Two days after the election, I wrote an angst-ridden post sharing my fears about what a Trump victory may mean for hungry kids in this country. (Spoiler: likely nothing good.) I mentioned in passing that the election’s surprise outcome had so derailed me, my planned blogging schedule – including a cookbook review – had fallen by the wayside.
But now that I’ve regained my footing a bit, I can’t think of a more timely post than a review of that cookbook – Jenny Rosenstrach’s new How to Celebrate Everything: Recipes and Rituals for Birthdays, Holidays, Family Dinners and Every Day In Between.
A book devoted to family celebrations feels especially relevant as we gear up for Thanksgiving, and Rosenstrach is at the ready with a gorgeous Herb-Roasted Turkey With Gravy and a fresh Cranberry Relish that looks so good, I’m debating whether to substitute it for my own this year. But it’s the book’s underlying warmth and generosity of spirit that makes How to Celebrate Everything feel so essential right now, when a lot of us are still feeling bruised or unmoored, and when families that don’t necessarily share the same political views are about to gather around the table.
That might seem like a tall order for a cookbook, but How to Celebrate Everything is far more than a compilation of recipes. (Though, given Rosenstrach’s impressive track record with my own family, I’d happily settle for just her recipes.) The book is really a family memoir told through food, and it also delivers an urgent message to its readers: Don’t let precious time with your own family slip by in a haze of errands and homework and carpool, and instead mark all the rituals that, in Rosentrach’s words, “infuse our days with meaning.”
But if by “rituals” you’re just thinking of the big stuff – Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays – you’re missing Rosentrach’s larger point. It’s as much the little stuff – sleepover breakfasts, hanging out with neighborhood families at the school bus stop – that make up the fabric of our lives, and she asks us to consider those moments equally worthy of notice and celebration. So you’ll find recipes to enjoy while watching a big event on TV as a family, for coming home after a walk to the farmer’s market, and even one to assuage (if not cure) middle school angst and painful trips to the orthodontist’s office.
The underlying message of How to Celebrate Everything is a serious one, but rest assured that Rosenstrach brings to this book the same light touch and humor that’s made her blog, Dinner, A Love Story, so deservedly popular. Circling back to that Thanksgiving cranberry relish, for example, her description of her mom’s initial reaction to the idea of eating uncooked cranberries actually made me laugh out loud: “. . . my mom was skeptical. (Then again, she’s skeptical of most new things, including, but definitely not limited to: syrup that’s not Aunt Jemima, designer labels, machines that fly, text messaging, farmer’s markets, miso.)” 🙂
When you finish reading How to Celebrate Everything (and it’s the kind of cookbook you actually will want to read straight through), you’ll feel like you know Rosenstrach’s family as well as your own, and you’ll also see in a new light all the little rituals and favorite foods that make your family the unique and special unit that it is.
Certainly not a bad way to head into a holiday devoted to gratitude . . . .
And now I’m so pleased to offer TLT readers a chance to win one free copy of How to Celebrate Everything! Just leave a comment below by Friday, November 25, 2016 at 6:00pm CST to enter the drawing. You can tell me why you’d like to win or you can just say hi. I’ll use a random number generator after the comment period closes to select the winner, and if you comment twice I’ll use the number of your first comment to enter you in the drawing. I’ll email you directly if you win and also announce the winner on TLT’s Facebook page. This offer is open to U.S. residents only.
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