I apologize to those of you in the Northeast who might’ve logged on today in hopes of seeing a recipe that falls under the warm-and-cozy category, and not a dutiful looking kale salad studded with wheat berries. The truth of the matter is, the warm-and-cozy stuff happened yesterday in our house, as soon as school sent word of early dismissal due to the impending storm. I crammed in a little work at home (operative word = “little”) then embraced the day off like a kind of maniacal kindergarten teacher. Abby, whose favorite activity when she was six or seven, was “Restaurant” begged her sister and me to turn the living room into “Cafe Juno,” and before I knew it, she was strapping an apron around my waist, table-cloth-ing a coffee table, typing up a menu, and asking for the daily specials. Phoebe ordered the fried chickpeas with yogurt and tamarind sauce, Abby went with a “baked ravioli melt” (think baked ziti but with ravioli) and in addition to the 85% tip the girls left me in the fake billfold, I got to gorge on all the food left over in both pots. Score!
Next up: Cookie baking. I wasn’t involved in that project, but I did somehow show up just in time for bowl-licking, and again, 8-10 minutes later, for cookie-testing. (Phoebe was making the “playdate cookies” from Dinner: A Love Story, replacing the M&Ms with dark chocolate chunks, so naturally they tested and tasted amazing.) An hour or two, and a cup or two of hot chocolates with whipped cream later, Gabrielle Hamilton’s Cider-braised Chicken was simmering on the stovetop for dinner, Andy’s broccoli was sizzling away in a hot hot oven, and I was assembling a little cheese plate for everyone to nibble on, complete with fig jam. There may or may not have been a bag of Trader Joe’s cheese puffs on the counter just for good measure. For dessert, more of Phoebe’s cookies. Plural.
What is it about Snow Days that wake up the holiday indulgence gene? I have to say, it’s kind of great.
But it’s only great for a day or two before I start to feel like I need to reign it in a little, to get back to my weekday eating routine, where it’s not entirely normal to go through a four-pack of butter in one afternoon. (The bag of cheese doodles, those are another story.) I woke up this morning realizing I have a relatively new philosophy for weekday eating that I haven’t really shared with you, so figured now was as good a time as any. It boils down to this: (more…)
Just a reminder that time is running out! October 7 October 8 is your last chance to buy the Kindle version of Dinner: A Love Story for $2.99. You read that right. Two Freaking Ninety Nine. I’m guessing you spent at least that on your venti half-caf this morning, and five times the amount on dinner last night. Not to mention, it’s $274 less than Modernist Cuisine. By any standard, a bargain.
Update! If you have read my book, Dinner: A Love Story, if you have cooked from my book, lived with my book, are sick to death of hearing about my book, you should feel free to skip to the bottom of this post. And know that I am eternally grateful. In no small way, your support keeps this blog going.
For those of you who haven’t read the book, I just wanted to let you know something: Guess what guys? I wrote a book! And if you read this blog with any kind of regularity, if you get excited by things like mix-and-match menus and Venn diagram-dinners, or if you are the type of person who is required to feed people every day while also doing small things like holding down a full-time job, I think there’s a good chance you will like it.
At last count, there were well over 100 readers on Amazon who have said as much. I only bring that up as an excuse to quote one of the more recent reviewers: “Skip ‘Lean In‘ and try this!” How much do I love that? A lot.
In other exciting news: Dinner: A Love Story is going into its fourth printing. And for those of you who are inclined to read a cookbook on a Kindle, there’s an Amazon special going on right now through October 7. Dinner: A Love Story has been selected as one of the Kindle 100 (I have no idea what this means, but I’m going to pretend for our purposes that it is a big stinkin’ deal) and is only $2.99.
And then there’s this:
An honest-to-god, 350-page manuscript for my next book. It’s done. Well, not quite. But a big huge hunk of it is. And if I were a betting woman, I’d put my money on the celebration including a batch of Great Grandma Turano’s meatballs. Tonight. More details on the way very soon!
Thank you for indulging me. Back to regularly scheduled dinner programming on Monday. Also, big thanks to Jessica, of Feed Me Dearly and her gorgeous pup for sending along the photo way up top.
You guys would laugh at my inbox. For starters, it seems like every third email that is sent to my DALS email has the subject line “Pork Ragu.” There’s usually one or two with a panicky vibe, like: “I have people coming over and the short ribs are looking dry! What do I do?” (Answer: Add whatever liquid you can find.) And then occasionally I get something magical, something with a picture attached like the one you see above. With a subject that says “Love Over Sunday Minestrone.” Suzi is a working mom of three kids and a DALS reader. Here’s what she wrote:
I just wanted to say thank you to you and Andy for the entertainment and for keeping our weeknight meals interesting. I think I made at least three DALS recipes per week while on maternity leave with our third baby this fall. A typical comment from my 4-year-old: ”Mom, you should make this again!”
Now that I’m back at work, my husband, Noah, is the prime dinner chef. He is not a reader of blogs, but I am slowly winning him over. My aim is to have him searching the blog for weeknight favorites soon too. Yesterday he set up this shot with the iPhone tripod. I happened to be making Sunday Minestrone, which you can see. He took one look at the photo and said, “You should send this in to your Dinner: A Love Story blog.” So here you go – dinner and love, all in one shot.
For the rest of you who occasionally write me asking How do you keep this blog going? There’s your answer. And here’s the Magical Minestrone. (Results Shown Above Not Guaranteed.)
Quick question: What do I have in common with Pulitzer-Prize winners John Updike, Norman Mailer, Tennessee Williams, and John F. Kennedy?
Nothing! But why should that stop me from affixing an honest-to-God authentic “Winner of the Pulitzer” sticker on the cover of my literary debut? My agent happened to represent a winner and had a roll of the Official Stickers in her office — one of which I promptly begged her for. (I know, right? What’s she doing hanging out with someone who makes a living writing about meatballs?) Boy I’ve had fun with that one. I’m really hoping my mother logged on this morning, and for one second of her life had the thought “Wow! My daughter won a Pulitzer.” Sorry, Mom.
But forreals, even more exciting than a Pulitzer in my world? An IACP Cookbook Award nomination. I was thrilled to find out a few days ago that my book is up for one and I am humbled by the company I share: Thomas Keller, Yottam Ottolenghi, Marcus Samuelsson, The Canal House duo, and Deb Perelman, who I’d read over Mailer and Updike anyday of the week.
In other news, earlier this week I talked turkey chili, spaghetti with clams (page 56), starter curry (page 14), and family dinner ideas (pages 2-312) with Faith Middleton on WNPR’s The Food Schmooze. I always feel like I’m actually at the dinner table with her gang when she interviews me or when I’m listening to her show. If you have time to download it for your commuting or your carpooling today, the whole show is worth a listen, but I don’t come on til the last five or ten minutes. Or you could just download this interview with a real Pulitzer Winner. I’d understand completely.
For locals and Tri-Staters and food-lovers who, like me, look for any excuse to patronize Stone Barns, please come visit me there on Wednesday, February 6 at 6:00. They’ve chosen Dinner: A Love Story as the book to launch their very promising Cookbook Club Program. If you’d like to register (or even if you are just reading Dinner: A Love Story with your own book club) you can download a discussion guide on my Book page. Or you can just show up and eat! (There will be samples of something from my book.) I’ll also give a short talk loosely titled “Five Steps to Kickstart Family Dinner.” (The first rule — “Don’t go to readings smack in the middle of dinnertime” — will go into effect the day after the reading.) To register, please head to their website.
So odd that I’ve done events in LA, San Francisco, Connecticut, Boston, and all around Westchester, but I haven’t hit the good old 718 yet. Until now! I am so incredibly psyched to hang out at Powerhouse on 8th in Park Slope with my friend Melissa, who will be signing her book, The New Brooklyn Cookbook, but will be preparing and handing out Mexican chocolate icebox cookies and cups of butternut squash soup from my book. (That’s what you call a good friend!) I’ll just be signing — no reading — so even if you only have five minutes, please stop by.
If you are interested in holding a Dinner: A Love Story event, please get in touch: IHaveNoShame@dinneralovestory.com — sorry, I mean firstname.lastname@example.org.
I don’t know about you, but this is the time when I suddenly look at the calendar, and then at the list of things I’ve bought for family and friends so far, and then at the list of things I still have to buy, and think, “Rut-roh.” How’s it all gonna get done? And how did I let this happen? In an effort to help make things a little easier, I thought I’d offer up a few suggestions for last-minute gifts here. Satisfaction guaranteed! – Andy
For the teacher who is dedicating him/herself, day in and day out, to the betterment of your child: Dinner: A Love Story.
For the patient cello teacher who — in just three months — has already made your life, and your ear drums, so much happier: Dinner: A Love Story.
For the soccer coach who not only volunteers her time three times a week to guru your kid, but also — true miracle — teaches her what off-sides means: Dinner: A Love Story.
For the mother-in-law who you love dearly but who could also use a little help in the expansion of repertoire department: Dinner: A Love Story.
For the 23-year-old niece, who was weaned on The Food Network and can tell her rutabaga from her kohlrabi: Dinner: A Love Story.
For the 23-year-old nephew, who still claims to hate tomatoes, prompting you to remind him — a 23 year old, grown-ass man — that pizza sauce CONTAINS TOMATOES: Dinner: A Love Story.
For the person who, as our 9-year-old just said, “draws pictures of turtles eating tomatoes”: Dinner: A Love Story.
For the person who reads the following sentence — “This book is for anyone interested in learning how to execute a meal to be shared with someone they love and discovering how so many good, happy things can trickle down from doing so” — and thinks, Dang, dogg, that hits me right where I live: Dinner: A Love Story.
For the thoughtful gift-giver who wants to buy a book and then have the author — like, I don’t know, Jenny Rosenstrach — sign a bookplate for said book and then give it to a good friend or relative and say, “Look, I got you a signed book for Christmas!”: Dinner: A Love Story. (Email her TODAY jenny AT dinneralovestory DOT com with subject line “Bookplate Request”; after 12/20, she can’t guarantee they’ll be sent in time for Christmas.)
For our slightly less ridiculous Gift Guide, click here.
You guys have been very good to us this year. You’ve read my book, you’ve written the most thoughtful letters, you’ve spread the DALS word to your friends, you’ve trusted me with your own treasured family recipes. As a token of our gratitude, and in honor of the holidays, we are happy to re-offer a free copy of 121 Books to the DALS community. For those of you who weren’t able to download this back in the spring, 121 Books is a stunningly designed* collection of special children’s books that have seen us through the first decade of bedtime-storying, road-tripping, read-to-the-class-ing, and beyond. It features book recommendations from Daniel Handler, David Sedaris, John J. Sullivan, Pseudonymous Bosch, and George Saunders among many other literary lights, and all you have to do to own it is click on the link below. Please, for full glorious effect, try to print it out in color. And also, please please spread joy! Send this link to anyone you know who might need some help picking good books for holiday gifts this year. The offer is good for all of December.
Fine print? There is none! Though, OK, we do have to admit that this is a naked attempt to convince you to buy books for your kids and friends and, in general, to support the book industry, which is, of course, the industry that supports us. And hey! As long as you are browsing the shelves? I have a book you might like to grab on your way out. But no pressure. Or at least very little pressure.
What is my statute of limitations on blaming Sandy, the Election, Halloween, and Thanksgiving coverage for my delinquency on…everything? I am a terrible person for not expressing sufficient gratitude to my LA Team on the Ground until now. If you recall, I was heading out West for some business and decided to use it as an excuse to try to connect with my California readers. When I asked you guys here on DALS what to do and where I should go, I received some of the most generous invitations — even to people’s homes and book club meetings — and wound up having a little coffee talk at Thyme Cafe & Market in Santa Monica. (It’s shown above and is the kind of warm, bustling center-of-the-neighborhood place I walk into and think “Why can’t I have one of these on my block?”) A big thanks to Maire Byrne, the owner, who provided muffins and long tables, and especially Clare, my conduit who put the whole thing together. I handed Maire a stack of “Make Dinner Not War” bumper stickers and signed bookplates, so if you live in the area, and are looking for a place to buy Dinner: A Love Story for your two dozen (three dozen?) best friends this holiday, I’d head over there. Bumper stickers are free with purchase.
Also thanks to Courtney and Elizabeth who pointed me in the direction of Chevalier’s, where I signed later on the afternoon. That charming little bookstore in the middle of the very Mayberry-ish Larchmont village, is also in possession of a stack of autographed copies. Please support them!
While I was in LA, I was lucky enough to stay with my childhood friend Laurie (for book owners, this is Chicken-Pot-Pie Laurie) who, among other things, outfitted me with her clothes for all my various meetings and appearances, treated me to what I think may be Breakfast of the Year (Farmshop at the Brentwood Country Mart), and let me crash her insanely rad Santa Monica bungalow for three days. If that wasn’t enough, each morning, she revved up the Hurom and made me one of these….
…which was comprised of ALL of this…
!!!!!!!!!!! I don’t know what I liked better — the green drink or the idea of the green drink — but I do know that as soon as I had one sip, my trip to California felt complete. (For juicer owners, Laurie basically just added what you see above: one apple, one carrot, one stalk of celery, 1/2 lemon, one bunch kale, a 1-inch-ish piece of peeled ginger, one banana.) Another benefit? When I started the day with a green drink, I had no guilt at all when I finished the day with an Umami Burger.
I just wanted to let you know that I loved your book so much that I brought it with us on our honeymoon. (I put the DALS cookbook on my registry, hoping that someone would have the good sense to buy it for me, but when I didn’t get it at my shower, I decided I couldn’t wait any longer and ordered it myself.) We rented a little house in Bar Harbor, so we had a kitchen and cooked from the book several times. The recipes that we’ve tried have all been amazing (cinnamon in the chili = life changing), but what I’ve loved the most is reading about how your family has grown and changed, and how its made me think about what my own family might look like down the road. Thanks so much for the inspiration and the good food.
PS. This photo taken on our first morning in Maine, just as we were about to sit down and enjoy our (snickerdoodle) wedding cake for breakfast. (Seriously, who wants to wait a year to eat cake that good? Not me.) You can see the DALS book hanging out on the table.
OK so I am going rogue with this book of mine. I’m determined to get it in the hands of as many new cooks, new parents, new home-owners, newly on-their-own types as possible as we amp up for the holidays. When I asked you guys (via my newsletter) a few weeks ago for help arranging appearances I got some of the nicest invitations, and I wanted to be sure to update you on where I’ll be signing, reading, selling, chatting in the next few months.
First stop this week in Los Angeles!
Friday, October 26 Thyme Cafe & Market Santa Monica, CA
“Ten Recipes, Ten Strategies: A Coffee Talk” @10AM
If you have an event in your neighborhood that might benefit from a dinner talk, please feel free to get in touch. I’ll bet we could figure out a way to make it work. (See: Rogue) Jenny AT dinneralovestory DOT com.
Left, me preparing for my reading in Boston; Right, Abby’s introductory remarks at the Darien Public Library. My favorite part of the speech is how she started writing “happy” then edited herself and changed it to “thrilled.”
About a month ago we were having chili for dinner. Our son hates chili. All types. Tomato, white bean chicken, we have battled over it all. I have pushed, he has pursed (his lips tightly). I have threatened (which I know is not the way to promote healthy attitudes toward food), he has cried (I’m not proud of this). Anyway, he asked what we were having for dinner this night and I said, “Chili.” But instantly I recalled these words which I had read only hours before, “It’s all about marketing.” and so I quickly changed the title. “Actually, I mean, it’s soup. Two bean, ground beef, tomato soup…on a potato.” “Oh. It really looks like chilli.” he replied. “I know, crazy huh?” He then proceed to eat the. whole. bowl, asked for more and did not complain about it once. Yes, it really is all about marketing.
So, in closing, I’m so glad Amazon recommended your book and I’m so glad to have been introduced to your blog through it (aaaand books we love??! Oh man your blog was really made for me!) I love it.
Ok guys — didn’t I say right there on page 2 of the book that in order to kickstart the dinner habit, you are not in any way whatsoever required to start writing down what you are cooking and eating in a dedicated diary? So what is up with all the emails* telling me that you are starting your own books and filling them with chilled soups and grilled fish tacos and other simple, delicious-sounding summer dinners? Do you not know you are setting yourself up for a lifetime of obsessiveness and ridicule and…simple, delicious-sounding summer dinners?
Well anyway, I was thinking this morning that since I was the one who got you into this whole mess, the least I could do is help you kickstart some weekly planning. So book owners, you are welcome to download a PDF of the line-up that I intend to scribble into my own diary next week. It’s been hot in New York the past few days and this menu (including shopping list) was designed with that in mind. And, also, with the Really?-Dinner-is-Here-Again? cook in mind. All you have to do to access the plan is click here and type in the secret code, i.e. the last word on page 137. (Or, for Kindle readers: location 39% – 2151 of 5506, the word right above “November.”)
And non-book owners, what are you waiting for? Now that I’ve put my diary-inspired mania out there, and you have access to the meals that have seen me through fourteen years of first jobs and working late and eating in shifts and witching hours and picky eaters and two cursed egg-haters and dinners at the beach and in front of the World Cup and the Olympics and American Idol — well, now that all of this is out there, I’m going to be presenting these book-based meal plans as bonus features and I don’t want to feel guilty about leaving you behind! It’s bad enough that I’ve sent all these poor unsuspecting souls down the diary road. So, as Andy would say, let’s do this thing!
*If you have not heard back from me yet, please forgive the delay. Please do not mistake this delinquency for ungraciousness or apathy. I’ve read (and sometimes re-read) every note and will eventually repsond to every single one.
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.
I’m still completely thrilled when I hear that my book has been purchased by someone who I can’t in any way trace back to my mother or mother-in-law, but I think the highlight of my year was hearing that Dinner: A Love Story was on the registry of someone whose wedding I’m not even invited to. It’s true that my book is based on this blog which is based on meals with our 10- and 8-year old, but the book starts with the “Love Story” part, the year Andy and I got married, when kids were about as far from our minds as the pork ragu that would someday make my husband famous. (Well, famous with his mother and mother-in-law at least.) I’m pleased to announce that Real Simple seems to agree about the gift thing — because it’s in their June issue, right there in the Summer Gift Guide (for Newlyweds, Weekend House Hosts, Father’s Day), and last time I checked, no one in my family was on their payroll. As soon as the link is live I will send you there — for now you’ll have to go to a good old-fashioned newsstand. Remember those?
PS: Twitter followers, remember to use #dalsbook (it will be worth your while, trust me!)
That’s one handsome-looking bowl of quinoa, isn’t it? Looks pretty tasty, right? It’s really healthy, too. And so versatile. Have you heard about the extraordinary nutritional properties of quinoa? Amazing stuff. Packed with protein. The Incas survived on it! Now try writing 500 words about this bowl of quinoa, but it can’t be too similar to the 500-word post you wrote about the magic of (sigh) barley a few weeks ago, and it definitely can’t be like the other quinoa post you did about six months ago, the one in which you… extolled its extraordinary nutritional properties (protein, Incas, etc.) and its versatility (feta, pesto, etc.) and the way it goes so well with zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. We want to be clear here: we are not complaining. We love cooking and we love doing this blog, and we’d happily do it for free. (Wait, we already do it for free!) All we’re saying is, posting three or four or five times a week for two and a half years — about things like quinoa — isn’t always easy. There have been nights when Jenny, sitting there in bed with her laptop and trying to write about the raw kale salad we just had for dinner, has turned to me with a look of true despair and said, “I got nothing.” It’s rare, but it happens. I figure you can handle the truth.
So here’s a question: how would you like to guest post on DALS? If you’re interested, here’s what we need from you, by midnight, May 14:
A presentable photo of something you’ve cooked.
A story (not more than 500 words) about that something you cooked.
A recipe that works.*
Once all the entries are in, we’ll pick a winner and you (or your food blog, if you have one) will be a featured – and tweeted-about, and commented-upon — guest poster on a day, tbd, in June. Not only that, there’s a prize in it for you, too: the winner gets a free, personally inscribed copy of Jenny’s book when it is published a few weeks from now OR a call-in from both of us for your book club if you select Dinner: A Love Story as your group’s next pick. Up to you. Essie, mek, Amanda, Julia, Kendra, Cecilia, Carolyn, Melissa, June, Caitlin, Jan, Minty Pea Todd, Torie, MommyLisa, Auntie, 654Carroll, A Plum By Any Other Name, the Russian Guy Who’s Always Spamming Us About Cheap Cialis: I’m talkin’ to you, people! Start writing. Help us out. Win a book. – Andy
* And to be clear, the post doesn’t have to be about quinoa. Send all entries to: jenny AT dinneralovestory.com with the subject “Guest Post Contest.” Many of you have asked if you can still submit something if it’s not your own recipe. This contest is going to be focused more on the writing and the story than the recipe. You can still submit with someone else’s recipe, but please credit the source and embed the link to that source in the post. If it’s a recipe from a cookbook, please send us a link to the cookbook.
And by free we mean, um, sort of free. Here’s the deal: We like dinner. We also like books. And while Jenny’s upcoming book, on its every (“masterful,” says her husband) page, honors the meals we’ve made together for the past fifteen years, there is not a single word in it devoted to books — our love for them, or they way they inform our daily lives. What better way to fix that than to produce another book, devoted solely to the things we read and write about so frequently on this site. In some ways, we’ve spent the past two weeksmonths years pulling this project together*, and it was only a matter of time. We finally decided to turn it into a proper book of its own because we realized not long ago that (a) we’d already written more than 20,000 words’ worth of reviews since DALS was born, and (b) a big list of great, enduring books (for kids ages 0 to 10) might be something parents — as well as aunts, uncles, friends of pregnant people, husbands looking for point-scoring Mother’s Day presents, and good readers everywhere — could really use.
And now, for the fine print: If you pre-order Dinner: A Love Story, we’ll send you our new book of kid books FOR FREE. It only exists for now as a pdf, which means it’s easily forwarded and shared and copied, but we know you guys are decent, upstanding people and we trust you so deeply and know you would never send this around, all indiscriminately, since we spent so much time and effort putting it together FOR FREE. If you want one, all you have to do is email email@example.com, tell us you ordered a copy of Dinner: A Love Story, and we’ll send you all 25 pages of our book, in beautiful color, FOR FREE. Jenny’s whizbangy technical consultant has figured out a way to prompt every fifth email with a one-step request for proof of purchase. And yes, we know this means there’s an 80% chance you can lie and get this book without pre-ordering, but, well…see above re: decent, upstanding people.
One last thing: This offer is only good through Thursday, April 26 at midnight. So let’s do this thing. – Andy
*A huge, huge thank you to the supremely talented Chelsea Cardinal – magazine genius, illustrator, book cover designer, clothing designer (for real), seriously solid person — who turned our pile of disjointed text into something that makes us so happy to look at. We are convinced Chelsea will be famous one day, and we are grateful to have worked with her.
UPDATE: This offer has now expired. Thank you to everyone for the nice response and the even nicer notes that came along with the pre-orders. There’s a chance the offer might resurface on Facebook in the next few weeks, so if you missed it, be sure tofollow DALS there.
I realize I’m not breaking any journalistic ground with this observation, but I’m going to say it anyway: It’s kinda crazy what you can check off The List when you’re not surrounded by small people asking for a snack or to tie a soccer cleat or to find the math notebook which was right here a second ago and to look at me! Look at me! Look at me! Take, for instance, an unseasonably warm winter Friday this past February. My friends Ed Nammour and Kate Porterfield showed up in my kitchen at 8:00 am — a few minutes after Andy and I shepherded Phoebe and Abby to the bus stop — and by the time the girls disembarked seven hours later, brains filled with fractions and parallelograms, Ed had shot this crazy beautiful honest-to-God Book Trailer for me, complete with a thing called B-Roll? Do you guys know from B-Roll?
I’m exaggerating a bit there — B-Roll is one of the few terms I knew going into the whole production, but that’s about where the knowledge tops off. A big reason why I chose a career as an editor and then opted for the blog medium when I started Dinner: A Love Story 2 1/2 years ago, was because I didn’t have to, you know, talk. With my mouth. Out loud. In front of people. I warned Kate — who was serving as the off-camera interviewer, and who you might remember for coining the page-turner concept — that she would have her work cut out for her. I was not going to be able to put a sentence together in any kind of coherent way. I am a writer! I speak through my keyboard and like to have time to scratch my chin while formulating unique insights!
“Jenny,” Kate replied to all this. “You’re not talking about North Korea here. You’re talking about dinner.”
See why I forced her to be on set with me? Five hours later, I had managed to articulate a few thoughts about family dinner and my book, and why this project has meant so much to me as a parent these past few years. And Kate was on the 1:20 train back to Brooklyn, where her daughters were returning from their school day.
I hope you have some time to watch it and, if you like what you see, to share it with other people who might be inspired to catch the family dinner bug, too. If you love what you see? Well, by now, I think you know what to do. And if you’d rather spend those 3 minutes and 57 seconds reading about North Korea, I’ll crystallize the video and the book and the entire mission of DALS for you with one quote I said at about 3:09:
“What I tried to do with this book is cover all the things that can happen at the family dinner table during all stages of a family’s life.”
That means the Just-Married Days, the New Parent Days, and the Bonafide Family Dinner Days, when we get to have conversations at the table that don’t begin with the phrase “If you don’t eat that fill-in-the-blank….”
Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that Ed’s work was far from over when the bus came at the end of our shoot day. He spent more hours than I can bear to think about whittling the 60 minutes of dinner-talking and pizza-flipping footage into the 3:57 narrative you see above. How I got so lucky to live around the corner from a filmmaker and commercial director who (on the side!) loves to support local projects…I’ll never know. I’m just glad I got to meet him that day five years ago when he, his wife, and six other families bid farewell to their kindergartners at the bus stop.
Reminder: A week from today, April 24th, be sure to check in with DALS! We have an exciting proposition for you which, amazingly, doesn’t involve our yogurt-marinated chicken. Well, it sort of does, I guess. But only peripherally.