People who know me know that, despite the pesky fact that I have this blog, which contains a lot of information about food and that this might make me therefor a kettle-calling pot, I have a beef with food bloggers. "There is no hierarchy," I often say, quoting myself. "Anyone can say anything!" "The only qualification as far as I can see is the ability to type." "And besides, who cares what you ate for dinner last night." And then, on August 11, as if my only qualification were the ability to type, I went and issued this tweet. Umami Burger's "burger crack" = MSG. No, thank you. Why do we need chemically good? What's wrong with just "delicious." It was a nice thought from the Department of Grumpy, but the truth is, I had no idea what I was talking about. This is no excuse but by way of explanation, I saw the word "crack" and "Japanese" in the same sentence and  immediately blinded by visions of MSG. I have major issues with MSG--bigger issues than I have with food bloggers even. ...

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My standard line when people ask me about my experience writing cookbooks for other people is that cookbooks are a labor of love. "Their love. My labor." Complain as I might, the truth is, I put as much care into writing these books as I would if they were my very own, and the other truth is that I've fallen in love with almost every person I've written a cookbook for, in part because I've been lucky to work with the people I have, and in part because my job is to draw the best out of them, and when it comes right down to it, people, when you're paying attention, are pretty great. The other thing that makes the labor all worth while is seeing the book in its final, hardcover, copy-edited, graphically-designed, photograph-enhanced, glossy-paged, for sale version. I've been through this before, but I've never been as excited as when I saw The Mozza Cookbook, which I did for the first time, oddly enough, at the media party that our publisher, Knopf, hosted for the book last Wednesday. (A ...

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Last summer I got a phone call from Sara Foster. "Hey-ay--yyy...." she said. Sara's from Tennessee, where "hey," like "dude," for those of us from San Diego, can be a multiple syllable word. "Can you do me a favor?" During the time I got the pleasure of knowing Sara, by writing two of her cookbooks, she introduced me to a lot of things, including pimento cheese ("pimenna cheese"), Ole Miss and Oxford, Mississippi, tailgating the way only southerners can, Lake Placid, and a kind of generosity that--other than the Chino family, who are famous for theirs--I have never known before or since. All you can do with people like that is try to give back, but for better or worse, you're pretty much assigned to a life of generosity debt with them. Still, I try. "Anything," I said. "Can you look at what Sam Sifton wrote about the book and tell me if it's good or bad." Sara was talking about her new book, Sara Foster's Southern Kitchen, which came out this summer and which I didn't write. Sam ...

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Twenty years ago, almost exactly, I moved from California, where I grew up, to New York, on what I have come to call the Pretty Woman model of success: I wanted to either be discovered, or like Julia Roberts' character in that movie, be saved. Since I figured I had no hand in whether or not I would be saved, and since deep down I knew that I was too competent to be saved and too opinionated to attract saviors, I decided to be an actress. "If I were Julia Roberts," I think I was actually ridiculous enough to have said out loud. "I could go on David Letterman and people would listen to what I had to say." I wish I knew what I thought I had to say, but in any case, I did my research, found a good acting teacher, got a job as a waitress, paid more money than I'd spent on a semester's tuition at Cal for big-hair head shots (oh, the horror!) and signed up for my future of fortune and fame. My acting teacher, Ron Stetson, is a man who likes to call it like it is, and since I was 25 and still ...

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