Mark Scarbrough likes to refer to himself and his husband/business partner Bruce Weinstein as the hardest working food writers you've never heard of. The syndicated food columnists have been in the business for over a decade and have authored over 20 cookbooks, including the bestselling Ultimate Cookbook series.
The first time I encountered a Weinstein and Scarbrough cookbook was last year when I got Ham: An Obsession with the Hindquarter, which was recently nominated for a James Beard award. Immediately, I fell in love.
Nobody is really writing cookbooks like these two. Part field research report, part cookbook, and part personal food memoir, Weinstein and Scarbrough's cookbooks are approachable, delectable, and hilarious.
This year alone the pair have three cookbooks coming out, the first of which was Goat: Milk, Meat, and Cheese which will be our Cook the Book this week.
Goat is actually the most widely eaten meat across the globe and in this book, the pair share recipes for everything from schwarma to goat cheese sheet cake with maple-goat cheese frosting. Recently, we talked to Scarbrough about how Goat came to be and his approach to meat eating.
Your cookbook writing style is very unique. Was it hard to get publishers on board with it? It was very hard to get published at first. Harper Collins was our first publisher and at the time, no one was interested in having any voice in cookbooks. It was the 1990s and books were supposed to compete with the internet; the writing was flat, straightforward, the whole point was just to dispense as much information as possible. Slowly, we began to deviate from the model.
What was the new model? Bruce is a trained chef and he does the cooking. I do the writing. The writing got snappier and snarkier and publishers began to love it. I don't like all of the finger-shaking in cookbooks and a cookbook about goat can get pretentious and condescending very quickly, so we take it back to reality and make people laugh. The end of the book ends with a story about f---ing goats, how great is that?
How did you and Weinstein meet and begin working together? I was in New York and doing some food writing for a website. While on an assignment about piano bars, I was logging into chatrooms and talking to people about NYC piano bars, which is where I encountered Bruce. We chatted for hours and decided to meet the next day at The Guggenheim. It moved pretty fast from there. Bruce had already published a book about cocktails, so we slowly decided to collaborate on books. He quit his job in advertising, I quit my job in teaching, and we've been together for sixteen years and married for four.
Tell me about how the Goat cookbook came to be. The idea for the book actually got sold during a photo shoot for Ham. I told our editor Luisa Weiss that I'd wanted to do a goat cookbook for years and she jumped on the idea. A contract was signed just a few weeks later. It seemed like the right time. Goat meat is tasty, sustainable, lean, and despite being eaten all over the world, it's a cottage industry and it's a very clean meat to eat.
Has working on cookbooks put you more in touch with your food? Definitely. There's a story in Ham about how we have to drive our pig to slaughter and how painful it was. I have a rancher friend who told me that it hurts every time he has to drive a cow to slaughter. When everything is so mechanized and food comes cellophane-wrapped, you forget how tough it's supposed to be to kill an animal. It should be hard and I'm not being romantic about it, I grew up on a farm and I know how things go.
Is the answer to eat less meat? I eat a lot less meat than I used to. Before, I wouldn't eat meat unless I knew where it came from, now I won't eat meat unless I can shake hands with the person who raised the animal. That's the rule I have in my own home, but I won't be a snob about it if someone invites me to dinner. If my mom invites us over for roast that she's purchased at Safeway, I'm going to eat it. Safeway would actually be an improvement for my mom.