Nikki McClure Cooks the Perfect Day

I am highly pleased to publish a number of Nikki McClure’s inspiring journals, including The First 1000 Days, Remember: A Seasonal Record, and Things to Make and Do. Her latest book, How to Cook a Perfect Day (available just in time for the busy holiday season) harkens back to Nikki’s early days as a paper-cut artist. Not only is it a pleasure to peruse, it also reminds us to take the time to breathe and savor the little moments.

The holidays are a notoriously hectic time full of bad-sweater-themed holiday parties, last-minute trips to the grocery store, and calendar pop-up reminders to DVR A Charlie Brown Christmas. Yet in this time of hustle and bustle, it has never been more important to have a moment of repose. Looking through How to Cook a Perfect Day, I found myself inspired to take a trip down memory lane and to consider: What would my perfect day taste like?

According to Nikki, everyone has a list of recipes that creates his or her very own perfect day. Mine would start off with my grandmother’s homemade challah bread French toast. There truly is nothing more comforting than thick slices of that fluffy, sweet, egg-battered bread.

Next would be a cup of strongly steeped Earl Grey tea with a tiny drop of cream and two spoonfuls of sugar, followed by a midday roasting of fresh pumpkin seeds with Cajun seasoning. The next item in my perfect day would be my secret recipe for spicy marinara sauce, a combination that leaves the air thick with the smells of Italy. (I just might take this sacred sauce recipe to the grave.) I would prepare jars of sauce for use on unexpectedly chilly nights.

For dinner, there would be a traditional Polish holiday feast (in my family, this is truly the most gluttonous meal of the year): fresh handmade Pierogi stuffed with onion, mashed potato, and farmer’s cheese, as well as the staple of any truly Polish household, Kapusta, a mild sauerkraut slowly cooked with bacon, fennel seed, and onion, and last but not least, smoked Kielbasa. Yum.

To finish off my perfect day I’d make Red, White, and Blue Parfaits with fresh strawberries from the garden, foraged wild blueberries, and perfectly sweetened whipped cream.

The wonderful thing about food is that it has the remarkable ability to bring us back to a moment. For me, these recipes are less about eating than they are about moments in my life that I treasure, just as each recipe in Nikki McClure’s How to Cook a Perfect Day is a genuine reflection of her life. She covers all of her favorites, from Lovely Gingerbread Cake to Nettle Soup, and each recipe carries with it a memory. This gem of a book truly inspires us to recall the meals that make life grand and encourages us to savor the taste of every perfect day.