Mom Blogger: Jenny Rosenstrach of Dinner: A Love Story
The cookbook author and blogger on her mission to help parents put food on the table
Blogger and author Jenny Rosenstrach has a special relationship with dinner. She has been keeping a diary of every single thing she has eaten for dinner since February 22, 1998, initially to plan out her weekly meals and then to record family meals and memories. In March 2010 this food editor—who has worked for several magazines and websites including Bon Appetit, Martha Stewart Living, Cookie, and Real Simple—started her blog Dinner: A Love Story to help parents “figure out how to get dinner on the table.” These recipes, strategies, and tips have also become a book by the same name. Here, Rosenstrach talks to Elizabeth Street about blogging, food, and the importance of ending the day with a shared meal. —Ludovica Pellicioli
Do you find blogging to be a necessary creative outlet? How is it satisfying to you?
It’s incredibly satisfying, especially after being in magazines for so long. The novelty of having an idea, writing it up, then publishing it—all in the course of an hour—is something that will never wear off. That and the “mine, all mine,” thing.
How would you describe your relationship with your readers?
Every blogger probably feels this way, but I think I have the greatest readers out there. They are nice to me, of course, but they are also nice to each other. A lot of times I can’t check in on my comments until the end of the day, but my readers step in and answer other readers' comments for me. They write me direct emails all the time and I actually feel like I know a few of them like old friends. It helps me write better when I know my audience. I think to myself, Oh I know Amanda in San Francisco is going to like this salmon with brussel sprouts because it’s a classic quick working parent weeknight meal; or I think, I wonder if Peggy in Omaha will be too alienated by the soft-shell crabs. The instant feedback I hear from them makes me write in a more targeted way.
What are some sites or blogs that you visit everyday?
New York Times and Bon Appetit (The BA Blogs), which is such a fun mix of blog entries, inspiring photographs, and restaurant advice and columns from the magazine. I also love inchmark (all about the creative side of family life), Momfilter, Cup of Jo, Food52, Mindful Momma, Mossy, DesignMom, and Devil & Egg.
Your mission is to inspire families to eat together. Why is this so important?
I can only answer this question in a personal way. I make the point in my book and constantly on my blog that I have no business telling people how to run their family lives. There are all kinds of ways parents can connect with their kids, but in my house, we’ve found that the best place to do this is at the family dinner table. When we prioritize dinner, I find that a lot of other things fall into place: We work more efficiently to get out of the office on time; we spend less money because cooking homemade food is cheaper than takeout; and, of course, we are eating well, which, in my mind, usually translates to living well.
If someone is new to your blog, which recipe should they start with?
That would have to be my husband’s pork ragù. We call it "dinner party in a pot;" for a while, I think it was the only thing we were serving for guests—because it’s so easy! You brown a pork shoulder (or loin) then braise it forever in red wine and tomatoes. By the time you're ready to serve it to guests (who you can actually pay attention to since all the prep work's been done in advance), the meat practically melts off the bone into the most delicious ragù. Serve it over pasta with a nice vinegary salad and you’ve got yourself a meal.
You’re now a cookbook author too! Tell us about Dinner: A Love Story.
The book is a natural extension of the blog. It covers family dinner through all phases of a family’s life. So it begins in Phase 1, when Andy and I first got married and were teaching ourselves how to cook. Then it moves into new parenthood when we both had full-time jobs and barely had time to tie our shoes. And finally, the last part of the book regards the phase we’re in now, which is an actual sit-down meal where everyone is eating the same thing and occasionally we even get the kids to converse with us.
What are your favorite cookbooks?
That’s a hard one since I have so many. I think in terms of sheer practicality, no cookbooks have been more influential on me than the basics: How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman, and Great Food Fast by the editors of Everyday Food. But then there’s The Classic Italian Cookbook by Marcella Hazan, which contains two now seminal family recipes (milk-braised pork loin and her signature Bolognese) and was the first cookbook to teach us the most important rule of good cooking: use a minimal amount of ingredients—just make sure those ingredients are high-quality.