Prospect Heights resident Cara Eisenpress and Phoebe Lapine may have just recently published their first book, "In the Small Kitchen: 100 Recipes from Our Year of Cooking in the Real World" last month, but they've been teaching how to cook and entertain within the constraints of apartment living for years.
Since moving to the corner of Vanderbilt and Park Place from Park Slope in October, Eisenpress has enjoyed spending time in the back garden of on Classon Avenue, exploring the extensive herb garden at The Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and eating the house made grilled merguez sausage with pita and raita at The Vanderbilt. And while Phoebe has no immediate plans to make the move to Brooklyn, Cara says, “It’s certainly not out of the question.”
The Big Girls, Small Kitchen blog began in 2008. Their humorous narratives set them apart from other food blogs garnering almost immediate attention from publishing agents only four months after its creation. With a background in publishing, Eisenpress drafted a book proposal with Lapine in 2009 and met with a few agents.
William Morrow Cookbooks inked the deal and both quickly set out to formulate what would become their first cookbook. Coincidentally, the assistant of their agent was familiar with the content, as she was a fan and reader of the Big Girls, Small Kitchen blog.
Written throughout the spring of 2009, their first draft was submitted in June of 2010 and the book went to print just last month. Inspired by their popular website, this debut cookbook is one part memoir and one part instructional manual detailing both Eisenpress and Lapine’s favorite recipes and their lives as 20-somethings in New York. Eisenpress made sure to point out that, “the overarching theme of the book is accessibility; cooking should not be intimidating, but fun and social.”
Instead of organizing the book according to meal, like most cookbooks do, the content is sectioned into “reasons to cook” such as how to cook for one, organizing a potluck, throwing a dinner party for two to thirty people,
creating meals out of leftovers and more. Each chapter contains carefully
described recipes coupled with humorous anecdotes and helpful tips.
The daunting task of choosing what recipes to include in the book out of the hundreds they had created wasn’t so difficult Eisenpress said, “When you had another person to help!”
Eisenpress's favorite recipe from the book is Fisherman’s Stew from the “dirt cheap” chapter. And “Even though it has fish in it, which can sometimes be costly; the recipe calls for only a pound and a half of fish for six people only made possible by all of the other accompaniments like coconut milk,” she said,
Fresh off of a publicity tour in San Francisco and New York, Eisenpress said she enjoyed meeting fans of the blog and hearing similar stories of the challenges of city living and navigating newfound adulthood.
“The most surprising thing about publishing the book has been the friends and fans that have come from out of the woodwork during the publicity process,” she said. For example, a recent favorite recipe contest garnered over 300 responses.
Weeks after its release Eisenpress said she is happy with sales. While she didn't give a number, she pointed out that the book already has over 36 reviews on Amazon (now at 41) and an average rating of more than four stars.
A follow-up book is already being considered, “maybe something about throwing accessible parties,” she said.