Two weeks ago, Jenny emailed me this iPhone photo of three boxes on our doorstep, with no further message. She didn’t need to tell me: these boxes contained 25 copies of her book, Dinner: A Love Story, the book she had spent an ungodly portion of the last year and a half mapping out, writing, rewriting, testing, retesting, and obsessing over. This emailed photo is as close to overt pride as Jenny gets. Which is why I want to take this opportunity, a few days before publication, to tell you a few things about her book that she will never tell you herself. —Andy
1. She cares a lot. This is probably not a newsflash if you’re a regular reader of this blog, but Jenny does not toss sh*t off or take even the quickest Friday Reading round-up lightly. She actually pays attention to/wakes up at 4:30 am thinking about the “mix” of posts on the home page at any given time — do we have too much chicken? are people getting sick of our kid books posts? do we need a strategy post, maybe, or a hit or humor? should I swtich that photo? — and plans her future lineup out, on paper, in a dedicated moleskine notebook. Now, take that baseline commitment to quality and thoughtfulness and times it, as Abby would say, by fifty hundred. DALS: The Book is beautiful and it embodies that thing that I, as an editor, have come to appreciate more than anything else: carefulness. Every word, every sentence, every photo, every caption, every hand-drawn border in this book, was placed there, by Jenny, for a reason. This thing was put together with love.
2. She still doesn’t grill. She claims she does, she even wrote a piece for Bon Appetit about “taking back the grill” and etc., but since that piece ran? She has not grilled once.
3. Relatedly, she still feels like a fraud in the kitchen. Every time Jenny burns a pizza crust or fails to poach an egg correctly or overcooks a pork tenderloin, she puts her hands on the counter, looks at me, and says, with dead seriousness: “Am I a total fraud? How is it possible that I wrote a cookbook and can’t even ____________?” I love this about her. Very high level of skill, ambition and creativity, endearingly low level of patience with self/awareness of own excellence.
4. She is funny. Samantha Bee, highly credible in matters such as these, says so. Look: “Dinner: A Love Story gives me hope that one day my family will also assemble around an actual table and eat an actual meal that was actually cooked by me; a meal not solely comprised of animal shaped cheese crackers dipped in hummus. Although those are good too.” Well-written books that also make you laugh = books that are worth reading.
5. She is not only funny. The heart of this whole project has a beautiful kind of earnestness at its core: Jenny does this — the book, the blog, the hundreds of thousands of words she has produced about family dinner — because she believes in it, not because she believed it would lead to a book deal. I still remember the day when she committed to family dinner, every night, back when Abby was not yet three and we were both working full-time and we’d grown a little too used to eating frozen pizza at 9:30 at night, after the kids had gone to bed. And the thing is, it’s one thing to talk about making family dinner happen; it’s another thing to do it. When Jenny lost her job and started this blog, the idea of a book wasn’t even on her mind. She wanted to work for herself for a while, and devote herself to something she cared about. When you start from a place of relative purity like that, good things happen.
6. She’s hearing so many good things already. I’ve read this book about seventeen times and I love it, but I’m biased, so you probably shouldn’t trust me on this. AND YET: You can trust some of the people who got advance copies of the book and have been sending Jenny, unbidden, some of the nicest freaking emails I have ever seen about how much they’re enjoying it and how much they love not being judged and how good that salmon salad looks. Here’s one, from Jen: “I have to tell you that I did not TOUCH any of my work after the kids went to bed that night (and am now in trouble as a result) because all I wanted to do was read Dinner: A Love Story. I love it. I would have loved reading it even if I wasn’t going to cook with it because you are such a good writer about family and food, but I will also definitely also be cooking from it constantly. (Especially the section about picky eaters.) I hope you are incredibly proud and I hope it sells a massive number of copies!” And from Melissa: “I wanted to write to you on a personal level to say thanks. I feel like you’re talking directly to me in this book and it helps to not feel so alone. I have started reading your blog and going back to look for recipes and tips, notes, advice, etc….but the book form is perfect. My kids are 2.5 yrs old and 5 months, so I’m deep in the ‘New Parenthood: Bomb exploded in my kitchen….’ phase. I jumped right to Part 2 and can totally sympathize with your thoughts and feelings about your work and career after having a baby. I am a working mom who is not ashamed to admit I love my job, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t crushing to leave those little faces every day.” I could keep going. Do not make me keep going, people!
7. Her book is filled with lies. For instance, there is quinoa in the book, but Jenny doesn’t even like quinoa anymore. The other night, as we were trying to figure out what to eat with our grilled sausages, I suggested quinoa, and Jenny said, “Nah, I’m sick of quinoa.” Boom. Just like that, a door slams shut.
8. BEWARE the serving sizes when making these recipes. As quickly as humanly possible, I will tell you a story that will tell you everything you need to know about Jenny’s checkered history with portion sizes. Last weekend, we were in Upstate New York with the kids, when we came upon a cool little local specialty food store. Jenny ran in to get some stuff for dinner. She came out carrying a small white paper bag. “Whad’ja get?” I asked. “Some lamb sausages,” she said. Only later, after we’d returned home and I went to take the bag out of the refrigerator did I realize she bought four dainty links of sausage…which weighed about as much as a bowl of (popped) popcorn…and was enough to feed a family of four…hummingbirds. (The photo of this dinner above was fudged, by the way. We each got one link.) This is a pattern that has repeated itself throughout our lives together, Jenny coming home from Whole Foods with 3/4 pound of salmon for the entire family (“That’s a lot, right?”), Jenny cooking one bag of spinach for a dinner party with six adults (“I always forget how much it shrinks!”), Jenny defrosting two chicken breasts for four of us (“I supplmented with broccoli.”). It’s not her fault, really. This problem has deep genetic roots. (God, this is so hard to do quickly, but: Jenny’s parents are famous for having once served a pint — one single pint — of ice cream at a dinner party for 11 grown humans, and for having offered up one bottle of wine at Thanksgiving for 15. Seriously, I am fighting every urge right now to launch into a list of the truly classic Tiny Portion Moments from the Rosenstrach household…though the time six of us shared a quarter pound of potato salad is a particular favorite. Jenny’s dad: “You don’t want too much of this stuff. It’s rich.”) All I’m saying is, keep the portion problem in mind as you use this book. Be wary.
9. She is not shameless (but maybe I am?). Even though the act of blogging and talking about your work and linking to your book is inherently (and, she tells me, crushingly) self-promotional, none of this comes easily to Jenny. Which means that she will go to great lengths and expend enormous amounts of energy to make the promotional stuff not only about her (guest post contest!) and creative (121 Books!) while, yes, asking you to please buy her book. (Stay tuned FREE STUFF for an amazing giveaway she’s got FREE STUFF in the works FREE STUFF for next week, by the way. FREE STUFF FREE STUFF FREE STUFF!)
10. The photos in the book are way better than the photos on the blog. As our friend and stalwart DALS supporter Kendra said, upon receiving her copy of the book last week, “Oh my god, it’s like the blog, but on steroids!” And that’s all due to the talents of Jennifer Causey, the photgrapher who spent four days in our house, downloading the DALS vibe, applying her own vision, and making all this stuff come to life.
11. A reader of this site, who goes by the name of Keenan, posted a comment last week that said: “Jenny, you are the best. I hope that husband of yours appreciates how lucky he has it.” Memo to Keenan: Yeah, that husband of hers does appreciate how lucky he has it. But also: KEEP YOUR DISTANCE, BRO.
Fun post! I appreciate the insight. I regularly read DALS and enjoy it very much. My husband and I come from ….. portions to feed 20 when there are only five families, but have friends in the … hummingbird camp. And we make fun of them/pck extra protein to sneak onto their grill at informal dinner parties. I’m excited to read the book. Cheers.
Hi Andy & Jenny,
I must say this post has made me laugh out loud at work. Which made me look a little crazy but it was, also, very worth it 🙂
I’ve been reading your blog for a little over a year and the main reason I really like it is that it feels very authentic. I love that you writing makes us feel like we are right there with you.
So I just wanted to tell you thank you for all the heart you put in this blog. I’m sure the book will be a huge success.
PS: I hope one day there will be a DALS book in portuguese… Pretty please?
Well, you make me, a person who rarely buys cookbooks (don’t need ’em) and whose kids are just about grown and who already believes and practices family dinner, want to get a copy for all my younger friends who are in the throes of establishing their family ways.
Hearty congratulations to you both on the birth of the book!
This is great. Love the support and can’t wait to read the book!
What a sweet post, as usual! 4 and 5 are my favourite things about DinnerALoveStory. The posts are humorous and always sincere. You can really tell that this is a labour of love. I preordered the book months ago and can’t wait to read it! Thank you both so much for being fantastic.
You talked me into it. I just ordered from Amazon. I still want in on the free stuff though! 😉
Great post! The portion warning is hilarious. The DALS blog on steroids? I think you just persuaded me to buy the book, or at least beg for it for Christmas. Best of luck!
Can’t wait! You guys are the coolest. (by the by, there is no such thing as too much book action 🙂
I pre-ordered earlier this week, but if I hadn’t this definitely would have convinced me! I have to echo Carol’s comment. I come back here, often, because you are so authentic and this space is full of so much heart (and humor!). Can’t wait to get the book, devour it, and then buy some more for Christmas gifts. 🙂
The reason I am still single is because I haven’t found a man who will say such wonderful and true things about me….you two are very lucky to have each other, and your kids are even luckier! Congrats on the book…and thanks for the website!
Love this, love Jenny, and love how Andy’s perspective confirms what we readers can sense anyway – about Jenny’s commitment, her earnestness, and her desire to do right by us. Can’t wait for the book! Yay!
Hi! I’m from Argentina and I recently discover this blog. God I will like to have a copy of this amazing book. I’m hoping some friend/family travel to the US and bring me a copy.
I don’t have children but I live with my husband and sometimes we don’t know what to eat, and we love dinner time, especially on the weekend (we both work and I also studying to became a Pastry Chef)
And on top of your great recipes, tips you share your life and that’s great for a hopeless romantic like me.
OK HILARIOUS – the portion size rip on Jenny’s family made me laugh out loud!
Best post! Love it! The portion size, erm, portion had me off my chair.
Pre-ordered the book and can’t wait to read it! I really want to establish a dinner time ritual like I had growing up.
I ordered the book last night and cannot wait to get my hands on it!!!! I have twin 4 year olds that will only eat animal shaped chicken nuggets. I need help!
this post is ridicululously adorable, gotta love props for the lady.
this working couple and two young boys are eating well and eating together (mostly)… at least in part due to you both and your hilarious and practical blog. thanks for that.
and i got the proper ingredients for a Jake as a package gift from my husband. extra thanks for that.
thank goodness for this post today – boy, did i need a laugh (in the best way) and i love getting a behind-the-scenes look at things. i just want to thank you both for putting your heart and soul into your blog and book…can’t wait to get my copy 🙂
I just got my book from Amazon! I can’t wait until both kids are in preschool tomorrow morning so I can sit down with a cup of tea and read your book!
Again! Love visiting here for the laughing that ensues. Loved the warning to Keenan! And the “am I a total fraud?” bit.
I have my book pre ordered but this post has me thinking that I might HAVE to give the book as a gift to my food loving friends just BECAUSE it’s awesome.
This is such a sweet post – one of the loveliest things I’ve read in ages.
I am so excited about the book coming out! I even wrote the date in my diary, I can’t wait for it arrive in the post.
DALS is fantastic and I come back and read through the archives whenever I need a little pick-me-up. The recipes are delicious, and I have lots bookmarked in my favourites.
Thanks for this. I had a little epiphany the other night–it was so stinking hot, and I just kept throwing cold fruit and crackers at the kids until it was bedtime. WHAT???? came the outraged cry from my oldest. We didn’t have DINNER!
He had eaten plenty. And he as much as said that he wasn’t hungry. But we didn’t sit down, hold hands, say grace, and eat together, so his day was not complete.
Thank you for all the recipes and tips you gave me to make that a reality. It’s been a slog sometimes to make it happen but I am so, so glad to have had help along the way.
Andy, great post! The portion size commentary was so funny-didn’t you guys do a post about the tiny amounts of food that Jenny’s family saves? It really supports your portion issues in the post. Can’t wait to get the book.
Such a great post, Andy. I have a crush on your entire family and these kind of posts do nothing to discourage that.
Can’t wait to get my copy of the book! I pre-ordered (what feels like) ages ago and am patiently waiting….
Keep up the great work!
This post brought tears to my eyes and exemplifies the love story part of the blog. This piece is not just a post but rather a love letter from a devoted , utterly smitten husband. Jenny, press print and frame immediately!
1. I love the way you always have Jenny’s back. 2. I’m also kind of over quinoa. Please don’t tell my kids.
3. You are right about the portion thing (forgive me Jenny). Our favorite DALS recipe is the apple gallette, and although it’s billed as feeding a family of our (which we have) I always eat the whole thing myself. But then again, maybe I am the one who doesn’t understand portion size.
Amazon tells me my delivery estimate is June 8th. Can’t wait to get my hands on this. And I love this post. I came here for the food, I stayed for the love. You guys are the best.
One of the things I love about DALS is, and I hope this isn’t TMI, is what a sweet relationship you have. The love and respect you have for Jenny is so vibrant in this post. THAT is one of the reasons I want to buy your book. #1 and #5. You both really care about this and it shows. I already preordered…can’t wait to get it. And now I’m thinking about this as the perfect gift to my friends who also have little kids, and who cherish mealtime, whatever that looks like in their house. Thank you!
#2 makes me feel better – I can’t wait for this book – even bought a new bookcase to fit in.
Jenny Ro – way to go! So so proud of you! Love this shout out from Andy – all completely true 🙂
Great blog. Loved it. One bottle on wine for 15? Loved the readers responses as well. Must make you feel good to help so many people.
By the way, I might go back to making my chicken again.
Mission Accomplished. Book ordered!
You guys are the best! I can’t WAIT to read the book. And your KEEP YOUR DISTANCE BRO made mine and my boyfriends night 🙂
Love this! My copy shipped today… can’t wait. 🙂
Now that’s the LOVE in Love Story! Made me all verklempt Andy. And looking forward to getting my pre-ordered copy Jenny. Kudos to the whole family…you all deserve applause. P.S. Are those sausages from Fleishers?
Just heard Jenny on the radio-KQED SF, I think. Loved hearing her and love the blog…..I have portion control, the other direction! Good luck with the book!
I do not type this lightly:
That is my favorite post from Andy.
Is there anything (anything!) better than a husband saying nice things about his bride???
I can’t wait for my copy of the book! Way to go, Jenny!
That last sentence just friggin’ killed me. Too funny!
I ordered the book after reading this post on Friday because how could I NOT?!? I also think the two margaritas I had prior made me extra loose with my credit card 🙂
Can’t wait to read it!!!
This was a smart post. It makes the book feel even more down to earth! I would love to review it for my blog, as family dinner is kinda what I am all about! Good luck with everything! http://www.brittanyspantry.blogspot.com
This was a fun post to read. Particularly the bit about quinoa! I’m the family cook, and also a childhood feeding specialist. The cook gets to decide. Sometimes I make something (and my husband is such a great person to cook for) he likes almost anything… Anyway, I’ll make something and he likes it, and I don’t, and now he just looks at me sadly, “I’m never going to see this again, am I?” Not unless he cooks it! Sounds like a great book! Family meals are the cornerstone of helping kids learn to grow up liking food and their bodies.
just ordered the book for my daughter, she cooks and I just happen to drop over at the right time to score some great leftovers, and all your ideas have given me super meals. from your admirer in Arizona
(Robin Zerbib’s mom) I loved your NPR interview too!
Mine shipped today!!!! Just got my email saying its on the way.
Can’t wait for the mailman to come! Oh, and as for #8 – I can attest to the legendarily small portions from THAT side of the Rosenstrach family. If you want the complete opposite, come on over to MY side – ha! Meanwhile, maybe – just maybe – this book will be the catalyst for my family going from a peanut-butter-cracker-or-pasta dinner to something more like the “real deal”. Maybe. Best wishes for a best seller, guys!!!
This is the best love letter ever!
I finished the book last night. I’d bought it when it came out, but saved it as a sort of got-through-the-holidays treat. I enjoyed every page, but I love it all the more tonight because I just finished eating the chicken with orzo soup (I agree, soup shouldn’t be too brothy) and I have my first ever chicken stock simmering as I speak. If those end up being the only recipes I use (though I doubt they will) it will be worth the price of the book. Thanks!