Olives, Memoir, and Inspiration

A Bowl of Olives: On Food and Memory, by Sara Midda, (Workman), 128 pages, released October 7, 2014

I’ve just received a review copy of Sara Midda’s A Bowl of Olives and must say that it’s a sweet little thing. This book defies easy categorization as it’s a melange of memoir, cookbook, and art book. The illustrations are all Midda’s watercolors, reproduced in miniature and in vibrant colors. The written passages are brief: a memory, a list, a very unstructured recipe.

Midda’s is the sort of book that makes the perfect gift for anyone who enjoys cooking—and eating, of course. It’s not a beginner’s book; rather, it’s a book for people with years of cooking under their belts who enjoy reflecting on their own dishes and who enjoy experimenting in the kitchen.

The recipes are very simple, with few ingredients and minimal instructions. A recipe for a delicious sounding cucumber salad boils down to “add this and this and this and this together.” That’s it. No quantities. Midda trusts that an experienced cook will have a good sense of the balance of ingredients she will find most delicious.

This is the kind of book one leaves out on a table for leafing through at odd moments. Sometimes one can just enjoy the illustrations, other times one can find cooking inspiration, and at all times, readers are invited to to enjoy their own culinary memories. (Do note that the typeface is small and light, so this book unfortunately won’t make a good gift for anyone with aging eyes.)