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Jonathan Day

Two cooks in the kitchen

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John, one of the many things I find impressive about your work is the apparent degree of harmony that exists in the kitchen between you and Matt Lewis Thorne, your wife. The chapter on clafoutis in Outlaw Cook filled me with envy, not only for the clafoutis but for the ability of two cooks to work together so easily.

When Melissa and I try to cook together, the results are tragi-comedic: we are constantly treading on each other's toes, trying to go to the same place at the same time, needing the same burner or bowl or knife. Fortunately we manage to laugh about it, but our usual pragmatic solution is for one spouse to cook while the other sets the table or handles other tasks.

So how do you and Matt manage so successfully? I'm guessing that you don't have, Martha Stewart style, a kitchen for each of you.

More broadly, could you say a few words about the ways that you and Matt collaborate in producing SIMPLE COOKING and your books?


Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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Yes, well, one of things that makes that clafoutis piece what it is is that it reflects an experience that was very magical and, hence, very rare. If it weren't, there would be more sense of that in Simple Cooking. So far as the cooking goes, we tend to take turns rather than working together, although that can happen, too. Also, as in every relationship, things evolve, change, part, come back together. When we lived in Maine, Matt did the prep work when I was doing the cooking. Here in Northampton, she works at the local library most afternoons, and so I usually do the cooking from start to finish. Her special love is baking, though, and I can't hope to match her there. When we finally get around to revealing the Professor's sourdough biscuit recipe (from our No-Name Diner saga, episodes of which regularly appear in Simple Cooking), it will entirely reflect her patient and expert work. Those biscuits are really special.

Matt as collaborator is a more complicated story. Before she and I hitched up she was a manager at the original Dean & DeLuca and (for a short and rollercoaster time) a partner in a Boston restaurant, and so she brings a very different sensibility into play with my essentially rebarbarative one. She is also a careful reader with intuitive responses to my writing which often dig me out of a hole that I've stubbornly dug for myself and she gives me someone sympathetic but also rigorously critical to write for. When we do a first reading of a piece I've been working on, I'm in a state of high anxiety until she starts laughing at my jokes. Very often we can spend an evening arguing about what I'm trying to say (and possibly failing to) in a single sentence. Like many writers, I can be excruciatingly overexact at one moment and carelessly inexact at another, and, to be honest, not able to see that a sentence that I think is quite clear is so only to me. As I have written in every one of the books that represent our collaboration, her presence has made me a much better writer than I could have achieved working strictly on my own. This is probably true for many other writers as well, but I didn't want this fact lost in the acknowledgement section. :wub:

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