Jennie Cook is tall. Along with her height, she brings a smile that makes an entrance. And with that entrance, she brings food. Incredible food.
Now all of us can make incredible food, too, with Who Wants Seconds? Sociable Suppers for Vegans, Omnivores & Everyone In Between (Prospect Park Books).
From reading her website, her blog, and now the introduction to her book, it’s easy to conclude (especially since she states it) that Jennie wants to save the world—one party at a time.
For decades, Jennie has taught kids about food, challenging them to create dishes with whatever produce is available in their neighborhood (“…sometimes the liquor store is your only source of fresh food.”). She obsesses about sustainability (“we recycle like crazy”) and admits that “25 years of piling trash into land fills with paper plates and plastic eat ware fills us with intense guilt.”
Jennie is dedicated that her company, Jenny Cooks Catering, keep their carbon footprint to a minimum—”We see ourselves as stewards of the earth, and try to walk as softly as possible.”
Tied into this quest to save Mother Earth is Cook’s belief that the more we party, the more we live a quality life. Throwing dinner parties—whether you’re vegan, omnivore or anything in between—is a way to “ignite passion and inspire action…ignite joy…(and) spread love.”
Though David Kiang’s photographs dot the interior, primarily the cookbook is all Jennie—from the cover drawing, watercolor washes on the title page, pen and ink doodles, stencils, collages, and hand drawn designs. The pages are matte, rather than glossy or pearl, which lends to an earthy, almost homemade feel. Though do not misunderstand, we are not implying raw or amateurish, as Prospect Park Books’ publications are consistently of the highest grade and are some of the most beautiful in quality and design that we’ve seen.
Thumbing through Who Wants Seconds? reminds us of our well-thumbed, stained, notation-ridden, and favorite recipes highlighted Moosewood Cookbook, circa 1979. As with Molly Katzen’s hand-lettered style, Jennie’s personality fills every page, her “voice” sincere, humorous, and encouraging. She’s also got a bit of Emily Post about her. Her section “Feeding the Family” humorously but seriously instructs parents to get their children into the kitchen “as soon as they can push a chair to the sink,” “let them set the table with their own flair,” “trust them with knives and fire,” and don’t offer them separate, special meals—”No special foods. That’s crazy.”
Jennie insists that it takes ten times to develop a taste, and maybe a liking, for food, so “don’t let you kids give up…insist on one bite.” Finally, of course, “teach your kids table manners.” All these instructions come with bullet points (actually red arrows) while along the inside margin is a knife (it appears to be a fruit knife) with the words “spread love” in capitals. Read into this what you like.
Who Wants Seconds? is practical, as in “Practical Advice for Making Soup”; fun to read, such as “don’t forget the most important element for success—serve really delicious cake”; and filled with Jennie’s personal maxims like “Be not simply good, be good for something.”
It’s like cooking with a very knowledgable, patient, supportive friend who will never mince words, but also keeps you laughing, keeps you trying, and wants you to succeed and, most of all, enjoy.
Who Wants Seconds? with Author Jennie Cook
Book discussion and signing
Friday, Oct. 18th, 7 p.m.
Books available for purchase at time of event for $24.95
Vroman’s, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena 91101
For complete info, visit VromansBookstore.com
OrganicAuthority.com has included Who Wants Seconds? in their Top 11 Organic, Vegan and Healthy Cookbooks for Fall list, along with the aforementioned Molly Katzen (The Heart of the Plate) and the divine Alice Waters (The Art of Simple Food II). They proclaim that Jennie’s book is “an inspirational collection of easy, sustainable and healthy recipes.”
Editor’s Note: Check Tuesday’s “Mangiamo” for Jennie’s Cashew Cream Lasagna with Spinach and Mushrooms recipe.