October 1, 2013
How to Feed a Family by Laura Keogh and Ceri Marsh
”Pratt’s postwar-era family table is a site of constant labour, meal after meal–which all fell to Mary, with no foreseeable end.”–Catherine M. Mastin, “Base, Place, Location and the Early Paintings” , from the Mary Pratt book, an excerpt from which appears today on the 49thShelf blog.
It’s a whole new world at our house these days, as I’ve got a 4 month old baby and a kid who has just started all-day school and is usually exhausted by 5pm. So while I am still a decent cook who makes dinner from scratch every night, I find many of my old standard recipes don’t quite work anymore. I need dinners that are quick, healthy, with minimal preparation (because heaven forbid the baby lets me put her down). I need dinners that my big kid will eat, even with her kiddish tastes, and oh yes, they need to be delicious, because I’m going to eat them too.
Enter How to Feed a Family by Laura Keough and Ceri Marsh, a book which couldn’t have come around at a better time. The first meal I made was shakshuka, a tomato egg dish for which I really did have all the ingredients already in my pantry. We got home at 6 that night, and I had to go out again at 7:15, but it all came together, and even Ol’ “I Don’t Like Tomatoes” Harriet ate hers up fine. Here, I thought, is a cookbook that does what it says on the tin.
We’ve had the ridiculously easy and tasty Lemon Linguini (though I threw in some spinach to up the greens), apple chicken curry (which we all enjoyed), tilapia tacos with fresh lime, though everybody’s favourite has been the so-simple sweet potato macaroni and cheese (which I particularly like because it makes a huge batch, and I freeze half for later). I have baked the whole-grain blueberry muffins three times now, and the whole play school is having them for snack tomorrow. I’ve stolen sandwich ideas (chicken and grapes. Yum!), made breakfast milkshakes, and we had cornmeal pancakes for lunch one day, which were terrific.
How to Feed a Family is a product of the blog Sweet Potato Chronicles, from which I’ve scooped recipes from time-to-time and for which my friend Athena writes a lovely column called “A Quick Bite With”. Reflecting its origins, the book is a bit of a mishmash and guided mainly by its writers’ tastes instead of a grander scheme. So you end up with a cannelloni recipe with a whole page of ingredients with another recipe calling for store-bought pastry shells (gasp! horror! says me). And they’re really, really into spelt flour and brown rice syrup, which I just don’t happen to have on hand. Further, my child wouldn’t touch an asparagus/tomato frittata with a ten foot pole, but that’s my problem (and it is. Because when she doesn’t eat her share, I eat it instead, which is a problem I don’t expect is come across by the book’s authors, two former fashion magazine editors who’ve probably long-learned the art of restraint).
I am not completely the target audience for this book–I’ve got my own ideas about food and cooking and I dare their recipe for wholewheat pancakes to compete with mine, which I fry up every Sunday (blueberry banana!). But I’ve also never needed a book like this so bad in my life, and the spine is already way cracked. The pages splattered.Here is a cookbook that’s made to get used, and I am having an awfully good time with it.