October 26, 1925 – September 5, 2013
“Let me begin without ceremony. In addition to one iron pot, two sharp knives, and four heads of lettuce, you will need the following.”
The above sentences are the opening lines of Robert Farrar Capon’s book, The Supper of the Lamb. I had come upon a copy of this book in the dollar section of a bookstore during the 1980’s and when I opened it and read those first few no-nonsense lines I was hooked. It is simple sentences like this that have influenced not only my writing but also my cooking. Since then I have purchased a couple copies of this book as gifts. Mr. Farrar was an Episcopalian priest who wrote more than two dozen books, mostly on theology, but this was one of his earliest (his second book) and it was a sort of culinary reflection. While I have to admit that I have not read any of his theological books (but I shall) I am very thankful that he wrote this one; below is a brief excerpt from the book. To view his NY Times obituary, click here.
“We live in an age in which saving is subterfuge for spending. No doubt you sincerely believe that there is margarine in your refrigerator because it is more economical than butter. But you are wrong. Look in your bread drawer. How many boxes of cute snack crackers are there? How many packages of commercial cookies reeking of imitation vanilla badly masked with oil of coconut? How many presweetened breakfast cereals? Tell me now that you bought the margarine because you couldn’t afford butter. You see – you can’t. You bought the bread drawer of goodies because you were conned into them; and you omitted the butter because you were conned out of it. The world has slipped you culinary diagrams instead of food. It counts on your palate being not only wooden, but buried under ten coats of synthetic varnish as well. Therefore, the next time you go to check out of the supermarket, simply put back one box of crackers, circle round the dairy case again, swap your margarine for a pound of butter and walk up to the checker with your head held high, like the last of the big spenders. This is no time for cost-counters: It is time to be very rich or very poor – or both at once.”