Chicken zucchini

Gourmandistan has temporarily relocated to Italy, and we have been a little remiss in making contributions to our blog while we lap up wine, antipasti and atmosphere. To ease your angst over our absence we’ve given our good friend (and Michelle’s college chum) Susan Thomsen a turn. Since 2005, Susan has written about children’s books at her delightful blog, Chicken Spaghetti, which she named after a favorite Southern casserole. (She’s originally from Jackson, Mississippi.) Once upon a time Susan worked at The New Yorker in the Goings On About Town section, and later reviewed New York theater for an online city guide. Susan lives in Connecticut with her husband, 11-year-old son, and various pets, including two orange tabby cats, a chicken, and a garter snake named Snakey. If you’ve got kids, like kids or even know any kids, you’d be wise to add Chicken Spaghetti to your RSS feed!

Zucchini blossoms and plums (though not prune plums) at Padua, Italy market

I was thrilled when Michelle asked me to guest blog while she and Steve are in Italy. Then I began to fret. What should I post about? Deborah Madison’s recipe for sautéed zucchini, maybe? Zucchini was my most bountiful plant over the summer; it was the only one the tomato/okra/green-bean-eating varmints avoided. I even saw a woodchuck sitting in (and savoring) a container-planting of parsley. The zucchini recipe is kinda simple, though: sauté the garlic and zucchini, toss with lemon zest, salt, pepper, and herbs. That’s about it.

I am better at reading about food than growing it, as much as I’d like to think otherwise. So, here are some books I like about food.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (HarperCollins, 2007), by Barbara Kingsolver. The author and her family spend a year eating only locally raised food and growing a good bit of it themselves. While their industriousness tired me out, I was fascinated. One day I aim to be as earnest and as busy as those darn Kingsolvers.

Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer (Penguin, 2009), by Novella Carpenter. She lives frugally and raises vegetables and animals in the heart of Oakland, CA. I wanted to try dumpster-diving after finishing this one. Urban farms, community gardens, and permaculture are some of my favorite subjects to read about. Written with a good sense of humor.

Jewish Cooking in America (Knopf, 1994), by Joan Nathan. As an Episcopalian-Unitarian-whatevs who married into a Jewish family, I love this cookbook! Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is next week, and I’ll be making “My Favorite Brisket (Not Too Gedempte Fleysch)” (page 175). The meat cooks slowly in red wine over a bed of chopped onions, making a wonderful base for gravy. Or you could just drink the pan drippings. Leftovers go fast.

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen (Knopf, 1988), by Laurie Colwin. A memoir with recipes, set in New York City, and one of my all-time favorite books about cooking. Eggplants, coffee, a mysterious Caribbean fruitcake, and making meals in a tiny kitchen are a few of the topics I remember with fondness.

P.S., since I saw Italian prune plums in the grocery store this week, I direct you to the Original Plum Torte recipe at the New York Times. Delicious! Prune plums are good because they’re not too sloppy.

Sue’s okra, before the animals ate it


  1. Grazie mille, Sue, for a wonderful post! I love all those books, too. Ages ago (I guess in the late ’80s or early ’90s?) I even made the mysterious black fruitcake in the Colwin book. I remember weeks and weeks that the fruit sat in my buffet in the dining room!

  2. Been a fan of Chicken Spaghetti since 2007. Fun to see Susan’s fave foodie books — wholly agree with the Colwin book (LOVE), and now I’ve got a few more to add to my must-read list. So nice to visit your blog, Michelle :).

  3. Susie,
    I read the Kingsolver book a while back on your recommendation. I was partly envious, partly apalled and partly pissed off–it was only because of their independent financial status that they could live they way they did. I struggle with the locavore thing. At least we have good local beer!

  4. Pingback: A little less inspiration, a little pork action | Gourmandistan

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