Reading Matter: Living Well

What does it mean to live well? This is the question I am trying to answer through trial and error. Living well is definitely having plenty of interesting things to read. And often authors help me further define how to live well.

Penguin Books has released a wonderful series of reprints called "Great Food" (with a penguin holding a knife and fork). I enjoyed MFK Fisher's Love in a Dish. She wrote inspiringly about food, wine and living well. Like so many gourmands, she lived for a few years in France where she matured in her appreciation for simple but excellent food.

Living well for MFK was about living alive to all of her senses--so eating grey, tasteless food was impossible. The sensuousness of it all is so appealing. I am finding the same discretion in my redesigned life. If the food is likely to be a disappointment (all cookies in NZ), why bother? I am eating very simply and rarely dining out. I do not have the palette of MFK or Alice Waters, but my tastebuds have reawoken to the pleasure of a good crisp apple.

At the end of my post is a sample from MFK Fisher's "How Not to Cook an Egg."

Meanwhile, a biography of a very shy, talented writer also helps to answer the question. E.B. White, author of Stuart Little and Charlotte's Web, contributor to The New Yorker, and co-editor of Strunk and White's Elements of Style, has shaped my reading ear my entire life.

Michael Sims' just released biography gives an intimate glimpse into White's life. White was very shy and enjoyed observing nature and animals more than being with people. As soon as he achieved a certain amount of success, he moved to his Maine farm and spent more time farming than writing.

I just finished this book so it is still resonating with me. It increased my desire to sink my hands into Radar's soft fur or pet Chaplin's smooth coat. And go for a walk along the shore (especially with the wind whipping up the waves today). Eventually, I will have to adopt a dog to really enjoy life in NZ.

In the meantime, I can make "Eggs in Hell... Heat 4 tablespoons olive oil in a saucepan with a tight cover. Split a clove of garlic lengthwise, run a toothpick through each half, and brown the halves slowly in the oil. Add an onion, minced and cook it until it is golden. Then add 2 cups tomato sauce (the Italian kind is best, but even catsup will do if you cut down on other spices). Then add 1 teaspoon mixed minced herbs, such as basil and thyme, and 1 teaspoon minced parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Coof for about 15 minutes, stirring often, and then remove the garlic. Into this sauce break 6 eggs. Spoon the sauce over them, cover the pan closely, and cook very slowly until the eggs are done, or for about 15 minutes. (If the skillet is a heavy one, you can turn off the flame and cook the eggs 15 minutes with the heat stored in the metal.) When the eggs are done, put them carefully on slices of thin, dry, toasted french bread, and cover them with sauce. Grated Parmesan or a similar cheese is good on this dish.

One of the many variations of this recipe that we used to make, never earlier than 2:00 and never later than 4:00 in the morning, was a strange, modernistic electronic kitchen on the wine-terraces between Lausanne and Montreux. We put cream and Worsestershire sauce into little casseroles, and heated them into a bubble. Then we broke eggs into them, turned off the current, and waited until they looked done, while we stood around drinking Champagne with circles under our eyes, and Viennese music in our heads. We ate the eggs with spoons and went to bed."