Monday, March 2, 2009
A Non-cook Reviews a Kitchen Talent
Stir, Laugh, Repeat: Finding Joy While Playing in the Kitchen
Author: Martha A Cheves Publisher: Tate Publishing and Enterprises, LLC
Softcover, 2008, 154 pages. $12.99 U.S. $16.99 Canada
My wife has often suggested I take up cooking. In fact, one of my physician friends was recently featured in our local paper doing just that. It seems that the anesthesiologist expertly prepares gourmet meals on his grill and makes it look easy. Anyway, I have never taken my wife’s suggestion about cooking and instead have started writing books. And it seems that a major aspect of being a twenty-first century author is networking with other writers as well as with readers --- lots of readers, one hopes.
This networking with other literary minds and writing groups, both in person and via the Internet, has lead me to author Martha A. Cheves and her culinary creations in Stir, Laugh, Repeat: Finding Joy While Playing in the Kitchen. Cheves’s beautiful cookbook found its way to my mailbox a few weeks ago. Frankly, this is the first time I have ever paid any attention to a cookbook, other than the time my wife Sally proofed and wrote the index for one compiled by the Jackson (MS) Junior League a few years ago. Also, I’m not counting the abstract appreciation of the many cookbooks filling the shelves in our kitchen, enjoyed by way of my wife’s whipping-up those recipes.
However, were I to take up cooking, the unique quality of Cheves’s Stir, Laugh, Repeat would be a premium start. The value of Martha’s work rests in its straightforward, easy-to-follow directions that even a doctor can follow, particularly one who is accustomed to having every instrument prepared and handed to him in surgery --- not to mention arriving to work with all the supplies and equipment neatly counted and organized, just waiting for his use. You see, a physician’s true surgical talent lies in making the correct diagnosis, counseling the ailing patient, and successfully performing the corrective surgery. While reading, studying, and chuckling through Stir, Laugh, Repeat, it quickly hit me like a flying frying pan that Martha A. Cheves is clearly the a surgeon of the kitchen. Furthermore, she emerges as a soft humorist whose talents rival some of her most celebrated contemporaries.
Through Cheves’s incorporation into her recipes of items commonly found at the neighborhood grocery, if not already found in one’s pantry, she makes easy use of leftovers, turning any kitchen into the envy of a popular restaurant and any cooking-illiterate male physician into a Chef Emeril Lagasse-wannabe.
Cheves links clever anecdotes and personal stories to her recipes. One of my favorites concerns her invitation to a restaurant meal as the guest of her significant other’s ex-wife. Throughout her unexpected enjoyment of the company as well as the chicken entrée, Cheves mentally dissects the delectable preparation even as she plans to recreate the ingredients into her own personal dish.
Busy clinical physicians (that means doctors who treat lots of patients) appreciate information that is uncomplicated and unambiguous. We get that from our survival in today’s medical-legal climate. So if I were going to take up cooking like my doctor friend, I would start with Stir, Laugh, Repeat by Martha A. Cheves. Another plus for beginners, certainly to be appreciated by busy, no non-nonsense masters of the flame as well, is the book’s index, which is alphabetized by food categories: breads, desserts, fruits, meats, etc.
Nevertheless, for now, I’m going to hang with my laptop and write mystery novels in my spare time, leaving that physical flame to someone else. Happily, I’ll have to settle for my wife’s trying Cheves’s pecan or meatloaf muffins, maybe the tasty fried pineapple, or even the spicy chicken salad spread, or better yet, the freezer clean-out beef veggie soup. Even if Sally North gets the credit for taking advantage of the author’s industry, I will continue to fire up my own outdoor grill, no matter how amateurish, and thrill my family and friends with the occasional juicy steak, marinated chicken breast, or thick cheeseburger.
Those recipes are all in my head.
--- by Darden North, MD
Stir, Laugh, Repeat by Martha A. Cheves is available on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and Borders.com, as well as through her publisher, Tate Publishing. Checkout her website: http://www.marthaskitchenkorner.com.
Darden North, MD, practices medicine fulltime in Jackson, MS, and is the author of three mystery/suspense novels. His website is www.dardennorth.com .
© Darden North 2009 all rights reserved