This month’s best new lifestyles books teach you how to enjoy the simple things in life, understand a new language and cook with a song in your heart.
★ Meals, Music, and Muses
“Cooking without a song—in your heart, if nothing else—is like cooking without salt and pepper,” writes chef Alexander Smalls in Meals, Music, and Muses. Here, recipes grounded in the culinary traditions of the African American South are grouped according to the “seven styles of African American music that set the bass line for this medley of meals.” Fried sweet white corn and a salad of field greens and black-eyed peas are among the “green things” that Smalls associates with gospel music; rice, pasta and grits are the stuff of spirituals. Roast quail, pan-fried rabbit, pork loin roasts? Divas, all. There are biscuits and beans and pie to the tune of jazz, opera, jukebox music and serenades (sweet endings), with the pleasure of Smalls’ storytelling along the way to deepen the flavor.
How to Wash the Dishes
How is it that reading a book on washing the dishes could offer such pleasure? How to Wash the Dishes, by Seattle design and architectural bookstore owner Peter Miller, is a tiny, perfect book that offers just what its title proclaims, with a side dish of calm. In serene and measured prose, Miller reminds us that “washing the dishes in a sink, with clean, warm water, is a luxury” and “a task of order and of health and hygiene.” Also, to no small degree, “every time you wash the dishes is an opportunity to practice mindfulness and to reduce waste.” Great satisfaction can come from holding fast to these truths and focusing on the task at hand, not rushing, not thinking too much of other things.
The Complete Language of Flowers
Flower lovers will marvel at S. Theresa Dietz’s The Complete Language of Flowers, an A to Z of flowers and plants listing symbolic meanings, possible powers, folklore and facts. The flowers are alphabetized by Latin name, which lends this volume an air of the exotic, but the book’s handy index is probably where you’ll start when you want to find out what your snake plant might do for you (protection) or what bluebonnets represent (forgiveness, self-sacrifice and survival). This guide could be helpful for writers and artists seeking to infuse their work with floral imagery, or for designers and gardeners planning a project. But it’s also simply a gorgeous conversation piece, the perfect addition to a spring coffee table vignette.