Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Dinner: A Love Story, by Jenny Rosenstrach

The food-blog-turned-book trend began with Julie and Julia, which was an inventive, well-written, and hilarious book. For me, subsequent books have generally fallen short of the standard set by Julie Powell (I've also read Cleaving, reviewed on this blog in January 2010, so I know even Julie Powell can't attain that standard with every effort). Dinner: A Love Story also falls a bit short, though I recognize that I'm not really the target audience for the book and younger moms might find it very helpful.

Jenny Rosenstrach was a magazine editor dedicated to having her family eat dinner together (since 1998, she has kept a diary of what she has eaten for dinner every night--did I mention she has done this since 1998?). Then she was thrown out of work in late 2009 by the folding of her magazine (Cookie). She decided to start a blog devoted to the concept of the family dinner ( and in 2012 published this book based, in part, on the blog. Like other blogs-to-books that are not strictly cookbooks, the content of the blog has been expanded, in this case creating a book that is part memoir, part parenting book, and part cookbook. 

The book is divided into three sections: "Rituals, Relationships, Repertoires," in which she describes the early years of her marriage when she and husband Andy were developing their dinner tradition and their cooking skills; "New Parenthood," an honest discussion of the chaos of the years when her children were infants/toddlers and she and Andy began to refine the dinner tradition and their parenting skills; and "Family Dinner," focusing on more recent years when the dinner tradition has become more manageable and rewarding. In each section, she includes recipes for dishes that were staples during that phase of her life, as well as tips for cooking, parenting, and establishing a dinner tradition.

I realized fairly early in the book that it didn't have a lot of relevance to a 62-year-old who lives alone and cooks mostly for herself, but Rosenstrach's writing has a charm that kept me progressing through the book (it's a quick read, so that also influenced me). I'd be interested to hear whether parents with kids at home find the book helpful.

Favorite passage:
In our house, debuting something new at the table--no matter how subtly new it may be--is always more about trying the dish than it is about loving it. In fact, just not hating something is considered a victory, a moment worthy of celebration and positive reinforcement. ("Good for you! You didn't spit it out!")

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