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Jason Perlow

John Thorne

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Jonathan Day and Robert Brown, who moderate the Symposium forum on eGullet, welcome John Thorne for a Q&A from 6 to 9 February. You will be able to post questions starting on 4 February.

John Thorne is a distinguished food writer, author of the food letter, Simple Cooking and the internet food site www.outlawcook.com. Most of his books stem from collections of essays, originally published in the newsletter. Each is a mixture of reflections on food writing, culinary experiments and food history.

Thorne has never been afraid of attacking received sensibilities. His first book, Simple Cooking (1987), collects many of his early newsletters; it includes not only topics such as ratatouille and poularde en vessie (chicken in a bladder) but also discussions on "the cure for the unwanted guest" and "the fart in cooking".

In Outlaw Cook (1992), perhaps the best known of his books, Thorne not only skewers Martha Stewart but also explains his "Paula Wolfert problem". He explores artisanal breadmaking in depth, drawing on his experience with a stone bread oven. And he reflects on clafoutis as a breakfast food, naturally leavened breads, and the influence of the food processor on modern cookery. His essays contain carefully written recipes as well as cook's notes.

Serious Pig: An American Cook in Search of His Roots (1996) was written while John and his wife Matt Lewis Thorne lived in Maine; it contains reflective essays on baked beans, cornbread, chowders and many other American foods. Ruth Reichl, reviewing the book in Saveur, wrote that it was Thorne's "richest book yet, one in which simple, disparate thoughts begin to coalesce into a genuine philosophy of food."

Pot on the Fire: Further Exploits of a Renegade Cook (2000) continues in the vein of Outlaw Cook, with book reviews, essays and recipes. The book won a James Beard Cookbook Award and was picked by Corby Kummer in The New York Times as one of the best cookbooks of the year. Earlier, in the same newspaper, Mark Bittman wrote that "John Thorne is the antidote to trendy food writing, a literate man who produces pleasurable, instructive, even profound prose, along with satisfying recipes," and Kyla Wazana, in the San Francisco Chronicle Book Review, said that the book "opens up the reader's sense of time, so that each nuance and thought provides a doorway into the contemplation of a life well-savored."

John has also written introductions for new editions of Honey From a Weed (Patience Grey); An Omelette and a Glass of Wine (Elizabeth David) and Lulu's Provencal Table (Richard Olney).

The above titles all have links to Amazon.com. Some of Thorne's earlier books are out of print and only available used, through Amazon or used booksellers such as abebooks.

In preparation for the Q&A, John has made a recent edition of Simple Cooking available to eGullet members; you may download it by clicking here. As a courtesy to our guest and in accordance with copyright laws, this should not be copied or posted on other message boards. You can also see a number of his essays, including an early version of the Martha Stewart piece that eventually appeared in Outlaw Cook, as well as the tables of contents of all of John's books on his website, www.outlawcook.com..

As with other eGullet Q&As and the Symposium forum, questions will go through a moderated message queue. We haven't set a limit on the total number of questions -- we'll see how many can be answered and if the number becomes overwhelming we'll cut off the discussion and announce that we've done that. Questions will be approved (assuming appropriateness) on a first-come-first-served basis, though we will accept only one question per member for at least the first day or so of the Q&A. If there's time later on, we will release additional questions per member.

The Q&A forum will be created on 4 February, and John will answer questions starting on the 6th.


Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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