I’ve referenced Ann Hodgman many times in this blog and the hospitality one also, and I’ve even listed the three cookbooks above. But I’ve never actually done a post on her and her books, and I said I would do that at some point when I mentioned her in my post on Sue Klebold’s book. Her Amazon page says that she’s the author of more than 40 children’s books, the above three cookbooks, and several humorous books. I think she should be much, much better known than she is.
As a blurb on the back of One Bite says, “I don’t even cook and I love Ann Hodgman’s cookbooks.” Yes, you can read cookbooks for fun. (Although I have made a number of her recipes and liked most of them–but not her blueberry muffins nor her tortellini with pistachio sauce. We’ll give her a pass on those, though, as she’s so entertaining.)
Sometimes an author is inextricably tied up with a happy memory, and Hodgman is one of those for me. I first spotted Beat That at the old location of The Tattered Cover Bookstore, the one in the Cherry Creek shopping district, the one we’d always visit when we were in Denver on vacation. The cookbook section was a first stop for me. Here was this funny-looking book with the funny title. I bought it and immediately started reading it aloud in the car as we pulled out of the parking garage. (Yes, you can read cookbooks aloud.) Every recipe has a funny story attached. In fact, her cookbooks are the exact opposite of the snooty, pretentious, food-as-religion ones that are cluttering up the shelves these days. I just flipped through one of those the other day. It was pretty sickening. Instead, get hold of at least one of these cookbooks and make something enjoyable, from a recipe that doesn’t demand that you use “unrefined sea salt” (frankly, I want my salt to be refined) or “organic whole cane sugar” (sugar is sugar, folks).
I’ve read at least three of her other books, How to Die of Embarrassment Every Day, The House of a Million Pets, and I Saw Mommy Kicking Santa Claus. Her voice is so distinctive that it’s hard for me to imagine her writing children’s or series books. (She’s written Nancy Drew books, for one, a genre that doesn’t lend itself to sly humor.) I have to admire someone who has plugged away at her writing career the way she has. She also tried going into the candymaking business when she and her husband bought a house in the country that had a second kitchen:
Once I learned that in Connecticut you could sell food you’d made only if you were equipped with a second, non-family kitchen . . . well, then it just seemed as though I was meant to be a candymaker. I wasn’t, though. The candy was fine, but when my husband discovered that each box I sold was costing me $60, I began to think I was in the wrong line of business. I returned to the slightly more lucrative field of freelance writing, but I kept my recipes (along with thousands and thousands of gold foil labels and candy boxes and frilled paper cups and dipping forks).
So do add at least one of Ann’s cookbooks to your cookbook shelf, if you have such a thing, or perhaps check out one of her other books. She’ll make you smile, I promise.