When I picked up Alyssa Shelasky's book Apron Anxiety, I really wasn't expecting much at all. To be honest, I was mostly looking for an easy read for my subway ride to and from work, and ended up really connecting with a lot of the storyline. I read it in a matter of days - with a mix of smiles, anger and understanding.
The book is part memoir, part food tale, part recipes but ultimately a story about falling in love with food. Some passages might make some food-lovers cringe - Alyssa is a self proclaimed simple eater with generally no desire for fussy, 'adventurous' foods, but her love affair with cooking is endearing and relatable for anyone who uses time in the kitchen as a moment of peace from the outside world. And the cherry on the cake? Shelasky shares candid details about her relationship with Top Chef hottie Spike Mendelsohn - the one contestant I was rooting for week after week on tv. The book is honest, witty and well-written. On a personal note, the ins and out of living with a chef as described by Alyssa really hit home for me, and the details were surprisingly similar to my own personal life living with a busy doctor.
I got to ask Alyssa a few questions about her book, so read on for her answers and details about how to win a copy of Apron Anxiety!
Was writing the book therapeutic for you? Was it difficult to be so brutally honest about your relationship, family and the events that took place in your life?
The telling of my story was not as therapeutic as the feeling of importance and relevance that writing the book gave me. I started the process at a time when I felt very small, and quite unsure of myself. I remember how ecstatic I felt even just getting an agent. I mean, even if the journey had stopped there, it was the jolt I needed to feel alive again. Then that was multiplied a million by writing a proposal; and once I actually go the book deal, it was just all-together mind-blowing. So, I think, this sense of challenge and accomplishment, professionally, was the most uplifting of all. Examining my life, spilling my heart out, all that's something I've always done!
I tried your mom's tomato and garlic spaghetti recipe from the book - it was amazing. Dead simple, but I could have eaten the whole bowl! What's your favorite recipe you share in the book? Was it difficult to narrow them down?
My self-imposed rule was that if a recipe took too long to type, or the explaining of it was too laborious, than I'd skip it! To me, the most delicious is the Gentleman Caller's Onion and Cumin Quiche. It's really delicious,and involving cumin plus preparing your own crust adds just a touch of sophistication. The most special is the Shepherd's Pie because in the intro to it, I mention someone, one of the best human beings I ever knew, who recently passed away-- and I'm just so happy there's a little part of him inside my first book.
Is there a particular dish that you find really challenging to master in the kitchen?
None from my book, but I have a hard time making fish dishes, as simple as they are. I'm just a wimp about it. I can't stand the smell or texture of most raw fish. My boyfriend is a health-nut and wants me to integrate more salmon into my homecooking, but I'm sorry, no, yuck.
Tell me a little bit about your relationship with 'Chef, (as you refer to Spike in your book). What was his reaction to you writing a book with so many personal details about his life? What can you tell us about your current relationship?
"Chef" has proved to be an even better, kinder and more generous man that I even knew. He's supported me with writing Apron Anxiety, and now with the press and aftermath, some of which might not be so great for him or his current love life, he's still as incredible as always. Even though we have both moved on, we still feel sad about falling apart. It's only natural. I think the book is somehow our gift to each other....my gift to him in telling the story of our beautiful past, and his gift to me by allowing me the freedom to tell it.
Tell us a little about your current career - are you mostly writing about food?
Yes, I'm the New York editor of Grub Street New York, which is the food site for New York Magazine. It's a dream job that entails a lot of good food. Grub Street was the perfect marriage to writing Apron Anxiety; now that the book is "birthed," it will be interesting to see if I dive deeper into the culinary scene, or feel a need to distance myself from it a bit. Who knows? Food is just one of the things I'm interested in, it's not my life. We went to see Once the Musical the other night and then we walked around the city for a few hours, and it just felt so great to talk about music, and architecture, and travel...and then we got Good Humor ice cream bars from a little vendor on the street, and I was like "Yessss, this is the real me."
To win your very own copy of the book, comment on the post below and let me know what's the best food-related book you've recently read. The contest ends on June 30th, 2012, at midnight. The winner will be drawn at random and you must be a
Canadian or American resident to enter. Good luck and I look forward to
hearing from you!