About the Book: I’d heard of Dinner: A Love Story before ordering a copy but admittedly had spent zero time on Jenny Rosenstrach’s blog nor was I aware that this was a cookbook that wasn’t just pictures of food with directions on how to cook it, but a true story woven within its pages. After reading Bread & Wine earlier this spring, I felt inspired to pick this cookbook up and I’m so glad I did! I found myself totally immersed in Jenny’s life story, like remembering the days her mom went back to school and how her dad made his “signature” dish—breaded chicken cutlets—every night for the next five years. Or how she and her husband started to explore cooking in their tiny New York City apartment in their early 20s. And, perhaps most of all (given the season of life I’m in), I enjoyed reading about how Jenny managed to keep dinner time sacred in her home after the addition of her two daughters, born barely a year apart.
As I read this book, I found myself exclaiming out loud several times, “Yes!” or nodding my head in agreement with something Jenny had written (like the passage I excerpted below). Because you see, somewhere between my late 20s and the age I am now (31), I’ve become obsessed with preserving the dinner hour in my own home. I’m grateful that I was raised in a house where my mother (who stayed at home with all four of her kids) had dinner on the table every night without fail. Sometimes I was a brat about what she served (I recall a year where I felt like we ate nothing but casseroles and as an 8-year-old, tuna noodle casserole instantly made me stick out my tongue). But for the most part, my mom has been and always will be the best cook I’ve ever met. The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve realized food is my mother’s love language — she bakes the best pies, she volunteers with funeral dinners at our church and her potato salad is legendary. So I’m lucky that I had her in the kitchen as the foundation for my love of cooking.
So now, as a working mom, I subscribe to the work philosophy that Jenny wrote about here in DALS: I never want a job that keeps me from being able to put dinner on the table for my family. I’ve become a big believer in the philosophy that if more people could just return to cooking AT HOME, with REAL INGREDIENTS, our nation would go a long way to healing its health crisis. (Apparently the incredible Michael Pollan’s new book is all about this very subject — I shared this article of his on Facebook earlier this week). There is something beautiful in the routine of coming together as a family over food and I so look forward to having those moments with Dean and any future children Nick and I might have in the years to come.
Passage(s) I Want to Remember: I was starting to shape a theory about dinner. I found that if I was eating well, there was a good chance that I was living well, too. I found that when I prioritized dinner, a lot of other things seemed to fall into place: We worked more efficiently …, we had a dedicated time and place to unload whatever was annoying us about work and everything else, and we spent less money by cooking our own food, which meant we never felt guilty about treating ourselves to dinner out on the weekend. And perhaps most important, the simple act of carving out the ritual—a delicious homemade ritual—gave every day purpose and meaning, no matter what else was going on in our lives.
Recipes I Loved: What’s fun about cooking—really cooking—is exploring recipes and learning new techniques you’d never tried before. Which is how I came to discover the beauty of an egg wash on the dough of Jenny’s YUMMY chicken pot pie (who knew it took a bit of egg white to make a crust look SO golden-y delicious?!) and also how I decided to make Jenny’s recipe from the book for curried chicken with apples. I LOVE exploring ethnic cuisine (even though it totally intimidates me; I blogged about my first attempt at making Indian food a few years ago).
Would I Recommend? Here’s who I think this book would be perfect for: New brides (this would make a WONDERFUL shower gift), families with little kids who enjoy cooking (because Jenny is a wonderful example of how you can still make dinner (with a variety of courses) a priority despite all the families out there who may insist you have to live off chicken nuggets until your kid is a teenager); foodies (duh!); and anyone curious about a cookbook that, while it IS a cookbook, reads just as much like a wonderful memoir as a collection of delicious dishes. You can do yourself a favor first and spend some time on Jenny’s blog if you want …I didn’t have to, but in the time since, I’ve become obsessed with it and find it to be one of my daily reads!