When the world is hectic and I am feeling particularly weary in my soul, I turn to cookbooks — particularly the kind that blend essays with their recipes, like Laurie Colwin’s Home Cooking or Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Feast. I find them comforting — not too taxing, but thoughtful, with food that is inspiring without being fussy, and a distinctive, appealing voice.
My latest find from this weirdly specific genre: Ella Risbridger’s Midnight Chicken And Other Recipes Worth Living For.
Objectively speaking, Midnight Chicken is a very, very good cookbook, filled with dishes like Drop Scones with Butterscotch Sauce, Big Hearty Black Bean Soup, Marital Harmony Sausage Pasta, and Whiskey and Rye Blondies. The recipes read like a conversation with a friend — at one point, she assures you that it is TOTALLY FINE to buy precut veggies if it saves you time and stress, which is both practical and practically unheard of. And the pictures! They’re vivid, impressionistic illustrations, not photos, which underlines the idea that it is cooking and eating, not posting on Instagram, that matters most. For all these reasons, this cookbook is one for the keeper shelf.
But Midnight Chicken is not just a collection of chatty, cheery recipes. It’s also the story of how Ella, living with her partner John and deeply, dangerously depressed, found solace and strength in the act of cooking — even as John was dying of cancer. In other hands, the subject could have been maudlin, but instead, the recipes are a celebration of the small simple pleasures of daily life; of having time, however brief, with the person you love; of cobbling together a family who will buoy you when life gets rough. It is funny, honest, warm-hearted and hopeful — balm for weary souls in a hectic world, and for anyone who likes their food served with a side of good writing.