Marion Cunningham’s death last month has had me thinking about the importance of voice in cookbooks. Her voice was the best combination of brisk and encouraging. Reading her cookbooks filled you with confidence that you could make the recipe at hand. The cookbook of hers that I use most, The Baker’s Dozen Cookbook, offers step-by-step instructions for some of the most daunting tasks in the kitchen (pie crust, meringue, buttercream) and makes them all seem eminently doable. Her cookbooks are not, like Elizabeth David’s or Julia Child’s, ones with which I curl up to read on a foggy day, they are ones that push me into the kitchen to cook.
That’s the welcoming tone in Top Chef finalist Antonia Lofaso’s new The Busy Mom’s Cookbook. Her goal is to get families together for meals, and her unpretentious but satisfying recipes work well to achieve that goal. As she writes in her introduction, “It could’ve been Rice-A-Roni with scrambled eggs, or a big dinner I helped my mom or my dad make. Either way, it was very important to my parents that we all sit togethr and share meals when I was growing up. They demonstrated to me how people learn about family and community through food.” It sounds like somehow Chef Antonia has already read Lisa’s and my book!
There’s not much I need to say about the recipes except that they work and they taste good, from coriander roasted cauliflower to caramel-almond popcorn. There’s a good range of recipes for vegetarian dishes (veggie sushi rolls; quinoa-corn salad; lasagna) and recipes kids can make (lemon crepes; mini frittatas; hummus). I love the movie night section (which offers that popcorn recipe, fondue, smoothies, chicken wings and more) and especially the section titled Multi-Meals, in which each dish (roasted chicken; oven-roasted broccoli; brisket) connects to another dish you can make out of the leftovers. All of it is written in the kind of warm, approachable tone that reminds me of Marion Cunningham’s writing, which is about the highest compliment I can offer.