From the PEN/Faulkner Award–winning author James Salter and his wife, Kay—amateur chefs and terrific hosts—here is a charming, beautifully illustrated food lover’s companion that, with an entry for each day of the year, takes us from a Twelfth Night cake in January to a champagne dinner on New Year’s Eve. Life Is Meals is rich with culinary wisdom, history, recipes, literary pleasures, and the authors’ own stories of their triumphs—and catastrophes—in the kitchen.
The menu on the Titanic on the fatal night
Reflections on dining from Queen Victoria, JFK, Winnie the Pooh, Garrison Keillor, and many others
The seductiveness of a velvety Brie or the perfect martini
How to decide whom to invite to a dinner party—and whom not to
John Irving’s family recipe for meatballs; Balzac’s love of coffee
The greatest dinner ever given at the White House
Where in Paris Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter had French onion soup at 4:00 a.m.
Sophisticated as well as practical, opinionated, and indispensable, Life Is Meals is a tribute to the glory of food and drink, and the joy of sharing them with others. “The meal is the emblem of civilization,” the Salters observe. “What would one know of life as it should be lived, or nights as they should be spent, apart from meals?”
Béchamel, the delicious white sauce for creamed vegetables, soufflés, and croquettes, first appeared in France during the reign of Louis XIV (1643-1715), though it may have been created earlier and elsewhere. It was named for Louis de Bechameil, a handsome, corrupt financier who served as the king's majordomo. He had all the luck, complained an old duke who said he had been serving chicken in a cream sauce since before Bechameil was born, and no one had named any kind of sauce for him. Béchamel is simple to make and takes only about five minutes. There are a number of variations using more or less butter and flour, depending on the desired thickness, but the foundation for all of them is the same.
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk heated to a boil in a small saucepan
In a saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the flour slowly, stirring until they are smoothly blended without browning. Remove from heat. Add the milk and stir vigorously with a wire whisk. Set over medium heat, stirring until the sauce comes to a boil; then cook for another minute, stirring constantly. Makes two cups.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Life Is Meals by James and Kay Salter. Copyright © 2006 by James and Kay Salter. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
About James Salter
James Salter is the author of the novels Solo Faces, Light Years, A Sport and a Pastime, The Arm of Flesh (revised as Cassada), and The Hunters; the memoirs Gods of Tin and Burning the Days; and the collection, Dusk and Other Stories which won the 1989 PEN/Faulkner Award. He lives in Colorado and on Long Island.
“Wholly compelling . . . The fruit of a lifetime of informed and opinionated eating.” —Alice Waters, Chez Panisse
“Thumbs-up . . . I recommend reading it in one fell swoop.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Pays homage to great writers, great meals, great conversations and essential ingredients . . . A bastion of civilization, protection from all kinds of heavy weather.” —Los Angeles Times
“A remarkable marriage of food book and life-well-lived memoir . . . This most unusual book is to be savored again and again.” —Seattle Post-Intelligencer