Fictionista, Foodie, Feline-lover

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Feminist (Non) Fiction Friday--Renny Darling

Years ago, I attended my first American Book Association convention representing my then-employer, Los Angeles Magazine. At the table to my right was a vivacious, dark-haired woman named Renny Darling who was there to promote her first cookbook, The Joy of Eating. It was oversized and paperbound, and the pages were decorated with little drawings that gave the whole thing a very “cozy” feel that reminded me of looking through my mother’s recipes, which were often adorned with her doodles. (She’d gone to art school and worked as a commercial artist before I was born.)
Renny was one of the friendliest, most upbeat people I have ever met and my one real memory of that convention was when she returned to her table after a short break wearing a pyramid hat because two kids were selling them and a book about pyramid power and the whole thing tickled her.
I loved Renny. She was one of those people you sometimes meet that you just fall in love with and want to befriend. I was too shy to follow up on that so I did the next-best thing, I bought the cookbook.
Even at the time, I had a lot of cookbooks, so I figured I’d read through it and probably never really cook anything from it.
And then I stopped on her recipe for chocolate chip banana bread.
I don’t really like banana bread but I do like chocolate and the recipe was dead easy—one of Renny’s abiding principles is “simple is better”—so I whipped up a batch.
The word “orgasmic” comes to mind.
Right out of the oven, the bread tastes like heaven, with little melty bits of chocolate oozing out of it in lovely little dark specks.
Cold, the bread changes texture into something more like a dense bread pudding.
Men who have eaten this bread have proposed to me.
I always make a few loaves at Christmas and give them to deserving friends.
You want to be one of those friends.
The next recipe I tried was Renny’s pumpkin bread with orange juice and golden raisins. You only think you’ve had pumpkin bread until you have had Renny’s pumpkin bread. Her pumpkin bread kicks your pumpkin bread’s ass.
So I bought her next cookbook and her next and a couple more after that.
I have made soups and quiches and a rice with fruit and nuts side dish that was so sinfully good I had the leftovers for breakfast by themselves.
Once you’ve had one of her cheesecakes (she loves cheesecake and all her books seem to have half a dozen great recipes for cheesecake) you will never again be satisfied by those dry concoctions delis try to pass off as cheesecake.
Every single one of the recipes she shares is unbelievably tasty. I mean…Every. Single. One.
In addition to the books, Renny also had a recipe club with a newsletter offering recipes and cooking tips. (We’re not talking about a wimpy little newsletter either, this mailings ran for some 20 pages.) Rising postal costs shut the newsletter down but then she went online, where she has continued to enhance and expand her brand. Find her site here.
Read her brief memoir on the site and you’ll get an inkling of her warm and chatty style, which is the way she writes her cookbooks.
When you leaf through one of her books, it feels like you’re visiting a good friend who has just printed up the recipe for that amazing muffin you just ate; giving you the secret of the deliciousness because she loves you and wants you to be able to whip up that deliciousness for yourself.
This is a woman who took her love of cooking and turned it into a business and a brand while raising a family and holding a marriage together.
Renny Darling is my heroine.
And she’s written a lot more cookbooks since I last checked in on her.
So I have some catching up to do. And meanwhile, I have the pleasure of browsing through the descriptions of her newest books.
Renny Darling offers free recipes on her site. Here's one.
Renny Darling is on Facebook! Friend her here.
Renny Darling is on Twitter! Follow her @RennyDarling.
Then go buy one of her books.
Any one of her books.
Your life will taste better for it.

1 comment:

  1. Have tried to contact you many times but for some reason, my old computer, could not connect. This is on my new computer. How can I thank you for your most beautiful column about me. I will return the compliment by saying you are a love and Thanks for the Memory. I remember that day so well. I remember the little boy who sold me the hat. I remember your asking me why I was wearing it, and I remember the little boy who waited patiently for me to put it on. Blessings and Love, Renny Darling