Yes, that’s the cover of my new book, to be published soon, but before I go into more detail on it I want to know one thing:
Are you with me?
I need to know this because, while this book is going to be a lot of things — an adventure, a game-changer, a how-to manual for the family meal — it is first and foremost going to be a personal challenge, a commitment.
Loyal DALS readers have heard the story of The Great Dinner Rut of 2006 — that period, back when our girls were 3 and 4, when Andy and I were drowning in a sea of plain. Plain pasta, plain burger, plain chicken, plain pizza. Our once-solid dinner rotation had been reduced to what you’d find in your average minimum security prison. On any given night, we’d have a breakthrough — Flounder! Abby ate flounder! — until the next time we’d present it to the Li’l Lady of the Manor and she’d drum her fingers against the table and stare at us with cold, cold eyes, as if to say “For real? You think I’m gonna eat that?” I don’t want to go on too much here — you guys know the deal — but for two working parents who loved to cook and just wanted to end the day with a glass of wine and a meal that wasn’t beige, the situation was far from ideal.
“It’ll get better,” everyone told me. “You just have to wait out the toddler years. You’ll see!” But I didn’t want to wait out any years — years! –I wanted to eat real food again, food that I was excited about cooking and introducing to my kids. So I took control of the situation. One night, I made an announcement: We were going to embark on an adventure. (“Adventure” seemed like a key positioning strategy.) We were going to cook thirty new dinners in the next thirty days, and the only thing I asked was that they had to try a bite of every single one of them. One bite. They didn’t have to like every meal, but they did have to try every meal.
It always surprises me how game kids are in situations where you least expect it.
But not as game as Andy and I were. We got into it — scouring old cookbooks for recipes we’d always wanted to make, texting ideas back and forth on our commute, asking anyone we saw what their go-to dinners were. I’m talking about dedication I hadn’t seen since the days when we were planning our honeymoon. We came up with a line up and got cooking.
Was a little nuts for two working parents to take this on? Yes. Did we almost give up along the way? Absolutely. Was every meal a hit? Not exactly. Abby puked up the trout (day 19) onto the dinner table and Phoebe moved her chair to the living room when we placed a bowl of gnocchi in front of her (day 16). But did it transform the way the kids (and their parents) thought about dinner? Well… I hate to sound all gimmicky here, but yes. What we discovered was that Family Dinner is a contract. You buy in, or you don’t. This can mean lots of things to lots of different families, but for us, it meant cooking most nights and constantly looking for ways to keep it fresh. We didn’t know it then, but this project set us on our way, expanded our horizons, established dinner as a priority in our lives, and killed the chicken nugget dead once and for all.
So if my first book, Dinner: A Love Story, was a romantic yarn about the evolution of the family meal through marriage, babies and family, then Dinner: The Playbook is its nuts-and-bolts, down-and-dirty, roll-up-your-sleeves, LET’S-DO-THIS-THING companion. It tells the story of our grand experiment and everything I learned along the way, including:
- Key shopping and organizing strategies
- Guerrilla tactics for picky eaters and sauce-o-phobes
- Tips for scouting new recipes that “keep the spark alive”
- 80+ easy, kid-vetted recipes
- Weekly meal plans that show you how to put all those recipes together over the course of 30 days — or even just seven days if that’s more your speed.
In short, it’s got everything you need to help bust you out of your own dinner rut. Even when you are working full time. Even when you would rather crawl into a dark hole than think about dinner.
Over the years, I have received so many emails from readers asking me: I am so busy and overwhelmed, and I want to put dinner on the table. How do I do it? Where do I start?
This book, I hope, provides an answer to that question.
So what do you say? Are you in? Please say yes!
Dinner: The Playbook will be out in late August — just in time for back-to-school bootcamp — but is available for pre-order with all the usual suspects: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebooks, and Ballantine.
The masterful Kristina DiMatteo designed the cover and the interior of Playbook, and it’s filled with the sweetest little details. The dedication page is one of my favorites. As is the Gina Triplett-illustrated spine on the cover. (Remember my recipe door? That’s Gina. I like to keep things in the family.)
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Tags:dinner a love story book·dinner playbook·Dinner The Playbook Jenny Rosenstrach
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.
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Tags:dinner a love story book·jenny rosenstrach dinner a love story
From the Mailbox:
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.
Thanks, Jen! And lucky lucky us: Jen has been nice enough to post the Snickerdoodle wedding cake recipe on her website.
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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.
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Tags:dinner a love story book·dinner diary·family dinner planning·meal planning strategies
On Wednesday night, Day 2 of Publication, my 8-year-old was sitting at the dinner table waiting for her chicken with biscuits (recipe on the way) when she said, “Mom, you weren’t here for dinner Monday or Tuesday night.”
“Yeah?” I said.
“That’s so unlike you.”
“I know,” I told her. “Remember, my book is out this week. There’s a lot going on. It’s going to be a little hectic. You want to hear what’s going on?”
“Nah. Oh, I forgot to tell you about the finals of the KenKen competition.”
I’m sorry if you feel a little like my kids right now, and I promise that we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming soon, but I’ve been so overwhelmed by emails and instragrams and facebook posts and reviews that it just doesn’t feel right not to acknowledge how grateful I am for all the feedback. (Do not mistake this for complaining.) I just wanted to share a few of of the highlights, beginning with the photo below of my friend Kirsten and her adorable daughter Billie, who apparently thinks the skillet of meatballs (or Andy’s head?) is scratch-and-sniff.
The photo on the left was sent by reader Betsy, who I think should be a prop stylist in her spare time. (Eight books, by the way. Now there’s a loyal supporter.) On the right is me signing books at BEA, a book convention in NYC and first on line was Hallie (not shown), who I lived next door to for the first 18 years (more…)
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Tags:dinner a love story book·jenny rosenstrach book·jenny rosenstrach dinner a love story
So, in case you haven’t heard, today is the day Dinner: A Love Story is officially on sale. When you pick up your copy, the first thing I’d like you to do is turn to The Acknowledgments on page 299. There are a lot of people mentioned in those pages — as my editor said when she received my first draft of the section, “This should be it’s own book!” — because there were a lot of people who helped make this happen in both small ways (picking up my kids at school when I was in the middle of shooting a pork chop: Annie!) and huge (producing a masterful Dinner: A Love Story Book Trailer: Ed!) But you will see that the very first thank-you goes out to you guys, my loyal dinner-making, book-reading, thoughtful-comment-writing Dinner: A Love Story readers. It’s hard to overstate how much your support these past few years has meant to me and how much I appreciate all those heartfelt emails I receive on a daily basis — the ones that Andy mentioned last week and which, half the time, come with the subject head “Thank you.”
Well, now it’s time for me to say thank you. Over the last few months I’ve been collecting gifts that fit with the general philosophy of this blog — pots and pans and cooking classes and a week of free dinners and kids’ books and crazy cool lunchboxes and some of the most delicious chocolates you will ever eat. So it’s only fair that today, the day Dinner: A Love Story is published, you guys get the chance to win them. All you have to do is click here to check out the prizes, answer one simple question (what part of the book resonated with you the most?), and follow the instructions on that page for how to proceed. (Please do not leave your “resonant moment” in this comment field. Again, go here!)
You have until July 6 to enter. Good luck!
And: Thank you.
Jenny, Andy, Phoebe & Abby
Split-personality pizzas: Everyone goes home happy. Pizza recipes begin on page 266.
My Dinner Diary in early 2005, when the girls were 2 and 1. Notice all the freezer and takeout dinners.
All photos above by Jennifer Causey for Dinner: A Love Story. Cover design by Allison Saltzman.
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We are officially T-1 week for Publication Date of Dinner: A Love Story, and T-3 weeks til school’s out, so I thought I’d share a section from the book that is one of my favorites. It’s about the transformation my husband undergoes when we are on vacation.
When I was growing up, we never took typical family vacations. We never booked a house on the Cape for a week or went to Fort Myers in February; we never sat at the kitchen table with a map of the country circling national parks we wanted to visit like I imagined most families doing. Part of the reason for this was that my mother, once she found her calling as an attorney, turned into a workaholic— today, at seventy-five, as partner in her own law firm, she still works harder than all of her children combined—and, like all workaholics, she derives pleasure from work, thereby rendering the need to get pleasure elsewhere useless. (I’ve always gotten the feeling that she finds vacation from reading ninety-five-page contracts a whole lot more stressful than reading those ninety-five-page contracts.)
Another reason we never went on typical vacations was that my sister, Lynn, was a nationally ranked tennis player who competed in tournaments all over the country. Naturally, we’d all tag along with her on all of these trips no matter where they were—Charlestown, West Virginia, Raleigh, North Carolina, Indianapolis. They were always during July and August, and the organizers seemed to find some sick pleasure in selecting venues where the average temperature was a hundred degrees in the shade and never ever near a water park with one of those long, twisty mountain slides. But the truth was, I didn’t mind. I was ten, eleven, twelve years old. All I needed was a hotel pool to be happy.
But now that I am not a kid—now that I am a grown-up and I have kids of my own—vacation is a different story altogether. I need the pool, yes, but I also need a whole lot more. Most of the time I need a kitchen. I need a grill. I need to go to a place with lots to do. In fact, from the moment we arrive at wherever we happen to be vacationing, Andy and I are crafting ways to make sure we are squeezing the maximum amount of pleasure out of every moment of our waking hours. We take our vacations seriously. Before we have finished our morning coffee we have a plan for the day, one that usually includes exercise for the grown-ups (we usually tag-team our runs while the kids watch their morning TV), a large chunk of time in or near a pool or beach, some sort of afternoon adventure that involves exploring the local terrain (like a road trip or a hike or a bike ride), and of course, shopping for dinner that we will make in our own kitchen while drinking gin and tonics.
One morning when we were on vacation in South Carolina (where Andy’s parents have a house near the beach), the girls were finishing up watching an episode of The Backyardigans, and Andy looked at the clock.
“It’s ten o’clock in the morning and we still don’t have a plan,” he said.
“It’s only ten in the morning,” I said, taking a sip of my iced coffee that Andy had prepared the night before so it would be ready for us when we woke up.
“Yes, but we have a lot to do today.”
“We do?” I asked. The way he said it made it sound as if we were on deadline for something serious. “Like what?” (more…)
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Tags:dinner a love story book·fish tacos·jenny rosenstrach book·mix and match dinner·vacation dinner ideas
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
weeks months 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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 to follow DALS there.
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Tags:best childrens books·books for kids·daniel handler's favorite books·dinner a love story book·dinner a love story book recommendations·dinner a love story childrens books·george saunders very persistent gappers of frip·lemony snicket·pseudonymous bosch
I don’t even know where to begin on this one. Below is an actual exchange between two working moms (who I don’t know! And who aren’t related to me!) coordinating their visits to the designated office breast-pumping room. My editor forwarded it to me with the instruction that I was only allowed to post it here word-for-word if I promised not to reveal their real names or place of business. (All I can tell you is that their place of business had an advance copy of Dinner: A Love Story.) What do I like more? Their enviable working-mom camaraderie (my coworkers and I all had post-its on our doors like the one you see above, which I found in one of the girls’ baby books); or that one of their kids is “so into cooking with her” (jealous!); or the cereal-for-dinner bit (hilarious); or the fact that two moms found the book helpful enough to discuss while coordinating breast-pumping for their newborns???? It’s a tough one.
Sent: Thursday, March 01, 2012 3:48 PM
Shoot I %#ed up. Youre going in at 4 right? Will you let me know when youre all done? Thank you. . .
Sent: Thursday, March 01, 2012 3:49 PM
You want to go now? As long as I’m in by 4:15 im still good.
Sent: Thursday, March 01, 2012 03:49 PM
Bless you! Ill be faster than that—ill email you.
Sent: Thursday, March 01, 2012 4:08 PM
Sent: Thursday, March 01, 2012 4:10 PM
Boo ya! Thanks! P.S. I made the bolognese sauce and apricot mustard baked chicken from the DALS cookbook. AMAZING. Also my daughter and I had a great time making the galette. She’s so into cooking with me now. She helps me every night. (Even last night when we had cereal with strawberries.)
If you are interested in receiving an advance reader’s copy of the book, please Like DALS on facebook. I’ll be giving one away over there in the next few days.
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Tags:breastfeeding·dinner a love story book
When I first sat down with my book editor Lee Boudreaux and the designer Allison Saltzman, they asked me what I wanted in a cover design. Oh, you know, I told them, I don’t want it to look cheffy or foodie. I don’t want it to look too precious or too slick. I’d like it to be homey but not dowdy, familiar to old readers but striking for new ones. I want it to appeal to recent grads and newlyweds and especially to parents. I want it to reflect the vibe of this blog. I want it to have good energy and I really want it to feel personal, like it looks right at home on my kitchen counter. I’m not Sean Brock or Gabrielle Hamilton. No matter how many times I make his brussels sprouts, I will never be David Chang. I’m a home cook who has figured out one thing — that making dinner for people I love brings me daily happiness – and I need this book to appeal to people who suspect that carving out a nightly dinner ritual might do the same for them.
Was that too much to ask for?
Apparently not, because I think they nailed it, don’t you?
To pre-order, please visit Amazon or Barnes & Noble or Indie Bound.
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Tags:dinner a love story book·family dinner cookbook·jenny rosenstrach book
…I get this question all the time. Followed by: Will there be new recipes or is it only the recipes already on the blog? Does it have anything to do with the dinner diary you’ve kept since 1998? Is it a book about you and Andy? Will it provide any more variations on that yogurt-marinated grilled chicken I love so much? Is it also for people who don’t have kids? Loyal readers who remember the book announcement back in January sometimes ask “Is it a cookbook devoted entirely to meatballs?”
For the most part, the answers to all these questions (except the meatball one) is yes. I will get into more detail as I approach the June publication date (believe me, I will!), but for now I wanted to share the above photo with you which might help clarify things a bit. What you’re looking at is an excerpt of the “Style Sheet” that the copyeditor sent along with my marked-up manuscript. A Style Sheet shows how certain words that frequently come up in the book need to be written — whether they should be capitalized, written in contractions, what the preferred spellings are, etc. The words are listed alphabetically so it’s easy to refer back to them.
Looking at the “S” section the other day I had the realization that those six words, when taken together, might capture the spirit of the book better than any 500-word post. For those of you with newborns wondering if the book is for you, “Snap ‘N Go” should answer that. For those of you with toddlers whose idea of dinner is one chicken nugget, two potatoes, and nothing green, see: “survival mode.” For those of you who stay up at night trying to solve your own personal work-life-balance equation, you will find plenty of “soul-searching” And for those of you just interested in what quick side to throw on the family dinner plate after a long day of work “Swiss Chard” should do the trick. As for “Spoonula,” I’ll keep that one to myself, but let me just say that it has become a revolutionary tool in the scrambled-egg department. If only my kids ate eggs. (See D: “downward spiral.”)
Have a great weekend.
P.S. Next week: The Cover! I couldn’t be more excited to unveil it and hear what you guys think.
P.P.S Next month: A bunch of awesome giveaways. Remember, to be eligible, you need to subscribe to our newsletter.
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But before we get to that news, a little wind-up.
About five or six years ago, when Andy and I were still in the toddler trenches — hovering, floor-timing, being awake a full four hours before “starting” our workdays in the office — I asked my coworker Tom, a father of two middle-school aged kids, if I was going to be this tired for the rest of my life. No, he told me. It all turns around at about age 6, when they can make their own breakfast. When you don’t have to wake up with them to pour the juice and toast their bagels. When they can scroll through the DVR offerings and select Sponge Bob for themselves. This was an unimaginable concept to me and one I wasn’t entirely sure was in the cards for us. I had the same thought that I had a few years earlier, when Phoebe hadn’t hit her “pincer grasp” milestone: Am I going to be the one parent in the history of child-rearing that doesn’t figure all this stuff out? (It’s a fine line between exhaustion and paranoia.)
Not long after this conversation I hit a more memorable milestone than the one Tom described. It was one of my Fridays off and I was playing with the girls (who were just about 3 and 4) in Abby’s room. The two of them had locked into a pretend game with their new pirate ship and I had a radical thought: What if I left the room, went (more…)
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