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Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage: New Essay Book Examines Ties Between Food and Family

Posted By on Thu, Mar 28, 2013 at 11:25 AM

click to enlarge COVER DESIGN BY DANIEL URBAN-BROWN.
  • Cover design by Daniel Urban-Brown.

Right after she'd finished co-editing her first book, Mama PhD, Caroline Grant, the editor of Literary Mama.com, got an email from her friend Lisa Harper. Harper had an idea for another book she wanted Grant to work on with her -- one about food. Grant probably would have liked a little break before jumping back into another manuscript, but she agreed to meet Harper at the Children's Playground in Golden Gate Park) each bringing their two children (all under six) to discuss the idea.

"We talked about how so much of our conversation about food is about food rules -- what we should be eating and what's healthy," Grant said. "It creates a lot of anxiety, and we were talking about how we could have a much more compelling conversation if we talk about what food means in our family."

See also: Scavenger Hunt and $3 Cookbooks at the Library's Big Book Sale

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So Harper and Grant went to work on The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage: True Tales of Food, Family and How We Learn to Eat. They asked various writers they knew to contribute, but they didn't go searching for stories on, say, food allergies or body image.

"It wasn't like we had this list of issues," Grant said. "It was important to us that it not be an issue book, but it be more universal with specific individual stories."

And that's what they ended up with along with recipes -- a woman cooking for a Polish construction crew, the man who craves candy in spite of how it's ruining his teeth, a brother making chicken Milanese with his takeout-ordering sister after her weight loss surgery.

Grant and Harper will do a reading at Omnivore Books on Tuesday, April 2 from 6 to 7 p.m. Elizabeth Crane will read from her essay, "It Takes a Market," about finding community and delicious peaches at the famers market; Greg Dicum from "Vegging Out" on being a vegan and wondering what he should feed his child; and Lisa McNamara from "Pie-Eyed" about learning to bake with a housekeeper when her mother is sick. McNamara will bring a pie she's made to share, making it our kind of reading.

Grant says after having worked on the book for so long and trading hundreds of emails with the contributors, she loves hearing the authors' voices reading their work. She and Harper have already done several readings and recently were guests on a radio show, where Grant says listeners called in with stories ranging from wondering how a family member's new seafood allergy might affect the yearly vacation to the Jersey Shore and the cioppino they all eat, to a son of a Holocaust survivor talking about grocery shopping with his dad.

"It's gotten a great reception," Grant says about the book. "People love talking about food."


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Emily Wilson

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