Family dinners like this aren't going to save civilization, but no one burst into tears, which is increasingly how I define success.
To go with last night's roasted chicken, I made Molly Wizenberg's potato salad. Actually, it was her late father Burg's recipe, made with mayonnaise, Ranch dressing, and dill. Burg is one of the great characters in her memoir: "He loved being a doctor. He loved Dixieland jazz. He loved the old Alfa Romeo Spider that sat in the driveway and never ran. He loved crossword puzzles, Dylan Thomas, and Gene Krupa banging on a drum kit on the stereo upstairs. He loved omelets and olives. . ."*
We liked Burg's potato salad. Mark was just happy I made potato salad at all. The potato salad I ate as a child was yellow from ballpark mustard and contained sweet pickle relish and if I have to eat potato salad, that's the potato salad I want to eat. But the truth is, I'm really not crazy for potato salad and hardly ever make it.
For dessert: Hoosier pie, which contains corn syrup, pecans and chocolate chips and is rich, super-sweet, and gooey. Nice! But you've probably eaten something almost exactly like this before -- it is often called Derby pie -- and perhaps even baked it. I have.
I'm jumping the gun with this assessment, but the magic of this book lies in the narrative not the recipes. All the dishes have been swell, but they're distinguished primarily by the fact that they played a role in Wizenberg's life. Which is the whole point; she's not claiming to be Ferran Adria or Julia Child. Her Hoosier pie is attached to a sad, sweet family story and it's about so much more than how it tastes.
*Anyone can do this, and it's very fun: My father loved being a lawyer but loves being retired even more. He loves sappy country music and Leonard Cohen and a well-pruned peach tree. He loves Ian Rankin thrillers and road trips and insanely spicy Sichuan food, even though he was raised on overcooked meat and potatoes. . .
I could do that all day. You should try it.