Reading to your kids, crazy cake, and a giveaway

As a former literature major, Libby Gruner established two rituals when she and her husband had children: family dinner and bedtime reading. Devouring her essay, "Shared Books, Shared Tables" from the recently published book The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage, made me recall memories I hadn't thought of in a long time, like curling up in my reading nook strung with blankets and sheets to read The Boxcar Children or Michael Crichton novels after school.

The essay explores several children's books with food themes, like Alice in Wonderland. "Food is the medium of transformation in Wonderland," she writes, where Alice is "subject to food rules that seem to constantly change." Libby relates this to the rules used in her own family, like insisting her son Nick "eat at least one bite of the burger he ordered before he had another French fry," a request that forced him to tears.

There's talk of the picnic scene among animal friends in The Wind and the Willows, and Turkish Delight in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Although I have no children of my own, this essay made me want to revisit the books of my childhood all over again.

This collection, edited by Caroline M. Grant and Lisa Catherine Harper, is filled with essays and accompanying recipes that discuss food, family, and the moments when they intersect. "But sometimes—the carrot sweetens the red sauce; the zucchini melts into the risotto—something ineffable occurs, and the dish is no longer just part of the meal but something that defines the family and symbolizes home." Whether you're embracing the new city you just moved to, or trying to get your kids to eat their vegetables, the book is filled with many tender and relatable moments, proving just how strong the current of food is in each of our lives.

I'm excited to be offering this book as a giveaway. I know you'll enjoy it, and if you'd like to enter, please read the instructions below.


**To enter the giveaway, leave a comment sharing a reading-related memory from your childhood before Sunday, April 28 at 5 pm Pacific time. The winner will be announced on Facebook, and also contacted via email directly. This is not a sponsored post; opinions are my own.


Libby's cake, officially named "Crazy Cake" is infused with meaning for her entire family. It was a treat Libby's mother made for her, and now she makes it for her own children. In addition, it appeases everyone's dietary restrictions (the cake is vegan), and is a quick, slightly-sticky chocolate dessert you can make at a moment's notice and serve up with a spoon. A dusting of powdered sugar or scoop of vanilla ice cream makes an ideal accompaniment. I had some buttermilk that needed using up, so I added a cup to the batter. To keep the cake vegan, use water instead.

Recipe by Libby Gruner; Adapted slightly from The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage

Dry ingredients
3 Cups all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup water
2 tablespoons decaf espresso
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 and butter a 9x13-inch glass baking dish.

Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl. Stir the wet ingredients together in a small bowl, then slowly add to the dry ingredients, and whisk until no traces of flour remain. Gently stir in the chocolate chips

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, then bake for 30 minutes until dark and fudge.