There are few things that bring a family together more than those centered around food. For the Anderson family, the heartbeat of their kitchen is the door to their soul.
In their memoir, Three Many Cooks: One Mom, Two Daughters, Their Shared Stories of Food, Faith and Family acclaimed cookbook writer Pam Anderson and her two daughters Maggie Keet and Sharon Damelio, weave the good, the bad and the funny recollections of their mother daughter relationships with well-loved family recipes into one of my favorite books of the summer.
Writing a memoir with three different authors is no easy task. But somehow, this book’s stories and voice flow effortlessly into one.
“Our book was first conceived as a traditional cookbook, but when our editor, Pamela Cannon, read the stories behind the recipes, she asked us simply to write our stories,” shares Pam. “Since our blog is story-driven, we liked that idea too.”
With chapters that deal with Pam and Maggie’s challenging growth as a mother and a daughter who both know best, to the rebellious years that led Sharon to discovering her passion for food and culinary school, the stories that are shared are sometimes serious, always introspective, and flared by bitter fights, insight and soul searching, forgiveness and growth.
“We read one another’s work along the way and one story led to another. When it came time to stitch the stories, the book came together pretty naturally.”
Each chapter is told by either Pam, Maggie or youngest daughter Sharon, each of whom contribute to the food blog Three Many Cooks. Within each chapter the story telling is totally compelling and conversationally entertaining. These girls aren’t just good cooks, they’re great writers.
Food, Faith and Family
This book is one of my favorite of the year. The stories are told in a lively way that makes me feel like I’m one of the family, sitting down at their kitchen counter with a glass of wine, wryly spying on the drama and discovery that often enfolds.
At the essence of each story a shared dish is looped in, with the recipe provided at the end of each chapter. And the recipes…oh, they are good. I had a hard time choosing which recipe to feature, and Pam shared that they too each had their favorites.
“Sharon’s especially proud of her Perfect Carrot Cake. Maggy loves the Pumpkin-Walnut Scones, and I’m partial to my late father’s Grilled Lemon Chicken.”
This book may have never been written had it not been for the relenting work ethic of the family that starts with Pam. As an enterprising mother of two young girls with a husband starting a career in the clergy, Pam did whatever she could, and everything she could, to keep her family afloat. A tireless worker who sacrificed much of herself including time with her children, Pam’s dogged resourcefulness shaped her entire family.
She is proud. She is a success. She is a woman I whole-heartedly admire.
And now, my list of 10 Q’s for Pam, Maggy and Sharon.
1. Describe your blog in 3 words:
Maggy: Real life recipes
2. If you could be one blogger other than yourself, who would you be?
Maggy: I love Jen Yu’s blog, Use Real Butter. She’s a gifted photographer who lives in a wildly beautiful part of the world. She captures her outdoorsy, Colorado lifestyle alongside recipes that feel very true to my own tastes: often celebratory, but mostly just inviting, exciting comfort food. Right now I’m particularly enjoying her social media streams as she captures the autumn leaves – and the adventures of her new puppy, Neva!
3. Which 3 blogs do you follow/are obsessed with/can’t live a day without?
4. What is the one kitchen tool you could never give up?
Sharon: I can make due with crappy wooden spoons, rickety cutting boards, and flimsy whisks, but I need a good, sharp knife. I have the Global Oriental Cook’s Knife, which is a little shorter than their traditional chef’s knife (18cm rather than 20) and a little lighter. I have small hands, and this knife fits like a glove. It’s got this gorgeous, graceful shape and their signature one-piece stainless steel design. I can’t say enough about this knife—easy to clean and sharpen and a dream to use.
5. What dish are you obsessed with mastering that you just can’t get quite right?
Sharon: Paella. My husband and I had a disastrous paella attempt our first New Year’s Eve together, and now it’s become an NYE tradition. Though we’ve gotten to the point where our recipe is really good…we haven’t quite perfected the technique such that it reliably produces that deep brown, crispy crust on the bottom. We just moved into a new apartment that has a gas stove (finally!) and I’m excited to try paella again. I think electric and induction burners make it nearly impossible to get the crust. You need fire!
6. What did you have for dinner last night?
Sharon: Kale salad with roasted sweet potatoes, apples, dried cranberries, spiced pepitas, and homemade balsamic vinaigrette. And a bottle of Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Heredad Cava. My husband and I make this salad—or some seasonal version of it—two or three times a week. We love to eat and drink, and we’ve found that having a big, beautiful salad on the weeknights keeps our calories in check, so we can enjoy wine with dinner most nights and heavier fare on the weekends.
7. What’s one secret talent outside of the kitchen nobody knows about you?
Sharon: I am a super-fast reader. Depending on the week, I can plow through up to 4 books in a week. I read everything from biographies to theology to culinary science, but novels are a huge source of relaxation and enjoyment for me.
8. You’re happiest when cooking/eating?
Pam: I’m happiest in the kitchen with Maggy and Sharon, my sons-in-law, Andy and Anthony, and my David, and we’re all doing our thing to make dinner and having fun along the way. And there are two new additions to our family—Dashiell, my 9-month old grandson and Eloise, my grand French bulldog, who adore one another. It’s a lively, lovely scene.
9. The one secret ingredient to your success is?
Pam: Stay open.
10. What’s next for you three? Do you see another book in your future?
Pam: See answer to previous question ☺
About the recipe
This recipe for quick apple tart (the apples are dashed with brandy!) is just one of Pam’s contributions to the book. It comes from the chapter in which she describes her time as the food editor to the then start-up Cooks Illustrated, where she wrote, created, and tirelessly tested recipes under its founder Chris Kimball for the next nine years.
Sounds like a dream job. But there were drawbacks. Pam found herself becoming too much a perfectionist when it came to entertaining, trying to create the perfect meal. “Eventually I started to realize that many of the recipes I had so carefully developed in lab-like conditions often didn’t work in real time.”
On the flip side, others were reluctant to cook for her. They were too nervous to cook for a professional, worried their food wouldn’t live up to her standards. This is when she had an epiphany.
“I started caring less about perfection and more about connection,” Pam writes. “For me it’s a good night not when the apple tart I’ve made is perfect, but when the conversation has been significant, and people have made some connection of the mind or heart or spirit.”
Following is her recipe for Quick Rustic Apple Tart with Oatmeal Crumble Topping. It’s just one more reason to cheers Three Many Cooks for giving us an entire book of reasons to connect with one another over food.
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a comment below or take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
- For the Tarts
- 1 recipe Perfect Apple Pie Filling with Cinnamon and Cognac
- 2 refrigerated pie crusts from at 16.7-ounce package
- For the Oatmeal Crumble Topping
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup old-fashioned oatmeal
- ½ cup dark brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 6 tablespoons butter, melted by not hot
- For the Perfect Apple Pie Filling with Cinnamon and Cognac
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 4 pounds crisp, firm apples such as Granny Smith, cored, peeled and sliced ¼-inch thick, about 12 heaping cups
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons brandy
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- For the Tarts
- Prepare Perfect Apple Pie Filling with Cinnamon and Cognac and refrigerate. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Meanwhile, mix the flour, oatmeal, sugar, and cinnamon. Stir in the butter with a fork until well combined then use your fingers to form clumps.
- Unroll one of the refrigerated pie doughs and place it onto one side of a 12 X 18-inch baking sheet covered with parchment paper or a Silpat liner. Spoon half of the apple filling onto the dough, leaving a 2-inch border all around. Bring pie dough over filling, pleating it to fit. Sprinkle a portion of the crumble topping over the exposed filling.
- Repeat the process with the remaining dough, filling and crumble. Bake until golden brown, 40-45 minutes. Cool slightly, serve warm with ice cream if you’d like. The tart can be made several hours ahead of time and warmed in a 300 degree F oven for 15 minutes.
- For the Perfect Apple Pie Filling with Cinnamon and Cognac
- Mix sugar, cinnamon, and salt; toss with the apples. Heat butter in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat until it looks pale nutty brown. Add apple mixture; cover and cook until the apples soften and release their juices, about 7 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook until juices thicken to a light syrup, 1 to 2 minutes longer.
- Meanwhile, whisk cornstarch, brandy, and vanilla in 1 cup of water. Stir into apple mixture until it thickens, less than a minute. Transfer apples to a jelly roll pan to cool quickly. Refrigerate or set in a cool place until apples cool to room temperature.
- Recipe reprinted from Three Many Cooks: One Mom, Two Daughters, Their Shared Stories of Food, Faith and Family
Food for Thought
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