book giveaway: in the kitchen with melissa clark

THE BIO ON THE BACK FLAP OF MELISSA CLARK’S NEWEST BOOK says she has written 29 in all, and for that feat alone, we should celebrate her today upon the publication of “In the Kitchen With a Good Appetite.” So celebrate we will: with a feast of good stories from the latest cookbook by Clark, a popular New York Times food columnist—and with a chance to win one of the two copies I bought to share with you.

Each of her 150 recipes is delightfully prefaced with what amounts to its provenance: a juicy and sometimes hilarious back story that Clark tells in as simple yet deft a fashion as the style of the dish that follows. I sat right down to chapters like “Better Fried” and “It Tastes Like Chicken” and “My Mother’s Sandwich Theory of Life,” the perfect mix of a good read and a good meal.

For me—a flavor-fearing kid who rinsed most of her entrees off at the sink conveniently positioned halfway between the Garland range and the family dinner table—Clark’s childhood tales are positively hair-raising: Summer vacations were spent touring France with her psychiatrist parents, gourmands determined to eat at every Michelin-starred restaurant there. Worse yet (or to Clark, more thrilling): The family rule was “try everything once” (presumably without running it under the faucet first).  And they meant everything: kidneys and foie gras aspic and raw quail eggs and vacherin, a real stinker among cheeses.

It wasn’t just Melissa’s parents, either, who stirred the epicurean-to-be in the child. There was the matter of Aunt Sandy of Flatbush, too, a real hostess-with-the-mostest, in whose home Melissa’s parents broke their Yom Kippur fast with on sweet and sour fish prepared in what Clark (left) describes as a “shimmering aspic….a pink-and-ecru mosaic.” (Almost Aunt Sandy’s Sweet-and-Sour Salmon is one of the 150 recipes that made the new book’s cut.)

Later, the chefs she has worked with or admired in her food-writing career have added their influences, helping shape the way that Clark cooks: with ease, and with welcoming flavors.

But even early on, Melissa had a discerning young palate: Early iterations of her mother’s zucchini latkes were fed secretly to the family dog—until finally, the young recipe tester determined, mom got it right (a “smidgeon” of rosemary was the secret, and no potato whatsoever, just pure zuke). That final victorious version: page 313.

I love the story of her first date with husband-to-be Daniel, who almost didn’t make it to Date 2 after confessing that he didn’t eat dairy products.

And one of a backyard pig roast with her ex-husband; her hairdresser, and the hairdresser’s husband and their twin toddlers, who persisted in saying “hi piggy, piggy” and “oink, oink” to the dinner-to-be. Oh, dear; no way to transform that meal-gone-wrong into a recipe for publication, no matter how much spin she added. Oven Roasted Pork Butt With Rosemary, Garlic and Black Pepper stands in nicely; no pit-digging required.

But to my ear the recipes that scream “cook me” loudest are Buttery Polenta with Parmesan and Olive Oil-Fried Eggs and Swiss Chard, or Crispy Tofu with Garlicky Peanut Sauce, or Healthy Homemade Cheddar Crisps. Chapter 2, “The Farmer’s Market and Me,” is a story of the author as determined hunter-gatherer, her harvest yielding the kind of cornbread that’s rich with real kernels, or raw kale salad with pecorino and chiles and breadcrumbs, or another salad of broccoli cured in spicy, garlicky toasted sesame dressing. I could go on; but better that you buy a copy (assuming you don’t win one, below).

More Melissa Clark

How to Win a Copy of the Cookbook

YOU KNOW THE ROUTINE: You have to sing (or at least share) for your supper. Comment below to have a chance to win. But here’s this giveaway’s secret ingredient: Tell us a food memory that has stuck with you—good or bad, childhood or later. Melissa and I would love to know.

I’ll pick two winners at random using random [dot] org on Monday, September 13; entries close at midnight on Sunday. Good luck!

no comments
September 7, 2010


  1. Marie says

    I was so sick with mono between my junior and senior years of high school that the doctors wanted to put me into the hospital. My Mom knew I’d freak and just get worse so she convinced them to give her 24 hours to see if I would get better and keep some liquids down. She and my little sister took shifts and got me to sip ice tea every fifteen minutes or so all night. The next morning Mom went to church and intended to take me to the hospital when she got home as she didn’t think she’d gotten enough liquids into me overnight. Well, when she got home, not only did I feel better, but I begged her for a grilled cheese… with Velveeta. I didn’t get it until around 2 in the afternoon after she was sure I could keep it down. I’ve had 53 laps around the sun and that was THE BEST grilled cheese of my life.

  2. Susan Billie Taylor says

    When I was eight years old, my great aunt came into the kitchen, put a piece of beef tenderloin into a cast iron skillet, turned the burner on high, and left the room. There I sat watching it cook until it began to burn and smoke. I was eight. I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t allowed near a stove. But, I had to do something. I found a pot holder, and carried the pan over to the sink, and ran water into it. I put it back on the stove. Where was my aunt? Who does this? Who leaves a small child in a room with the stove on high to cook a steak? Finally, my great aunt enters the kitchen. This is the day where I learned that if you cook,stay in the room.

  3. Becky says

    Whenever we’d go to visit my grandparents my grandfather would celebrate by preparing a steak dinner for us, which was an important gesture for this depression generation man. He would go to the butcher, not the grocery, and pick out some choice steaks then bring them home and proceed to grill everything that is good about a steak out of them. They were the toughest, most tasteless steaks I’ve ever put in my mouth and I HAD to eat them or he would have been completely offended. The memory of that dining room comes with the thought of excruciating periods of chewing and chewing and chewing relieved only by sips of my grandmother’s delicious mint iced tea. That was some heavenly tea.

  4. steve ambrose says


    On our honeymoon in Acapulco… we sampled fresh tomato Salsa for the first time (way back in 1973). My wife and I immediately fell in love with it; but couldn’t figure out the ‘odd’ taste mixed in. Eventually found out it was Cilantro! AND the love affair began…

  5. julia conaghan says

    At my graduation party from high school one of my cousins decided to include his friends from the Olympic Bobsled Team. My Mother who always over prepared every dish for every event, remains upset to this day (30 plus years) that she ran out of German potato salad after these extra six guys ate dinner! Of course it doesn’t help that all of the family still teases her about the fact that 20 pounds of potatoes just wasn’t enough!

  6. says

    I come from Greek origin – my parents were both born there, but to this day I love Greek food with a passion, it’s just a part of me. When I was young though, Greek food was an obscurity at school, and I will never forget the faces and sighs of ‘ewwwww!’ I would get from the kids at school. I bet most of them now would be dieing to have some homemade pasticho or spanakopita!

  7. Karen Kramer says

    I come from a Polish grandmother Helen (just like MS). Only I don’t remember my grandma cooking much. I can only remember three things that I had that came out of her kitchen: pumpkin soup with kluski noodles (yum), mashed potatoes out of a box (which I thought were so much better than my mom’s homemade), and my proudest moment eating brains (with ketchup!)

  8. says

    The smell of my mother’s kitchen as we turned the handle on the Foley food mill and ground apples and cinnamon into the best applesauce in town. Our own trees are full and just about ready to give it up for the sauce…I can’t wait.

  9. Liz says

    My mom used to sir fry slices of beef liver (detested!) with slices of steak (yum) and onions. I never knew for sure if I picked up a slice steak or the liver – too late, you have to eat it! as we were eating Chinese family style.

    Still will not eat liver.

  10. bunkie says

    the smell and taste of hot and gooey chocolate chip cookies, made from scratch, coming out of the oven when arriving home after a daay of school!

  11. Pat says

    The other day I’d sliced a couple plum tomatoes from my CSA to have along with grilled Lebanese bread. Some tomato and cucumber slices were left over and I stuck them in a jar with a splash of vinegar, with the thought to delay rotting. A couple of days later, I dumped the vinegared leftovers in the blender with a chunk of shallot, garlic, hunks of carrot and enough Bubbie’s Bread & Butter Pickle juice to make it a nice slurry. It was elegant cold soup for one…..effortlessly. A picture would reveal color, but it’s hard to texture and it was pleasingly chunky. New food memories are always in process!

  12. Betsey says

    I had always refused to eat tomatoes, but when I was in my mid-thirties a friend gave me a taste of a freshly-picked, organic tomato…..and I was hooked. I now grow several varieties every summer.

  13. Ann Munson says

    Going to my husband’s family farm in Iowa, I would always look forward to his Grandma’s super thin molasses cookies made with lard. Even now when I try to make them with the same recipe they just don’t measure up – must be the farm kitchen that I’m lacking.

  14. susan messinger says

    My husband and two sons just got back from a trip where we flew in from Paris and drove to Rome visiting friends along the way in various places. I had always heard that my Italian friends talk about their mother’s tomato sauce. There was never a recipe – they just put in it what they had on hand. My friend Zena told me no matter how she makes it – it never tastes like her mom’s. Well, we had her mom’s sauce – it was wonderful – you could taste Italy and generations of her family in her sauce. We ate it in a converted “pig house” that Zena now uses as a summer retreat. The pig house was where her grandfather’s pig lived. It was steps away from her grandfather’s old stone house in the Italian Alps. Life dosent get any better than that!

  15. says

    My strongest food memory is connected to my paternal grandmother who was not a good cook by anyone’s measure. But she loved me bountifully, without any doubt ,and she loved to share with me her favorite foods. The day she conspiratorially heated up the contents of a can of the paper wrapped tamales and served them smothered with Hormel chili, then covered with a slice of Velveeta cheese is imprinted in the scrapbook of my mind. It was the kind of food my mother would never have even looked at in the supermarket.

    Every 5 or so years I have to open up a can and see what emotions are triggered…

    Really, really would like the book. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to win it!

  16. Linda says

    When I was a small child, I got pricked by thorns from prickly pear at a family reunion. An elderly family friend took me to his house, gave me M&M’s
    as medicine to make my hand not hurt any more. To this day, mI cannot eat M&M’s.

  17. ayo says

    When I was in College, I had an ice skating (okay, hockey!) accident and broke my jaw. I was on soft foods for a looonnggg time. My grandmother came to visit me in my dinky studio apartment and made an enormous batch of pasta fagioli – a hearty italian pasta and bean soup. She froze it in one-cup containers, and it got me through a cold winter with a satisfying, healthy, (and easy-to-chew!!) comfort food. Now I comfort my kids an grandkids with some modern variations to her recipe.

  18. Mary says

    Food memory, good or bad – OK – this was BAD.

    My mom was quite the cook and hostess and had the grandest parties. She was always trying out new recipes on me, my three sisters and extended family and friends. One 4th of July, she made a mushroom chili from a new recipe. As I recall, the recipe was not easy, she spent a fortune on all the different mushrooms and I think by the time she served it was sorry she had even contemplated that recipe. IT WAS TERRIBLE! And I can eat about anything. TERRIBLE! My aunt and uncle and cousins couldn’t eat it, we all hated it. Well, my mom was so upset about the amount of time, trouble, expense, she had gone to to make this, we had to eat it for a week until it was gone. Lunch and dinner. She actually was mad at us about something else and threatened us to go without dinner, we were thankful to do so – that kinda broke the tension and thankfully she tossed what was left of that miserable Mushroom Chili.

  19. says

    Food memories pop up at the strangest times and almost always lead to thoughts of my Grandmother. I was making yogurt the other day and heating my milk to 200 degrees and keeping it there for 20 minutes when I noticed how it smelled and remembered my Grandmothers Rival Soup that we would beg her to make us every time we went to visit. I had tried to make it just like her several times and mine never tasted quite the same. I suddenly realized that the key is to scald your milk and keep it warm for quite a while to get that wonderful warm milk aroma. Now I have to try again to make her soup and see if I found the secret…patience.

  20. barbara says

    My grandparents used to house sit their good friends’ house for two weeks every summer, to take care of the dog and garden and about a thousand African violets while their friends went to Purdue to teach for 2 weeks. I was elected to go and keep Grandma company (and I learned to take care of the violets) while Grandpa went to work. Besides a very large vegetable garden, there were blueberry bushes, covered with gauzy fabric to keep the birds away from the berries. Oh my goodness, the blueberry pies topped with vanilla ice cream…and Grandma would make summer squash fritters almost every night for dinner, with the tender yellow summer squash, flour, egg, a teeny bit of baking soda, salt and pepper, fry those babies up and top with some butter…mmmmm…..I used to sit on a step stool at the table, making me higher up, by the window in the kitchen looking out at the garden and woods….i can still remember eating those slightly crunchy buttery fritters with moist centers of squash!!

  21. Ann says

    Growing up on a farm in Indiana in the 50’s, generally a gastronomic desert but for the high quality of the ingredients (and my parents’ skill as cooks), the local high point in my mind were the homemade egg noodles — chicken and noodle suppers were a fund-raising staple for the Farm Bureau and the local Methodist church and were wonderful — thick hand-rolled noodles that plumped like dumplings in the wonderful yellow chicken broth made from retired laying hens — free-range being the only kind there was in those days on those farms, at least.

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