(Also known as The Book That Includes My First Recipe Published Outside This Blog)
Molly O’Neill’s latest masterpiece, One Big Table, has 600 recipes from the nation’s best home cooks, farmers, fishermen, pit-masters, and chefs. It is one big book, hard-bound, heavy; almost as if it is physically bursting with recipes gathered from all over America.
I hesitate to call it a recipe book because it is more, much more, than that. It’s really a collection of stories from families and small communities, people who do real home-cooking, with recipes passed on from generation to generation, from different ethnicities and cultures, cultivated deep from their hearts and hands and bellies.
Molly O’Neill, former New York Times food columnist and award-winning writer, started this project ten (ten!) years ago in a quest to put together a celebration of American cooking, literally a food portrait of a nation in one book. When you read it, you get so engrossed in each person’s story, about his or her background, and you get a glimpse into how each recipe came about. There are many pictures and interesting tidbits sprinkled all over, and it is the sort of book that makes you feel warm and happy (and hungry).
Of course my very favorite recipe is mine! I’m featured on Page 502:
There are a lot of other recipes in here that I cannot wait to try (the other 599). I’ve actually had my copy of the book for about a month now but still haven’t finished reading all the pages. I love curling up in the sofa with it, with a mug of hot chocolate by my side, because comfort is what One Big Table seems to exude. It is very heart-warming to read about the many culturally-diverse and All-American dishes, and the stories behind it all.
I was extremely lucky to very briefly intern for Molly last year, and I have seen the work first hand that went into each and every single recipe. The research, fact-checking, recipe-testing, picture-gathering, interviews, more interviews, miles traveled, phone calls, follow-ups, and many more. There is blood, sweat and tears in this book, but more than that, there is a lifetime’s worth of memories and a whole lot of LOVE.
Molly writes beautifully, and she makes you feel a connection to each recipe. While it is a huge collection, each story is easy to read, with a sweet and nostalgic quality to each. I am a sucker for food and nostalgia combined, and this book epitomizes that perfectly.
If you don’t have a copy yet, I encourage you to get one! It will be the perfect gift for any home cook. And in the spirit of the holidays and all the cooking and baking we’ve all been doing, I’d like to leave you with a quote from Molly regarding Christmas cookies:
“When it comes to cookies, Christmas means “special,” and “family” and “eat it while you can!”
Enjoy the food, memories, and celebrations at your families’ tables this year!