Serious Reads: Cooking for Gracie, by Keith Dixon

Raising a newborn is a trying experience for any couple. New York Times journalist and novelist Keith Dixon recounts the first year of his daughter's life in Cooking for Gracie: The Making of a Parent from Scratch. Coupling stories with recipes, he describes the ups and downs of starting a family, and of attempting to find peace in the kitchen.

A long-time home cook, Dixon turned to the kitchen to cope with the sleepless nights, endless crying, and tumultuousness of building a family.

In the opening chapters of the book, Dixon describes many easy, no-fuss, nutritious meals that he pulled together to feed himself and his weary wife. He desperately wanted a deeper connection to Gracie during this time, but his daughter's allegiance remained with her mother. He feeds his wife in order to feed his daughter, nourishing them both on little sleep and wrecked nerves.

As Gracie grew older and could begin to chew some foods, Dixon and his wife wrestled with whether to buy pre-made purees and stews for their daughter. This prompted some broader thinking about the importance of knowing the source of one's food.

Dixon created some of his own mushed dishes, drawing great pleasure from pulling food off the stove and putting it directly on his daughter's plate. He called this Part Two, the time of her life when he could finally feed his whole family. And not only was his daughter taking to solid food, she also had a taste for gourmet mush like poached pears, salted tomatoes, and overcooked pasta.

As Gracie continued to grow, Dixon struggled with a flailing economy, a precarious newspaper job, and the pressure of supporting a family. But at the same time, he held Gracie's hands through her first steps, listened to her first words, and prepared for the future of his three-person family. He is nervous but capable, and endlessly dotes over his two leading ladies.

After each chapter, Dixon provides some of his own recipes. The earlier dishes are straightforward and based on pantry samples; later recipes include preparation for baby-friendly versions. Dixon's writing is fluid and easy to read, and his tone is endearing. I wanted to hear more about how his wife reacted to his great revelations about feeding and raising a daughter.

But really this is Dixon's story, and it's one that most new parents can certainly relate to. Cooking for Gracie is a quick read, but full of thoughtful prose and tasty dishes.

About the Author: A student in Providence, Rhode Island, Leah Douglas loves learning about, talking about, reading about, and consuming food. Her work is also featured in Rhode Island Monthly magazine.