Paris and the Côte D'Azur. The Salters themselves seem like a Wes Anderson film family come to life. I suppose it's too late to be adopted.

If you are at all like me, then your first impulse is to read the entry for today's date before reading the entry for your birthday. Both are good examples of the range of the book. January 7 is the birthday of Ruth Cleveland, for whom the Baby Ruth is named. My birthday gives advice on the size and arrangement of dining room tables. Perhaps not one of the more exciting entries, but what do you expect for a Virgo? The Leos and Scorpios always get all the attention.