Anyone out there who has read Eat, Pray, Love (which is another way of saying “everyone”) will understand how honored I am to present an official DALS Q&A with author Elizabeth Gilbert. Like the rest of the world, when I read EPL, I remember asking myself, How could someone be this likable? Well now we might know at least part of the answer to that question. This month, she is reissuing a cookbook, At Home on the Range, written in 1947 by her great-grandmother — Margaret Yardley Potter, aka “Gima” — that makes the source of Gilbert’s warmth and wit abundantly clear. Gima’s cookbook had always been part of the family lore, but Gilbert had never actually read the thing until last spring when she discovered it at the bottom of a box. “I cracked it open and read it in one rapt sitting,” she writes, in a new introduction. “Well, that’s not entirely true…After first few pages, I jumped up and dashed through the house to find my husband so I could read parts of it to him…The humor! The insight! The sophistication!” Gima was, as Gilbert told me, “a giant character,” born into wealth, but saddled by a bad marriage and a struggle with alcoholism that would eventually kill her. This, however, did not stop her from writing a cookbook, writing a column for the Wilmington Star, and becoming a way-ahead-of-her-time forager, adventurer, and the kind of foodie that would make Brooklyn proud. Liz talked to me a little about what reprinting the book meant to her.
Jenny: I’m so glad you have released this cookbook because it gives us an excuse to ask you about your own dinner table. So what is it like? Do you sit down with your husband every night?
Elizabeth Gilbert: It is definitely a Gilbert family institution. When I grew up, dinner hour was sacred. All the manners I ever learned were taught at the table. (I get a warm flush of joy when I’m at someone else’s house and one of their kids says, “May I please be excused?” I’m like, YES! You are ready for life on earth! ) In my own house, dinner is the best hour of our day. I always say I didn’t marry a Brazilian, I married an old Italian woman. My husband cooks slow food. Sometimes he starts at 4:00. We put on NPR, he opens a bottle of wine, and while he’s cooking a stew, I’m getting housework done or working in the garden just outside the kitchen. Then we eat. At dinner we have lots of time to go through cookbooks to see what should happen tomorrow.
JR: All I kept thinking while reading this book was that today, Gima would be editor in chief of Real Simple. She is just so organized in the way she thinks about cooking. Every chapter in here addresses tackles the same things I’ve been writing about: What you should have in the fridge for emergencies (boiled potatoes, eggs, caviar!) how to entertain, how to plan ahead for a weekend at the beach, what to bring a sick friend in the hospital.
EG: She was so ahead of her time. If she wasn’t the editor of Real Simple, she’d have a food truck or she’d be celebrity female artisanal butcher or she’d own a pickle factor in Brooklyn. Other than maybe the food allergies and the veganism she’d be totally on board with everything going on in the food world today. (more…)