The Making of Cooking for Gracie by Keith Dixon | Read It Forward

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The Book I Never Expected to Write
about the Daughter I Never Expected to Have
By Keith Dixon

As a teenager, I swore to my parents that in my adult life there were two things I would never do. I even went so far as to write them down, once: I will never get married. And, I will never live in New York City.

Well, we know how that turned out – as I gaze out of the windows at the teeming metropolis of New York City, my wife and two daughters whirling around the apartment behind me, I sometimes reflect that my father was right when he said that it’s the things that don’t turn out the way you expect that make life worth living.

I think that’s because Life has a great imagination.

Even those of us who make our bacon on our imagination seem lacking when it comes to the astonishing creative powers of Life – which, like any responsible storyteller, seems to want to keep us guessing how things are going to turn out.

Cooking for Gracie is another thing I never expected to happen – from the beginning of my writing career, I always wanted to be a novelist and nothing else, to grapple exclusively with the big sweeping narrative dreamlands. I never much considered the possibility of writing a memoir, or – even stranger – a memoir with recipes. And yet that’s exactly what I’ve done, or at any rate been led to.

As the book elaborates, the idea for writing a memoir about the life of a new parent learning to cook for three arrived in the midst of an astonishing case of writer’s block – which is, it turns out, not a matter of having nothing to say, but rather a matter of having too much to say.

One of the qualities that helps writers get through to THE END is singularity of purpose, and it was exactly this character trait that I seemed to have lost.

It was when I was at my most vulnerable, my most abjectly lost, that the daughter for whom I’d worried, worked, labored, feared, begged, pleaded, prayed, cajoled and cried – the daughter who at times seemed to take so very much while giving so little in return – provided the solution to my most overwhelming problem.

The answers, it turned out, were to be found in the kitchen, where I was learning to cook for three and, by extension, learning to find my way as a new dad. My daughter, in the end, was the force who brought all the lose ends together into a single narrative thread.

When I look back on that first year, all of it seems to tie into Cooking for Gracie.

People sometimes equate the process of writing to childbirth, to the building of a house, and so forth. I’ve never identified with those metaphors. To me, writing a book usually feels like one thing: it feels like running headfirst into a brick wall over and over again, the reasoning being that you’re bound to get through eventually, even if you don’t necessarily come through with your faculties intact.

The writing of Cooking for Gracie, however, was much different than what I’m used to – while writing is never easy, this time the process was less isolating, not least because I realized that to make the book work, I’d have to identify with other parents.

Each morning, as I sat down to write, I asked myself, “How did my experiences reflect those of other parents and cooks? What are their fears and hopes, their small successes and setbacks? How can I better understand what they were feeling?”

Writing novels has always been a process of isolating myself from the world. But Cooking for Gracie – the book I never expected to write about the daughter I never expected to have – was, from the start, a book about connecting with it. This alone made the process worthwhile—it helped that I ate so well along the way.

A critically acclaimed novelist, Keith Dixon reflects on food, parenting, and cooking with both humor and reverence, and shares the delicious, accessible parent- and family-friendly recipes he discovered along the way. Beautifully written and compulsively readable, Cooking for Gracie is an irresistible and unforgettable story, for foodies and parents alike, of a family of three learning to find their way together. Keith Dixon has been on the staff of the New York Times for seventeen years. He is also the author of two novels: The Art of Losing – which received starred reviews in both Kirkus and Booklist and was named “Editor’s Choice” by the Philadelphia Inquirer – and Ghostfires, named one of the five best first novels of 2004 by Poets & Writers magazine. Cooking for Gracie is available wherever books are sold May 10, 2011.

Visit Keith online at ReadKeithDixon.com, on Facebook, and on Goodreads.

Download an excerpt and recipes from Cooking for Gracie by Keith Dixon.

RIFers! What’s your favorite family or foodie memoir? Leave a comment below with your reading recommendations!

  • Vicki

    Another amazing book – no surprise!!!

  • Jen

    I love reading about cooking, so this sounds like a wonderful book! I spend a ton of time in my kitchen cooking real food… whole foods for my family. It all started with the birth of our first son, and continues to this day with the recent birth of our second son.

  • Brianna Beers

    Always find time to read when the children are in school, nappind , or down for resting at night!

  • Stephanie Wright

    Cooking – a lost art that is making a comeback due to the economy! I love cooking and I love reading! What could be better but a book that combines my two loves with the awesome life-changing role of being a parent. We as parents will do just about anything in order to provide the very best for our children.

  • Jenna

    Favorite family food memoir:

    We have a Norwegian family tradition we do every Christmas on my father’s side. It is a must. We, together, create cream rice. This delicious treat requires a whole day affair in order to be made. Along with putting aside a day, one of must at all times continuously stir the rice to avoid it burning. Slaving over a hot stove and creating sore arms from stiring all day long are worth it when having the chance to create the delicious Norwegian dish with loving family. =)

  • Jamie Garcia

    I really look forward to reading this book!

  • Carl Scott

    My current favorite family memoir is The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls.

  • Rhonda

    My grandma taught me how to make her special date-nut pinwheels for Christmas…after she passed I made them several times, but it wasn’t until about 4 years after she was gone that my dad said, “I think you finally got it!” Thanks Grandma!!

  • Jennifer

    I’m excited to read the book!

  • Lucinda Larson

    This book sounds interesting.

  • Jenny

    This sounds like the perfect book for my life right now!

  • Page Inman

    I just read The Kitchen Daughter a foodie novel and it was great.

  • Christina

    So excited!

  • Christina

    Can’t wait!

  • marita

    would love to read the whole book sound like parts of my own life as a child.

  • Meghann Wernegreen

    There have been so many times during my journey as a parent when late night cooking has pulled me through sleepless nights. Humming while I mix, crack, stir, roll, or blend has sent many a kid back to dreamland while giving me something to pass the time. What a wonderful idea this book is….totally unique!

  • Rebecca

    Sounds great!

  • Shauna

    Can’t wait to read this!

  • Amy

    Very poignant and appropriate. I can definitely identify in many ways. Looking forward to reading this one!

  • Corinna

    Both my husband and I grew up with dads who had to learn how to cook for their kids.This book sounds like a wonderful read for both of us. Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy of your new memoir.

  • Jennie

    Sounds like a neat book!

  • Linda Bentzen

    My comment is a little different. As kids living on a farm, we didn’t get to go out to eat very much. One thing we loved was buttered bread with sugar springled on top. When we went to a local restaurant, they served wonderful hand-made dinner rolls. My youngest sister buttered her roll and sprinkled sugar from a sugar packet on it. She dumped the whole packet on top and realized that she had too much sugar on he roll. What would you do in this situation? She solved her problem by blowing the sugar off the top!

  • Deb

    Can’t wait to read this.

  • Linda Thoreson

    Love getting these free books…

  • Linda Thoreson

    Hope to win this one, it looks interesting and cute…

  • Amy

    I can not wait to spend time with this book! I too have been learning to cook for 3 since the birth of our first child. These days it seems like a lot of life lessons happen in the kitchen. I’m excited to glean inspiration from this new book “Cooking for Gracie”.

  • Rose

    Love to cook, and would love to read this.

  • Vesna

    Excited to read this.

  • Nadia

    Great Book…would love to get it :)

  • Katie

    I hope I win one! Just starting my summer break and need a great read!!!

  • Andie

    Any memory involving my kids is my favorite….but one of the best was recent. I made a “grown up” sit down supper, served to my daughter and 5 of her friends on her 16th birthday. We all enjoyed it so very much.

  • Lillian Lane

    My mom made a fantastic “all-day” spaghetti. Her meat sauce used four whole spices (rosemary, basil, thyme, and marjoram) “as much as you can grab between your fingers twice,” that she tied in cloth. The sauce had to cook for a long time for the juices to penetrate the cloth and get the yummy spice flavors. It was always a dish that my siblings and I wanted wheneer we came home.

  • TONIA

    This sounds like the perfect book to curl up on the couch with on a drizzly Pacific NW day and just submerge yourself while sipping coffee and nibbling on high quality dark chocolate!

  • Katie

    Can’t wait to read this one!

  • Ann Marie

    Anyone who loves to cook would appreciate this book. It appears that it shows how cooking changes due to family, age and different times in your life. It shows life’s effect on the way you cook and also how you cook.

  • Barb Shelton

    This is just the right cook book for my husband who is my caregiver. Since I became physically incapaciated ten years ago, my husband had to take over my responsibilities. I appreciate what he does for me and he really deserves some help. Thanks for offering this book as a giveaway and the chance to win it. I hope I win!

  • Martha Aschenbrenner

    Sounds like a fun read!

  • Susie Buetow

    I love foodie books! I just read Friendship Bread: A Novel by Darien Gee and LOVED it! I’m ready to devour a new book! Thanks! SusieQTpies at Scraps of Life

  • Lynn Burke

    Reading this excerpt from the book brought back great memories of my late husband when I went back to work full time days and he worked nights. He learned to cook so that dinner would be ready for me and our children when I got home from work. I remember the calls when he’d ask what temperature should he set the oven at to roast the chicken. It became a daily laugh at work. It endeared him to everyone that he would even try. Sure miss his cooking!

  • Elizabeth

    Sounds great! I am growing into more and more of a foodie everyday. I’d love to read your experience Keith, especially as it relates to your kids!

  • Charity Parise

    This looks like a fantastic book. I would love to have it!

  • shelley

    Love, love, love to read, so I hope to get this one!!

  • RisaG

    This looks like a wonderful book. I love to cook and I have a huge cookbook collection. My favorite food bio is Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. I also love Ruth Reichl’s books. I have read all of them. I totally recommend any of her books.

  • Kristin Araujo

    I would love to read this book with my daughter Grace.

  • Jennifer

    I’m excited to read this book! I used to sit and read a book start to finish in a day, now three little boys later I can not even remember the last book I was able to read! This book sounds like a good one to start with on my quest to get back to at least a portion of what I used to read!

  • Rachael A Wolfe

    This sounds like a great book to read! I cant wait!

  • Lynn D

    This book sounds very interesting. I would like to read it.

  • Jenny

    Wow, this storyline is what attracted me to this. I swore to myself I would never get married (especially to an Amercan serviceman), never have kids and never ever leave my little village in Cornwall, England….well I have done all and I have looked back. I came to love cooking for my family because of my dad, (he loves to cook when he visits us) I was a stay at home wife/mum and missed my family so much, cooking my dads recipes always made things better…would love to see how much of this book relates to my own life.

  • Tamie Cawley

    I can’t wait to read the rest of this book. I love cooking and am very excited I have this opportunity to win this! Thank you for giving me this chance!

  • Rebekah

    I can relate to this book so much! As a mom with two girls, 3 years old and 7 weeks old, I find myself standing in the kitchen many times wondering what to cook for dinner. At times my life is humourous and at times it can drive me crazy, but I love my life.

  • Theresa

    Enjoyed what I read in the excerpt. Would love to continue reading!

  • Allison

    sounds like a book I would love to get my reading glasses out for!

  • Maria Chaves

    Amazing Book! I really want it! Can’t wait!

  • Heather Cyllus

    Reading is one of my favorite past times to do with my daughters. And I LOVE to cook.

  • Jessica huddleston

    How awesome!!! I have a Gracie 2yrs old. And I feel I can totally relate to this book!!

  • Julie Kroske

    I think this sounds great. My favorite food and person is chocolate star shaped candies and my grandpa. When I was little, (long ago) we would visit with grandpa who lived on a farm. He always had a bowl of star shaped chocolate candies on the table :just for me”. I would often ask him where they came from and his story was always the same. “From the tree in the woods”. I would then ask him to take me there, but he would frown and shake his head saying “You know the Wild Boar would not like little girls in the woods” Just a few short years after that, I walked into the grocery store and saw the Brach chocolate stars for sale. Grandpa had died without telling me and I love him all the more for that! I still smile and think of him when I see them in the stores!

  • Kathy J

    Reading and eating-can’t go wrong!
    Favorite family/foodie memory- Long Sunday dinners at my Italian grandparents home with aunts,uncles,cousins,etc packed into my grandparents 2 flat in Chicago with mountains and mountains of food!So good!So many people!

  • Julie

    Looks like a great book!

  • Ariel Byrd

    love to read it!

  • Ariel Byrd

    i would love to read this!

  • Kathy

    My granddaughter’s name is Gracie and she loves to cook. I’m sure I’ll love this book.

  • Rosemary Sobczak

    Sounds fascinating!

  • Rosemary Sobczak

    Anything about cooking appeals to me.

  • Fahimeh

    I love reading about cooking.I hope it’s like “LIKE WATER FOR CHOCLATE” I love this book.

  • Alicia

    Looks like a good book!

  • Kathy S.

    This sounds like a fun read!

  • Suzanne Diaz

    sounds interesting

  • donna harris

    I hope I win this book! It really seems like a good book, something I would be interested in reading.

  • Diana Quinn

    I would LOVE to read this book. As a caregiver for my parents it would be right up my alley. Thanks RIF for broadening my taste in reading!

  • April

    Would love to read this book!

  • Rachel Sperduti

    I would like to read this book it sounds interesting!

  • Melissa

    Being a mother of 3 I don’t have much time to read but I’ll make time for this one!

  • kellie

    Sounds interseting

  • amber young

    THANK YOU!! WOULD LOVE TO READ IT!!!

  • Laurie

    Sounds like a great book!!

  • Jody Stevely

    I LOVE READ IT FORWARD!!!!!!!!!

  • Trisha

    Looks like a great read!

  • Dawn Poole

    I just LOVE anthing cooking….oh just the thought of this book makes me want to DIVE RIGHT IN!!

  • Amy LeBlanc

    Looks like an entertaining read!

  • linda d schule

    this would be an interesting book to read.

  • heidi

    sounds awesome!!!

  • Jasmina

    Cant Wait!!

  • Vanessa N

    This looks like a great book, would love to read it all.

  • Jennifer

    Sounds like a good read…..

  • melody

    Great combo kids and cooking! Would love to read this one!!

  • Jan A

    This book sounds fascinating!! I would love to read this book!

  • Sharon Ashworth

    I can’t wait to see it come in my mailbox!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Joan Caldwell

    A free book. Better than going to the library.

  • Bon Knapik

    This really sounds like a very interesting read!

  • Susannah King

    WOULD LOVE A COPY!!! SOUNDS LIKE A GOOD BOOK!!!

  • carol krajewski

    WOULD LOVE A COPY!!!

  • Stephanie

    This books looks really great!

    I love food fiction and non-fiction…one of my recent favorites is probably My Life in France by Julia Child. While her style of cooking isn’t my thing, I still wanted to be her best friend after reading it!

  • donna harris

    Sounds like a really neat book. Hope I win this!

  • Chris

    Sounds like a perfect summer read!

  • jen

    By far my favorite cooking blog is the Smitten Kitchen. Deb does this absolutely fabulous job of combining cooking with little snippets from her everyday life. So when I learned about Cooking for Gracie I thought I had found the equivalent in the form of a memoir.

    Well, it both is and isn’t. With the Smitten Kitchen what you get is mostly recipes with the narrative of how and why the recipes were developed along with loads of pictures and cute Jacob (her toddler) stories. With cooking for Gracie you get stories of Gracie’s development along with recipes for the food that was cooked at the time and why. While the general content is the same, they are kind of opposites. One focuses on food with the lifestories sort of in the background. In the other the lifestories take center stage and the food is secondary.

    To be honest I prefer Deb’s style and recipes. Keith’s recipes sound interesting and I will certainly try a few but they have a stronger Asian influence than is typically my taste (although that may be a ringing endorsement for a lot of people).

    The thing I really took away from Cooking for Gracie is the idea that everyday life really influences what we cook. Sometimes it’s a matter of dietary restrictions (when Jessica was pregnant or Grace was colicky). Sometimes it’s a matter of time (when Grace wouldn’t sleep and no one had energy to shop). And sometimes it’s a matter of budget (when the economy took a nosedive). Regardless, of the restrictions Keith was still able to make cooking interesting.

    In the end I really loved the way this book made me stop and think about my own life and cooking style. Certainly, I’ve evolved as a cook, but I’ve never really though about the connections between changes in my life and how and what I cook. After reading Cooking for Gracie I can begin to appreciate how some of my cooking choices came about. There really are strong parallels between life events and cooking choices.

    A great read for a home cook.

  • Shari Larsen

    I won a copy of this book, (thank you so much!) and I finished reading it today.

    This is a memoir of the author’s experiences as a first time father, who also loves to cook. But it’s not just about trying to cook while adjusting to having a baby in the house, it’s a heartfelt and sometimes hilarious story about fatherhood and being a husband.

    The lessons one learns in the kitchen can also be applied to life elsewhere, such as being able to plan in advance, and how to deal when unexpected situations come up.

    The first few months of Gracie’s life mean sleep deprivation for her mom and dad, and he learns to plan meals that wholesome, but simple, that are good without a lot of time consuming preparation; and later, when Gracie starts to sleep for hours at a time, it means being able to cook without making noise such as the clanging of pots and pans. There are recipes in each chapter of the book, and some very good ones too. Most are for 2-3 people, and you don’t have to be a parent to enjoy them.

    I have never had children, but I still enjoyed this book. The author told the unvarnished truth of what life with a new baby is like, but I also felt the joy and love he had for his daughter come through the pages. I could not help but think that when Gracie is an adult, what a wonderful record of her first year of life this will be for her to read!

    I also give kudos to the author for the fact, that no matter how tired or pressed for time they were, they still made an effort to eat healthy, and did not rely on frozen or fast foods; if those two busy, tired parents can prepare healthy meals, so can everyone else; there is no excuse not to eat food that is healthy and good for you.

  • Amy Kautzsch

    Looking forward to reading!

  • Theresa N

    Keith Dixon’s Cooking With Gracie is a wonderful first year account of daughter Gracie’s life and the food they ate. Right away you know this story is going to be different Gracie is born early and later in the book you discover even more about Gracie’s birth that make’s you realize how courages her parents are. Your heart goes out to this new family as they work together as a unit. Mom stays home to take on the daily care and breast feeding and Dad takes on the responsibilty of feeding the family by planning and cooking the meals. The recipes are an excellent resource for parents of babies with infant reflux. The recipes range from simple to elegant with ingredients that are nutritious and some combinations of ingredients that have who wanting to try them right away. The book cover’s 12 months and there are several recipes for each chapter. Serious cooks are going to love the recipe choices in this book while new parents are going to appreciate the honesty of the experience of the new Dad roll. Cry It Out, have you heard of it is a new parent experience that hint’s home with every parent. Gracie and Dad’s first night alone together will have you smiling. I enjoyed this book and it’s insights into parenting and cooking. I found the suggesting for cooking, parenting and entertaining together to be very helpful.

  • Shelly Livingston

    Appreciate the book. Interesting outlook how the birth of a child can change our entire life and schedule.Enjoyed the cooking recipes.

  • Sally

    I was looking forward to reading this book as I love new recipes and was looking forward to adding some to my collection. I loved reading the parts about the author and him wife and the trials they went through as new parents. I also liked the way he identified the rules of cooking with the raising of Gracie. I did not like the receipes though. I was hoping for family friendly receipes that you could share with babies as they grew. The story about the family I enjoyed very much and looked forward to the beginning of each new chaper of Gracie’s life. I would recommend the book for the story and not the receipes.

  • Stephanie G

    Thank you, I won this book and can not tell you how perfect a fit it was for our family. I was first excited because it included cooking, my mom loves cooking and is an avid reader-I was excited to pass it to her when I was done.Then I found out it was his adventure with his (preemie) daughter! Too perfect for us! I just brought our second (and last) preemie home in December. I LOVE his humor and wit and his comments that speak so highly of his wife. I found myself laughing out loud! I haven’t finished yet but have already bought the hard copy and felt compelled to write. The recipes look fantastic and can’t wait to try some. I love when a book includes so many different ideas! Thank you!!!!