Is there cookbook that radically changed the way you cook? You know the one. Worn, stained, binding bent (and maybe even held together by tape). Insides covered with notes, post-its, paper clips. And (in my case anyway), it probably opens right to the recipes you use the most.

As a young newlywed, that book for me was The Silver Palate Cookbook. And for those of you who are of “certain age”, I bet you feel the same. At the time it was the most exciting book ever,  and I referred to it again and again. The authors really promoted the idea of  stepping up your game in the kitchen. Their emphasis on “unusual” ingredients – blueberry vinaigrette! curry! kiwi! (this was the 80’s, people) – presentation and  even table settings made a young cook like me feel accomplished, glamorous and confident. Twenty five years later, I’m still making their zucchini bread, sour cream coffee cake and “Chicken Marbella” (prunes with chicken? groundbreaking).

I rarely buy cookbooks any more (you can read my post on how I organize my kitchen to learn more). Between the magazines I subscribe to and the many blogs I read, I no longer have a need to invest in a book that MAY have a handful of recipes that I’ll actually use. Of course baking books are another story. But I digress….

So I didn’t pay much attention to Dinner: A Love Story. Which was not so easy to do. I read the blog regularly, and – because the author lives in a neighboring town – was subject to many (MANY) Facebook and Twitter posts by mutual friends, raving about it. I started to weirdly feel like I wasn’t supporting a friend, so I finally gave in and bought the book.

dinner a love story

When it arrived, I stood at the table and casually started flipping through it. Then I found myself sitting down and reading in earnest.

And then I took it up to bed. And read the entire thing cover to cover.

I’m now working my way through pretty much every recipe – and have loved every one I’ve made so far.

This will be the book I give each of my children when they move out on their own. The book I give as a bridal/baby shower gift. The book that – in my humble opinion – really and truly speaks to how we cook today.

No gimmicks. No “3 ingredient” recipes. No dumbing down in an effort to keep it simple. Which every recipe is (simple, that is).

I love the fact that most of the recipes require just a bit of initial prep, followed by hands-off time (in the oven or on the stove) to finish.

I love how many of the dishes can be “deconstructed” to suit a family’s varying tastes and preferences.

I love how ALL of the recipes are easy enough for a busy weeknight, but sophisticated enough to serve dinner guests.

And I really love the stories that accompany the recipes. Stories that reflect a writer/wife/mother/cook who is flawed, tired, stumped for ideas and trying her best. These stories resonate for me and my own journey.

It’s funny, poignant, smart and accessible – and I’m so, so happy to have this book in my kitchen.

I want you to have it too, which is why I am giving away a copy of Dinner: A Love Story on the blog this week! Simply leave a comment letting me know the book that changed the way you cook.  Be sure to include your e-mail address if it’s not already linked to your comment. The giveaway is open through Friday, October 19th at 5 p.m. EST. The winner will be chosen at random, and announced on Saturday, October 20th.

Good luck! Update: Caroline U. is the lucky winner! Thanks for participating!

Note: I was not compensated in any way for this post. All comments and opinions are completely my own.


  1. Stacy on October 15, 2012 at 7:58 am

    jean Neditchs original Weight watchers cook book.

    I am forever haunted by a cartoon of a piece of cake that says no thanks Im allergic I break out in fat.

  2. Sandra on October 15, 2012 at 8:20 am

    For me it was the New Basics which was written by the Silver Palate chicks. I dragged that book around EVERYWHERE – even when I moved to southern Africa for two years. Still have it although I only regularly refer to the crepes recipe (why can’t I remember those proportions???!!!).

    And yes, the chicken marbella – I even had someone serve it to me at a dinner party in Cape Town, that recipe was THAT popular.

    If you ever want a good “case study” of small business, these two women are it – one was the recipe person and the other the marketer. And they eventually had a falling out.

    Now I lean more towards Mark Bittman and Donna Hay but I WILL hopefully be “winning” this one!

  3. jodi on October 15, 2012 at 8:25 am

    I already have the book (and agree with everything you said!) so I don’t need to enter the giveaway. I just wanted to chime in that Marcella Hazan’s “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking,” is my bible, and has been since my first semester in college!

  4. MJ @parscaeli on October 15, 2012 at 8:32 am

    Oh, my, I would love to win this!! I’ve heard so many great things about the book, and I want to try it so badly. I have my red gingham Betty Crocker cookbook that has stood the test of time very well. It didn’t change my cooking; it started it! I think it needs a new friend! My go to cooking essential these days is an Ipad app. XO, MJ

  5. Mary Lauren on October 15, 2012 at 9:20 am

    Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat was that book for me. She’s not rigid in her approach to food which blew my mind since I’d always thought of cooking as an exercise in precise measurements, temperature, cooking time, etc- more MATH than cooking for the joy of it.

  6. Lacy on October 15, 2012 at 9:39 am

    Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution did it for me! He makes delicious, HEALTHY meals. Now, we are much healthier and so are our girls.

  7. jenny on October 15, 2012 at 9:46 am

    You rock for this, Sheri. Thanks and so glad you like the book! For the record, both Silver Palate and (Jodi) Marcella Hazan’s book earn the prestigious Most Tattered Award in my kitchen as well. Let me know if I win the book! 🙂

    • sherisilver on October 15, 2012 at 12:16 pm

      Ha! Thanks Jenny – I meant every word! And good luck! 😉

  8. Kelsie Shearrer on October 15, 2012 at 9:47 am

    I loveee baking but when it comes to healthier eating I love the book The End of Overeating by David A. Kessler. Makes me really think about cooking simpler and not going with the trend of America to just add fat salt and sugar to everything. Made me consider the tastes of foods and encouraged me to cook and serve vegetables in a different way.

  9. christy on October 15, 2012 at 9:48 am

    i don’t think i’ve found that cookbook yet, though i keep looking. probably the closest are the real simple and everyday food cookbooks.

  10. Cassandra Nelson on October 15, 2012 at 9:49 am

    Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. It was the first really good veggie cookbook I ever owned, and I return to it regularly. She showed me how to make delicious, interesting, inventive food!

  11. Jill Hartley on October 15, 2012 at 9:52 am

    The cookbook that changed me was just the simple Betty Crocker cookbook that was the original (but republished over and over) it gave me my basics recipes that I was able to build on.

  12. Carlotta on October 15, 2012 at 9:54 am

    Until I started watching The Frugal Gourmet on PBS back when I was a recent college graduate, I had little interest in cooking. Jeff Smith’s first book from the series still has a place on my cookbook shelf.

  13. Monica D. on October 15, 2012 at 9:58 am

    For me it was a hand-written “notebook” that was written by my Greek grandmother. I found it while ‘officially’ moving out of my mother’s home after college – never had cooked a single thing in my life!! Was so touched, curious and excited that I started cooking that night…. Still have it but made many laminated copies just in case:-)

  14. Carla on October 15, 2012 at 10:02 am

    The Barefoot Contessa cookbooks. REAL, delicious food – and as an added bonus, entertaining tips!

  15. Jennifer on October 15, 2012 at 10:09 am

    When I first started cooking on my own the book was an original Moosewood cookbook. Still have, and use along with others from the collective. When I started to get more adventurous with cooking meat I liked the layout and style of The New Basics. Would love a copy of this book, Thanks for the giveaway!

  16. Melanie on October 15, 2012 at 10:17 am

    For me it was some Oprah cookbook in 1996. I was making some kind of sauce that called for three or four cloves of garlic. I didn’t know the difference between a clove of garlic and a HEAD of garlic. You see where this is going, right? I had to throw out my four-headed garlic sauce.

    Now I don’t cook, but my husband does. I like to look through well-designed cookbooks though, and pick out recipes for Drew to make for us. 🙂

  17. Renee Wilson on October 15, 2012 at 10:31 am

    I rely on Marcella Hazan’s books for most of my cooking.

  18. Jennifer Cullen on October 15, 2012 at 10:38 am

    My age is going to show here but…. The Moosewood Cookbook. The hummus, the babaganush and a handful of other recipes in it.

    When I first lived in Manhattan, the Silver Palate women had a little storefront on the UWS, near my apartment. But I couldn’t buy much from them. I wasn’t making enough money!! But someone did give me their cookbook. The brie, garlic and olive oil pasta was pretty yummy.

    Now, of course, I rarely cook. Fred does it for me. Two of my favorite recipes come from the Food Yenta and my third favorite is from the Dinner: A Love Story blog.

  19. Megan on October 15, 2012 at 10:41 am

    I just recently started reading cookbooks as though they were novels. Gwenth (sp?) Paltrow’s was the first I did this with and then I just bought The Pioneer Woman’s cookbook this weekend. Will have to check this one out! XO

  20. Sarah on October 15, 2012 at 10:43 am

    Dinner: A Love Story might just be that cookbook for me. I checked it out at the library last week, and I couldn’t put it down.

    I was married one year ago. Prior to marriage I was in Washington, D.C. and lived on take-out and Trader Joe’s pre-packaged meals. I now find myself in a town of 1,800 in the Midwest, 90 miles away from the nearest Trader Joe’s, and in the last year my culinary failings tend to slap me across the face weekly, if not daily.

    I love how she talks about having a recipe starter kit, and branching out from there. And her illistration of how to deconstruct a meal for a picky eater is mind-blowing! (How did I manage to fall in love with a man who won’t touch eggs? Or onions? Or pasta? Or any kind of red sauce?!?)

    Anyhow, today I’m going to renew the book at the library and go shopping for the ingredients for three of her recipes, which I hope will soon become dependable members of my recipe starter kit. 🙂

  21. ilaria on October 15, 2012 at 10:46 am

    I started reading DALS blog few weeks ago. I found it by accident. I like the recipes a lot, but more than that I like that she (they) try to put a home cooked dinner on the table every night. I try to do the same and I know how difficult it is when you have kids.

  22. Veronica on October 15, 2012 at 10:56 am

    I love What To Cook and How To Cook It by Jane Hornby. Her recipes are so simply and the pictures of the process help a new cook like me!

  23. Christina on October 15, 2012 at 10:57 am

    The Six O’Clock Scramble is the cookbook that changed my life. As a working mom, I was perpetually feeling harried after getting home from work, spending a few moments with my baby, and then trying to find inspiration in the fridge/pantry. The Scramble has helped me to plan a week at a time, and to make sure I always have some essentials on hand. I can’t wait to dive in to Jenny’s cookbook too!

  24. amelia on October 15, 2012 at 11:15 am

    my favourite cookbook is the American Heart Association’s One Dish Meals. that book and one of my oldest, best roommates were the reason I started actually planning menus and making an effort to eat well. I’m still not perfect at the planning or the eating well… but I’m trying, so that’s what matters, right?

  25. Becca on October 15, 2012 at 11:22 am

    The Fanny Farmer Cookbook. My mom’s old worn copy is full of some great classic recipes.

  26. Jodi Bienenfeld on October 15, 2012 at 11:27 am

    Mark Bittman’s “how to cook everything” has been that book for me but I recently discovered “Dinner A Love Story” & would love another copy to give to my Bestie-tx!!!

  27. Julie on October 15, 2012 at 11:32 am

    Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian changed the way I cooked, undoubtedly. It completely changed my approach to cooking, which is not to say I completely shunned meat. I just gained a greater appreciate for grains and humble vegetables.

  28. Rae Lovvorn on October 15, 2012 at 11:41 am

    How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. It is such a great primer for the basics, and has lots of updates of classic recipes. It’s the one I still give as a wedding gift to young couples.

  29. Su on October 15, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    Thank you for the giveaway, I normally don’t use cookbooks but I’d love to start!

  30. Amy Zerman on October 15, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    Craig Claiborne’s Favorites. I had to search and search for a replacement copy as mine had TOTALLY fallen apart. The Chicken Manicotti is my go to impress recipe! I’ve never made anything from either volume that wasn’t perfect.

  31. Jodie on October 15, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    “Life’s on Fire – Cooking for the Rushed” by Sandi Richard. She’s Canadian (yeah!) and a great go to book for the daily dinner rush. Taught me a different way to plan….it’s the one I often gift. Never had any fails from it.

  32. Lindsay on October 15, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    We got a Williams and Sinoma Entertaining cookbook for our wedding that I just loved. Everything was so simple and rustic but so sophisticated and delicious.

  33. Gina on October 15, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    I got the book from the library and LOVE it. It’s an enjoyable read and every recipe that I’ve tried has been delicious. Love the chicken cutlets & the mustardy pork chops with onions and apples. I have been wanting to buy my own copy it so would love to win it!

  34. gina on October 15, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    Martha Stewart’s Cooking School. I read that book from cover to cover. My fiance jokes that it’s my bible.

  35. jen on October 15, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    the book that changed my life? hmmm i guess it would have had to be Martha Stewart. i came from a culinary family so NOT having the ability to cook would have be the abnormal {my job at 5 years old was to roll the spanakopitas for my mom’s catering company} but my mom had the martha mags everywhere and i would devour them and i think from that i realized my true love for all things crafty and culinary.
    from there i found my love of sewing pillows, making garlands, holiday centerpieces, place cards, scooping out apples & mini pumpkins for candle holders etc..and also for the want to throw THE perfect dinner party.
    so i guess like many others, martha showed me the way. the light. and now when my friends call me mini-martha i take that as the best compliment ever!

  36. Pat on October 15, 2012 at 10:42 pm

    The Art of French Cooking! Not because I make all of Julia’s recipes(I’m a vegetarian!) but because of how she talks about how to turn one dish into another. Potato leek soup into watercress soup etc. She’s the greatest. Anna Thomas’ Vegetarian Epicure also was one of my best friends.

  37. Sara on October 16, 2012 at 9:05 am

    Marcella Hazan ~ Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking … all about technique!

  38. Leslie on October 16, 2012 at 9:29 am

    I rarely use cookbooks these days. And funnily enough, when I do it is for very basic things as opposed to fancier dinners which I do out of my head. Like pie crust. And chocolate chip cookies. And the Thanksgiving turkey. Things that are simple but that I don’t make often enough to have in my head. For those needs I have always relied upon Better Homes and Gardens and the Joy of Cooking (which is also fun to read like a novel–at least the 1970s version was).

  39. Maggie May on October 16, 2012 at 11:37 am

    Oh this looks so good! I’d love to have it. One of my favorite cookbooks, well worn and bookmarked, is the huge and simple ‘ How To Cook Everything’

  40. Ellen Monheit on October 16, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    I don’t know if this counts, because it was the magazine “Seventeen” that had a feature for beginning cooks. I clipped out recipes, one of which was for Veal Scallopini, and I use this recipe still, more tha 50 years later.

  41. Caroline on October 16, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    For me it was The Book of Whole Meals–a cookbook I read in college in the 1990’s when most people were still on a Fat Free kick and not talking about just eating healthy whole foods. I don’t cook entirely like that now but it changed my perception of the types of foods I should be eating and cooking.

    This looks like such a great book!

  42. June Pope on October 16, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    My most-loved cookbook is from my family’s church, the one I grew up in. Tyro United Methodist Church cookbook. It has recipes from family members and all the ladies I remember from my childhood. Like you, Sheri, my cookbook opens right up to my mother’s meatloaf recipe. There’s even a little sauce splattered on that page. I go to it for just about everything Southern. Hopefully I will live in North Carolina again someday and attend my home church where all those wonderful recipes originated.

  43. Jackie on October 17, 2012 at 9:41 am

    For me it was and is Veterinarian Cooking for Everyone. It was the first time I could pick-up any veggie at the market and be confident I could make something delicious at home. I still use this book all the time, even though I have to hold it together when I pick it up.

    I’ve read DALS cookbook and would love to have a copy!

  44. meredith on October 17, 2012 at 11:23 am

    Ignore all these other comments because I want this book 🙂 kinda kidding…but not really 🙂 My most beloved cookbook, and don’t laugh, Mastering the Art of French Cooking by my all time favorite Julia. When I first started really cooking it was the only book I really referred to and still do!

  45. Gabrielle on October 17, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything

  46. Sara on October 17, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    The book that changed the way I cook was the coursebook for my Italian Cooking class I took in Florence while studying abroad. The slow, careful attention to detail and bringing out every flavor is more than cooking, it’s a lifestyle!

  47. Jackie on October 17, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Cooking for Isaiah by Silvana Nardone. It was the first gluten-free cookbook I bought after my son was diagnosed with celiac disease. I was so overwhelmed back then but the first recipe I tried, banana doughnuts, was a hit with our whole family and it gave me hope that i would be able to find and create many great gluten-free recipes going forward. I love adapting great recipes or finding those that are already gluten-free and highlighting them in my blog for others who may be overwhelmed like I was in the beginning! That why I would love a copy of Dinner: A Love Story!

    Such a great give-away. Do I have to share this with others? I feel like I should but won’t that lessen my chances??? 🙂

  48. Deb Tarricone on October 17, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    The rural church cookbook we found when cleaning out my grandmothers house after she passed away. It had all her notes written in it about the recipes she loved.

  49. Lindsey (Cafe Johnsonia) on October 17, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    I’ve had my eye on this book as well.

    The Joy of Cooking. I first saw it on the shelf of a family I worked for 11 years ago. The recipes, the basic directions and helpful hints, and info about different kinds of food really opened my eyes.

    It’s still my go-to book, even though I have dozens of other books I love just as much.

  50. Hillary on October 18, 2012 at 9:48 am

    The book that changed the way I cook? I can think of a couple. Nigella Lawson’s How To Eat is up there. She was is so casual and seductive in the way she eats and cooks. I love the combo. Also, Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. When I got that book I was living alone in a small town and pawning off extras from her recipes to cute boys. Those were the days.

  51. Alicia on October 18, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    When I read the comments above, I despaired because so many of the cookbooks mentioned have changed my cooking, and of course I did not want to be redundant. Then I re-read the prompt and realized it could be any book, not just a cookbook. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle came to mind, which really got me on the seasonal bandwagon. Omnivore’s Dilemma and Food, Inc heightened my awareness of agribusiness and the importance of knowing from where (and from whom) my food comes. I was feeling pretty good, then, nice and self-righteous.

    Then It hit me- the book that made it possible for me to imagine myself as a person who cooks (unlike my mom, who is great in so many ways, but eats only in order to live): the A-to-Z No-Cook Cookbook (“No Stoves-No Ovens-Lots of Fun”) by Felipe Rojas-Lombardi, With adorable illustrations by Dorothy Ivens. Despite its “no cook” promises, this book made cooking seem fun to me, and every recipe delivered. It started me on my way to becoming a happy cook who is always excited about making the next meal. My daughter now has my well-loved and well-used copy.

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