Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Algonquin Books. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.
Hey, keep your finger off that mouse—I mean it. I know what you're thinking: "I don't cook, the men I know don't cook, I'm not a foodie, how did this book make it to Imprint Friday?" Well give me a moment to explain. John Donohue's Man with a Pan is a whole lot more than recipes and a bunch of guys talking about their love of cooking. I'll tell you all about the book, but first take a second to read the publisher's summary . . . then stick with me to learn some more.
Look who’s making dinner! Twenty-one of our favorite writers and chefs expound upon the joys—and perils—of feeding their families.What you might miss from the publisher's summary is that there is more than just foodie content here. For example, Matt Greenberg contributes an autobiographical screenplay on writing and grilling, complete with a not-so-subtle nod to The Shining ("Honey I think it's just great you decided to take this job as a winter caretaker for an isolated hotel resort with a questionable history") and sharp comments from his seven-year-old son ("Maybe you should stick to microwaving").
Mario Batali’s kids gobble up monkfish liver and foie gras. Peter Kaminsky’s youngest daughter won’t eat anything at all. Mark Bittman reveals the four stages of learning to cook. Stephen King offers tips about what to cook when you don’t feel like cooking. And Jim Harrison shows how good food and wine trump expensive cars and houses.
This book celebrates those who toil behind the stove, trying to nourish and please. Their tales are accompanied by more than sixty family-tested recipes, time-saving tips, and cookbook recommendations, as well as New Yorker cartoons. Plus there are interviews with homestyle heroes from all across America—a fireman in Brooklyn, a football coach in Atlanta, and a bond trader in Los Angeles, among others.
What emerges is a book not just about food but about our changing families. It offers a newfound community for any man who proudly dons an apron and inspiration for those who have yet to pick up the spatula.
One feature I really like is "On the Shelf," in which the men featured in Man with a Pan reveal what's on their kitchen bookshelves. I'll let you in on a couple of sneak peeks: I was thrilled to see that Mario Batali and I have some of the same books, including "anything and everything by Paula Wolfert." And who couldn't love the fact that author Sean Wilsey places The Hobbit right next to Jamie Oliver's The Return of the Naked Chef? This makes sense because, let's face it, Hobbits are pretty much always dreaming of their next meal.
Of course, each contributor includes one or several recipes, and it's fun to see what, say, the editor at large of the Oxford English Dictionary cooks. Let me simply note that I'm a lazy bum compared to Jesse Scheidlower.
The heart of the book, though, are the essays and stories. And the writing is at once personal, funny, thoughtful, and unputdownable. Here is a sampling of opening lines:
- Jack Hitt: "I became a man, one might argue, the night I was completely unmanned by a cup of celery leaves."
- Manny Howard: "To secure the love of a beautiful woman, I loaded a dead pig into the back of my late-model Chevy Blazer."
- Mohammed Naseehu: "Until recently, most Ghanaian houses were built without a kitchen."
- Josh Lomask: "Cooking is like building a house."
This book was spotlighted as part of both my Imprint Fridays feature and my Get to know Algonquin Books feature. For more information about the imprint, please read Executive Editor Chuck Adams's introductory letter, posted here on January 7, 2011.