In Print : A tasteful offering
"Table Talk, Food, Family, Love" by Carol McMamanus with Brenda Horrigan. Vineyard Stories, 114 pages. $22.95
In today's hyper-scheduled, multi-tasking society, sitting down to a home-cooked meal is a luxury for which many families don't have a lot of time. Countless distractions conspire to interrupt what was once a deceptively mundane practice: gathering around a table with family to eat. But eating isn't the only thing that happens at the dinner table. Just ask Carol McManus.
"Table Talk, Food Family Love," begins with the message: It's time to bring back the family meal. The attractive and temptation-filled cookbook by Ms. McManus was written with friend Brenda L. Horrigan, and is illustrated with vibrant photographs of Island scenes by Betsy Corsiglia.
Ms. McManus is proprietor of Espresso Love, the café in Edgartown known for its coffee and house-made fare. She sits relaxed and ready for her upcoming book tour in the garden behind Espresso Love. "This book has been in my head for a long time. The recipes in the book are fairly simple," she says. "I want people to cook."
The book is chocked with recipes to encourage and entice. "A lot of the recipes are ones I fed my kids, others have been developed over the time Espresso Love's been open" - in other words, time-tested, kid and customer approved. Dishes like Mac and Cheese with Prosciutto, Zingy Chicken Parmesan (accompanied by a quick and easy recipe for homemade breadcrumbs) and Halibut Seared in Dill and Lemon all start the taste buds tingling just by reading the names. Each recipe has an easy-to-read ingredient list and simple, numbered instructions that even someone new to cooking won't find intimidating.
And that was the point. "I hope this book gives people confidence to cook," she says.
Ms. McManus spent five years teaching baking at the Edgartown School. "I was surprised when I asked how many families cooked. There weren't that many. Everyone watches the Food Network, but not everyone cooks."
It was McManus's mother, to whom the book is dedicated, who helped instill in her a love of cooking. "She always put a good meal on the table every night."
Photo by Danielle Zerbonne
The author raised six children and was a single mother for 22 years, so she knows all too well the difficulties of juggling parental duties with the additional pressure of getting a healthy meal on the table every night. "I know people work, I know people are busy. Even if you get takeout, you can still sit at the table - no eating in front of the TV or any of that baloney."
She believes the act of sitting around a table and sharing a meal bonds a family in a way few other activities can. "By sitting at the table you hear about the history of the family, of previous generations - how are kids supposed to learn that now? It's all done at the dinner table."
Her convictions come through on each page of "Table Talk," as well as in the enthusiastic way she speaks of the family table. "This is what makes life wonderful, sharing food, sharing stories. The simpler things in life are the most rewarding. You can start the conversation. It's all about sharing who you are."
Her own children are grown, but she still reaps the rewards of all the time they spent together, sitting, talking and eating. "My grown kids come over now and tell stories about when they were kids that I don't even remember. It's a kick."
Now that she has grandchildren, the cycle has begun anew, with stories and recipes being passed down to the younger generation.
"I think we forget that food is really love. By cooking I showed my kids how much I loved them."
Sitting at a table is about feeding the body and soul, and "Table Talk" celebrates both the love of eating and the love of family.
Danielle Zerbonne is a staff member of The Times.