Reader's Exchange

Remedial cooking lessons

People who think laughter is the best medicine apparently have never had morphine.

The pile of get-well cards my husband received offers more nuggets of humor, but that's my favorite. Its brevity also typifies the extent of my concentration lately. We've moved furniture to make way for orthopedic gadgets; the nurse, physical therapist, and others visit at different times each day.  Normal routines and lengthy intervals for reading have become infrequent.  Besides, witnessing the success of medical technology is pretty distracting.

When my reading dwindled down to hastily scanned emails and the newspaper, I combed the premises for volumes to peruse in small doses. Discovering two ideal choices, I found my joy tempered by the sheepish admission that I'd set aside Christmas gift books in exactly the same way my grandmother (and probably yours, too) quarantined her new treasures.  The sweater or robe or whatever would be admired, then relegated to a top shelf or bottom drawer because it was "too nice to use right away". By the time the gift was rescued from its solitary confinement, it would have gone out of style.

LemonsPerhaps back in December I foresaw that David Sedaris' Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk would solve my "what to read when I have fifteen minutes" quandary in February.  The second volume--Clara's Kitchen--was a present from my mother-in-law and is even more perfect because it's authored by a grandmother: Clara Cannucciari of online Great Depression Cooking fame. 

Clara's gift to the world (besides her wonderful family, including filmmaking grandson Chris Cannucciari) is her generous perspective on life and luck.  Recounting her clan's efforts to eke out a subsistence during the Depression, Clara draws the reader in with the depth of her appreciation for all the clever strategies her parents devised.  The 90+-year-old matriarch also manages to avoid implying that anyone too young to have experienced that era is thus lacking in moral fiber. 

If I hadn't already warmed to Clara's fondly detailed memories, I'd certainly have been won over by her account of working in a Hostess Twinkie factory.  Though not divulging any secrets of industrial dessert production, Clara does share mouth-watering recipes that are nutritious, inexpensive, and appealing.  Even without glossy color photos, these dishes (Eggplant Burgers, Fried Burdock, Quick Pickles, Bay Leaf Tea) sound so simple and natural that readers will be compelled to try at least a few.

Thanks to Clara, I now understand why one's kitchen should never be without lemons, that Pecorino Romano is better than Parmesan, and that resourcefulness and good humor are the ultimate survival tactics.  Laughter is powerful stuff, after all.  

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