One of the age-old literary conflicts: What food to serve at book club? Naturally, since the book you will be reading and discussing is Dinner: A Love Story, it stands to reason that you should make a DALS recipe, am I right? And I don’t know about your book clubs, but mine generally meets after dinner which means that the host is responsible for providing a simple spread: some kind of treat, maybe a little cheese, and, of course, wine. Though I haven’t tried this one out on my group, I’m guessing that the above ginger-peach galette, when served with a nice dry German Riesling, will hit the mark.
Now, more important, what to discuss! Before I answer this, I just want to thank the almost one thousand people who entered the Mega Giveaway last month. (All the winners have been alerted, so if you haven’t heard from me, thank you for playing and look out for another biggie coming up in the fall.) Not only was I honored by how many of you read Dinner: A Love Story and took time to enter the contest, but I loved your personal responses to my ridiculously broad question, “What was your favorite part of the book?” Below are the themes that came up again and again:
You loved “The Acknowledgments.” Apparently, there were many many tears when I thanked Andy and the girls. As any writer will tell you: Tears=major victory!
You loved how I gave you “permission” to not attempt family dinner until your youngest is at least 3 years old. Though a reviewer on amazon vehemently disagreed with this sentiment. (All I’d like to say in response to her review — you’ll find it — is: And you wonder why people are overwhelmed by the idea of family dinner?)
You loved “Two Under Two,” and the section on New Parenthood which made you feel, as many of you wrote, “not so alone” and “not so crazy.”
You loved that potholder! Oh man, so do I. I wish I could remember which of the girls made it for us, but instead I’ll just give them both credit.
My favorite of your favorites was, obviously:
“We bought the book as an ebook and hard copy since my husband and I have both been enjoying it so much.”
In all seriousness, thank you for the feedback. I’ve taken the liberty of compiling some additional common themes into a discussion guide for your book group. And also, if your group is more than five people and has any interest in me calling in during the discussion, I’d love to say hi. (Email jenny AT dinneralovestory DOT com with the subject “Book Club.”) In fact, if you decide to make the galette, I might not have any other choice but to invite myself over.
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.
On Friday night at 6:00, we decided to invite two families (total: six grown-ups, six kids) to our house for an impromptu dinner party. Since we only had a little time to prepare, the menu was a no-brainer for us. This is what we served: Meatball sandwiches, grilled steak, salmon salad, chicken pot pie, chicken soup, pasta with a ragu, braised pork loin with cabbage, a 10-minute baked chicken number, homemade rosemary focaccia, some corn and tomatoes, buttered haricot verts, and for dessert, a log of chocolate cookie dough, cut into slices right on the dining room table and served without even being baked.
I’m serious! That was the menu. And it was impromptu. And we didn’t know we were having the party until 6:00, which was right about the time I turned to Andy and said, “I don’t think I am going to eat again until 2012.”
Last week, I’m proud to say, was the photo shoot for the DALS Book. Among other things, this meant having 20 pounds of meat in my basement refrigerator, cooking about 35 dinners in four days (I wish I took a picture of Andy grilling steak at 8:00 AM while drinking his morning coffee), returning from a grocery shop with a receipt that was almost as tall as Abby (I know I don’t have giants for kids, but still), and every night looking at the saran-wrapped results of what we shot and deciding who should partake in the feasting.
There was a small team of people helping out — you’ll officially meet them later — but the shoot took place in my house in between soccer drop-offs and cello rentals and it rocked. I’ve been on many food shoots in my magazine career, but I never get tired of hearing myself say things like “Do you think the green bean is at the wrong angle?” or “Do we need more pork grease on the platter?” But by Friday, I think we were all ready to swear off food for the year — even though we had a veritable hotel buffet in our refrigerator waiting to be devoured. And lucky for us, we have friends who were up to the task. (more…)
…Because Time for Dinner is approximately $600 cheaper than this one written by Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft’s first Chief Technology Officer.
Reason #172: Sweet & Sour Chicken with Plums (page 103)
Reason #63: Because DALS readers have already sent me early reviews proclaiming it “awesome” and “amazing” and “wow, wow, wow”-ish. One wrote “I almost cried when I saw the dedication.” (Intrigued?)
Reason #33: Because if you buy one, then send me an email about how much you adore a particular recipe, I will have no choice but to express my gratitude with a free “Make Dinner Not War” bumper sticker to the first dozen who do so.
Now, granted this might be hard because it involves some knowledge of my cookbook shelves pre-June 10, 2010. But the game is this: Can anyone guess what new cookbook has been added to my kitchen library? I’ll give you a hint. It’s wedged in between Ruth Reichl and Marcella Hazan, a few doors down from Martha Stewart and Bugialli and Bittman, underneath Julia Child and Mario Batali and Jim Lahey…? Give up?
It’s Time for Dinner, the cookbook I co-authored with Pilar Guzman and Alanna Stang while we were all still at Cookie. Although the book doesn’t officially publish until September, I received a real-life, I-can-hold-it-in-my-hands advance copy by FedEx this morning and it’s hard not to be Abby-ish and imagine myself (and my cowriters) on the same shelf as my food heroes. But the thing is — there I am. There we are. Next to Marcella Hazan!
I would love nothing more than to show you every single page in the 272-page playbook, but I’m going to restrain myself and just deliver some good news to all those former Cookie readers who have written to me telling me how much they miss the “So You Have A…” column. There is an entire chapter of SYHAs in the cookbook — 20 ingredients, 3 meal options for each, which means 60 total recipes. (Sixty recipes in just one chapter, btw.) For those of you new to SYHA, the column was one of Cookie‘s most popular pages. It charted recipes visually and the choose-your-own-adventure strategy (“head this way if you have pork; that way if you have pasta”) is tailor-made for parents who come in the door at 6:30, see a big bunch of swiss chard (or sausage or frozen peas or miso paste) in the fridge and need quick inspiration for how they can turn it into dinner. As addicted as I am to my digital recipe generating these days, seeing the flowcharted recipes spread across two pages reminded me how impossible it is to replicate the feeling of opening a book (see? It lies flat!) and getting inspired by lush photographs (thank you, Marcus Nilsson) and clean design (thank you, Number 17). Ok, I’m done now with the shameless self-promotion. Thanks for listening.