The last cookbook you’ll ever need

If you get the Spencer Daily Reporter, you’ll also find this review in today’s Entertainment section. If you don’t, you’ll also find it by clicking this link.

Dinner: A Love Story, by Jenny Rosenstrach. Ecco, 298 pp. $27.99

Until this point, I have had one related book that I refer to in my mind constantly when the general subject of “food” comes up. I consider Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Food Rules to be one book in this case. And, until this point, that’s the only book I’ve ever needed. Pollan doesn’t give a single recipe in his pages, but he focuses on the quality of food and how to give your stomach, and your overall well-being, the best possible chance in a world of what he refers to as “food-like product.”

Enter Jenny Rosenstrach and her latest, Dinner: A Love Story. Where Pollan writes for the foodie who needs a little more information on where his hamburger is actually from, Rosenstrach writes for the busy parent, the one who would die happy if her daughter would please just try that one bite of salmon on her plate.

I savored every page of this book. It’s filled with recipes and anecdotes that have gotten her through the first years of marriage, the infamous Two Under Two stage, and the aftermath when her children are old enough to ask for Shrimp Curry and to tell you that under no circumstance will they eat the avocado.

This book is bound like a scrapbook, and for good reason. The stories add to Rosenstrach’s self-proclaimed career path as “dinner doula”, the one who gives advice on how to prepare your post-work self for coming home with a dinner yet to prepare (tip: set a pot of water on the stove in the morning, because “it’s the law that you will always end up needing a pot of boiling water for dinner.”).

The book is divided into three sections: Rituals, Relationships, Repertoires (or,  how we taught ourselves to cook); New Parenthood (and the family dinner vow); and Family Dinner (or, the years the angels began to sing). Each of these sections is focused to help others who are in that stage of life. For example, in “New Parenthood”, under the subheading “Marketing”, is the following statement:

Like most parents, we figured out pretty quickly that so much of launching a new food in the marketplace, aka the family dinner table, depends on how you spin it. I doubt our kids would have gone within a mile of cauliflower had we not first introduced it to them as ‘white broccoli.’

The start of this book actually began over a decade ago, when Rosenstrach started logging each night’s meal in a “dinner diary.” Over the years she’s continued this tradition, even going back to notice trends over certain times in her life (“After noticing how many one-word meal descriptions I was recording in the diary–Cutlets, Pasta, Pizza–I decided to break the cycle … )

This is a book for everyone, to read, cover to cover, and then to revisit from time to time when in need of a good dinner for entertaining, or a good cocktail to prepare if dinner is taking a little longer than expected.

Dinner: A Love Story, is available in hardcover. Also check out Rosenstrach in the blog that started it all.

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About katepadilla

I write for the Spencer Daily Reporter in Spencer, Iowa. I keep blogs lifebythebooks, Save Me, San Francisco, and Beauty and Beast Buy a House. I'm also hard at work writing a short story collection inspired by the music of Train.

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