by Kelly Smith
As a food writer and someone who has health issues due to chronic Lyme, I try to use only organic, locally grown ingredients (in season) when I cook. Lyme is a disease of toxicity so GMO’s, sugar, gluten and dairy only add to the problem.
Not being disciplined enough is one of the reasons it is taking me so long to get over this wretched disease. For every glass of beer or slice of cake I ingest, my recovery is set back. Intellectually, I know nutrition is the best medicine but putting it into practice every day is difficult even when I suffer the consequences. I need all the inspiration I can get. That’s why I am so happy the couple has come out with a cookbook, Cooking with the Muse: A Sumptuous Gathering of Seasonal Recipes, Culinary Poetry and Literary Fare.
At nearly 500 pages, the book is a masterpiece to rival Sally Fallon’s 1995 book, Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and Diet Dictocrats. Both books are based on principles put forth by Weston A. Price, DDS, who wrote Nutrition and Physical Degeneration in 1939.
If I had to sum up all three books in one sentence, I’d say, “Good fats are good for you.” The modern “low-fat” culture is a farce. When you see a label in the grocery store that claims it is “low-fat,” you can be assured the makers have replaced the fat with some type of processed sugar. Most diseases, such as Lyme and cancer, survive on this toxic sugar.
Consuming good fats along with large amounts of fresh, organic vegetables and herbs and small amounts of fruit, is the way to stay healthy. The recipes in Cooking with the Muse perfectly illustrate this way of life. Cooking with the Muse recipes don’t deprive the palate of anything, but embraces all food in its most original form.
The book is divided into the four seasons. Since it is April and by the way, April is Poetry Month, let’s go to the “Spring” chapter.
Recipes here include Thyme-braised Baby Artichokes, Spinach-Sorrel Pancakes with Cilantro-Yogurt Sauce, Mediterranean Asparagus-Ricotta Frittata, Sea Trout in Miso, Roasted Spanish Monkfish with Roasted Broccoli Raab, Skate Wing in Lemon-Tarragon Brown Butter Sauce with Spring Radishes, Roast Leg of Lamb with Herbed Salsa and Rhubarb-Strawberry Compote Parfait.
The first thing to show up in my garden, is rhubarb. Even with snow flurries brushing the ground, the little red nubs peek through the soil and before I know it, green leaves begin to unfurl. Those enormous leaves are poisonous, however, and only the celery-like red stalks are edible.
Rhubarb is actually a vegetable related to sorrel and when stewed with sweet strawberries, another springtime favorite, it’s tartness is tamed deliciously. As the book points out, “the word ‘rhubarb’ derives from the same root as the word ‘barbarian.’”
The “Poet’s Note” at the end of the parfait recipe goes deeper into the Greek origins of the word and the “Cook’s Note” offers tips on planning and storage, which is why I love this book so much. It’s so much more than a cookbook.
Poems are interspersed between the recipes and notes. The “Spring” chapter includes “Song to Onions” by Roy Blount Jr., “Porcini Weather” by Marty Williams and “A-Shelling Peas” by Harry “Breaker” Harbord Morant.
Here is “Love Poem to Spinach,” by Mộng-Lan in its entirety: “your vulgar name is ‘Spinach’ but your/glorious Latinate name is Spinacia Oleracea/of the goosefoot family/your large dark-green juicy edible leaves are beacons/sending tremors through my body/am I masochistic? Loving you that most hate/I took to liking you immediately/then the love came later stronger/I find you absolutely necessary; your stalks and leaves full of iron/you are luscious/sweet/divine/you empower anyone/who eats you/close to your original glory/is how I want you.”
Ms. Kornfeld will teach two upcoming cooking classes, “Spring into Spring: Making the Most of the Spring Vegetable Extravaganza,” on May 6 and “Spring Bone Broth for Radiant Health” on May 12. The authors will also host a book party on May 10. All three events will be held at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City. More information can be found at http://cookingwiththemuse.com.