Amanda Hesser has been named one of the most influential women in food by Gourmet Live. A longtime food reporter and editor at the New York Times, Hesser wrote the books Cooking for Mr. Latte, The Cook and the Gardener and The Essential New York Times Cookbook and edited the essay collection Eat, Memory. Hesser lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., with her husband, Tad Friend, and their two children.
Merrill Stubbs is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in London and worked for a decade as a private chef, cooking instructor and recipe developer. She was the food editor at Herb Quarterly and has written for the Times's T Living, Edible Brooklyn, Body+Soul and Culinate.com. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband.
Hesser and Stubbs are the co-founders of Food52.com and co-authors of The Food52 Cookbook (Morrow, October 25, 2011).
On your nightstand now:
Stubbs: The Help by Kathryn Stockett, Man with a Pan by John Donohue and Land of a Thousand Hills by Rosamond Halsey Carr, plus a few others I can't think of at the moment!
Hesser: The Four-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss, but I've been working too hard to read it.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Stubbs: Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. My mother is convinced that this book is the main reason I ended up pursuing a career in food--I suspect she's right.
Hesser: Grimms' Fairy Tales. It was my first thick, hardcover book, a gift from one of my sisters. I remember reading it and not understanding much but feeling that it was very, very important to read.
Your top five authors:
Stubbs: Charles Dickens, John Irving, Jane Austen, Bill Bryson, Isabel Allende.
Hesser: Shirley Hazzard, John Berger, Leo Tolstoy, Larry McMurtry, Gabrielle Hamilton. When I was first married, my husband, who is a voracious reader, guided me through his favorite novelists from A to Z. That's how I discovered Hazzard and McMurtry.
Book you've faked reading:
Stubbs: I listened to the audiobook version of The Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon, but I always just say I've read it when it comes up in conversation. Same with John Adams by David McCullough.
Hesser: On the Road. Until I stopped faking and just put it down. Have been much happier ever since.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Stubbs: The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball. It's one of the best books I've read in a long time and an honest look at the challenges of shifting from an urban to a completely rural existence.
Hesser: Selma by Jutta Bauer (it's a children's book). I like a little darkness in children's books. This one is about a sheep who is chased by a fox during the day and who chats up her friend, a vulture, in the evening--and yet, she's happy and has accepted her fate.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Stubbs: Insatiable by Gael Greene.
Hesser: Are you calling me shallow?
Book that changed your life:
Stubbs: See question about my favorite book as a child above!
Hesser: The Preppy Handbook. My sister gave it to me when I was about eight or nine. I didn't realize it was satire, so I read it like a guide to life and began dressing preppy and dreaming of wood-paneled station wagons.
Favorite line from a book:
Stubbs: My husband tends to highlight memorable lines as he reads, but I've never done that while reading for pleasure (of course, I did plenty of it as a Comparative Literature major in college). I tend to be affected more by a book as its whole, rather than gravitating toward specific lines.
Hesser: It's from Lonesome Dove, and it's a little juvenile of me to choose this, but always makes me laugh: "He knew he would be a long time living down having to mount his horse with his dingus flopping."
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Stubbs: Jane Eyre.
Hesser: Anna Karenina.