It's not often that I will tell you I have laughed out loud while reading a cookbook. Occasionally a chuckle, or a snort of derision, but rarely because it is over-the-top had to read it out loud to the hubby "oh my gawd - this is awesome you gotta hear this" funny. I can't say that anymore. Enter into my life Forking Fantastic. (Yes, I snuck a preview copy in when you weren't looking!)
Forking Fantastic is a book about hosting dinner parties. We are not talking about those old fashioned granny parties with the good china, better posture, fancy duds and Miss Manners glaring over your shoulder. This book is about inviting people into your life, cooking for them, getting drunk with them and having a great time while doing it all . The best part is that the authors of Forking Fantastic, Zora O'Niell and Tamara Reynolds are experts at doing just that.
I could go into extended detail about their food pedigree - how they meet while working at Prune and had an intense bonding moment over dinner one night -how they started cooking together, how they invited friends over to eat and eventually became the organizers of a Sunday Night Cooking Club dedicated to food, wine, laughter and song. It sounds pretty damn awesome doesn't it? The good news is - Zora and Tamara (can I be on a first name basis here ladies?) actually tell you all about the history of their love of food, how the party got started and how they keep it going - and they are much better at telling their story than I could ever be.
So the writing - My bout of hysterics were brought about by two factors.
First: this book is brilliantly written. Engaging, witty, naughty, down-to-earth, sassy...ummmm where is that thesaurus? A couple lines that tickeled me.
On vegetarians: "Our vision of vegetarianism, at least, includes a bacon exemption..."
In the intro to Spanish tortilla with saffron: "... Zora learned the technique from a Spaniard, as payback for teaching him the invaluable idiom booty call." (Zora, sweetie, we need to hear more about that! Where should I bring the wine?)
The second reason: These ladies are on the ball. Long time readers will know that once to twice a month I cook for anywhere from 10-20 people and speaking from experience, I can tell these women know how to rock large scale cooking in the home kitchen.
And they don't just talk recipes - they hit on logistics, organization, prep work, where and how to wrangle supplies so you don't break the budget - oh, and how to get people to "feed the kitty" AND bring a bottle of wine to boot. They are willing to tell you why something worked - and why some things things don't or can't or simple won't. The first part of this book is there so you don't have to make their mistakes - and you get to laugh with (yes, with...be nice...) them while they tell you about their misadventures.
Now on to the recipes...
I will confess I have not had the opportunity to test any recipes yet. (The better part of my kitchen is in boxes - you all will find out why in about a month...) I want to - oh boy, how I want to. Zora and Tamara ease you into the game with a few iron clad winners like roast chicken and pot roast. They include side dishes that work with the main course - not just because of the flavors, but logistically as well. At the beginning of each menu there is a action plan that gives you marching orders on how to execute your feast so that you don't rend your garments and lament openly on your front lawn because you were the victim of your own poor planning. After you try a few of their fool proofed menus - there is even more...
Feeling spunky? How about fried chicken for 30 people? Or a whole spit-roasted lamb? No kidding folks - there are even instructions on how to truss up the lamb to the spit so it doesn't descend into the flames of the fire pit you built (once again - instructions included).
When I finally get my kitchen back I am going for the "Fall Means Ham" menu. (A whole on the bone ham is one of the great party foods - there is something primal about bringing out a hunk of roast beast and putting it on the table with a nice big knife...then getting everyone likkered up.) In addition to the ham with a bourbon-brown sugar glaze, the menu includes sides such as potato and turnip casserole, roasted fennel with black olives, bitter green salad and apple spice cake for dessert. Seasonal, affordable and tasty.
Forking Fantastic hasn't been unleashed upon the unsuspecting yet. It will take the world by storm on October 6th, but you can pre-order it on Amazon or from you friendly local book purveyor. It's only $20!! It is cheap at twice the price!! What are you waiting for?!!
In the meantime to get your appetites whetted while you are waiting for your copy to arrive, you can check out the porn on Tamara's blog or watch the YouTube video of them cooking some fantastic looking mole. Oh...and they are going to have a website that will go live on October 6th - so make sure you head over and check it out...