It’s a quiet weeknight at home, and Tim and I are sitting Indian-style on the leather sofa, facing each other, our knees barely touching. I flip to a new page of the glossy hardcover on my lap, reading its words aloud.
“People avoid chard,” I say to him, lifting the text from a dark green page opposite two criss-crossed leafy stems. “They see it at the market, with its big, imposing leaves, and think: If I bring that home, it’ll overrun the crisper and suffocate the carrots in their sleep.” The image makes us laugh, mostly because we know our own fridge is currently packed to the full with kale and lettuce and, indeed, enormous chard from our first week’s CSA. “Actually, you want these larger leaves for making stuffed chard,” it continues, “which is my favorite way to eat this pretty green vegetable.”
We sit like this for a while, the two of us, reading page after page as if it were a novel and not a cookbook perched across my lap. That’s because this book, written by Cheryl Sternman Rule, a sharp and clever lady I met in Oregon last fall, and photographed by Paulette Phlipot, a talented artist who knows how to showcase produce like it’s up for an Emmy, is no ordinary cookbook.
Ripe is part coffee table accessory (so stunning you’ll see it for sale at Anthropologie), part encyclopedia (but organized by color, not alphabet), part story (short, tight stories that fit into one to three paragraphs at most). It’s about the glory of grown food—not the health of it or the sustainability of it, but the glory, the heart-and-soul glory of loving fruits and vegetables because they taste so good you can’t help yourself.
It’s one of the first cookbooks I’ve looked at, ever, and thought, I wouldn’t change a thing about this. At once attractive and informative and filled with ways to prepare whole foods that celebrate their flavor for what it is, Ripe is a book to have out on display and a book to have near your kitchen. It provides exactly one recipe (and three quick ideas for using) for each food featured, and not one of them feels pretentious or overcomplicated.
This is a book that makes you want to cook, that makes you want to eat, and, in my personal opinion, that feels a lot like Cheryl: insightful and savvy and, definitely going places.
Actually, make that already gone.