Ordinarily, if another parent tells me they put a homecooked meal on the family table every night of the week I'm rolling my eyes in my head thinking they're either lying or bragging. (Frankly, bragging is worse.) But when Jenny Rosenstrach, whose blog I've been reading religiously for the past two years, says it and documents how she does it in a cookbook, I'm all ears.
• Who wrote it: Jenny Rosenstrach
• Who published it: Ecco, an imprint of Harper Collins
• Number of recipes: about 120, mostly entrees. The book and recipes are organized into three sections that reflect phases of Rosenstrach's life: the Just Married phase when she and her husband were establishing kitchen routines and trying out new recipes, the New Parenthood phase when they were in survival mode and feeding themselves often felt like an afterthought and, finally, the Family Dinner phase when her two daughters were old enough that "sanity...return(ed) to the asylum" and having dinner together as a family became a daily ritual that enriched them all.
• Recipes for right now: Zucchini Fries (aka "Green French Fries"), Peanut Butter Noodles, Back Pocket Pasta with Herbs and Bread Crumbs, Pomegranate Pork Loin with Cabbage
• Other highlights: This may be the most down-to-earth and realistic cookbook you'll ever buy. Rosenstrach doesn't downplay the challenges of cooking for a family day in and day out: finding the time and energy, convincing your kids to try new foods, and making it to the market or grocery store in the first place. Alongside her personal interest in food, Rosenstrach honed her approach to cooking as a former food editor for Real Simple and Cookie magazines and her recipes reflect this. She doesn't hold out the promise of super shortcuts or meals with 3 ingredients that you can make in 10 minutes and this isn't "mix a can of mushroom soup with x" cooking. She makes good, wholesome food that is simple and creative, familiar yet interesting. Her style is akin to Mark Bittman (who she cites as a culinary touchstone): non-fussy, flexible and accessible.
Fans and followers of Rosenstrach's blog will recognize some overlap in recipes between the two, but there are plenty of new meals here to try not to mention the convenience of having them all printed and bundled up for you.
What I appreciate most about this book is the tone and voice. Rosenstrach manages to encourage and inspire without sermonizing. She's like a supportive friend eager to share her hard-won wisdom and knowledge with you but who would also totally approve of my family's Friday take-out pizza tradition. She describes her struggles, past and more recent, to pull a good dinner together (with much partnering from her husband Andy) in a way that busy parents/people can relate to. She doesn't offer solutions so much as share the path she's taken and invite the reader to find their own on-ramp to join her. The book reads as a culinary memoir as much as a cookbook and her personal stories are shared with much humor and self-effacement.
• Who would enjoy this book? Primarily, but not exclusively, parents. While most home cooks looking for simple to prepare recipes with a flavor payoff will appreciate these recipes, they are interspersed with Rosenstrach's personal stories about adapting her cooking life to mesh with raising and feeding children and this viewpoint will resonate most strongly with parents.
Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon: Dinner: A Love Story: It all begins at the family table by Jenny Rosenstrach.
Visit the blog that inspired the book: Dinner: A Love Story, the blog
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.
(Image: Carrie McBride)