On January 25, 2016 the library's cookbook club met for dinner with Jenny Rosenstrach's, Dinner: A Love Story published Harper Collins in 2012.
When I first noticed this cookbook, it stood out from the crowd with its patchwork cover and diary turned cookbook theme. The photographs were sweet depictions of daily family life that didn't aim for perfection, but rather like the diary theme, were merely a record of lives being lived.
The end pages are textured photos of burlap followed by a photo of the family eating in their brightly lit dining room framed by the dark wall of their living room, which is then followed by a picture of a child's homemade woven potholder with smudges of dirt on the multi-hued threads. From the beginning without even reading a page, you can tell it's the author's sweet ode to her family (her husband and two daughters).
Jenny Rosenstrach might not be a famous chef, but she is well versed in food writing. She has worked as an editor for over 10 years at Cookie and Real Simple. She's published essays and articles in Bon Appetit, Martha Stewart Living, The New York Times Book Review, Whole Living, and she and her husband Andy Ward write "The Providers" column for Bon Appetit.
Dinner: A Love Story started with her blog, dinneralovestory.com. The site is a treasure trove of family recipes and ideas to get a busy person motivated to cook a simple meal for loved ones. Jenny describes her book and the reason she started keeping a diary in this book trailer.
While reading the cookbook (and there is much to read in addition to the recipes themselves) you are taken on a journey from Jenny as a single person working and living in New York City and dating her future husband to Jenny as a married-working-mother-of-two who learned how to break down dinner and deconstruct the elements of food, timing, anxiety, prep/cleanup to allow for more of their limited evening time together.
The book is split into three parts. Part 1 spans the years of 1998-2001 where Jenny credits this time to learning how to cook. Part 2 spans 2002-2006 when she and Andy became new parents and began their family dinner journey. Part 3 spans 2006-Present when their girls were old enough and they were practiced at family dinner enough, that things start to get easier.
In addition to recipes, tips on deconstructing dinner, dealing with a picky eater, cocktail recipes to keep the adults sane and other fun bits there is also a three page list of cookbooks on Jenny's actual shelf at home (photo included) some that have held up in her repertoire since she started seriously cooking in 1998 and others that she's added along the way (p.47-49).
Something you won't find in this book is dessert. There are only three dessert recipes--two cookie recipes and an apple galette. While the title does imply this is a dinner cookbook, what to eat after dinner is not included and I feel this should be disclosed in this review as it was noted in our club meeting. In addition, this is a very meat heavy cookbook, so a vegetarian would probably prefer to look somewhere else (although it would still be an enjoyable read if you have children).
Club Rating: 3.3
"Relatively simple and quick to make. So good for weeknights. Would make a nice baby shower gift." -M.H
"Nice and easy! Geared to a novice cook, cook-o-phobes, and young families." - E.T.
"I thought the recipes were simple and especially good for newcomers to cooking." -O.H.
"Would have liked a few more photos of food, less personal stories." -T.H.
8 out of 11 club members would recommend this cookbook to a friend. 2 out of 11 club members were familiar with Jenny's work. One club member knew about her blog and the other had seen her column in Bon Appetit and read her second book, Dinner: The Playbook published in 2014. It is a 30-day plan for mastering the art of the family meal.
Jenny lives in Westchester County, New York with her husband Andy Ward and their two daughters Phoebe and Abby. Selected Recipes
- chicken soup with orzo p. 290
- belgian beef stew p. 265
- old-fashioned coleslaw p.242
- lazy bolognese p. 98
- spinach, tomato, and feta frittata p. 117
- baked chicken in creamy tomato sauce p. 267
- apricot mustard baked chicken p. 132
- kale, sausage, and white bean stew p. 250
- devika's roti p. 146
- chicken pot pie with sweet potatoes p. 33
- greek style shrimp with feta p. 70
- swedish meatballs p. 197
- mexican chocolate icebox cookies p. 72
- apple galette p.263