Readers of this obscure blog may have noticed that I have not posted regularly or responded to comments in my usual way. This is because three members of my Frugal Family were in Arkansas! This was another road trip to check out a college for our beloved Frugal Daughter, the Divine Miss Em. Why University of Arkansas? Because their Honors College was given a $200,000,000 grant by Alice Walton, widow of Sam Walton of Wal-Mart. That’s more than many college endowments. Although I will be writing today about a cookbook and not about colleges, college savings etc, let me say here that if you eliminate some of the usual suspects for your college-bound student, you will find tremendous bargains out there. Some of these less well-known schools, and schools in places deemed less desirable, really do try harder. And cost less.
Anyway, it was a long and miserable drive to Fayetteville. All we knew about the town was that it has “four seasons.” But what a delight! Fayetteville seems to be a little corner of the counter-culture (Who knew?). And the college is beautiful, even though many trees showed damage from the recent ice storm. In fact, the piles of broken branches and the trees with broken-off tops were reminiscent of our post-Katrina universe.
While Frugal Daughter had her interviews, Mr. FS and I nosed around. My favorite spot was Dickson Street Books, a crowded used bookstore, with a fabulous stock and the used bookstore smell, which brought me right back to Bloomington, Indiana and the much-loved Caveat Emptor (!), a wonderful used bookstore.
In a Proustian haze (or daze) of memory, I first asked where the literary theory section was. En route, I passed the cookbook section and there I found the one cookbook I would be—and was—willing to buy: Honey from a Weed by Patience Gray. The hardback English edition was a reasonable $12.00. Reader, I bought it.
When I started reading it, I discovered that this book, which I had checked out of the library in a town I no longer live in, was as good as I remembered. It is a feast of writing, offering a picture of a way of life that was vanishing—and soon may be gone.
Gray accompanied her “Sculptor” to various sites around the Mediterranean, as he sought marble for his work. Gray learned to live—and to cook and eat—as the locals did, with the fasting and feasting of a life where all food was precious.
Here is Gray’s more evocative prose:
Good cooking is the result of a balance struck between frugality and liberality . . . It is born out of communities where the supply of food is conditioned by the seasons.
Once we lose touch with the spendthrift aspect of nature’s provisions epitomized in the raising of a crop, we are in danger of losing touch with life itself. When Providence supplies the means, the preparation and sharing of food takes on a sacred aspect. The fact that every crop is of short duration promotes a spirit of making the best of it while it lasts and conserving part of it for future use. It also leads to periods of fasting and periods of feasting, which represent the extremes of the artist’s situation as well as the Greek Orthodox approach to food and the Catholic insistence on fasting, now abandoned. (pp. 11-12)
I hope you enjoy that little taste and I’ll offer more as I work my way through it.
Dear readers, any thoughts on college money issues? Prestige and practicality in school choices?
Any thoughts on Arkansas as a place to live and study?
And, my favorite topic: any less-well known cookbooks you would like to recommend? Share them here.