I own a lot of cookbooks and I’m not kidding. But of all the cookbooks I own, not one matches the Sunday Supper philosophy and mission as well as Lucinda Scala Quinn’s Mad Hungry Family. It’s devoted to teaching folks how to cook, how to make the kitchen a creative refuge and why it’s important to connect around the family table.
I sat down with Lucinda via Skype to discuss her new book, the third in the Mad Hungry series, and her motivation for writing it. Cooking has been her passion since growing up in an Italian-American family which she likened to living in a Godfather movie, picnics and all.
She started cooking professionally at only 15 years old, though she went on to study film and photography in college. But food was still her first love and, straight out of school, she pitched her first cookbook idea. “It was on street food and no one knew what I was talking about!” she laughs.
Well before the rest of us had even heard of jerk chicken, her second book pitch featured authentic Jamaican food. I had to ask, “Why Jamaican?” As it turns out, her parents had business interests as well as great friends who lived there and so she traveled to Jamaica as a child. After running a pop up restaurant in Brooklyn that was wildly successful, a Jamaican cookbook with those recipes seemed like the next step. It took 10 years to sell. She had about given up hope when her agent called with the good news.
Anticipating food trends is a special talent, says Lucinda, one she believes she put to frequent good use during her 15-year tenure at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. She credits her artist mother and forwarding thinking businessman father for bringing her and her brothers up to forge their own unique and creative paths.
And sometimes the timing is just right. When Lucinda pitched the first Mad Hungry book, Mad Hungry – Feeding Men and Boys, her publisher told her it was too niche. “What they can’t have anticipated,” she shakes her head, “was that the economy would crash and there would be so many families who suddenly had someone cooking dinner who maybe never cooked before. And suddenly people were eating at home more. And suddenly niche was good in an oversaturated market!”
So, what’s special about the latest, Mad Hungry Family?
It’s full of tasty, well-tested recipes, sure. “But,” asserts Lucinda, her eyebrows arching high, “this new book is really about the ‘why.’ Why should cooking for family matter to me? What good will come of it? Why should I want to do it?” In Mad Hungry Family, she answers those questions with recipes and essays about family life, interspersed with lifesaver lessons.
“It’s about just standing up and chopping that onion. If you decide to take this thing that could be a pain and see it instead as a pleasure,” Lucinda promises, “through this book, I will hold your hand and help you do it. Then what you’ve created for yourself will give you untold gifts that you can’t imagine.”
“The family table is one-stop shopping for wellness,” Lucinda declares. Her voice rises for emphasis. “It’s where you socialize yourself. It’s where you build your community. It’s where you nourish yourself physically, emotionally, spiritually.”
And her most fervent hope is that families will make cooking a group effort. She discovered the power of cooking together with all of her boys, but the biggest impact was felt by her middle son. Lucinda tells the story of his struggle in school. He just wasn’t a good fit for the classroom, ah, but in the kitchen he flourished. He is now an accomplished chef and Lucinda hinted at future plans to open a Mad Hungry restaurant, a family affair.
Through her sons she learned a valuable lesson about passing on recipes. Sometimes it’s better to be flexible. Mad Hungry Family is all about doing the best that you can. No time to marinate? Skip that step or do it for as long as you can, never mind the hours mentioned in the original recipe. Don’t have lemon juice? Use something else with tang. A nice vinegar will do. Her lifesaver lessons for substitutions take the guesswork out of making a recipe your own or making do with what you have.
The bottom line is no excuses. Anyone can cook. Through Mad Hungry Family Lucinda says, “Come on along, let me help you. Let me sit on your shoulder and guide you.”
The biggest message of Lucinda’s life, and this book, is “cook for the people you love. Teach them to cook for themselves and they will pass it on. In doing so, you create self-reliance, which is one of the greatest gifts you can give anybody, especially in today’s world.”
I could not agree more.
For the next two weeks, 10 Sunday Supper tastemakers will be sharing Lucinda Scala Quinn’s recipes from Mad Hungry Family for Weekday Supper, starting on Monday with Straight Talk Turkey. And we’ll be giving away 10 copies to our readers as part of a social media campaign sponsored by Workman Publishers. Links to Mad Hungry Family are affiliate links.
Want to learn more about Mad Hungry Family and connect with Lucinda Scala Quinn aka LSQ?
Check out these links.
Workman Publishers: https://www.workman.com/products/mad-hungry-family-1
Mad Hungry Family: http://madhungry.com/