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!

Categoriesedible plants
  1. Candace says:

    I grew up in rural Texas the daughter of a rancher so we ate a lot of beef. My mother was an adventurous cook and was always trying out exotic recipes that would require driving to Dallas for some ingredients from the “foreign” stores (early 60’s and 70’s) . Every year at Christmas my father and I would collude to try and come up with a request to challenge her for the next year. She would research for the next year and always find a recipe and locate sources for the ingredients and surprise us. All of our extended family would be there for the big unveiling and dinner each year. She could cook anything beautifully. Even though she came up with some great meals, my favorites were still smothered steak and mashed potatoes. Great memories.

  2. Claire says:

    As a child growing up in rural Ireland (now live in Woodstock, NY) we only ever ate what was in season. Blackberries were gathered from the hedge rows in “blackberry season” and mushrooms hunted down in the fields during “mushroom season” – both happened to be the same season: late August/September – ah, the bounty! Farmers never objected to people crossing their fields so long as gates were closed behind you – no “no trespassing signs” – indeed I wasn’t really aware that the countryside belonged to anyone in particular. One spring my oldest sister came home from London where she was training to be a nurse; while home she helped my mother out with shopping and meal prep etc and one day she served us “bought” mushrooms with our dinner (about three each and tiny – I’d never seen button mushrooms before). I shall never forget the consternation, the visceral shock, of having mushrooms out of season – we were uniformly suspicious of them but ate them nevertheless. All agreed it is better to wait for the proper season to get the proper amount of mushrooms, the proper taste properly wild and fresh.

  3. Taylor says:

    Smordampete Nypoteter (butter-steamed new potatoes) was the only Norwegian dish my mom knew how to make (and would actually eat). She learned the recipe from my grandmother, and taught it to us when we were young. I remember feeling so “Norwegian” speaking those foreign words and eating buttery, dilly potatoes.

  4. Kris says:

    My favorite food memory is when I was about 8 years old and I picked raspberries at a vacant lot across from our house. My grandmother was visiting and she magically transformed the raspberries into jam! I was so amazed, and this memory probably led to me enjoying canning and making jams, jellies, chutneys and all today.

  5. My childhood food memories all involve blueberries and my maternal grandparents. My grandfather would take us berry picking. He was very good at it and fast and my brother and sister and I were very slow and ate too many. To this day if I close my eyes I can see my grandfather with a bucket, held up by his belt, hands moving quickly to fill the bucket with delicious blueberries. My grandmother and I would make pies, cake and jam, year after year. Together we cooked lots of things but it’s the blueberries I will always remember

  6. Magie says:

    I was around 2 or 3 when my dear mom made me octupus in olive oil and butter, sauteed gently and then served with angelhair and marinara. The boys wouldn’t come into the kitchen. Been hooked ever since. People that deep-fry calamari or anything that should be tender just didn’t have my cool momma.

  7. Karen says:

    My mom’s potato salad. When I’d graduated from college and moved into my first apartment, I called her to get the recipe. She said there was none, that she did it all by taste. Neither my sister nor I have ever been able to capture the particular flavor, so now I don’t even try, making my own version instead, but remembering with great clarity and fondness my mothers. And her chicken and dumplings. And her “fricadellen,” which I’m not even sure is a real word, but the one she used for a ground meat patty that used up all the leftovers and end pieces of roasts that were in the refigerator at the end of the week. I still remember her old metal meat grinder that clamped onto the counter.

  8. Lo says:

    One of my favorite food memories goes back to when I was around nine years old enjoying grapefruit on a quiet Brooklyn evening with my mother. Lost in conversation, and taking care not to break the long outer peels as we carved around each grapefruit, we lost track of time. We found we had eaten almost five pounds of grapefruit and laughed at the peels that formed into tall coiling piles before us.

    Never to let anything go to waste, my mother took out a big pot, threw in the peels with sugar and water as she recalled a candy recipe from her childhood in Puerto Rico. I can still smell the scent of sweet grapefruit that filled our house, and still taste the chewy citrus candy I instantly fell in love with and attempt to make with my own kids today.

    Thank you for offering up this contest and a chance to relive and share one of the many sweet memories I have of my departed mother.

  9. Mary says:

    Grammy Davis’s banana cream pudding. She passed away a long time ago and my brothers and cousins and I are still trying to find the recipe written down somewhere. Nothing compares (to the memory) so far.

  10. Phyllis says:

    My brother is one of the best bakers ever!!! His cinnamon-raisin bread is so good! He lived with us for a while and there was nothing sweeter than coming home to that sweet sell of fresly-baked bread and my brother’s smile, knowing that he had “done good”!!♥

  11. Anne Lyndon Peck says:

    I was born in the South, but have spent much of my life in New England. I was living in Boston and one of my college friends from North Carolina moved to town. She nearly got into a fist fight with a stock boy at the local grocery store when she asked him for “pimiento cheese” and he handed her a block of flavored cheddar cheese. “Pimiento cheese is not a kind of cheese, it’s a CHEESE SPREAD” she huffed. I showed her how to make it at home in the food processor, which takes about two minutes.

  12. Sally says:

    I hated Mac and Cheese as a kid, hated it!! But for one of my 3 siblings it was a favorite. A birthday custom in our house was the birthday honoree could select the dinner menu. My, did I work hard trying to convince my sister that fired chicken was a better choice than Mac & Cheese, I never won. To this day I will not eat the stuff.

  13. Joan says:

    My memory goes back almost 53 years. I was pregnant, just, and my husband and I were driving back to Long Island from a year living in Pueblo, Colorado. We stopped overnight in Pennsylvania to go to a fair in Pennsylvania dutch country and I HAD to have a piece of shoo-fly pie. It was the last piece of shoo-fly pie I ever ate, but the memory of the nausea has never left me. Molasses and the first trimester are not a good mix.

  14. Elizabeth Brunner says:

    Food memory: My family used to eat a 1970s suburban version of curry that began with cream of mushroom soup. On the lazy susan at center of our dining table, there would be a wonderful assortment of vegetables, fruits, and nuts that we added to the curry sauce. Celery, carrots, peanuts, coconut, raisins, pineapple, mushrooms, onions, and more. It seemed like the most exotic meal ever in a town that did not have any authentic Indian restaurants at the time.

  15. Blythe says:

    In my 20s, I was an exchange student in Paris. A woman there had taken me under her wing and, being as I was a little homesick, asked me if she could make me a “traditional” American dinner. I didn’t have a real good grasp of the language, so I tried to describe to her “poulet crispe” – which I thought might mean fried chicken. She busted up laughing so hard, tears were streaming down her face, and described to me that “crispe” meant dead – as in rigor mortis – with little feet sticking up in the air. So she made me fried chicken, which we ate in American fashion, meaning, barbarically with our hands, along with a glass of fine wine, of course, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Best dead chicken I ever ate.

  16. Corrina says:

    My favorite memory is making a traditional Norwegian cake with freshly whipped cream and
    strawberries with my grandmother. That always made summer special.

  17. eileen doria linson says:

    One of many sweet food memories was for my parents 50th wedding anniversary party at my sisters house in upstate New York. All of us kids came in for the party-3 of us sisters from California-one from Florida-and the remaining brother and sister already lived in New York. We all decided to contribute our own speciality dishes for this event. Growing up in the 1950’s with six of us kids our Mom made most everything from scratch and we all pretty much have followed suite. All of us kids worked with and around each other in my sisters kitchen, cooking, talking, laughing, sharing stories and tips about food, and tasting each others dishes to make sure everything was perfect! We found that even though we all live so far apart from each other, we still had a common thread of cooking and making food just like our mother did. And of course the party was a sucess!

  18. Ryan says:

    My strongest memories consist of my grandfather gathering shaggy manes off the ditches in remote north-west BC while we were camping, and then frying them up with a little butter, and plenty of garlic and chive for camp appies. Strong earthy flavours that continue to endure and develop further as time goes on….

  19. teri says:

    My favorite food when I was growing up was my grandma’s niffla. It was a German concoction of flour, salt and water. She cooked them in a frying pan with sauerkraut. It was so good. I wish I had paid attention to how to make it.

  20. Margaret says:


    Before announcing the winners, some hellos to first-time commenters are in order:

    Welcome to Margaret and Tom, Michelle, Ozark Homesteader, Martha, Terry, Mandy, Linda, Mary, Jennifer, Kris, Candace, Claire, Ryan, Eileen, Blythe. Glad to have you with us!

    And the winner are…Jennifer King (blueberry picking memories!) and Mary (mashed potatoes!).

    I actually think I am the winner because you all entertained and delighted me so deeply with these amazing tales of food memories. Thank you all, as ever.

  21. Michele Turns says:

    My favorite memory is my mom’s fried chicken fresh from the cast iron skillet! She skinned it andsoaked overnight in buttermilk! Then this fabulous crispy chicken was served with skillet gravey, mashed potaoes and fresh green beans!

  22. Gardengal says:

    I grew up in rural Iowa where fresh food was a way of life. Even things that grew in ditches were fair game. As it just so happened, there was a mulberry tree about 1/4 mile down the road from our farmhouse growing in a ditch. When the berries were ripe, my mom would send us kids (dressed in our oldest clothes… because mulberry stains would not come out no matter how much bleach was used) with buckets in hand to pick berries.

    About an hour later, we would make it back to the house. There, mom would empty our buckets into a sink of cold water and give the berries a quick wash. From there she made mulberry jelly, mulberry pies, and if we had enough berries on hand… mulberry ice cream! Mulberries truly are a summertime taste of Iowa.

  23. Kae in WNC says:

    My favorite summer supper as a kid was when mama made fried okra, fried squash, green beans, corn on the cob (which I cut off for this meal), tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers. She served them all separately but I mixed them all together on my plate and dug in. I could eat two plates full.

  24. Deb says:

    Garlic……anything with garlic is wonderful. I have a batch of garlic knots rising on the counter right now and a batch of garlic herb butter on the stove to toss them in! Gonna be a wonderful dinner!

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