The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage


Update: The contest is closed, but the book is available here!

Food is love (I cut your sandwiches in triangles because I know that is what you like) and sex (licking chocolate from your fingers, from his fingers). It’s comfort (the casserole my mother used to make) and anger (I am going to finish the potato chips because fuck everyone) and happiness (a birthday cake, a perfect peach, a beautifully puffed soufflé would you look at what I’ve done?). Food is frustration because you don’t know what you’re hungry for or you don’t know what to make for dinner or maybe you’re just tired of cooking or it is too hot.

It’s fuel, it’s in excess. It’s too much or it’s not enough. It’s bone-deep physical craving that makes you twitch; it’s satisfaction. It’s what your family does together, crowded into the kitchen stirring and chopping and yelling and making a beautiful mess. It’s what you do alone, meditative chopping with a cat winding around your feet.

It’s memory: pulling out the recipe card with their terrible handwriting to painstakingly recreate the tomato sauce only they can ever really make correctly but you try, you really try and for a minute they’re with you, smiling from across the table and every bite feels like home, it really does.

Food, and what we eat and how we eat it and who we eat it with and who we present it to and how—it took me so long to realize how tremendously important it is, how life-changing, affirming, transforming it can be, how valuable those rituals are. I ate compulsively, without considering what I was putting in my mouth, and why. I ate voraciously, hungrily, thoughtlessly and furiously and alone. Weight loss surgery changed that, necessarily. Abruptly I couldn’t be so violently careless. Or I could—I just paid a price for it. I did it to myself, but I resented it anyway, because there is very little in the way of logic when it comes to the complex emotional morass of food and eating.

And then Lisa Harper asked me to contribute an essay to the book she and Caroline Grant were editing, about the grace and diversity and importance of family food culture and how food matters in our lives, and I was a little panicky. What do I know about the importance of food? It had only ever been important to have it in my face. What did I know about eating, except that I liked to do it a lot but didn’t care much about what I was eating?

So I thought about that, and that’s what I wrote about. I wrote about my brother, the fancy chef, who understands it at a deeper level and who has always understood it. My essay is a little one in a book, The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage, full of other writers who really understand it too. Who write beautifully about how food and how we eat defines us and our relationships. They write gorgeously about patience and love and brokenness and coming back together and ritual and compassion and compulsion. It’s a beautiful book, and I think it’s important—it is easy to forget how important it is to nourish the connections in your life.

It’s also yours to win, in a random drawing! Two readers each get their very own copy of The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage to feed their brain-holes.

To enter, leave a comment. Tell me you’d love a copy of the book, and also what your favorite thing to eat is. If you tweet about the drawing and leave a comment with that link, you get a second entry in the drawing, even! Go go go do it. I want you to read this book, because it is so good.

28 Replies to “The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage”

  1. I would LOVE this book. My favorite food is SUSHI which I love to get with my friends because it is an adventure every time <3

  2. I would very much love a copy of this book. My favorite thing to eat is Brownies made from the Betty Crocker Original Supreme Brownies Mix. Mmmmm. I might need to bake tonight…

  3. I loved your essay I want to read more! And I love all the foods! I can’t pick one! Also, Exclamation points!

  4. I would love a copy of this book. It sounds fascinating. My favorite food would have to be bread — all types, all kinds. I can make some kinds of bread (sourdough, flatbreads, a good white bread, a good crunchy wheat bread, but others (a truly great baguette) elude me still.

  5. This introduction is very compelling and makes me want to read the book. I would love a copy! My favorite thing to eat is cheese tortellini with a simple Bolognaise sauce.

  6. I would <3 (love) a copy of the book. And as far as my favorite food? For a quick lunch with a good friend, a grilled cheese sandwich is rather perfect. For the romantic night out or in, it's chicken picatta. When I feel sappy and sad and the axis of the world slants so that I feel the need to hang on tight Рit's ice cream, either HD Chocolate Peanut Butter or B&J Cr̬me Brulee. Whichever's handier.

  7. I would LOVE a copy of the book! My favorite thing to eat is Indian food: dal, samosas, mattar paneer, rice, naan, chapatis, channa masala, etc. The perfect end to a meal like this in a little bit of dark chocolate. Mmmm…

  8. Oh man, I would seriously love a copy of this book. My favorite thing to eat is the humble potato, any which way.

  9. Sounds like a good read…

    I have many favorite foods, but I’m especially fond of my mother’s potato salad. Nobody else makes it like her, and I don’t really like anyone else’s but hers. When I’ve tried to re-create it myself, there’s always something missing that I can’t begin to identify. It’s not a summer barbecue or picnic without it. It is comfort food in its purest form, comforting because it’s the embodiment of my mom.

  10. This book sounds fantastic, and I’d love a copy! My favorite food MIGHT be when you get REALLY good, cheap, sesame chicken from the kind of divey Chinese takeout place that has bullet proof glass in the windows (or, at least, does in DC). First runner up: sweet-potato tempura sushi with a honey sauce like they do at Sticky Rice in Richmond, VA.

  11. Oooo! This book sounds really cool! I would love to have a copy. : )

    My favorite thing to eat is raspberries (you can make them into little hats for your fingers!).

  12. I’d love a chance at this book – I think food touches us at such a gut level (hah!) that food memories are where our histories are most deeply written. My favorite food is, gah! Everything. If there is feta and salty olives involved, I’m probably swooning. Guilty (but not overly) junk food pleasure is Salt & Pepper Potato Chips.

  13. I would LOVE a copy of this book!! I love books and I love food. My favorite foods always have love attached…The Italian cream cake my mother made (but only rarely because it was so complex), the macaroni and cheese no one seems to make like my grandmother, the cabbage rolls my other grandmother made that again, no one seems to make like her…or my new favorite, the cannoli my husband buys for our special late-night treat on date night.

  14. My favorite food is Chocolate. It’s more than a food to me. It’s like medication. My husband keeps me stocked with it because he knows how much it helps my mood. That’s love.

  15. I would love to read this book! So many favorites. Lately, I’m loving sandwiches. My favorite is called the Gobbler from a local sandwich shop is Thanksgiving in a sandwich! Turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and even some gravy. When I buy it for lunch, I eat half the sandwich (it’s really big) and save half for the next day so I can press it into a panini – even better as a “flat” sandwich!!

  16. I would absolutely love to win a copy of this book. My favorite thing to eat? Oh my, how to choose just one? Impossible. Fave healthy food = fresh, perfectly ripe raspberries. Fave treat food = ice cream, pretty much any kind. I cannot resist. Homemade dark-chocolate birthday cake with homemade vanilla buttercream icing is also good.

  17. My favorite food is a corner brownie with pecans. Or a crunchy chocolate chip cookie with pecans. Maybe my actual favorite food is any intersection of chocolate and pecans? The end.

  18. I love to cook and prepare food for others, so my favorite thing to eat is whatever I have made for you… carrot cake like your mom used to bake, lasagna like that place you used to go as a kid, tuna casserole, roasted chicken, stewed rabbit… whatever makes you happy makes me happy to prepare for you.

  19. Hi Jen! I’d live a copy of this book! I do love to eat, as well, so I had to really think about what to say. Although cake and ice cream are pretty good contenders, my fave FOOD-food would have to be refrigerator-cold spaghetti. If it was Italian sausages in it, so much the better. I would douse that with Parmesan cheese, and i, too, am home. Like a kid, home. Yep, that’s my call- cold spaghetti, because it tastes different than warmed.

  20. This book sounds like a wonderful read. I am thinking a lot about food rituals and relationships right now as my husband and I ease into life with a toddler. My favorite thing to eat is avocados. I eat them all day. Breakfast: smash half an avocado on toast and sprinkle with harissa (or any delicious hot sauce.) Lunch: a big green salad with avocado dressing (blend an avocado with yogurt, lemon, garlic and shallots, salt and pepper). Dinner: keep it simple. Guacamole. With mushroom tacos on the side.

  21. I was just clicking on all the authors of this book via another site. Aren’t I lucky to have come to this post!! I would love to smile, laugh, and say yes yes yes while reading this book.
    My favorite food to eat is a baked potato with any topping I can find.

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