Dinner: A Love Story: It all begins at the family table Hardcover – Jun 5 2012
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Read an excerpt from Dinner: A Love Story.
“Jenny Rosenstrach writes about food and family with such a marvelous spirit of warmth, friendship and-most importantly-pragmatism that you simply can’t help but fall in love with her. As long as people keep having kids, jobs, marriages and appetites, this cookbook is destined to remain a classic.” (Elizabeth Gilbert, Bestselling author of EAT, PRAY, LOVE)
“Part cookbook, part survival guide, Dinner: A Love Story has all of Jenny’s favorite meal ideas, suppertime tips, and cook’s secrets (read: cocktails) that help make dinner fun again” (Everyday Food)
“[Rosenstrach] entertains with her wonderful writing skills, persuades by sharing her successful strategies, and educates via research and relayed experience… this book shines.” (Library Journal)
“A humorous and encouraging book for readers who believe in the importance of family dinnertime.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“I can’t decide which I like more—reading this book or cooking from it. Jenny is that rare writer who can literally make you laugh and cry—and most importantly, she inspires you to stop just talking about dinner and start making it.” (Adam Rapoport, Editor in Chief, Bon Appétit)
“Rosenstrach emphasizes her strong belief that the family who eats together stays together and combines stories and recipes in this essential collection.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Dinner 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.” (Samantha Bee, Most Senior Correspondent, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and bestselling author of I Know I Am But What Are You?)
“Warm, funny, packed with recipes and photos, and reassuringly nonjudgmental, it will help inspire the most faint-hearted of cooks to pre-heat the oven.” (Gretchen Rubin, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Happiness Project)
“The family dinner, that forum for manners, taste-making, storytelling, and memorable arguments, is no small subject. Jenny Rosenstrach tackles it with gusto as she shares her fascinating story of learning to feed her family....[N]ot only a wonderful read, but a book studded with excellent recipes and tips.” (Amanda Hesser, co-founder of FOOD52.com)
“…compelling…more than just another cookbook. We love Rosenstrach because her writing is natural, honest, and smart” (Bon Appétit)
“At first glance, it’s a cookbook, based on a blog, by Jenny Rosenstrach, a magazine columnist and editor who lives outside New York City. But really, it’s a memoir, and also a how-to manual: a smart, pragmatic, warm and thoughtful guide…” (Wired.com)
From the Back Cover
Jenny Rosenstrach, and her husband, Andy, regularly, some might say pathologically, cook dinner for their family every night. Even when they work long days. Even when their kids' schedules pull them in eighteen different directions. They are not superhuman. They are not from another planet.
With simple strategies and common sense, Jenny figured out how to break down dinner—the food, the timing, the anxiety, from prep to cleanup—so that her family could enjoy good food, time to unwind, and simply be together.
Using the same straight-up, inspiring voice that readers of her award-winning blog, Dinner: A Love Story, have come to count on, Jenny never judges and never preaches. Every meal she dishes up is a real meal, one that has been cooked and eaten and enjoyed at least a half dozen times by someone in Jenny's house. With inspiration and game plans for any home cook at any level, Dinner: A Love Story is as much for the novice who doesn't know where to start as it is for the gourmand who doesn't know how to start over when she finds herself feeding an intractable toddler or for the person who never thought about home-cooked meals until he or she became a parent. This book is, in fact, for anyone interested in learning how to make a meal to be shared with someone they love, and about how so many good, happy things happen when we do.See all Product Description
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I easily made a whole week's meal plan using recipes from it. The book is mostly recipes for main dishes- if you are looking for lots of dessert recipes or sides, I think you will be disappointed. The recipes are organized into three sections:
1) recipes that are great when you don't have kids but have more time to craft a delicious meal
2) recipes that are suitable when you are just barely surviving with tiny kids and the idea of organized dinner seems to be a laughable pipe dream
3) recipes that are better when the kids are older and you have a little more time back, and the idea of everyone eating around the table seems doable.
Each section has lots of stories and anecdotes that really add to the loveliness and warmth of this book. The third section also has lots of tips and strategies that the author has put into place to avoid being a short-order cook for her children (one of whom is very picky). None of these tips involve hiding vegetables. The author makes it clear that this is what works for her (one suggestion is assembly-line meals where kids can add what they want), but we're all doing what we can do to get by.
Unfortunately, not all the recipes I have tried have been winners. When evaluating a recipe, I like to follow it fairly closely initially. I am mostly cooking out of the second section of the book - the barely making it section - because that is where I am right now. Lazy Bolognese was a huge fail at my house- we usually use a different recipe that really isn't any harder but comes out much better. The pasta with caramelized onions and spinach was pretty good to me, but my husband and toddler daughter weren't nuts about it. The sausages with potatoes, onions, and apples was very successful. I don't even like potatoes that much, and I LOVED the potato, onion, and apple mixture. Downside about that recipe is that it takes a while to cook - not a lot of hands-on time, but waiting time, so if you are trying to really throw something on the table pretty quickly, it might not be for that kind of night. We do sausage a lot at our house, and it is definitely faster to just throw it in the oven and then boil potatoes or "bake" them in the microwave. Does it taste as good as the potatoes/apples/onions? No, it does not. But it is fast. The sausage, kale, and white bean stew was INCREDIBLE. That said, there are other recipes that I still want to try - like the Swedish Meatballs, the pork shoulder ragu, and the pizza dough recipe. The recipes definitely lend themselves to improvisation and adjustment.
I am not sure if all the recipes are on the website - some of them definitely are.
Who will like this cookbook:
- People with small children who feel totally alone and frustrated in their attempts to eat something approximating a real dinner. I love the precision and delicious reliability of Ina Garten's cookbooks, but this is so not where I am at this point right now.
- People who eat meat and/or animal products - there are vegetarian recipes and some veganish recipes,
- People who eat a dairy-free diet (many of the recipes are easily adaptable to be dairy-free, not the case with some of my other favorite cookbooks like Ina Garten's or the Pioneer Woman)
- People who like the blog
- People who believe strongly in the family eating meals together
- People who need new ideas for dinner
Who probably won't like this cookbook:
- People without kids who are uninterested in reading stories about trying to eat dinner with kids or who feel frustrated at the standard definition of family as parents + kids. In the author's defense, this is what her family looks like, and the book is written from her perspective. She never says that all families should or do look this way, but I know people who are very sensitive to this kind of thing. So if this is you, you might want to try a different cookbook.
- People who like standard "meat and three" kinds of meals. I think my husband is in this category, which is why the recipes are less of a hit than I would have hoped.
- Vegans (again, you will find some appropriate recipes, but most of the recipes have some kind of animal product in it).
- People who like to rely on processed and packaged foods when cooking
- People who do a lot of crockpot cooking (you could adapt some recipes for the crockpot, but I don't think the author mentions using a crockpot once in the book)
- People who want dessert recipes
Purely subjective, but...I was not a fan of her parenting advice or attitude. I was never a reader of her blog - if I was, perhaps I would have known whether I liked her style of writing. By the end of this book, the tone really started to irritate me. It may not be an issue for you, but you should know that this is a cookbook with a lot of the writer's voice and opinions in it.
As other reviewers have mentioned, the family dining advice is sort of controversial. The author encourages families to serve two separate meals - one for the adults and one for the kids, until the youngest reaches the age of 3. Aside from the fact that for most people, this would not actually make dinnertime easier, this is pretty much counter to all childhood nutritional advice I've ever read. Of course, as with anything, you can take other people's parenting advice with a grain of salt, but it bothered me how strongly she pushes this.
Lastly, but most importantly - the food! The recipes are a pretty decent collection of the basics with some more exotic ideas interspersed throughout. They are very accessible and straightforward. I didn't find the recipes especially healthy or unhealthy - there's a nice mix of splurge meals and everyday workhorse type meals. If you are starting from scratch in cooking for your family and don't have your "back pocket recipes", this could be a very useful addition to your collection. For me, as a moderately experienced cook before kids, with a good recipe collection of the basics (breaded chicken, red sauce, risottos, etc.) I wasn't as interested in the recipes, because they were for the most part variations of what I already had. That being said, I found a couple keepers and I do think the cookbook is worth a read - I would just check it out from the library first to make sure it's your style. Hope this helps.
What I liked:
*She enjoys food and cooking. This is not a "since-I-have-to-cook" book.
*The food writing is crisp, clear, and inviting.
*She cooks every night even during the years she worked a long day with a commute. Impressive!
*She loves her husband and enjoys his input and company in the kitchen. This was HUGE for me.
*The dishes range in complexity and price point and reflect the real-life kitchen of a foodie. I appreciated the recipes that were twists on standard family fare especially.
*She is opinionated. I don't agree with some of her opinions, but I enjoy a writer that that doesn't apologize, candy coat, or backpedal.
What I didn't:
* Her parenting advice and anecdotes are as prominent as the recipes for much of the book. She portrays herself and her husband as a victim of her children's erratic sleep and eating habits and chronicles their various contortions to accommodate them. For a proactive parent, this was a frustrating read.
*Making dinner every night seemed to be her personal litmus test for being a good wife and mom. I realized about halfway through the book that a sit-down home cooked dinner is the end goal, not the means to an end.
*I would have loved a more extensive pantry list.
*Wow, there are a LOT of seafood recipes.
This was a book I expected to love given the title and publisher blurbs. She kept her focus laser-sharp on family dinner. The recipes were a bit more adventurous and healthy than typical family fare, which I liked. She also portrays and teaches the give and take between recipes and freestyle cooking technique as well as any author I've read. For those reasons, this would make a great gift as a cookbook for a new bride or a mom wanting to transition to home cooked meals.
This book fell flat for me as a cookbook memoir because of the sheer volume of parenting advice that assumes children will upend the entire family for years with their sleeping and eating habits. It gave the book a split personality in both content and writing style. You can proactively parent, just like you proactively make dinner. If she had chosen to present their parenting style as a choice with both good and bad consequences (like she did her choice to pursue a writing career full time after having kids), I wouldn't have knocked a star off my review.