Two of my favorite things in the world are books and craft beer. Out of this grew the idea that maybe pairings aren’t just for the table anymore; perhaps there is a perfect beer for every book . . .
I knew I was going to love Michelle Maisto’s memoir, The Gastronomy of Marriage, as soon as I saw its cover prominently featuring two bright yellow summer squash, entwined at the neck. And yes, I realize that we are not to judge books in this manner, but seriously . . . squash, hugging. How can that not be awesome (unless, of course, you dislike squash or hugs).
Maisto’s memoir opens with her and her fiance moving in together and chronicles the months leading up to their marriage. The couple has decided that, in order to earn extra money for wedding expenses, he will pick up additional freelance work and she will take on the primary responsibility for shopping and meal preparation in order to allow him extra time for work. Maisto explores her conflicting feelings about taking on such traditional gender roles. Rooted in this central theme, she also explores the inevitable and unavoidable effect the family she grew up in has on the new family she is forming. Adding to the intricacy of this is the blending of her Italian heritage with her fiance’s Chinese heritage. Oh, and she’s vegetarian — he’s not.
Maisto’s reflections on these dichotomies are beautifully drawn. Perfectly gray. So adequately capturing the complete lack of one right way towards equality in relationships. Equal to the insights she provides into relationships, are Maisto’s descriptions of the food itself. She describes tofu that has just been stir-fried in the following way:
The best part of this is the dance the tofu does, even once it’s set on the paper towel, a series of twitches and jerks that seem to originate in their small centers.
Shortly after reading this, I happened to be stir-frying tofu. I watched it dance and thought about how awesome it is when someone’s words inspire me to see something in a way I never have before.
Maisto’s voice is so real and perfect, that reading this her book felt like a long chat with an old friend. If this chat were in a bar, over a beer, the perfect pairing would be Allagash Brewing Company’s James Bean.
Allagash was already a favorite of mine and I “met” their James Bean recently at a special event. James (we’re on a first name basis, now) is a Belgian Tripel, aged in bourbon barrels with cold press coffee added in. If you aren’t familiar with Belgian style beers, you’re probably picturing a dark beer like a stout or a porter. But a Tripel has a nice golden color, and James Bean is no different. So it’s a light, fairly sweet beer with a coffee flavor that is just the tiniest bit bitter. Perfectly blended and quite unexpected, just like a really, really good relationship; which makes it the perfect pair for Maisto’s memoir.
PostScripts to this post: 1) There are recipes in The Gastronomy of Marriage! The Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and the Yasmine Style Lentils are certain to make frequent appearances at my table. 2) James Bean is only available on draft. If you can’t find it at a bar near you, the Allagash White is a best friend of a beer, making it another excellent choice for this book.