From the time the owner of Bookworm, an Omaha bookstore, handed me Simple Cooking and told me to read (and buy) it, more than two decades ago, we’ve been smitten, taking him to bed with us nearly as often as we’d tune on and turn in with Rush Limbaugh. Like a good fairy tale or maybe, to others, a sonnet, his books bear reading over and over again like a good-night story.
John Thorne isn’t your usual food writer, all caught up in sous-vide (which as far as I’m concerned, Birdseye came up with long ago), slow food, ethically responsible food, whatever that is, and sustainable farming. He openly admits to a fondness for canned tamales, cilantro sandwiches, and rightly admits, as anyone with good taste food ought, that there is no better than Campbell’s black bean soup, doctored only with a spoonful of sherry. He reviews cookbooks, researches the history of important dishes from macaroni and cheese to menudo, and still finds time to experiment.
He may not have gotten pozole down just right (but you’ve got to cut a guy from New England a break), but we’re forever in his debt for introducing us to chicken with forty cloves of garlic.
We bought Pot on the Fire, Outlaw Cook, and Serious Pig, as soon as each was published, just because John Thorne had written them. Frankly, neither measured up to Simple Cooking, but that didn’t stop us from picking up Mouth Wide Open: A Cook and His Appetite—and we’re happy that we did. At last, Thorne’s back to what made him love us in Simple Cooking.