Jessica Harper may not totally hate cooking, but there are many nights where she is just not feeling it--especially since her hungry family consists of some pretty picky eaters. She realized she wasn't alone in her crabbiness, and promises that her new book, The CrabbyCook Cookbook:135 Almost-Effortless Recipes Plus Survival Tips (Workman, Feb.), will help crabby cooks everywhere come up with something to make for dinner tonight that won't take long and will please most anyone.
How did you come up with Crabby Cook concept?
I was emailing with my sister, who’s also a crabby cook. We regularly send each other crabby emails about what the hell we’re going to make for dinner. One day she needed an idea for dinner, so I started writing her back a recipe (it’s in the book, actually--the Crabby Cook casserole), and I used language like, “You hurl the broccoli into the damn casserole and then you rip the flesh from the chicken….” That gave me the idea that it’d be fun to write this book that really told it like it was, that expressed all the irritation of what it’s like to cook for picky people every day. My sister said, “You know, you should write a cookbook—“and I said, “I know. The Crabby Cook Cookbook.”
There are a lot of 30-minute-meal-type cookbooks out there. Were none of them able to help you?
The cookbook that I’ve always really wanted to find is the one that you would just open and the meatloaf dinner would just pop out of the book. That, to me, would be my perfect cookbook. No, I’ve explored many of them with varying degrees of success. But I have such a picky family so that’s part of the reason I’ve developed my own recipes.
Today’s foodie culture today is kind of at odds with your stance of hating to cook. Do you think foodies are just faking their interest? Or is it that they have a different view of things since most of them don’t have to cook for a family every night?
I do think that there are genuine foodies. I can’t believe that they actually have families, though I guess some of them do. For a long time I thought I was the only Crabby Cook in town and I felt somewhat ashamed that I wasn’t all Martha Stewart. And then one day I had my friends over for lunch and one of them said, “I am so over cooking dinner every night for my family.” I was shocked. And then another friend said, “Yeah, it really sucks.” And one by one my friends outed themselves. Even my sister-in-law, who writes a food column for the Baltimore Sun! I think some foodies are faking. Some foodies are single, and then actually there are probably a few who have families that will eat anything. They’re in the best possible situation.