Saturday, September 29, 2012
I have kept a book list for nearly 20 years now. I started it in January of 1993 and have kept it up ever since. (In reality, I started it in 1992, but for whatever reason when I decided it was a "real" thing I tossed those random months that didn't go back to January. Argh.) I thought this was impressive, my list of 40, or 60 or 80 books a year. (My annual reading tops out at 116 books in 1999.) Jenny Rosenstrach has me beat though. She has a list of every dinner she's eaten for the last 14 years. Sure, it's not as many years, but it's every day! Every one of them! I can only aspire to such things.
Even without my awe at the Dinner Journal, Dinner: A Love Story: It all begins at the family table is a terrific book. It's one of those mixes of memoir, how-to, self-help and cookbooks that come together in a terrific book. (I had a similar reaction to A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table (my review) and The Family Dinner: Great Ways to Connect with Your Kids, One Meal at a Time (my review)). Rosenstrach's goal is to get the reader to see that making dinner for a family doesn't have to be a painful, heavy obligation. You can learn to love having dinner without being a terrific chef or a stay at home Martha Stewart. There's no guilt to not eating together every night, if little kids need to eat an early dinner, so be it. Once they learn a few manners, everyone can sit together. Mostly. In either case, dinner should be pleasant, and not a chore. The book is full of pictures from the author's actual life, of both the food and her family. Its a nice book, full of text, but not heavy and preachy about what you should and shouldn't been feeding your kids. I completely enjoyed it.
As I was reading Dinner: A Love Story, I marked a few recipes to try later. Imagine my surprise when I went back to count and discovered that I had marked FOURTEEN of them! I tried a few of the ideas from the book early on, with some huge substitutions, but last week was finally the week to try actual recipes. I choose four from the book for my weekly menu (links go to the recipes on her blog):
Chicken with Bacon-y Brussels Sprouts on page 156- Mike and I liked it, the kids were unimpressed. As usual with Brussels Sprouts.
Great- Grandma Turano's Meatballs on page 194. We didn't love the sauce, it was sweeter than we are used to, but the meatballs were terrific and there were no leftovers.
Grandma Jody's Chicken from page 11. I made these with a little oven baked bacon and we had them as sandwiches. These were excellent. Also, we used crushed corn chex cereal for the breading because that's all I had and it seemed close enough to Corn Flakes.
And last, and best, Pork Shoulder Ragu with Pappardelle on page 179. Except we had ours with linguine noodles, cause our grocery stores don't sell pappardelle. This was knock your socks off terrific, and I copied it into my dinner journal (you had to know I'd start one) to make again. This one made the house smell better than I can every remember it smelling. Ever. She suggests this one for low key adult dinner parties, and I can easily see that.
I have a few more marked in the book to try before I take it back to the library (or maybe I'll just use these handy links):
Chicken Curry with Apples
Pomegranate Pork Loin with Cabbage
Yogurt Marinated Grilled Chicken
Mustardy Pork Chops with Apples and Onions
Huh. Looks like my menu for this week is already planned. Good thing my family like apples!
In short, terrific cookbook, and even if I didn't like the food, worth it to read for the writing between the recipes.
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