By Jessica Wesiberg
The New Yorker blog
For those of us who want to eat locally, but maybe don’t have the time to grow our own vegetables, nor the salaries to buy everything at the farmers’ market, Lisa Jervis’s “Cook Food” is a fantastic how-to guide. Jervis, the founder of Bitch magazine, dubs this tiny volume a “manualfesto.” The “festo” part comes at the beginning, when Jervis briefly parses some of the political and environmental issues that face us at the dinner table: how far most ingredients travel, the petroleum and chemicals used in food processing, the mistreatment of animals.
Jervis’s writing has an off-the-cuff quality: she never spells out the word “because” (she prefers “ ’cause”) and sometimes substitutes apostrophes for “g”s (“talkin’ ”). But because she’s inconsistent about it, it registers as laziness rather than kitsch, which I thought only added to the book’s charm. Her whole point is that eating well—in the fullest sense of the term—isn’t all that hard to do. The second part of the book is a kitchen guide and twenty easy, affordable vegetarian recipes. She also has some useful tips on how to save money and effort (for tomato paste: buy the type that comes in a tube; the type in a can goes bad too quickly) and for enhancing flavor (salt early!). PM press, a new publisher based in Oakland, is charging only ten dollars for the book, and it’s well worth it. I’m going to test out her “spicy brownies” recipe tonight, which calls for silken tofu in place of eggs. I imagine it must be quite good: otherwise, I don’t think Jervis would have bothered to write it down.