Today’s post is part of the From Left to Write online book club. The idea of this book club is not to write a book review, per se, but rather to write a post in which the blogger connects that month’s book to an experience from his or her own life. November’s book is — for the first time — a cookbook: The Earthbound Cook by Myra Goodman. You all know how much I love to cook, so I was particularly excited about this assignment.
One of the best things about writing a blog is getting to meet really interesting and fun people. This may seem counter-intuitive because, of course, writing a blog can be a very solitary activity between you and your computer. Despite that — or perhaps because of it — bloggers love to put down their laptops and socialize with one another. Honestly, if I wanted to, I could probably attend a different social media event every night. Fortunately for my family, I am a homebody at heart, and quite lazy, so I turn down most invitations. But, when I do go out and meet the Chicago’s other social media doyennes, I am invariably pleased to be with such lively, funny and cool women. ‘Cause it’s mostly women.
Through writing this blog for the past 8 months, I have met some women who I now count as friends. It was shortly after I started blogging that I encountered the incomparable Chef Druck, and now she is my neighbor and such a kindred spirit that sometimes we feel like long-lost sisters. (Example: when we each got married, ages ago, we both registered for the exact same, slightly-too-large and annoyingly-prone-to-chip blue-and-yellow china.) Also through blogging, I have become friends with Sara from Self-Made Mom — who feels exactly as I do about ankle booties and fur vests, and thus is now my go-to person for fashion consultations — and with Caitlin from Wee Windy City, who is my role model for leaving a legal career for a writing career. And then there’s Alma from Marketing Mommy who I knew in real life first through our shared temple, and got to know better through blogging. Now I see her at Religious School pick-up and blogging events.
It is amazing how much we can do online these days, from shopping to emailing around pictures and videos of our kids mere moments after we take them to reconnecting with long-lost friends. But nothing takes the place of connecting over a meal. Thus, while the From Left to Write online book club is a great opportunity to talk about books not simply with a few women who happen to live nearby but rather with dozens of women all over the country, when the book in question is a cookbook, it’s time to get together face-to-face. So, that’s exactly what we did. Several of the Chicago-area From Left to Write members put together a lunch meeting –with our kids no less — to sample several recipes from the cookbook.
The cookbook in question was The Earthbound Cook by Myra Goodman, who was one of the founders of Earthbound Farm, i.e., the place that sends all those bags of organic lettuce to your local Whole Foods. Not surprisingly then, the cookbook is all about cooking in a mindful way that is healthy for your family and for our planet — because aren’t those two things inextricably intertwined? For example, eating more vegetarian meals is both good for our bodies – because those meals tend to be lower in fat and higher in nutrients — and good for the environment because eating lower on the food chain consumes fewer resources.
As a passionate cook, I’m all for saving the planet — so long as the food still tastes good. I’m happy to report that the several recipes we sampled from The Earthbound Cookbook at our ladies’ lunch were all excellent. In keeping with the environmentally sensitive idea of cooking seasonally, I opted to prepare the Chopped Autumn Salad, which features Romaine lettuce and red cabbage combined with fall fruits, such as apples, pears, and persimmons. Sadly, I could not find persimmons not even for ready money. So I used dried cranberries instead. Despite the missing persimmons, the salad was crunchy, flavorful and beautiful to look at. My only complaint is that even raw cabbage smells like, well, cabbage.
Melanie brought her four gorgeous children and the Lemon Cous-Cous Salad with Spinach. This may have been my favorite dish of the meal. I will definitely make it again, although I think it will lose something if I leave out the walnuts, which I would have to do to accommodate Zuzu’s allergies. It was light and refreshing and would go well with almost any main dish. Our gracious host, Serena, made the main course for our lunch: Italian Sausage with Fennel and Grapes. Here’s the thing about that dish: I like sausage. I adore fennel. And grapes are one of the few fruits I really enjoy. I would have never thought to put them together, but I gather it’s a fairly traditional Italian preparation. That being said, I have a prejudice about fruit in my food — salad does not count — so I doubt I would ever make this dish on my own.
No meal is complete without dessert, right? Michelle was coming straight from a PTO meeting with her Little Miss, so she opted to bring a dessert that could safely stay in the car for several hours: Chunky Chocolate Raisin Cookies. As advertised, these cookies taste just like the very British Cadbury Fruit and Nut bar; in other words, they were delicious. However, Michelle, who is a pretty experienced baker, admitted to “tweaking” the recipe because the half cup of flour that the recipe called for did not seem like nearly enough to create a chunky cookie batter.
All in all, we had a delightful lunch and it was great fun to see some of my fellow From Left to Write members face-to-face just like we were in a “real” book club.
A “From Left to Write” Book Club post. In conjunction with the book club, I received a free copy of The Earthbound Cook: 250 Recipes for Delicious Food and a Healthy Planet. You can find more bloggers’ reactions to The Earthbound Cook on the From Left to Write website. Follow From Left to Write on Twitter here.