Lindsay's New Light Cooking was the cookbook that really grew up with me, though. I've discussed novels, such as Jean M. Auel's Earth's Children series, that have had an impact upon me but food carries its own stories and New Light Cooking is like a family album in that regard.
I didn't really consider its impact until I began to read Julie and Julia this weekend, looking for some light inspiration. Julie found confidence in herself through cooking and while I'm not a top-notch cook, I find solace in the simple acts of chopping, boiling, baking, basting and um yeah, eating. No matter the ridiculous carnival of thoughts bopping about my brain, cooking brings me back to the practical act of making oneself fed and right.
So this week I'm bringing back my childhood hero, Anne Lindsay, for a week of food love. Each day I'll discuss a different recipe from New Light Cooking and what it means to me. Let's do this...
Penne with Sweet Red Peppers, Black Olives and Arugula
By the time I was 12 I could embroider, ride horses, swim, skate, give a decent speech, do a dance routine, play the piano (and flute) and bake like no other. What I couldn't do was anything practical, like chop a tomato. This would mean a very difficult first few years living on my own that resulted in burnt Pad Thai, truly disgusting sushi salad and many other failed culinary attempts.
However, the making of my first dish, penne with peppers, olives and arugula, was executed with ease.
The penne, like many of Lindsay's dishes, is wonderfully simple and straightforward. First, you broil two red peppers for twenty minutes, let them cool and then peel, core, seed and cut them into strips. Seeing as I thought roasted red peppers were things you had to buy in jars, it was a revelation that it was relatively easy to roast them all on your own.
Next you boil the penne. This was actually the hard part. I used to be terrified of a giant roiling pot of boiling water, probably because I had a tendency to boil my water until it was an angry, spitting animal that threatened to attack at whim.
The rest was a snap - wash and dry the arugula and olives and also microwave 2 tbsp of olive oil with two cloves of minced garlic. Toss with the roasted red peppers and drained penne, adding reserved pasta water if too dry, season with salt and pepper, garnish with parm and you're good to go!
I took my bowl of pasta out on our wrap around verandah and sat on one of our sagging rocking chairs, cradling my first homemade meal in my lap. It was delicious and simple and I'd made it, by jove! I used to wonder if I had a practical bone in my body but it was through cooking meals like this that I discovered that while I was a dreamer born and bred, that didn't mean I couldn't be a doer as well.
New Light Cooking/ Anne Lindsay / Random House / PB, 1998