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Oct 28, 2010
Writing a book isn't for sissies. Certainly not a 932-page, 1,400-recipe cookbook with New York Times as part of its title. But that's what Amanda Hesser did, while working full time for the Times and giving birth to twins. Oh, and she also found time to play herself in the movie Julie & Julia and to create a crowdsourced cookbook through the site food52, which she founded with fellow cook and writer Merrill Stubbs.
To write the Character Approved New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century, published just this week by W.W. Norton & Company, Hesser used an older approach to crowdsourcing. She asked Times readers to name their favorite recipes published in the newspaper since it started covering food in the 1850s. She spent the next six years poring over the resulting flood of emails, letters, and tattered clipped newsprint recipes, then testing and updating those recipes with Stubbs's tireless assistance.
When recipes include a Roman Punch served during the Rutherford B. Hayes presidency, Eggs Suffragette from 1909, or even Craig Claiborne classics from the 1960s, it might be all too easy to create a tome heavy on history and light on actual practical recipes for the way we cook today. Hesser walked that tightrope beautifully. Saveur magazine says, "The book strikes a careful balance between upholding an archival mission and delivering solid recipes. No matter how you prefer to cook and eat, you'll find a lot to like inside."
To help provide that balance, the book includes plenty of recipes by current leading chefs and food writers too, including Thomas Keller, Eric Ripert, Nigella Lawson, David Chang, Mark Bittman, Alice Waters, and Jamie Oliver. It also includes Hesser's witty, entertaining voice breathing life into every page. Flip through this book and you'll see why Food & Wine magazine listed Hesser as one of their 40 Big Food Thinkers 40 and Under. And you'll know that The Essential New York Times Cookbook is an essential addition to your kitchen bookshelf.
[Image: Sarah Shatz]