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Nov 27, 2010 03:16 PM

Cookbooks: NYTimes/Hesser and/or One Big Table/O'Neill

I know there's been a lot of discussion on various threads about both of these books. Sorry for any repetition....for those of you who know both, what are the features you like most? I can't see getting both. The historical aspect of the NY Times appeals to me, but when I thumbed through it, didn't see much I had to try.

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  1. Here are my comments on Hesser's book I have a copy of One Big Table on order. I flipped through O'Neill's book at the store the other day and, just flipping through it, I have to say, I was pretty charmed by it. It just seemed to have a lot more stories of ordinary people, compared to Hesser's. I will pop in and fill you in when my copy arrives, but, I have the feeling that if I hadn't already had Hesser's book, I would have probably been fine with just O'Neill's. The historical aspect of the NY Times book doesn't appeal that much to me, actually. I mean, it's fine, but it's nice a primary attraction. I haven't cooked from either book.


    3 Replies
    1. re: The Dairy Queen

      Oh wow. My copy of One Big Table arrived and it is really amazing. (I hope the recipes are good!) She says she worked on it for 10 years, touring the country and meeting people in their communities and kitchens. She said she gathered 10,000 recipes and whittled it to 600. This is real American cooking, and I don't mean just the foods we typically think of as American--hamburgers, ribs, cornbread, jambalaya and pies (though, all of those recipes are in there, too, of course)-- but dishes from a huge variety of cuisines: Armenian, Persian, Vietnamese, Hmong, Mexican, Swedish, Hawaiian, Somali, Laotian, Portuguese, Cajun, Haitian, Guatemalan, Filipino, Italian, Greek... I mean, the list just goes on. I mean, I sat down with the book tonight and flipped through all 800 plus pages. Every single recipe comes with some kind of story about the recipe and family traditions or history of the person who contributed it. A few of the recipes are from Chefs or restaurants--Alice Waters, or a taco truck in San Francisco, Flo Braker, Edna Lewis--etc., but the vast majority are from ordinary people. There are zillions of little sidebars throughout about the history of various foods or industries. It's pretty cool.


      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        I'm impressed you went through the book in one night! So far, I've also been charmed by it and think that there will be many recipes to try. But the NY Times one is really wonderful too. Again, I haven't had a chance to go through the whole thing, but what I have read has been very good.

        1. re: roxlet

          Well, I can't say I read every recipe, but I did read every recipe title and where (city, state) it was from. Somehow the intrigue about who contributed each recipe and from where made it more compelling to flip through than the NYT Cookbook, which I just spot-checked. But, I agree, the recipes in that book look good, too. I'm glad I have them both so I don't have to choose. But, between these two books, I shouldn't have to buy any new books for a couple of years! Not that it will stop me.

          Now, I haven't tried any recipes from either book, but, presumably, they'll be solid.


    2. I, too, saw "One Big Table" by Molly O'Neill at the bookstore and came home to order it online. I am a total sucker for cookbooks about real people and their best recipes. Names like "Sister Marie Antonia's Zucchini Relish, Tommy Verdillo's Stuffed Escarole and Azalina Eusope's Spicy Lentil and Shallot Dumplings really speak to me. So I am thrilled with this book.

      I have not seen the Amanda Hesser book but will seek it out online. BTW, she has a good cooking site:


      1. I just noticed something funny about "One Big Table" - seems as though O'Neill may have found 200 additional recipes. If you look at Amazon, the book has "600 recipes from the Nation's best...." and when you look at O'Neill's site, its "800 recipes from the Nation's best...."


        MO's site for OBT:

        I just looked at it in the book store and it was "600"

        8 Replies
        1. re: Breadcrumbs

          Hard to say, but the book has about 800 pages and since there are seldom more than one recipe per page, and there are many pages of general history and side-bar type info, I'd be surprised if it were really 800 recipes, though, I could be wrong.


          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            Hi DQ, out of curiosity does your book jacket and title page say "600" or "800"? I bought this last night and mine says 600 but the photo on MO's site clearly shows "800"...

            1. re: Breadcrumbs

              It says 600. She also says in the intro that she whittled it down to 600 in the intro.


                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  I totally agree with you. I find this odd. I've been looking at the various book reviews online and wherever and whenever this book comes up, they always refer to the "800" recipes. Very strange. I thought she might address the discrepancy on her website but she doesn't.

                  The intro in my copy also talks about the process of narrowing down to "600" recipes....

                  1. re: Breadcrumbs

                    Here, the blurb says 750 pages. The cover art says 600. When you click "read more", it says 600


                    Maybe there was a typo on the cover of the review copy? And the art on her website is from the review copy?


                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      It's not at all unusual for all of that promotional copy to have been written many months (occasionally, years) before the book was published. Mockups of the jacket, including subtitles and blurbs, would have been prepared far in advance as well. Seems pretty clear that when the manuscript was finally delivered they discovered it was too unwieldy--too many pages, too expensive. Once the book was cut to a size (and price) the publisher thought salable, they forgot, or just didn't bother, to update all the early promotional materials.

                      1. re: JoanN

                        Interesting! Thanks, JoanN. I mourn the loss of the other 200 recipes (if they were as interesting as the 600), though, I don't mourn the price of the other 200 recipes or the additional thickness of the book. ;-)


          2. Damn Costco. Damn Costco. I just came back from there and they had a great selection today. I looked at NYT Times, One Big Table and Around My French Table. AAARGH. Like TDQ, I was immediately charmed by One Big Table. And, it's funny because that's the book, prior to touching it, that was the least interesting to me. But, the diversity recipes and the little vignettes, just called to me. I'm not really the story type either.

            Needless to say, I walked away all three. The logic is that I can peruse them at home and return them next week.

            My shelves are overflowing.

            6 Replies
            1. re: beetlebug

              aaarrgghhhh! I wish our Costco (Canada) had those books!! Not that I'd buy them or anything of course!! LOL! I was there yesterday and we had no such selection, they're still peddling Jamie Oliver Food Revolution, BF Contessa and Nigella here. The only new one I saw was the Williams Sonoma "Cooking at Home' which, like you, I gave a ride home and will most certainly return it if it doesn't work out . . . .NOT!

              Like you, I had a recent moment of weakness with One Big Table as well. I had no intention of buying it but was immediately smitten with all the photos, back stories and, many, many seemingly approachable recipes. If bookshelves could speak, mine would be begging for mercy!!!

              1. re: Breadcrumbs

                My Costco also had the BF Contessa and Williams Sonoma books. They also had a bunch of stuff that I could easily pass or get from the library. These just seemed like a minor miracle that they were there, although not for long I bet. There were only 4 copies total of the Dorie Greenspan and not many more of One BIg Table.

              2. re: beetlebug

                You'd actually do that? Buy the books, peruse them, if not to your liking, return them? Wow, am I in the minority on doing that? I could never return a book I've read, even if I disliked it.

                1. re: Joyfull

                  Ummm, sense of humor much? No, I don't actually do this. It was my way of justifying my purchases. And, as others on this board may have gleaned, I am the poster child of library usage. I usually look at the cookbooks at the library first to see if the books are to my taste. Buying three cookbooks at one time is extreme for me and seeing them on sale at Costco made me lose my thrifty senses.

                  1. re: Joyfull

                    Is that really so shocking anyway? All the big bookstores have return policies. If you're not satisfied with your book purchase, you can return it in its original condition.

                    1. re: emily

                      I think "original condition" is key here.

                      A few months ago I purchased a cookbook from Chapters (Canadian store similar to Borders). As I started looking through it I kept finding crumbs and, seeing oily stains where crumbs had been pressed between the pages. I called the store to ask about their return policy as I'd thrown out my receipt. They said this is a common complaint as people sit at the in-store coffee shop or, in the comfy chairs in the store and, have their muffins etc and coffee while perusing the books and, dropping crumbs in the books as they go!

                      In the end I couldn't be bothered returning the book but I now check the books I'm purchasing to ensure they are in "new" condition. Many are not.

                2. I just read all the posts from my fellow cookbook addicts (so glad you're out there too) and I must add: I felt very resistant to the Hesser book, but then Borders had a real sale and I gave in - and I have really been enjoying everything about it: the recipes (none seem merely or impossibly historical, though I too haven't tried any yet - but I have a little list), the historical notes, the quotes from the original articles, the quotes from readers who wrote her - and Hesser's own comments, which are funny and just snarky enough. Of course I've gotten the O'Neill too, but I'm saving it for a lumpy, need-to-indulge moment. I like the Dorie Greenspan too. It's a good season, isn't it?