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Books That Cook

Books That Cook: The Making of a Literary Meal

With a Foreword by MARION NESTLE
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    Books That Cook
    Book Description:

    Organized like a cookbook,Books that Cook: The Making of a Literary Mealis a collection of American literature written on the theme of food: from an invocation to a final toast, from starters to desserts. All food literatures are indebted to the form and purpose of cookbooks, and each section begins with an excerpt from an influential American cookbook, progressing chronologically from the late 1700s through the present day, including such favorites asAmerican Cookery, theJoy of Cooking, andMastering the Art of French Cooking. The literary works within each section are an extension of these cookbooks, while the cookbook excerpts in turn become pieces of literature - forms of storytelling and memory-making all their own.Each section offers a delectable assortment of poetry, prose, and essays, and the selections all include at least one tempting recipe to entice readers to cook this book. Including writing from such notables as Maya Angelou, James Beard, Alice B. Toklas, Sherman Alexie, Nora Ephron, M.F.K. Fisher, and Alice Waters, among many others,Books that Cookreveals the range of ways authors incorporate recipes - whether the recipe flavors the story or the story serves to add spice to the recipe.Books that Cookis a collection to serve students and teachers of food studies as well as any epicure who enjoys a good meal alongside a good book.

    eISBN: 978-1-4798-3842-4
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xviii)
    Marion Nestle

    Sparking an avalanche of interest in writings about food is the simple fact that everyone eats. Years ago as a young biology teacher, I quickly discovered that students are willing to study anything if it relates to food. I could use food as an entry point to teach the principles of digestive physiology, the biochemistry of metabolism, and how nutrients function in health. And I could also use food to teach how governments regulate, the principles and practices of democratic societies, and anything else I wanted to about history, sociology, anthropology, or just about any other disciplinary area of study....

    (pp. xix-xx)
  5. Cooking the Book: An Introdution to Book That Cook
    (pp. 1-12)

    As a character from Peter Elbling’sThe Food Tasterobserves, “The joy of eating is like the joy of learning, for each feast is like a book. The dishes are words to be savored, enjoyed, and digested” (130).

    The opposite, too, is true: the joy of learning is like eating, and words are dishes to be savored.

    We have organizedBooks That Cookin the form of a cookbook, from an invocation to the final toast, from starters to desserts. As such, each section begins with part of an influential American cookbook, included chronologically to show the development of this...


    • 1 Porkchop Gravy: An Invocation (Poem)
      (pp. 15-16)

    • [PART I Introduction]
      (pp. 17-20)

      From the ancient Greeks serving bits of fish, cheese, and olives to stimulate diners’ appetites to early twentieth-century hosts and hostesses offering bite-sized hors d’oeuvres along with drinks at cocktail parties, starters have long been a part of culinary history, and such traditions continue to this day. Nearly every culture has incorporated some kind of starter into its traditional diet—from Middle Eastern bowls of hummus and baba ghanoush to Italian plates of olives, cured meats, and grilled vegetables. Americans have adopted and adapted many of these traditions.

      Hors d’oeuvres, however, have not always been just starters. From the seventeenth...

    • 2 From American Cookery (Cookbook)
      (pp. 21-28)

      As this treatise is calculated for the improvement of the rising generation ofFemalesin America, the Lady of fashion and fortune will not be displeased, if many hints are suggested for the more general and universal knowledge of those females in this country, who by the loss of their parents, or other unfortunate circumstances, are reduced to the necessity of going into families in the line of domestics, or taking refuge with their friends or relations, and doing those things which are really essential to the perfecting them as good wives, and useful members of society.* The orphan, tho’...

    • 3 From Delights and Prejudices (Nonfiction)
      (pp. 29-32)

      When Proust recollected the precise taste sensation of the little scallopedMadeleinecakes served at tea by his aunt, it led him into his monumental remembrance of things past. When I recollect the taste sensations of my childhood, they lead me to more cakes, more tastes: the great razor clams, the succulent Dungeness crab, the salmon, crawfish, mussels and trout of the Oregon coast; the black bottom pie served in a famous Portland restaurant; the Welsh rabbit of our Chinese cook, the white asparagus my mother canned, and the array of good dishes prepared by the two of them in...

    • 4 Puffballs: Finding the Inside: From Secrets of the Tsil Café (Fiction)
      (pp. 33-42)

      I had written to my parents about the Edible Plants of New Mexico course, and the spring semester sequel as well. I did not write what Juan had told me about Domingo, about himself and Conseca, about my Hingler grandfather. But his telling had made things different for me: seeing one thing differently, I saw many things differently.

      Maria Standing Tall and I began to cook together, everything from cattails to yucca cactus. We made teas from dandelions, mints, and rose hips. We gathered piñon* in the mountains, roasted them, shucked the thin shell of skin, and gorged ourselves.


    • 5 Full Moon Soup with Snow (Poem)
      (pp. 43-44)
    • 6 To Cèpe, with Love (or, The Alchemy of Longing) (Nonfiction)
      (pp. 45-62)
      E. J. LEVY

      I have hunted mushrooms with each of my last four lovers; I love the hunt and the hint of danger. The day after a good rain, we get into the car and drive into the high mountains that surround the valley of Taos, where I live, to a narrow one-lane dirt road that edges along steep cliffs, following switchbacks until we come to a gravel lot at the brink of the woods and park. From there we hike two miles into the mountains (sometimes holding hands, sometimes holding water bottles or pocket-sized guides to mycology) to forage in the underbrush...

    • 7 Coriander and Carrot (Poem)
      (pp. 63-63)
    • 8 An Unspoken Hunger: From An Unspoken Hunger: Stories from the Field (Nonfiction)
      (pp. 64-64)

      It is an unspoken hunger we deflect with knives — one avocado between us, cut neatly in half, twisted then separated from the large wooden pit. With the green fleshy boats in hand, we slice vertical strips from one end to the other. Vegetable planks. We smother the avocado with salsa, hot chilies at noon in the desert. We look at each other and smile, eating avocados with sharp silver blades, risking the blood of our tongues repeatedly....


    • [PART II Introduction]
      (pp. 65-69)

      From the bread made from corn and cooked on heated rocks and then buried in hot ashes by Native Americans to home bakers such as Lydia Maria Child paying attention to the temperature of her home, water, and oven as well as considering different leavening methods, across time and region, bread has been an essential and basic part of American cookery. With the influence and traditions of many other culinary cultures, most of which include the “staff of life”¹ in one form or another, bread choice in the United State has evolved far the johnnycake and Boston brown bread of...

    • 9 From The American Frugal Housewife (Cookbook)
      (pp. 70-77)

      The true economy of housekeeping is simply the art of gathering up all the fragments, so that nothing be lost.* I mean fragments oftime, as well asmaterials. Nothing should be thrown away so long as it is possible to make any use of it, however trifling that use may be; and whatever be the size of a family, every member should be employed either in earning or saving money.

      “Time is money.” For this reason, cheap as stockings are, it is good economy to knit them. Cotton and woollen yarn are both cheap; hose that are knit wear...

    • 10 Recipe: Gingebread (Poem)
      (pp. 78-79)
    • 11 Whistle Stop, Alabama: From Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe (Fiction)
      (pp. 80-83)

      Ruth had been in Whistle Stop for about two months, and this Saturday morning, someone knocked at her bedroom window at 6 A. M. Ruth opened her eyes and saw Idgie sitting in the chinaberry tree and motioning for her to open the window.

      Ruth got up, half asleep. “What are you up so early for?”

      “You promised we could go on a picnic today.”

      “I know, but does it have to be this early? It’s Saturday.”

      “Please. You promised you would. If you don’t come right now, I’ll jump off the roof and kill myself. Then what would you...

    • 12 Bread (Poem)
      (pp. 84-84)
    • 13 In Nancy’s Kitchen (Nonfiction)
      (pp. 85-94)

      In Nancy’s kitchen, we found nineteen pounds of pasta, three bottles of clam juice, six jars of chutney, and seven different types of olive paste. In Nancy’s kitchen, three packages of ice cream cones stood next to two bags of chips and one box of matzo meal. In Nancy’s kitchen, you could open any cupboard and find the fixings for a complete meal, but you might search for an hour before finding a measuring cup (there was one, behind the ramekins, next to the olive oil, in the cupboard over the stove). In Nancy’s kitchen, crystal wineglasses clinked shoulders with...

    • 14 From The Food Taster (Fiction)
      (pp. 95-108)

      Going on a journey with Federico was like going to war. Lists were drawn up of who should go and who should stay, then more lists were made of what to take. These lists changed every day, sometimes from hour to hour. Cecchi hardly slept for months and those parts of his beard which were gray turned white and those which were white fell out.

      To begin with, there were to be no more than forty of us, but then three boys were required to look after the horses, and the cart master said he needed at least three servants...


    • [PART III Introduction]
      (pp. 109-111)

      Although colonists from Europe brought laying hens to America, poultry breeding did not become popular until the nineteenth century, particularly during the latter half, when chickens could be found on most farms. By late century, commercial hatcheries were in place, and by the twentieth century, egg commercialization had increased, with artificial lighting used to help boost egg-laying productivity and machines for washing and packing the eggs. Such industrialization has—over time—resulted in debates over methods of mass production and concerns over sanitation (and the possibility of salmonella poisoning) as well as the treatment of animals. These concerns have led...

    • 15 From Boston Cooking-School Cook Book (Cookbook)
      (pp. 112-123)

      Food is anything which nourishes the body. Thirteen elements enter into the composition of the body: oxygen, 62½ %; carbon, 21 ½ %; hydrogen, 10%; nitrogen, 3%; calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sulphur, chlorine, sodium, magnesium, iron, and fluorine the remaining 3%. Others are found occasionally, but, as their uses are unknown, will not be considered.

      Food is necessary for growth, repair, and energy; therefore the elements composing the body must be found in the food. The thirteen elements named are formed into chemical compounds by the vegetable and animal kingdoms to support the highest order of being, man. All food must...

    • 16 H Is for Happy: From An Alphabet for Gourmets (Nonfiction)
      (pp. 124-128)
      M. F. K. FISHER

      . . . and for what kind of dinner is most often just that evanescent, unpredictable, and purely heaven-sent thing.

      In general, I think, human beings are happiest at table when they are very young, very much in love, or very lone. It is rare to be happy in a group: a man can be merry, gay, keenly excited, but not happy in the sense of being free—free from life’s cluttering and clutching.

      When I was a child my Aunt Gwen (who was not an aunt at all but a large-boned and enormous-hearted woman who, thank God, lived next...

    • 17 Making the Perfect Fried Egg Sandwich (Poem)
      (pp. 129-134)
    • 18 All It Took Was a Road / Surprises of Urban Renewal: From If I Can Cook / You Know God Can (Nonfiction)
      (pp. 135-137)

      Between Managua and Bluefields there are many, many mountains. Until the short-lived victory of the Sandinistas in 1981, there was no road. So Nicaragua was a fairly schizophrenic little country with the black people on one side of the mountain and the mestizos and blancos on the other, while Amerindians made a way for themselves in the jungles as best they could. It was very important that there be no connection between the East and West Coast populations. That way myths and distance could weaken any resistance to the reign of the dictator Somoza, if the threat of being “disappeared”...

    • 19 Poison Egg (Fiction)
      (pp. 138-146)

      I can say this now: the best mornings of my childhood began with birdcalls, my father’s boyfriend practicing his hoots at the stove. He was a fish and wildlife man, a game warden, and when he moved into our house, he brought a suitcase of duck calls and a Hefty bag full of flannel shirts. It was not an easy transition for a girl of twelve, whose mother had vanished. Well, not vanished exactly, but she had traded in domestic life earlier that year for surfing and sunning, on the premise of finishing a doctorate in Hawaii. Her letters, full...


    • [PART IV Introduction]
      (pp. 147-152)

      Prior to the European colonization of the Americas, natives of North America ate locally and seasonally, without imagining their meals in courses or parts, such as main dishes, side dishes, and salads. In the Northeast, Native Americans routinely dined on the “three sisters” of maize, beans, and squash, which were planted together—beans twining up the corn stalks, squash unfurling around the bases. In the Northwest, tribes caught salmon; Plains Indians ate buffalo; and natives of the Southwest relied on rabbits and raccoons as well as potatoes and corn. Despite these dietary differences, however, across all regions, Native Americans ate...

    • 20 From The Joy of Cooking: A Compilation of Reliable Recipes with a Casual Culinary Chat (Cookbook)
      (pp. 153-158)

      Whenever I leave home and begin to move about, I am appalled to find how many people with a desire to write feel impelled to share their emotions with the general public.

      Time and again I have been told with modesty and pride, or with both, that I was entertaining a literary angel unawares, until one day, recognizing the glint of authorship in a man’s eye and anticipating his imminent confidence, I forestalled him by saying rapturously, “Oh, do you know, I am a reader!”

      And now, after all, I am a writer—of a kind.

      For thirty odd years...

    • 21 American Liver Mush (Poem)
      (pp. 159-161)
    • 22 Eat Your Pets (Nonfiction)
      (pp. 162-167)

      Standing in a million acres of remote, rock-throttled, lizard-gnawed Utah desert, I think back to a recent time in southern California, when I was stuck on a freeway with three lanes of halted cars spewing several millennia of fossilized plant beds from their exhausts, the fumes popping my few remaining brain cells like bubble wrap, nearly knocking me unconscious so that if the traffic ever did move again, I, slumped over the steering wheel, dripping stalactites of drool onto the rental car’s tasteful silver shag carpet, would incite gridlock anew, and the other drivers, their bloodstreams raging with espresso, would...

    • 23 How to Make Stew in the Pinacate Desert: Recipe for Locke and Drum (Poem)
      (pp. 168-169)
    • 24 Spirit-Fried No-Name River Brown Trout: A Recipe: From My Story as Told by Water (Nonfiction)
      (pp. 170-179)

      Like Christ (aka), and unlike most of the rest of us, a pan-fried trout is utterly forgiving. If you use too high a flame, the skin takes the abuse and the flesh is still delectable. Too low a flame and it still makes decent sushi. Even overcooked for hours in BritishBabette’s Nightmaresimmer-it-to-mush style, the structural integrity of muscle that spent its entire life fighting river current is nearly impossible to reduce to goo.

      Secret ingredients? There are none. Indispensable ingredients? There are two. The first? Honest butter. Forget margarine, forget olive oil (the cultural dissonance!), forgetI Can’t...

    • 25 Half-Life (Fiction)
      (pp. 180-185)

      All he wanted was to be the good son. To make up for all those years of stupid mistakes.

      “Dad,” Gordon called from the kitchen, “are you out of canola oil?”

      “What?” his father hollered.

      Gordon could hear the TV blaring.Wheel of Fortune, maybe, orPrice Is Right. “ Oil,” he said. His skull felt dry.

      “What?” his dad hollered again.

      Jesus. Gordon grabbed the counter, struggling up from where he’d been peering into the lazy susan. Exercise, he thought, that was another thing he needed to do. Not even fifty and he moved like an old man. Hobbling...

    • 26 The Poet in the Kitchen and the Poem of Chicken Breast with Fettuccine (Nonfiction and Poem)
      (pp. 186-190)

      Especially during the holidays, I’m reminded that writing a poem is much like preparing a meal. The poet may not always wear the funny hat, but he or she is still very much the chef. I assemble, arrange on counter and table, then prepare the various ingredients. I measure, weigh, decant, top off, fold in, pour over. I beat, peel, pare, knead, squeeze, wring, pound, slice, chop. I sauté, brown, braise, bake, roast—performing that old dance whereby something raw and cold is brought, over a period time, to a state of heat or at least doneness and completion, so...

    • 27 A Good Roast Chicken: From Pass the Polenta: And Other Writings from the Kitchen (Nonfiction)
      (pp. 191-197)

      The day my grandfather brought home the Rhode Island Reds is the day my mother learned to be a Singer. You might read this and think I meansinger, one who belts out show tunes, but I’m talking poultry plucking here, and I do mean one who singes over an open flame. Her job, she said, when I asked her please to tell me again about her day as a poulterer’s apprentice, was to singe the pinfeathers off the chickens once they’d been plucked. She’d rather have been a Waxer, which Mrs. Sebastian down the road, who kept White Leghorns,...

    • 28 Turkey Bone Gumbo: From Gumbo Tales (Nonfiction)
      (pp. 198-203)

      On the morning that I surrendered my New Orleans citizenship by leaving my house keys with a property manager and then driving toward my husband, I stopped for coffee. And a lagniappe. Almost as soon as Katrina hit, I began stockpiling New Orleans mementos, starting with any old cookbook I could find in Manhattan’s used-book stores. Once I returned to New Orleans, I expanded my range: rarer cookbooks, bumper stickers, photographs, oyster shells, a bottle of Mississippi River water. The frantic collecting was as much an endeavor to hold on to my own identity as it was to preserve what...

    • 29 Boiled Chicken Feet and Hundred-Year-Old Eggs (Nonfiction)
      (pp. 204-210)

      “You mustn’t eat chicken feet until you are a married woman!” my aunts warned me. “Otherwise you will grow up to run away from your husband.”

      They sat around the dining table, an unstable jointure of old planks stained by years of soya-sauce drips and scorched by the ashy embers that always fell out of the small coal oven under the metal hot-pot which was fetched out once a year for Chinese New Year family feasts. They chewed on gold-brown chicken feet that had been boiled with ginger, garlic, sugar, and black soy. The feet looked like skinny elegant batons...

    • 30 13/16 (Poem)
      (pp. 211-212)

    • [PART V Introduction]
      (pp. 213-217)

      InBorderlands: La Frontera, Gloria Anzaldúa writes about living within the margins of modern America. Her specific margin is the “borderland” country between Mexico and the United States that is the American Southwest, as well as the linguistic and culinary fringes that define this community. Inhabiting what she terms amestizaculture in which she speaks the “wild tongue” of Chicano Spanish and eats dishes defined by Tex-Mex foodways, Anzaldúa claims that it is centrally through language and food— what goes in and what comes out ofla boca,the mouth—that each of us internalizes our identity. And just...

    • 31 From Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Cookbook)
      (pp. 218-224)

      Anyone who has been fortunate enough to eat fresh, home-cooked vegetables in France remembers them with pleasure. Returning voyagers speak of them with trembling nostalgia: “Those delicious little green beans! They even serve them as a separate course. Why I’ll never forget the meal I had . . . ,” and so forth. Some people are even convinced that it is only in France that you can enjoy such experiences because French vegetables are somehow different. Fortunately this is not the case. Any fine, fresh vegetable in season will taste just as good in America or anywhere else if the...

    • 32 The Vegetable Gardens at Bilignin: From The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book (Nonfiction)
      (pp. 225-239)

      For fourteen successive years the gardens at Bilignin were my joy, working in them during the summers and planning and dreaming of them during the winters. The summers frequently commenced early in April with the planting, and ended late in October with the last gathering of the winter vegetables. Bilignin surrounded by mountains and not far from the French Alps—from higher ground a few miles away Mont Blanc was frequently visible—made early planting uncertain. One year we lost the first planting of string beans, another year the green peas were caught by late frost. It took me several...

    • 33 Summer Salad (Poem)
      (pp. 240-241)
    • 34 Reception (Poem)
      (pp. 242-243)
    • 35 Potatoes and Love: Some Reflections: From Heartburn (Fiction)
      (pp. 244-247)

      I have friends who begin with pasta, and friends who begin with rice, but whenever I fall in love, I begin with potatoes. Sometimes meat and potatoes and sometimes fish and potatoes, but always potatoes. I have made a lot of mistakes falling in love, and regretted most of them, but never the potatoes that went with them.

      Not just any potato will do when it comes to love. There are people who go on about the virtues of plain potatoes—plain boiled new potatoes with a little parsley or dill, or plain baked potatoes with crackling skins—but my...

    • 36 Repulsive Dinners: A Memoir: From Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen (Nonfiction)
      (pp. 248-252)

      There is something triumphant about a really disgusting meal. It lingers in the memory with a lurid glow just as something exalted is remembered with a kind of mellow brilliance. I am not thinking of kitchen disasters—chewy pasta, burnt brownies, curdled sauces: these can happen to anyone. I am thinking about meals that are positively loathsome from soup to nuts, although one is not usually fortunate enough to get either soup or nuts.

      Bad food abounds in restaurants, but somehow a bad meal in a restaurant and a bad home-cooked meal are not the same: after all, the restaurant...

    • 37 The Demystification of Food: From Vibration Cooking: Or, The Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl (Nonfiction)
      (pp. 253-255)

      In reading lots and lots of cookbooks written by white folks it occurred to me that people very casually say Spanish rice, French fries, Italian spaghetti, Chinese cabbage, Mexican beans, Swedish meatballs, Danish pastry, English muffins and Swiss cheese. And with the exception of black bottom pie and niggertoes, there is no reference to black people’s contribution to the culinary arts. White folks act like they invented food and like there is some weird mystique surrounding it—something that only Julia and Jim can get to. There is no mystique. Food is food. Everybody eats!

      And when I cook, I...

    • 38 How to Cook Moong Dal, Bengali Style (Nonfiction)
      (pp. 256-257)

      Again I will tell you. This time you will remember? You need moong dal , which you have purchased from Indian grocery. You knowmoong dal?Means split moong beans without skin. Remember without skin.

      What you have done with recipe that Raju had copied out? You have lost it? You must learn to cook Indian. It is not too late. Remember we are still your culture-in-law.

      You need turmeric, dry red chilis, green chilis, onion, and vegetables—best if you can get bitter gourd, which you must purchase from Indian grocery, from Sardarji. Is good for digestion.

      You remember...

    • 39 Food and Belonging: At “Home” and “Alien-Kitchens” (Nonfiction)
      (pp. 258-268)

      Aromas at Amy Villa, 675 Parsi Colony (near Vadala Market), Dadar, Bombay 14. India. Dawn. The sun’s first rays kiss the Arabian Sea.Om jaye jagdish hare. . . . Clanging sounds from the kitchen enter my waking body as mouth-watering aromas waft in—moistchapatis, kando-papeto, kheechreekadhi, papeta ma gosh.These word-sounds in Gujarati, my mother tongue, carry the tastes and aromas that are lost in their English translations:chapatis,round flat wheat bread roasted on an iron griddle;kando-papeto,onions and potatoes spiced with pepper and ginger;kheechree-kadhi,spiced yoghurt sauce eaten with rice;papeta ma gosh,meat...


    • [PART VI Introduction]
      (pp. 269-272)

      The final course of a meal—dessert—may consist of a sweet dish, such as pie, pudding, cake, cookies, or ice cream; cheese and fruit; or even nuts. Ancient peoples enjoyed fruits and nuts (sometimes rolled in honey) at the end of their meals. As technology changed—especially with the manufacturing of cane sugar granules in the Middle Ages—options for desserts expanded across Europe. In the Renaissance, as sugar became more available to the middle classes, dessert courses—confusingly called “banquets”— became marks of household distinction, including cakes, tarts, candied fruits and vegetables, and elaborate “marchpane” (or marzipan)...

    • 40 From Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook (Cookbook)
      (pp. 273-278)

      Marrying the elements of a meal correctly so as to achieve that elusive equilibrium requires an understanding of each separate course and its importance within the overall structure of the menu. To succeed, first consider what foods are at their peak that particular day. Second, consider the factors that affect the meal’s reception: the guests and their gastronomic idiosyncrasies; the time of year, and the temperature; and most important, what you feel like cooking and eating yourself.

      My criterion for good bread is that it be good all by itself with just the addition of some sweet butter. But wonderful...

    • 41 All the Old Tales Are Tales of Hunger (Fiction)
      (pp. 279-282)

      Say there was an apple. A basket. A red cloak. A forest thick with trees. Say there was a wolf. And a path. And a girl. Say there is the threat of coming darkness.

      Say peel one, core two. Whisk and let settle. Shake and shake and shake.

      There are wolves in the forest. So many wolves. Watch them glide through the trees like mist. They have big eyes. They have slow jaws. They have claws to rip flesh from white, white bones. Are these wolves men or dogs? This is always the question. Are wolves a metaphor for sexual...

    • 42 Baking for Sylvia (Nonfiction)
      (pp. 283-290)

      It was the week of my fortieth birthday, an august event I had celebrated with half of a leftover burrito, heated in the microwave and taken up to my tiny study, shambling in my husband’s faded bathrobe and coughing; I shut the door to the sound of my family coughing around the dinner table downstairs, cat hair matted on every textured surface in the house. The deadline — extended — to turn in the manuscript for my novel about Sylvia Plath was six weeks away, and by my birthday I still had to write a third of the outlined forty-one chapters. I’d...

    • 43 Suman sa Ibos (Poem)
      (pp. 291-292)
    • 44 Pie: From Never Eat Your Heart Out (Nonfiction)
      (pp. 293-301)

      Its filling sequestered beneath a canopy of top crust, hidden from the eye (if not the nose), a pie (not unlike the body) offers itself for reverie on the enigma of inside and out.

      Even when I was a child, a pre-school toddler, I adored concocting for my dolls mud-crust pies in doll-size pie tins. I filled them with pansies or nasturtiums or marigolds or yellow chinaberries picked off bushes that grew along the back alley, or with pea gravel culled from our driveway. With Belinda, my rag doll, snuggled in the crook of my arm, I would curl up...

    • 45 Funeral Food: From Consuming Passions: A Food-Obsessed Life (Nonfiction)
      (pp. 302-307)

      In small towns, after a death, it is traditional to bring covered dishes to the family. When words fail us, we offer food. A platter of fried chicken says,I’m sorry for your loss.A chocolate layer cake whispers,I know you feel that life has soured, so here is something sweet.

      In church lingo it is called “food for the bereaved.” Southern churches have traditionally provided the meal after the funeral; it can be grand or pathetic. And you can’t go by a church’s size, either—even though church kitchens are built to feed the multitudes. Nowadays they are...

    • 46 Pie Throwing: From Recipes for Disaster: An Anarchist Cookbook (Nonfiction)
      (pp. 308-313)
    • 47 Burn (Fiction)
      (pp. 314-324)

      The night Edith set Morton’s house on fire, she stood far back in the wrecked wheat field that doubled as his lawn, her face smooth as stone, petrol hands in her pockets, and she whispered his name with such force that even the fire now moving from the main room to the sun porch couldn’t match the heat of her words. The ground shone with frost. Mitou, the heartbeat at her feet, barked and jumped. Edith’s lungs ached as if yanked by breath.

      “Morton Fullerton, Morton Fullerton,” she said, wanting it to sound like a chant, like the name of...

    • 48 The Assurance of Caramal Cake: From Hallelujah! The Welcome Table: A Lifetime of Memories with Recipes (Nonfiction)
      (pp. 325-330)

      Quilting bees were eagerly anticipated by southern black women. They offered the only nonlabor, nonreligious occasions where women could gather and exchange all the communities’ good and bad news. The women planned for weeks. Then they selected and cooked their favorite dessert dishes and brought them to the gathering. The bees were always held in the back of the store, which meant that Bailey and I could look forward to some delicious cakes and pies and, if the event took place in the summer, some luscious hand-cranked strawberry ice cream. Usually cranked by us.

      Mrs. Sneed, the pastor’s wife, would...

  13. A Toast

    • 49 How to Make Rhubarb Wine (Poem)
      (pp. 333-334)
    (pp. 335-344)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 345-347)