Imagine my surprise as I unwrapped the gift from my in-laws – I uncovered James and Kay Salter´s latest book, Life is Meals, an inviting read.
The previous day I was standing at the food lover´s table at Reader´s Books in Sonoma, glancing through the Salter´s pages of work, thinking I would put it on my bookshelf after the New Year.
The Salters have kept this diary, of sorts, throughout their years of entertaining. And, although the book has little to do with the profession, the authors present, one day at a time, helpful snippets of information while sharing experiences of home cooking, dinner parties, and entertaining and dining out.
For instance, invited to a dinner party one evening at the Salter´s, John Irving called prior to his arrival, claimed he was in love with a person but he hadn´t introduced her to anyone and asked if he could bring her. Of course, he got the nod. A year later, they were married.
January 25 is an interesting day. Aphrodisiacs are the topic. The paragraphs touch on oysters, chocolate, chilis, hot peppers, curries, Casanova, Napoleon, and Mme de Pompadour. After reading the paragraph, many stimulating menu ideas come to mind.
On January 29, the Salters offer their recipe for Spaghetti alla Carbonara. I had absolutely no idea that Catherine de´ Medici served it at her wedding banquet in 1533, although I have had the displeasure of ordering it on occasion and obviously getting leftovers from that very event. The Salters solve that problem by sharing their simple Carbonara recipe with the reader while offering other essential tips, often forgotten by kitchen staff.
I know free time is an asset rarely accumulated by the restaurateur. It isn´t something one can acquire, stash away, and use at whimsical discretion. A moment to spare is something that must be grasped when fluttering in front of us. This is the book to keep at hand when that moment appears.
You´re in your office, the dimly lit darkened corner offers peaceful solitude after the dinner rush. You´re sharing the moment with your beverage of choice. Placed near the ring left on your desk from previous night´s beverages, you put your feet up on the invoices that should have been filed a week ago, but continue to linger, growing in an unorganized stack. You lean back in your tilting chair and just breathe hoping for piece of mind and a profitable night.
Now it´s time. On the little shelf to the left is Life is Meals. Pick it up, place the binding in your left hand. With your right, take the turquoise ribbon bookmark, open to the page from the night before. Take a sip of your drink and begin reading. For a moment, a nano second in the big picture, you will walk into the Salter´s world, enjoy a bit, a dollop, a morsel, and possibly a crumb of information that you were unaware of at the beginning of dinner. Two pages later, maybe more if the free time lingers, you´ll have finished your drink, cleared your mind, and you will be rejuvenated enough to say good night to your customers, your staff, and you concerns. All the while smiling, thinking what John Irving´s guest name was.