So, here we are in 2009.
I am not one for resolutions or predictions for the new year. Changing the year on my correspondence is about as much of the transition as I notice. And yet this year we have had some changes that are notable and disruptive enough for me to mark the passing of 2008 and the potential for 2009. The reports on retail sales for the holiday season are grim and the stock market has reacted negatively. And yet Rabelais had a good showing these past five weeks. When I read those dire pronouncements about Wal-Mart and other mall stores I cannot help but think that the public is acting on it’s dislike of big box stores. Bigger is not always better. There is no doubt that the next year holds many challenges for us all, but we think that being small is good. Our customers certainly seem to appreciate the ability to have a conversation at Rabelais about the books on our shelves (or any other myriad array of food related topics). We intend to be able to keep those conversations going in the ensuing months. Last night’s showing at the Slow Food book group was formidable. New readers are always welcome.
President elect Obama gave a speech this morning about belt tightening and the continued potential for things to get worse if we do not take these economic times very seriously. I do find his call for action encouraging. The past eight years left me with very little optimism about the US government, I had thought that I was inured to political hope. However I see a silver lining in these tough times. Re-connecting with where your food comes from is never a bad thing. On so many levels, being accountable for the resources that sustain us has huge repercussions throughout society.
Americans have become too removed from their food chain. I find it truly depressing how many folks have no idea how to make a simple vinaigrette. It’s salad dressing, people, not programming the VCR (although I guess no one does that anymore either)! These tough times may spur a renewed interest in the culinary arts beyond the food fads of TV and celebrity chefs. If our sales during the holiday season were any indication, there is an interest in learning to cook. I take encouragement from the 2009 Saveur 100. This month’s edition of this national food publication is dedicated to the home cook. Peppered throughout the magazine are recipes for such staples as vinegar, mustard, ketchup and worcestershire sauce. Some of our best selling books in the past months have been those that address cheese making and home curing of meats, as well as preserving books. If there ever was a moment in our modern history to learn how to feed yourself, this is it. Between global warming issues, the cost of food, the hemorrhaging economy and it’s financial insecurity this is a great time to teach yourself both how to get the pleasure of feeding yourself and your loved ones, and how to economize by preparing real food at home. Learning how to cook may also spark a new found appreciation of, and respect for, real restaurants (ie not the fast food chains). When Obama talks about sacrifice I see the possibility of re-learning how to make ourselves happy without electronic gadgets (well, I guess the modern range has some pretty fancy electronics and I do appreciate my food processor, but you know what I mean). During the Second World War, Americans were asked to do their part by growing a Victory garden. I think the current call should be to make a Victory Meal…
Cookery books in all forms are one of the better ways to learn about the culture and mechanics of preparing a meal. It is an endlessly engaging school of study, the culinary arts. They can be approached at any level, from any background and to whatever degree you desire. If you can’t quite figure out where to dive in, ask us for our opinions. We give them freely and with much gusto.
Here’s to the meals of 2009. As Julia Child would say, Bon Appetit!