How To Write A Book About Food


It recently occurred to me that I wrote a book.

Yes, almost a year ago my book, “The Amateur Gourmet: How To Shop, Chop and Tablehop Like A Pro (Almost)” was released by Bantam/Dell. The book, which will come out in paperback in the fall, has served me very well in its brief life. It led to readings at the Park Slope and Boca Raton Barnes & Nobles featuring giant posters that said “Meet Adam Roberts” which my mom has preserved like the Dead Sea Scrolls in my old bedroom; it led to meetings at the Food Network which, in turn, led to my job hosting “The FN Dish”; it garnered praise from Frank Bruni on his blog as well as positive reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and The Boston Globe; and, most importantly, it led to loving, thankful e-mails from readers just like yourselves who discovered my book buried beneath William Wegman calendars in the discount bin of your local bookstores and instead of tossing it aside, brought it home, read it, and were inspired to become passionate cooks and eaters. It’s this last bit that makes writing a food book such a rewarding and noble endeavor: with a few flicks of your fingers, you can change lives. So how do you do it?

I’m not here to tell you how to get a book published. You all know everything there is to know about my launch into the publishing world: you’re looking at it. I started a blog, the blog got attention, an agent e-mailed me, a book proposal was drafted, sold and then I got into the nitty gritty of writing a book. And that’s what this essay is about: how to write a book about food.

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The A.G.’s Guide To Equipping Your Kitchen


So you’re getting married, moving into a new house with your betrothed and people are asking: “What should we get you?” You can register at a store like Williams Sonoma or Bed, Bath & Beyond but when it comes to the kitchen you don’t know where to begin.

That’s the very situation my future sister-in-law, Tali, finds herself in now that she’s marrying my brother. She recently asked me what she should register for and I said: “Tali, why would I tell you that over the phone when I can blog about it for all the world!!!” There was an uncomfortable silence and she said, “Ok, that sounds good.” What follows, then, is my advice to Tali and anyone else who needs to equip their kitchens.

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How To Judge A Casserole Contest


When I gave up a career in the law for a career as a food writer, who knew I’d wind up a judge?

Well that’s exactly what happened last week when I went to Brooklyn Label to co-judge The Third Annual Casserole Party, the brainchild of casserole enthusiast Emily Farris. I was a second choice judge: the first choice, the godmother of foodblogging (and friend of Emily’s) Julie Powell couldn’t do it and so Julie wrote me (our first contact) and asked if I would replace her. I said “sure” and that’s how I ended up on the panel you see above, along with Ruth Graham, senior editor at Domino, and Miriam Garron, a sous chef at The Food Network: a casserole court to be reckoned with. [Note: these pictures are pulled from Emily’s Flickr page.]

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How To Make Your Food Blog Popular


I received a touching e-mail this weekend from a reader who finds herself in the same situation I was in three and a half years ago: namely, she’s a third year law student, she hates the law, and she wants to be a writer. She’s just started a food blog and wants to know how to make it popular. “How did you become so widely read?” she asked.

I told her I would answer the question on the blog, and it’ll probably echo many of the points I’ve made previously in this post and this one. But it’s always good to re-explore a subject, and especially after this weekend’s coverage in The Wall Street Journal, it’s as good a time as any to offer advice. And so, without further ado, here’s my take on how to make your food blog popular.

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How To Make Bland Pasta Better


The pasta you see above may call to you and cause you to eat your computer screen, but don’t be fooled. Before I put that pasta through Amateur Gourmet Pasta Rehab, it was a bland, boring mess. Two ingredients came from the farmer’s market: fresh corn and basil. The corn, as I should’ve guessed this time of year, wasn’t very sweet (even though it was advertised as sweet corn). The recipe (which you can read here) came from Michael Chiarello who is that suave-looking guy on the Food Network. I don’t blame him for this pasta being bland, but–strangely enough–I do blame him for the Arab-Israeli conflict. Go figure.

So I’ve had this experience before: the pasta’s in the pot boiling away (in properly salted water) and you’re making the sauce and you taste the sauce and it tastes pretty excellent and then you take the pasta out just before it’s done to finish cooking in the sauce (an essential step, I think, so the pasta and sauce are united as one) and then once you’ve turned the heat up and let the liquid all evaporate (when the pasta and sauce are united as one, you should be able to drag a wooden spoon across the bottom of the saute pan and just see the bottom of the pan) you taste and it’s pretty bland. That’s what happened with this pasta. Some might’ve fallen on their knees and screamed out, “Why!! Why, God, why!?” and then broke out into “Why God Why” from Miss Saigon but not me. Here’s what you do to make bland pasta better:

1. Add salt. Well, duh. But this is a tricky step. At this point, there should already be salt in the pasta (from the cooking water) and in the sauce itself because, before you added the pasta, you properly salted it. So if you add too much salt here, there’s no going back. So a light sprinkling, a stir and taste: better? Don’t overdo it, especially if you’re going to add cheese.

2. Grate lots of Parmesan or Pecorino into a bowl. I say into a bowl because if you do it directly over the pasta, it’ll quickly melt and you’ll forget how much you added. So I grate a big bowl full of cheese and then scatter the cheese over the pasta while it’s still in the pan, stir it through and taste. That’s key for pasta rehab: taste taste taste after each step! How does it taste now with the cheese? Less bland? Need more salt? After steps 1 and 2, salinity should not be an issue. The rest of the steps will just help with bumping up the flavor.

3. Grind some pepper over it.

4. Sprinkle some red pepper flakes over it.

5. Give it a drizzle of olive oil. Yes, that last step may seem strange but it’s a VERY Italian thing to do as I’ve seen Mario do it on TV, I’ve read Marcella Hazan’s instructions to do that and then, of course, Dominic DeMarco does it to the pizza at Di Fara. The cold olive oil provides an uncooked fruity olive oil finish to what should be, by now, a very delicious pasta.

Stir that through and taste again. How did we do? Use any of the ingredients in steps 1 through 5 to fix whatever problems your pasta has. If it still tastes bland, you must’ve done something really wrong. Maybe pasta isn’t your thing. Maybe you should take up knitting?

Stella Eats Meat

We were going to call this post “The Sausage Whore” (and Stella approved it) but I think “Stella Eats Meat” is more to the point. For you see Stella has been a vegetarian for twelve years. TWELVE. And last night at John’s Pizza on Bleecker (home of some of the city’s best pizza) I said to Stella, “If you eat a piece of sausage I’ll pay for your dinner.” I was joking. But Stella said, “Will you really?” and I said, “Sure.” I’m always happy to turn a vegetarian into a meat eater: I think we meat eating Jews would call that a mitzvah. What follows is video footage of Stella going face to face with pizza sausage in the hopes of a free meal:

More Blogging Advice

I hadn’t realized this until just now but if you Google “How To Start A Food Blog” the #1 result is the post I wrote on August 17, 2005 about, appropriately, how to start a food blog. Since more than a year has passed since that post, I have an archive in my brain of things I’d like to amend to it: further tips and pointers that I think could help food bloggers who want to get more out of their food blogging experience. So what follows is a sort of free-flowing supplement to the original essay: some of the points will be re-echoed, many points will be new–all of the points will be issues I feel strongly about.

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70 Steps To Foie Gras Torchon


1. Receive a free lobe of foie gras from Mirepoix USA.

2. Post about it on your website.

3. Consider your options. (Option 1: Go as Foie Gras Head to that Halloween party; Option 2: Sear it and serve it; Option 3: Make a torchon from The French Laundry Cookbook.)

4. Decide on Option Two.

5. Meet Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune and ask her what she would do with a lobe of foie gras if she received one in the mail. Hear her say, “I’d make the recipe that appeared last summer in Saveur where you cure it in salt.” [This is the recipe. I think the article’s by her sister.]

6. Decide to make that recipe.

7. Consult Meg who has also received a lobe of foie gras. Let her convince you not to make that recipe, but to make Option 3: the torchon from The French Laundry cookbook. She says, “It’s totally worth it.” She says she’s going to make torchon with hers.

8. Decide to make that recipe.

9. Challenge her to a Torchon Tournament.

9. Begin the process.

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