I love food, and a day of indulgence such as Thanksgiving is my idea of a celebration. On the other 364 days, I savor healthful foods. I’m already looking forward to the Saturday after Thanksgiving, when I’ll have a few friends over for seafood, veggies, and fruit. (OK, desserts too.)
I grew up in an Italian family where we all shared the food-related work: My mother cooked and everyone else ate. I didn’t learn much about cooking until I left home and had to fend for myself. A friend changed my life by giving me a subscription to Bon Appetit as a birthday present. I was surprised and delighted to discover that it was possible to make truly delicious food that was quick and easy to prepare. (My mother and grandmother made ravioli and tomato sauce from scratch. That was our traditional Thanksgiving first course, to be followed by the turkey and all the trimmings.)
When I first started cooking, I never served anything to guests without pretesting it first. Now I have more confidence and I like to experiment. I’ve collected dozens of cookbooks; I often flip through them for ideas, rather than for recipes to follow unwaveringly. Because I’ve been doing this for so long, it is rare for me to discover a cookbook that offers new and tantalizing dishes that are not just plain weird. My latest such find is Stephanie Bostic’s One Bowl: Simple and Healthful Recipes for One.
The best cookbooks have philosophies behind them, and for One Bowl, it is the notion that it is possible to make quick, healthful, and delicious meals for one without having a lot of muck to clean up afterwards. The recipes emphasize vegetables, whole grains, beans, and such; meats make just a token appearance. That’s just how I cook when I am preparing food for myself. (When others offer to cook for me, I’ll eat just about anything.) Bostic has a degree in nutrition and currently works at the Harvard School of Public Health, so her recipes are grounded in the science of good eating.
I’ve often wished for sandwich fillings that are not the usual meat and cheese, or some huge hunk of mushroom. My cookbook collection has little to offer in that regard and when I surf my favorite food sites, I rarely find anything all that interesting. One Bowl includes a whole series of possibilities, including, for example, garlicky carrot spread, Zalouk (eggplant tomato spread), and earthy black olive lentil spread.
I also crave soups when the weather gets chilly, and One Bowl includes recipes featuring some of my favorite ingredients (e.g., sweet potato and black bean soup with lime – which adorns the cover of the book).
The recipes are my favorite part of the book but there are lots of other useful features, too. For example, there is a section on which combinations of spices work best and which foods they work best with. There are notes on various cooking techniques and on nutrition, a glossary, and much more.
The book is also beautifully designed and easy to read and use. One key feature, though, is of no interest to me. I’m single (obviously), I cook for myself often, but I rarely prepare just one serving of anything. Most of the time, I make meals that I expect to love (or at least like a lot); it is hardly any more work to prepare more than one serving and enjoy the food for several days instead of just one.
Happy eating, everyone – on Thanksgiving and every other day.