Great Cousins Think Alike

I just got an e-mail from Cousin Russ, aka Russ Parsons whose latest book is How To Pick A Peach, out from Houghton Mifflin:


Publisher’s Weekly gave it a starred review:

Equal parts cookbook, agricultural history, chemistry lesson and produce buying guide, this densely packed book is a food-lover’s delight. California food writer Parsons (How to Read a French Fry) begins with a fascinating tale of agribusiness trumping our taste buds en route to supplying year-round on-demand produce, and how farmer’s markets are bringing back both appreciation of, and access to, local and seasonal foods. He then takes readers on a delectable season-by-season produce tour, from springtime Artichokes Stuffed with Ham and Pine Nuts to midwinter Candied Citrus Peel, and provides readers with the lowdown on where each fruit or vegetable is grown and how to choose, store and prepare it. Along the way, he detours into low-stress jam making, the chemistry of tomato flavor, a portrait of two peach-growing stars of the Santa Monica farmer’s market and why cucumbers make some people burp. For readers who have always wondered where their food comes from, why it tastes the way it does and how to pick a peach, a melon or a green bean, this book will be an invaluable resource. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

So you should buy it.

Where was I?

Right, so Russ has just read Agnes and the book begins with Agnes’s first column about how a good frying pan is the one thing you need in a kitchen, ending with:

Besides the obvious braising, browning, and frying, I can make sauces and stir frys in it, toast cheese sandwiches and slivered almonds, use the underside to pound cutlets, and in a pinch probably swing it to defend my honor. If I could find a man that versatile and dependable, I’d grab him.

So Russ sends me the first line of one of his early columns from the LA Times:

Wednesday December 08, 2004

Revolution in the kitchen

By Russ Parsons, Times Staff Writer

As far as I’m concerned, there are only two really important decisions in a cook’s life: choosing a mate and buying a chef’s knife. If that seems like an overstatement, you just haven’t found the right knife.

Great cousins think alike. Of course, I can’t make a peanut butter sandwich and Russ can make anything, but still, you can tell we’re cousins. All we think about is food and love. And sometimes, we can’t tell the difference.

Oh, and while you’re buying How To Pick A Peach, get How to Read a French Fry, Russ’s first book. The New York Times gave it a rave for its “affable voice and intellectual clarity” and Julia Child lauded it for its “deep factual information.”

That’s my cousin, folks. I’m very proud.

50 thoughts on “Great Cousins Think Alike

  1. You know, I think I met your cousin at an IACP conference once. His name sounded familiar the first time you mentioned him, although I hadn’t read any of his books. I wonder if that’s why.

    I totally agree with him on the knife, in general, but I love me some special purpose knives, too. And pans! I am addicted to good cookware, but I don’t buy in the sets either.

    This sounds like a book I need. ;+) Thanks, Jenny, for keeping us posted.

  2. OMG, I *have* the French Fry book!! It’s wonderful, really really good.

    Tell Cousin Russ he’s another GAM 🙂

  3. I’ve got both books, and they’re great. I haven’t finished the newest one yet, but the science of food is pretty darn interesting. And yummy. And many of us blur the difference between love and food. It’s all good.

  4. Come on – how coincidental is that? We’ve been talking inner peach for weeks and your cousin writes a book with a peach title and a peach pic on the front.

    That’s some kind of family synchronicity. Did you tell him about inner peach, Jenny? I bet he’s a man that can appreciate inner peach.

  5. I have a patio peach tree in my front yard. Actually, it’s right next to the front door. It really grows peaches and it attracts deer. Lots of them. Usually, the raid the peach tree is around 4 in the morning. When my youngest was a baby, I’d come downstairs to feed him and watch the deer eat my peaches and wonder how I was going to get rid of them so that maybe I could eat my peaches. The deer are still here. I saw them this morning when I pulled out of the driveway to take my son to a special breakfast at the bagel store. The deer barely glanced my way. Just kind of stopped munching, looked at me, then went back to eating my peaches. Four of them. Right there on my front door step, eating my peaches.

  6. Looks like he’s got outer peach.

    The McCloud book, Parsons book, QuestionableContent–I want time to read all the cool-sounding stuff your blog brings to light!

  7. The Parsons books sound great. I am very much in favour of educating people about real food.

    Jenyfer in Cairo – I’m a bit surprised you are having difficulty finding books. I have always found the bookshop of the American University there excellent, with a really extensive stock. 🙂

  8. I will certainly look for this book. And I completely agree about knives. A good chef’s knive can change your life. I also agree with ZaZa about buying cookware in sets. Thanks for the recommendation.

  9. Congrats to you with your new partnership, and to your cousin. Julia Childs — WOW. She’s one person I would have loved to meet.

  10. I haven’t bought How to Pick a Peach yet – I have a birthday coming up and it’s on my Amazon wish list. My dad does that – buys everything he wants before you have a chance to get it for him.

    But How to Read a French Fry is great – interesting stories and scientific explanations of WHY (so you can do the right WHAT), and some yummy recipes. It came out several years ago, so perhaps it’s more available.

    That “identical cousins” thing might have been done before in a different context….

    I love the preview, because I could tell that I hadn’t closed my italics properly. We don’t have a preview at the CherryBomb Bar&Grill, and I’m always messing up.

    But we have fun there anyway. Hi, AgTigress! I was just talking about your cake-decorating skills over there the other day (in a good way). I hope you’re well.

    I think there’s a recipe from Russ and Jenny’s grandmother in How to Read a French Fry.

    It’s going to be 88 degrees here – in October. The National Weather Service used the distressing new phrase “the dog days of October” yesterday.

  11. “Julia Childs — WOW. She’s one person I would have loved to meet.”

    I met her! At the IACP conference where I might have met Russ. And the guy’s who produced and directed her later television shows. And lord knows who else. It was one of the friendliest professional gatherings I ever attended. My friend Suz was along, and everyone treated her just as well as if she’d been an A-list chef. Really nice people. Of course, I haven’t been to a National for RWA yet, but I hear they’re just the same.

    As for the preview over at the Bar & Grill, I tried that when we first opened, but the whadayacallums at that time didn’t work very well. It’s been nearly a year now, so maybe there are better ones. Well, obviously there are. Duh. Because this is a WordPress blog…unless Miss Mollie coded this herself. Which is always possible. The lady is magic.

  12. ZaZa, I wasn’t trying to pick on you! You’ve worked so hard to make our site work. Just regretting all the times my posts looked stupid.

    Bad enough if they say stupid stuff, without being all bold.

  13. Diane – hello to you. I lurk here fairly regularly, but seldom post. How did you know that I am a cake-decorator? I suppose it must have been mentioned on the He Wrote/She Wrote site some time – I forget things. Age and decrepitude get us all in the end. I have never quite got the hang of the Bar&Grill site, I’m afraid; half the time I can’t even find it. 🙁

    Still, it’s friendly, not fierce and daunting like the Cherry Forums; the home page of that always filled me with terror – like trying to join a secret society that requires initiation rites and special handshakes. But at least I can come here and read the highly entertaining and informative blogs and the comments, so that’s all right.

  14. Congrats to your cousin. The book looks great. I can think of a few people who might like it for Christmas.

  15. Don’t worry, Diane. I wasn’t feeling picked on. It was something I wanted to have there, but when it was new, there didn’t seem to be any good (or reliable) options. It’s time to look at what’s available now, since Jenny’s blog is the same kind as the B&G, so something is. No worries. ;+)

  16. I would buy that book for the Artichokes stuffed with ham and pine nuts recipe alone. I love stuffed artichokes. My grandmother taught me to tuck half spoonfuls of a bread crumb-parmesan cheese-garlic powder mixture in the base of each leaf and then cook the artichoke in a pressure cooker for 15 minutes. It’s still a favorite. Hmm. I think artichokes are in season. I wonder if I can find the book before dinner time tomorrow.

  17. (-: This does sound like a book I should buy!

    Jenyfer, I live in Japan, and Amazon does a great job for me. The Japanese site has free domestic shipping so I use that the most, but I do have to buy stuff from the American site once in awhile. The shipping is a little more, but it’s not unreasonable. )-: The local bookstores seem to charge at least double the cover price for imported books.

    (-: That way, I can save room in my bags for fennel seed and big fluffy towels. (-: Yeah, I know — we all have our “can not do without” lists. A friend thinks I’m crazy for bringing American towels over. Of course, to bring towels to Egypt would be a little bit like bringing coals to Newcastle, I suppose.

  18. cousin Russ’ book sounds great and I will be looking for it.

    Agtigress its always good to hear your voice. The B&G is off the beaten path; helps keep in the riff raff. Just knock on a post title and someone will be happy to let you in.

  19. Jenny said: “Of course, I can’t make a peanut butter sandwich” –

    I guess I knew that but Agnes had lulled me into a fantasy of dropping by and having Jenny whip up pancakes and other fantastic meals, while solving murders and mysteries and making lists and making eyes at Shane… Ah well. Just have to drop by Agnes’, maybe Jenny will be there. Or in NY.

  20. Question for Jenny:

    I was going to go ahead and buy the book, but I thought I’d ask first if your cousin has an arrangement with one of his local indies to do signed/personalized books for folks who want to order them. I know quite a few authors who do that, and I always want to support the indies. ;+)

    Come to think of it, do you do that with a store you know?


  21. Jenny goes to IHoP for pancakes.
    Okay, actually, I can make pancakes. I used to be a fabulous cook. Then I got divorced and thought, “Why did I spend all that time cooking?”

    Nope, no arrangements with indies for signings. Thanks for asking.

  22. Wow! What a gorgeous cover. You just wanta reach out and pick that peach and sink your teeth into it. Bet the book is equally as good because after all Russ is almost a Cherry.
    Now I have to go make pancakes, (today with fresh plump blueberries)I’ve got visitors from the land down under and when they think of America they think pancakes. Not much time for blogs and writing and work, it’s all fun these days and I’m exhausted.

  23. Like Jenny, I don’t really enjoy cooking (unlike her, I am not a FABULOUS cook, because I’m too lazy), but I certainly enjoy having cooked (especially once the dishes are done). I like the control I have over ingredients and the nice compliments I get (even though I suspect that many of them are rooted in the principle of “if I compliment her, she’ll do it again, then I don’t have to.”, if that qualifies as a principle).

    Also, never having been married or had kids, I’ve never had to cook regularly, so if I feel like peanut butter and raisins and carrots or popcorn for dinner, well, I can do that. Which leaves me free to make whatever it is I’m going to make to celebrate a colleague’s birthday tomorrow.

    Yes, AgTigress, you even posted a few pix. I don’t remember how the topic came up, but I do remember the cakes were very elegant.

    ZaZa, you’re so smart and thoughtful – things like that rarely occur to me. I do try to support my local independent bookstore (Anderson’s in Naperville, IL), but I just bought the Temeraire books for my nephew from Amazon because a) they ship and b) I have an Amazon card that sends me certificates every so often.

    But I should definitely remind those who might buy me the book to support their local independents (my parents have a nice one; my sister, not so much, I don’t think).

  24. Kay T said … “and having Jenny whip up pancakes and other fantastic meals, while solving murders and mysteries and making lists and making eyes at Shane”

    Jenny was making eyes at Shane? Does Agnes know about this? Does Bob? Jenny, I wouldn’t get between those two. I don’t care if Agnes has conquered her anger issues.

  25. Oh, p.s., putting Cousin Russ’ book on the Christmas list for my sister. And the Temeraire series for my nephew. He’s 14 and likes dragons. That should work.

  26. There is not much left on my LA Tribune (I mean Times.) After Chicago wrecked it, the new owner continues the slaughter. But Russ is still there and we love him. What a fun read for the subscriber when his column is published. I just wish it was weekly.

    in LA

  27. Having just learned about rinsing my produce in 1 part vinegar and 3 parts water (then rinising and drying it) and having it work fantastically well for keeping my farm stand veggies from going south, I’m totally in the market for your cousin’s book. Thanks for pimping the family works! I’ll be on the lookout.

  28. Jenny, you’ve validated my marraige. It was meant to be. I brought to our marraige kitchen an ancient cast iron frying pan that I inherited from my great grandmother. Its well-oiled surface stays as smooth as teflon. And my husband brought to our kitchen a fabulous german chef’s knife he bought when he lived in New York in the early eighties. I’d really miss that knife if we ever broke up. Not that we will, we’ve been cooking strong since 1990.

  29. I know, it’s beautiful, isn’t it?

    Sorry, I have a houseful of people coming next week and I’m thinking they’re going to want to be able to walk from room to room without tripping over stuff so I’ve been cleaning.

    No, you can’t watch. It’s too humiliating.

  30. Hey, Jenny! Hope you had a wonderful time with your guests. You gotta love ’em because once they’re gone, and your house is still gorgeously tidy, you have no excuse but to work on your wip!

    Yvonne (who whenever she has a houseful of guests saves the housework until they’re gone–because really, why bother while they’re still there… that’s why they offer help, right? so they can cook? No? Damn, must have missed that master chef gene that my father had…)

  31. Salmon and asparagus? Damn, my favorite. hope the writing session is going great.
    I’m trying hard to ignore the fact that Cherry Con is coming up. Sticking my fingers in my ears and singing, lalalalalalala.

  32. There was a female doctor, Dr. Christiane Northrup, on Oprah today, she was discussing women and peri-menopause, menopause. She’d written a couple of books one of which I’m going to purchase.
    Her website is

    She discussed everything from putting joy back into your life, to diet, anger, exercise, sex, drugs, biofeedback, insomnia, aches and pains, being nice to your clitoris and speaking kindly to it (I swear.) It was a very interesting discussion. One of her comments that made me grin was when she said, “Don’t play on the computer or watch tele for at least an hour before bed. Take a warm bath and read a romance.” Then she spoke highly of romantic fiction (of course Oprah just raised an eyebrow) then went on to give statistics on the number of romances being published. Hmmm. I wonder who paid her? : )

  33. “Jenyfer, I live in Japan, and Amazon does a great job for me. The Japanese site has free domestic shipping so I use that the most, but I do have to buy stuff from the American site once in awhile. The shipping is a little more, but it’s not unreasonable. )-: The local bookstores seem to charge at least double the cover price for imported books.”

    Micki – Sorry, I just saw this! I am sure the Amazon would ship to Egypt if I wanted to pay the international rates. But would it arrive? Mail has a way of ….disappearing here. And if it did arrive, they charge such high duties on things it isn’t really worth the effort. I’ll just have to delay my gratification and add it to the list with all the other great books I’ve been discovering lately.

  34. Well, I bought the book! I needed something to make up a Free! SuperSaver Shipping order from Amazon (I got a gift certificate, and am WAY outspending it, as usual), so I ordered it. It won’t come for a couple of weeks though, because what I was ordering was the Suzanne Brockmann holiday “All Through the Night” where Jules gets married and the latest from Tara Janzen (something like “On the Loose”), and neither of them is due out ’til the end of October.

    At which point, there won’t be much fresh local produce available in Illinois, but it’ll give me time to prepare for next summer, while I eat squash bisque with bourbon and Walden Pond Sweet Potato Soup.

  35. Oh. My. God.

    I just clicked on the link for the large print edition of Agnes. My eyes may never be the same.

    Jenny, have you seen this? Because if you need to take up a collection for hiring your very own hitman, I’ll be first vice-president in charge. Oh, wait, what am I saying. Bob can take care of it.

    I think I have to go click the link again. It’s like a horrible car crash, and I can’t stop staring.

  36. Reb – it was higher up. Here it is again.

    This preview really is excellent – you can check to see if your link works! Not a reproach, ZaZa! You’re awesome, too.


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