A Quick Bite With John Donohue

A Quick Bite With John Donohue

This Quick Bite was originally posted  on May 19, 2011. We had to bring it out of the archives today because it’s about the brilliant cartoonist from The New Yorker and author, John Donohue who is also the voice behind the blog Stay At Stove Dad. We think John is a great way to cap off Dad week. Not sure our husbands agree.

One of the first things Laura and I decided on when we started SPC was that we weren’t creating a site for Moms. Or Mommies. Or Mummies. With all due respect to those who do create magazines, websites and products for mothers, that’s not our thing. We make SPC for all the people who cook for and with kids. Yeah, it’s very often mothers. But sometimes it’s grandparents, nannies, and plenty of times, damn it, it’s dads.

When I came across John Donohue’s site, the name cracked me up. Stay At Stove Dad is a funny, useful and warm account of John’s life as a working, cooking family man. By day, John is a writer and cartoonist at The New Yorker. By night he cooks for his wife and their two young girls. The site is full of great recipes and peppered with the ups and downs of trying to feed and please a family. Now John’s come out with a collection of essays: Man With a Pan; Culinary Adventures of Fathers Who Cook for Their Families. With contributors such as Mark Bittman, Mario Batali and Stephen King, the book looks at what it means to be a man in the kitchen. Can we get a hell yeah? We were happy to catch up with John during the busy week of his book launch.

SPC: What’s your earliest food memory?
JD: My earliest food memory is not one of a dish, an ingredient, or a meal. It is the memory of always being hungry. I was one of five children, and I can still visualize reaching for a box of cereal or cookies in the cupboard and finding it empty.

SPC: What was your favourite food growing up?
JD: My favorite food was tomato sauce with fresh mushrooms.

SPC: How did you learn to cook?
JD: I taught myself. During high school, college, and for a while after graduation, I worked in a retail fish market that also sold prepared foods. A couple of my co-workers were graduates of the CIA, and I learned a few techniques from them. The rest I figured out on my own.

SPC: Do you still cook any of your family’s recipes?
JD: You mean the recipes I grew up with? Not in a literal sense, but I did learn a great appreciation for fresh and healthy ingredients from my mother. We never had iceberg lettuce, only romaine. I still cook that way.

SPC: Do your kids cook with you?
JD: They’re at that sweet age where they’re still fascinated by almost anything I do, so they like to be in the kitchen with me. That age is also one of developing manual dexterity, so what they can do is somewhat limited, though. I’ve found that they love to wash the vegetables. I think they could do that for hours.

SPC: How do you handle pickiness in your kids?
JD: Occasionally, I get frustrated because it defies logic. My eldest, for example, won’t try any fruits, not even jams or the cherry in the bottom of a Shirley Temple. But most of the time I just let it be. On the whole, they eat a pretty wide variety of things.

SPC: What do your kids like best from your repetoire?
JD: They’re crazy about my Bolognese sauce. They love pancakes. Roast chicken, too, with the juices.

SPC: What are the dinner table rules in your house?
JD: No toys at the table. No phones, no electronic devices.

SPC: What’s your go-to-Wednesday-night-running-late dinner?
JD: If I have Bolognese in the freezer, I will defrost that. If not, I’ll make pasta with a commercial jar sauce and top it with grated Parmesan and a bit of Mozzarella.

SPC: Do you like to cook alone or with other people?
JD: I like to cook on my own but have other people around to talk to. We just moved to a new apartment with a pass-through to the dining room and living room. I like it a lot because I can be working on my own and still be a part of what the children and other people might be doing elsewhere in the house.

SPC: What made you want to create a book about men in the kitchen?
JD: A few years ago I was looking for a new project. I had recently become a father, and I started cooking a lot more than I had before. I noticed that my male friends who were new dads were doing the same thing. Some of those friends happened to be very successful writers, and I wondered what they might have to say about being the man in the kitchen.

SPC: Which essay surprised you the most?
JD: Jim Harrison’s. Almost every sentence in that wild ride contains a surprising fact or revelation

SPC: What’s the most manly recipe in the book?
JD: That has to be Peter Kaminsky’s recipe for whole roast cow!

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  1. Laura@MotherWouldKnow
    March 07, 08:52 Reply

    I’ve been an avid reader of Stay At Stove Dad, for a while now. I’m proof that you don’t have to have young kids or be searching for dad-friendly recipes to enjoy it. His adventures with Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria (as he calls his family in the blog) are always delightful. And the recipes are good – really good.

    • Ceri Marsh
      March 11, 15:15 Reply

      I agree! We’re big fans of John’s and were so thrilled when he agreed to do an interview with us. He’s a really lovely guy.

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