Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Slices of Life: A Food Writer Cooks Through Many a Conundrum, by Leah Eskin

For ten years, Eskin has written a food column, "Home on the Range," for the Chicago Tribune. Slices of Life is a collection of those columns (each accompanied by a recipe) that, taken together, provide something of a memoir. Eskin cooks through life's ups and downs--raising children (which provides both highs and lows), moving, losing loved ones, buying furniture, trying new exercise programs, celebrating holidays . . . you get the picture.

The relationship of the columns to their companion recipes varies from close and logical to less clear and perhaps more metaphorical. To wit:  a discussion of the Jewish New Year is accompanied by a recipe for challah, a column on the crunch experienced on tax day is followed by a recipe for a snack called "snack crunch crunch," a column on her husband's penchant for huge eggplant-colored speakers is paired with a recipe for an eggplant dish, and a piece on compost precedes a recipe for "Savory Strawberry Smash." Occasionally, the text is actually about the dish for which directions are provided.

Slices of Life is a pleasant, well-written diversion. So far I've tried two of the recipes. One, "Night Tart," was very pretty but just okay in terms of taste. The other, "Mozzarella and Tomato Salad," was a delicious expansion of the flavors of a caprese.

Favorite passages:
We ate. Meals so good we remembered almost nothing. Like waking from a dream, all that remained was a feeling of sublime contentment and a whiff of creamed parsnips, roast duck, and lemon curd.  (I've had this exact experience!)

Once, the boy leaned into your pages, finding adventure, solace, and breakfast menu. Under his stare your shapes crisped into letters, your letters clumped into words, your words linked into stories. Your naughty wolves and pensive bears will accompany the boy forever. But the boy, he's already gone.

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