Piglet Community Pick: CookFight by Julia Moskin & Kim Severson

February  8, 2013

Read up on some of 2012's most-loved cookbooks, tested and reviewed by the one and only Food52 community.   

Today: Mariaraynal finds out how a little competition can be a good thing. 

Shop the Story

If you’re inclined to wonder if the well of original cookbook concepts has run dry, look to CookFight for reassurance that is has not -- it's a story of food, friends and self-proclaimed work wives who duke it out for culinary dominance. Who could possibly resist?

This yearlong throwdown between New York Times writers Kim Severson and Julia Moskin began as a dare from their Dining section colleague and friend Frank Bruni (who pens the Forward) to cook a menu for six for just fifty dollars.

The duo accepted the challenge, Bruni judged the battle, and he later wrote about it in the newspaper. One challenge led to another, and another, and well, you know where this is headed. But this isn’t a book about food writers. You won’t find exhaustive accounts of 27-course tasting menus or tales of exotic travels in unpronounceable locales.

Instead, Severson and Moskin offer a glimpse into their world as home cooks and mothers grappling with the business of life: frenzied weeknights, dinner parties, holiday feasts, family picnics – 12 challenges in all – laid out in a collection of amusing vignettes and appealing menus. Along the way, they let us in on their shopping secrets, kitchen tips, and how life’s inevitable changes affect the way they cook.

Severson and Moskin are feisty, taking frequent, good-natured pokes at one another as they spar for victory. Paired with candid, often unretouched photographs, it’s clear these two are having a raucous good time in combat mode.

But don't get too caught up in the storyline and overlook the recipes. That's where the years of hardcore reporting for the dining section pays off.  

The food ranges from traditional fare with emphasis on comfort, to dishes of the moment like fried chickpeas and kale chips. Readers will find a nice, easy-going mix of approachable recipes from savvy experts who have seen and eaten it all. My favorites include Pork Braised in Milk and Cream, Black Bean Soup with Pickled Onions, White Bean Soup with Chive Oil, Fiery Sweet Potatoes, Cheese Grits with Scallions, Bacon and Red Pepper, and Lemon Brown Butter Shortbread (I die!).

Who wins the duel? Who cares. In the end, all I really wanted was to get in the kitchen and cook alongside them, sharing laughs, jabs, and a big pile of their Bacon-Fat Gingersnaps. Give peace a chance, ladies.

A good read, and epic fun.

Have you read Cook Fight? Tell us your take in the comments! 

Lucky you. We have much more where this came from: 


            Today's Judgment              Community Picks

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The Piglet—inspired by The Morning News' Tournament of Books—is where the 16 most notable cookbooks of the year face off in a NCAA-style bracketed tournament. Watch the action and weigh in on the results!


See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Susige
  • mariaraynal
  • Kim Severson
    Kim Severson
  • luvcookbooks
  • cookinginvictoria
I'm a self-trained home cook and freelance food writer who enjoys cooking and eating seasonally and locally whenever possible. When I travel, visiting the farmers' markets, local groceries and specialty food shops is as important as the shopping, museums and restaurants. I love to immerse myself in cookbooks, then go into the kitchen and experiment; and writing about food and the chefs who cook it is my latest pursuit. By day, I'm an executive speechwriter and event planner.


Susige February 18, 2013
I read this cookbook on my airplane ride home tonight from San Francisco to Paducah and was greatly entertained by the stories and the headnotes. I look forward to trying some of their recipes in the near future.
mariaraynal February 9, 2013
I was the class of '85 and still live in the Park today. How 'bout you?
Kim S. February 9, 2013
Thanks so much, Maria! Also, love that we went to the same high school. WHen did you graduate?
luvcookbooks February 8, 2013
thanks for the review-- I liked their Christmas treats throwdown in the Dining section-- the book sounds like a whole collection of very low key funny competition and home cook friendly food.
mariaraynal February 12, 2013
Yes, exactly right.
cookinginvictoria February 8, 2013
Great review -- you have really captured the irreverent and fiesty spirit of this wonderful cookbook. :)
mariaraynal February 12, 2013
Thank you!
MrsWheelbarrow February 8, 2013
Delightful read, Maria. I have had a great time with this cookbook and couldn't agree more with your assessment. The tone is spot on.
mcs3000 February 9, 2013
What @MrsWheelbarrow said.
mariaraynal February 12, 2013
Thank you so much!
Greenstuff February 8, 2013
Great review! I'd thought I had no interest in this one (maybe it was the title), but now I see it's a great read + recipes. I am going to check it out.
hardlikearmour February 8, 2013
That's exactly how I felt about the book, but I'm definitely interested in it now!
paseo February 8, 2013
I was on the fence about this book, though I like both of them. Now it's on the buy list. Thanks for the review.
hardlikearmour February 8, 2013
Love the sound of this book & I would die for some lemon brown butter shortbread right about now!
aargersi February 8, 2013
Love you writing and love your review - I will be buying this book as a result - AND - if you come to Texas we can cook with these ladies in Ginger's Kitchen (hint hint)
mariaraynal February 12, 2013
I miss Ginger's Kitchen, and her momma, too!