‘Some of my most vivid childhood memories are of a 65,000 acre cattle ranch on the edge of the Wasatch Range in a valley called Strawberry. That’s where my father was a hired hand and our family lived for most of the summers … in a two room cabin that sat proudly in an open meadow, miles from our nearest neighbor. We were completely off the grid.’ Thus begins Kenvin, an Artist’s Kitchen, Kenvin Lyman’s cookbook and memoir.
There is something intensely magical about a rural childhood lived prior to mechanization and industrial farming. It’s where the land meets the imagination and the deepest appreciation for nature and life begins. Out of this, sometimes, with very sensitive and talented people, true art is born.
Through friends of friends, I became aware of Kenvin Lyman’s work on Facebook. I began following his page, The Utah Kid, because I was charmed by his artwork: beautiful illustrations of the rural landscape and of the table. I soon realized that these works would appear in a cookbook, and eagerly anticipated its publication, which was delayed by Mr Lyman’s untimely and tragic death. I bought and finally received the book this past Saturday and have been pouring over it since.
This is so much more than a cookbook. It’s a beautiful work of art, a memoir, a philosophy of natural farming and animal husbandry, a poem dedicated to the land and its bounty, and an elegy for the loss and disappearance of nature, and all its beauty, to suburban sprawl. It is also a celebration of family, love, friendship and good times, of the garden, food that is locally grown and organic, and simple, beautiful ingredients cooked to maximize their greatest potential and flavor.
The beginner will find the recipes easy to follow, there is nothing intimidating here. And the experienced cook will appreciate the simplicity and intensity of the ingredients and will be able to make substitutions and changes, if and when necessary, to render the recipes their own. Though I am an experienced cook, I have always struggled with wine pairings–so I was thrilled to see that Mr Lyman made beverage suggestions for almost every recipe.
I’ll close with a quote: ‘Until the federal farm bill is untangled from its political web of favoritism and shortsighted goals, the small farmer in America is in real jeopardy of extinction, and the local food movement is largely a romanticized fantasy struggling to survive on a badly slanted playing field against much larger players.’ Thankfully, Mr Lyman followed his passion, despite the challenges and meager financial rewards to bring us this amazing work.