By Sarah Henry
Lettuce eat Kale
Perhaps the best thing about Cook Food: a manualfesto for easy, healthy, local eating by Lisa Jervis is that it’s a slim little volume.
That’s not some snarky reviewer comment. Writer Jervis, founding editor and publisher of the feminist mag Bitch, aims to demystify how to eat well and cook real, simple food by keeping her book brief. She includes some 20 recipes of the beans, greens, grains, tofu, and tempeh variety. Well seasoned, as Jervis advocates, these ingredients can form the basis of a decent recipe repertoire for the eco-conscious (both environmental and financial).
This guide may hit a chord with people interested in food politics who don’t have a clue about what to cook in the kitchen and don’t need pretty pictures to motivate them to make a meal. (This is not your typical photo-driven cookbook.) Folks inspired by Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, and Stuffed & Starved author Raj Patel, whose book blurb adorns the back cover, come to mind. And Cook Food might also serve as a handy reference for college students, making the switch from dorm life to truly independent living, who need assistance figuring out essential equipment, pantry basics, and practical tips and techniques (note to self: ditch the lame-o rice cooker and get a jelly roll pan for roasting veggies to perfection.)
Regardless, if Jervis, who sports a cool beet tattoo, happens to be reading in your neighborhood do stop by. At The Green Arcade bookstore in San Francisco last Friday, it feels like I’ve entered the kitchen of a friend who could use a little help getting the dinner on. More group discussion and less typical book reading, Jervis distractedly composes a farmers’ market salad for her audience to sample — and to support her thesis that preparing satisfying food is within everyone’s reach.
She fields questions while she chops. We learn she’s politically aware (conscious of her carbon footprint, locavore advocate, mostly vegan), and a bit of a renegade (a liberal user of oil and salt, she signs her book, salt early, salt often). She also confesses in the course of her cooking demo that she’s confused an Asian melon for a lemon cucumber. It doesn’t seem to faze her. There’s nothing slick going on here, which leaves you feeling comfortable that you, too, can cook food.
In this era of celebrity chefs and network cooking shows, it’s easy to feel intimidated by food. Jervis serves as a reminder that we don’t need to be.