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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