The moment I cracked the spine on “One Big Table,” I wanted to meet the writer, Molly O’Neill. Her 10-year journey into home kitchens across the country spoke to me as few other cookbooks have — perhaps because “One Big Table” is so much more than recipes.
In our hopelessly divided world, I believe food remains a common denominator. You can talk about what you like to eat with anyone, regardless of religion, politics or bank accounts. If I tell you about my favorite family recipe, you can share yours. It’s so simple, so human.
A graceful and gracious storyteller, O’Neill proved my theory. Her expansive collection of recipe tales captures the heart and soul of regional American home cooking, inspiring us to move forward with Zester Daily. Her e-mails of encouragement buoyed us during the hard work of making a food journalism website function properly.
A former food columnist for The New York Times Magazine and host of the PBS series “Great Food,” O’Neill’s work has appeared everywhere that counts. She has written a memoir “Mostly True,” four cookbooks, including the award-winning “New York Cookbook,” and edited the Library of America’s “American Food Writing.” “One Big Table” is an ongoing web-based project with new writers compiling even more recipes and stories.
O’Neill’s current project is as ambitious and inspiring as her last. Cook N Scribble is a resource for food writers, providing support, education, mentoring and community in the wake of the collapse of conventional newsrooms and editorial offices. She offers virtual seminars and food-writing retreats.
As part of that effort, she recently launched the LongHouse Writers Revival — a series of one-day, single-subject conversations in the style of the 19th-century Chautauqua Movement. This year’s topic is the “false divide” between old media and new media. Distressed by a growing generation gap among food writers, O’Neill wants to bring back “the joy of writing about how people live their lives and cook their dinner.”
The first LongHouse Revival is Aug. 12 on Vashon Island, Wash. I will be there, joining Shauna Ahern, founder, glutenfreegirl.com; Tanya Steel, Epicurious; Debra and Rod Smith, founder of smithbites.com; Judith Dern, editor-in-chief, all-recipes.com; and Matthew Amster-Burton, founder of the Spilled Milk podcast; and no more than 50 food writers. The day will conclude with a Vietnamese pig roast. Both the conversation and the food promise to be delicious and worthwhile.
The next revival — and a pig roast illustrating the story of the Mexican diaspora in America’s northeast — is set for Sept. 15 near O’Neill’s home in Rensselaerville, N.Y. Ahern, the Smiths, Steel and I will be joined by Francis Lam, Gilt Taste; Katherine Alford, Food Network; Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan founder, kitchn@apartmenttherapy; Dorie Greenspan, author, baker, blogger; Kathy Gunst, food correspondent, NPR’s “Here and Now”; and Brian Halweil, publisher, Edible Manhattan; and 50 food writers. Again, the feast and seminar will be a treat.
Zester Daily is honored to announce Molly O’Neill as a member of our Advisory Board, supporting our mission to connect people around the globe through respect for and love of food.
Our advisors are longtime supporters and friends who have increased our relevance and reach. With the creation of the advisory board, we recognize and honor these sustaining relationships.
Top composite image: Molly O’Neill. Credit: Fred Jordan. Logo courtesy of Cook N Scribble.