Between working crazy hours and being an expectant dad, I'm probably the last guy in your Google reader who's qualified to be dishing on dinner party-themed cookbooks. My wife and I haven't properly entertained for more than one or two people in quite a while, and with the above details in mind, I can't see that changing until the little tyke can mix or stir on command. Furthermore, one of the authors of this particular book is someone I've known for fifteen years. Granted, I haven't actually seen her for the last ten of them, but I'm not the sort to pull punches when writing about the creative endeavors of pals anyway. (And I've got the ever-shrinking Christmas card list to prove it, bub.) Nevertheless, Zora O'Neill and Tamara Reynolds' new Forking Fantastic!: Put the Party back in Dinner Party is exactly the kind of food writing I'd want to be coached by on the way to an epic, in-house gathering.
You may have heard about Zora and Tamara without even knowing it, as their reputation is something of a legend in its own time. They're responsible for Astoria's fabled underground supper club, which, to have attended, earns one a special brand of cache amongst the food cognoscenti of the outer boroughs. With heavyweights like Anthony Bourdain and Jamie Oliver counted in their fan base, these ladies are clearly not to be taken lightly or dismissed as yet more self-aggrandizing food bloggistas who somehow bullshat their way into a book deal. Zora and Tamara walk the walk, talk the talk (profanity included! just like in a real kitchen!), and could easily outgun any dinner party I've ever conjured.
Their secret? It's the food, dummy! The book has an appealing DIY aesthetic to it which wastes no time in dismissing all the crap that often weighs so heavily on the minds of potential party throwers. Suffice to say, matching cloth napkins, elaborate centerpieces, and heirloom crystal wine glasses have no place in the Forking Fantastic mindset. Put another way, if the sight of that skinny blonde woman on the Food Network who's always yabbering on about her "tablescape" makes you want to hurl a brick at the television, this book is your ticket to dinner party salvation. In it are recipes for all manner of crowd pleasing dishes from the simple to the complex, and the familiar to the utterly obscure. Best of all, the journey is loaded with tips and personal anecdotes from Zora and Tamara's own experiences in the trenches. As such, they'll tell you where it is and isn't OK to cut corners, but they'll also reveal why Led Zeppelin is perfectly acceptable dinnertime music, and why it's alright to ask a few of your guests to bring their own chairs, or to make due with drinking wine out of jelly jars... there's even a chart that breaks down why home cooking beats sex as a routine activity! It's that kind of disarming irreverence that mounts this guide as a perfect kitchen companion for creative weirdos who love cooking, especially for their friends. If you're anything like me, you'll have read Forking Fantastic cover to cover long before soiling a single skillet at its behest.
The Forking Fantastic homepage is here. Zora blogs at Roving Gastronome, and Tamara recounts the Sunday Night Dinner beeswax over at One Ass Kitchen. Both can be heard discussing the book and giggling like crazies on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show by following this link.