Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Next Big Thing: Vegetables!

My friend Cheryl Tan roped me into something fun. It's a little like a chain letter, except without that creepy don't-break-the-chain hex pressure, and with a much different goal: to give people an excuse to talk about their next project. It's the Next Big Thing Blog Hop. Cheryl answered questions about her next book, tagged me, and now here I go. At the end of the post I'll tag some of my favorite cookbook authors who have projects in various stages, and then soon you can read what they say about them, and so on. Read, rinse, repeat. 

What's the title (or working title) of your next book?

Where did the idea for it come from? 

When promoting my previous book, "Serve Yourself," one of the most common questions I got at events was a variation on, "How much of it is vegetarian?" I counted up, and the answer was almost two-thirds, which made me realize that I was moving in that direction, particularly in my home cooking. I also realized that vegetarians might be more interested in single-serving recipes even if they don't live alone, because they might be the only vegetarian in the house.

What genre does it fall under?

It's a cookbook, silly! Seriously, within cooking, I'd say the larger genre is quick home cooking, but there has been a mini-genre of cooking-for-one books building over the years, and it certainly falls under that.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition of the book?

The thousands of times I've been asked this question. Sigh. I used to always say Robert Downey Jr. Then my hair turned salt and pepper and his did not (or maybe it did; only his hairdresser knows for sure, as they say). Now, hmm: Anderson Cooper! I know he's not an actor, but that hair! A boy can dream. As for who would play the vegetables, I'd rather not say. That would be mean. Whoever they are, though, they'd have big shoes (er, bowls?) to fill, because photographer Matt Armendariz made those vegetables (and dishes) look incredible.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of the book?

It's strategies, recipes, and inspiration for the single cook who wants to eat interesting, vegetable-centric meals. (I resist saying "vegetarian," because I think too many vegetarian concepts give short shrift to the actual vegetables. Uh-oh. That was four sentences. Sorry. Oops, six.)

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It was sold by the fabulous Sally Ekus at the fabulous Lisa Ekus Group to the fabulous Ten Speed Press, which published the fabulous "Serve Yourself." Fabulousness all around.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About nine months. I was lucky to be living in southern Maine at the homestead of my sister Rebekah and brother-in-law Peter, where they're trying to grow as much of their food as possible. I had a beautiful perch on the third floor overlooking the lower garden.

What other books would you compare to yours in this genre?

The biggest fish in this pond is Judith Jones, whose "The Pleasures of Cooking for One" set the standard. But I've also loved books in this mini-genre by Deborah Madison ("What We Eat When We Eat Alone"), Joyce Goldstein ("Solo Suppers"), Suzanne Pirret ("The Pleasure is All Mine") and others. 

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My biggest inspiration, really, is my sister Rebekah. She was the first vegetarian I knew, and as a kid I thought some aspects of that were annoying -- like, why couldn't I bring meat into her house when we visited? And where were the Ho-Hos? -- but when I found my own cooking and, then, eating habits turning in that direction, she was an amazing resource. What she and Peter have done with their land is awe-inspiring already, so getting the chance to work on vegetables from the ground up was the best thing I could have hoped for. I've always loved cooking with her; now, more than ever.

What else about your book might pique readers' interest?

There's a lot more writing in this one than the last. I opine in longish essays on the conundrum of mock meat; my past, present, and hopefully future with vegetarian dining, good and bad; the struggles of a small truck farmer; the death of a community garden; and more. They add a lot of texture and richness to the book, and hopefully will make it appeal even to those who don't plan to cook a thing.


Now, for The Next Big Thing's next big blog posts, see what's in the works from some of my favorite cookbook authors. It was easy to pick a few, since I saw so many at the Roger Smith Cookbook Conference in New York recently. Hop on over to here what's coming up from:

Dave Joachim, author or coauthor of a million (OK, just a few dozen) great cookbooks, including "A Man, A Can, A Plan" and, most recently, "Rustic Italian" with Marc Vetri.

Rozanne Gold, queen of the stripped-down recipe and author of many books, most recently "Radically Simple."

Jeff Potter, author of the fantastic food-science book "Cooking for Geeks."

Sandra Gutierrez, author of "The (Delectable) New Southern-Latino Table." (Confession: The parenthetical is mine.)


  1. Looking forward to your book ~ I've enjoyed the posts from Maine as you write the book!

  2. A perfect title as well as cover photo to show off your singular way with vegetables!