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Seasonal Pantry: 'Kenvin' a stunning, earthy cookbook

  • "Kenvin: An Artist's Kitchen" was released earlier this year by publisher Gibbs Smith. The author, Kenvin Lyman, died in 2011.

It is rare that a cookbook takes my breath away, rarer still that I feel inspired and compelled by its recipes. Yet that is exactly my response to a new book that landed on my desk a few weeks ago.

“Kenvin: An Artist's Kitchen," subtitled "Food, Art & Wisdom of a Bohemian Cowboy” (Gibbs Smith, 2013), was twelve years in the making and, sadly, was not published until after the death of its author, Kenvin Lyman, in 2011. It is a work of beauty on every level, from its appearance to its recipes and writing.

Lyman, also known as “The Utah Kid,” was a visual artist, designer, early computer artist, singer-songwriter, gardener, farmer and so much more. For his book, he developed a font based on his own handwriting and created dozens of paintings. When the book first arrived, I tried to determine the medium used to create the paintings but couldn't. Some reminded me of early color Xerox art, others suggested oil or acrylic paint. As it turns out, all were created on a computer and the results are stunning.

The book is earthy and authentic, with roots deep in the Utah soil where Lyman was raised and where he developed an organic farm when he couldn't find the foods he wanted in Salt Lake City, where he lived. It opens with a chapter on butter, with a recipe and photographs showing his mother's technique for making it at home. At its core, the book is about living and eating close to the land, with a focused simplicity that so many people are struggling to achieve today. For Lyman, it was entirely natural and unforced.

I can't recommend this book highly enough. It will appeal equally to wannabe cowboys, anyone who loves to hunt, anyone who can appreciate a delicate edible-flower broth, anyone who wants another reason to slow down and enjoy the simple pleasures of a shared meal around a common table. Buy yourself one and buy a second or third copy for someone or someones you love. You'll all be the better for it.

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