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I’ve been taking walks more frequently lately. This is part of a concerted effort to increase my activity level, an effort that’s made challenging thanks to the unpredictable nature of my disability (some days, my legs aren’t all that interested in what I have to say about my activity level). When I go on my walks, I take one or two pieces of citrus fruit with me, usually from the overexuberant clementine tree I can see from my office window. That tree hangs heavy with fruit year-round, oblivious to changes in the weather, producing more fruit than the neighborhood squirrels and raccoons can plunder.
I peel the fruit as I walk, trying to get the peel off in a single piece; I eat one segment at a time, using my primitive brain’s love of encapsulated fructose to reinforce that exercise is good. I’ve noticed something interesting as I’ve been walking and eating my little jewels of citrus: every time I see another living creature, my instinct is to offer them a piece.
In my thinking mind, I know that a human stranger will think I’m a weirdo if I try to hand them a clementine segment in passing. I also know, in that same thinking mind, that feeding wildlife is both dangerous to and bad for the animals. I need the intervention of that thinking mind, because regardless of what I might know, the instinct still rises up from some deep well that stretches down to the bedrock of my soul: these are your kindred and companions; share with them what nourishes you.
This year at Stone Soup, I’m running an essay series called The Personal Canons Cookbook. The instinct to share what is nourishing lives at the heart of this series. Subscribers will get two to three recipes in their inbox each month; each one will be accompanied by an essay from the recipe’s author.
These recipes range from simple breakfast staples to traditional holiday feasts. Contributors are sharing original creations, twists on old classics, and recipes that have been passed down for generations unaltered. We’ll get to make duò là jiāo and adobo, pie and muffins, Cuban coffee and budae jjigae — and we’ll do all of it together.
The essays that come with these recipes are some of the most incredible writing I’ve ever had the honor of reading. The way we cook and eat is shaped by friends and family, war and faith, grief and love. The authors who are participating in this series are sharing their reflections on these subjects and more, inviting us into a deeper understanding of what these meals have meant to them and their communities.
When we share food with each other, we make meaning from the sharing. Whether you’re feasting in triumph or lament or reflection or toil or rest or gratitude, you’ll have reasons to connect a meal to a moment. That moment will become a memory; maybe it will grow into a tradition. Maybe you’ll share it with your community. Maybe it will come to define you.
Ultimately, no matter the reason for a shared meal, the truth of the feast is that it exists to create connections. This is going to be true of 2023: no matter who you are or where you live, you’ll have cause to feast this year.
The Personal Canons Cookbook is an invitation to share in what food can be to us and to our communities. It’s an invitation for all of us to feast together, no matter the reason.
It’s going to be amazing. I can’t wait to share it with you.
Here’s what’s in store for the month of January:
- Naseem’s Khoresht-e Bademjaan
Naseem Jamnia, author of The Bruising of Qilwa, shares a Persian recipe for rich eggplant stew with beef, plus bonus recipes for tahdig, a crispy-bottomed preparation of basmati rice, and maast-o khiar, a cucumber-yogurt condiment.
Their essay on this recipe, language, and homesickness will be in your inbox on January 11. In the meantime, you can find Naseem on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
- Meg’s Roast Beef Sandwich
Meg Elison, author of The Pill and Number One Fan, shares a recipe for a perfectly-composed roast beef sandwich.
Her essay on grocery store sandwiches and growing up hungry will be in your inbox on January 18. In the meantime, you can find Meg on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
- Kelsea’s Huǒguō
Kelsea Yu, author of Bound Feet and forthcoming titles The Bones Beneath Paris and It's Only a Game, shares a family recipe for huǒguō, also known as hot pot.
Her essay on celebration, personal traditions, and what food can teach us about community will be in your inbox on January 25. In the meantime, you can find Kelsea on Twitter and Instagram.
If you’re a member of the Stone Soup Supper Club, you’ll get early access to each month’s recipes, plus access to a lively community in the comments section. We’ll chat about making the recipes in our own kitchens — what we modify and substitute, how we succeed and fail, and what connections we make as we feast together. Paying subscribers also share book recommendations and co-working dates. Come join us, and if you’re already a member, I can’t wait to hear what’s cooking.