Mrs. Santa's Book Bag
Dinner, a Love Storyby Jenny Rosenstrach (HarperCollins, 336 pp., $29.99)
Rosenstrach, a former editor at Real Simple and Cookie magazines, founded her blog, Dinner, a Love Story, with the intention of being the reader's "dinner doula," providing encouragement to harried parents (or anyone, really) who find themselves at a loss when facing the demands of feeding a busy family. This book is an extension of the blog, a hybrid memoir/cookbook detailing Rosenstrach's earliest dinner memories – the challah with white raisins her father would bring home at the end of a workday – and experiments with giving her children quinoa and kale (her kids won't eat it, either). It is easy to identify with Rosenstrach, whose commitment to developing a career she loves has frequently come into painful tension with the urge to be more available to her growing daughters. As such, the recipes in Dinner, a Love Story are meant to help families walk that tightrope a little more comfortably without having to rely on a diet of Happy Meals. Though the recipes appeal to the adults in a relatively finicky household, they consistently fail the "yuck" test with the under-10 set. This is not necessarily the fault of the recipes – the Apple "Gazette" is hard to beat, and I'm certain that the chicken soup with orzo will become a cold-weather staple in our house – but home cooks with high expectations of converting their children to the joys of scratch-made alternatives to processed crapola might find themselves disappointed.
Rosenstrach dispenses her wisdom without judgment; those who employ shortcuts in the kitchen will find no authorial side-eye in these pages. In fact, Rosenstrach blithely calls for canned black beans and frozen pie crust in her recipes, because the point is not to kill yourself trying to realize the Platonic ideal of turkey chili, but rather to press pause on a frenetic day in order to gather at the table and eat good food, together.