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A few of Umami Girl’s favorite things

Illustration by Julia Minamata

Last week, I received one of my favorite emails in the long, sometimes sordid history of the Umami Girl inbox. Julia Minamata, a freelance illustrator specializing in silkscreening, with credits including The New Yorker and BusinessWeek, sent a link to “an illustration I did of my own umami girl—a girl surrounded by a wealth of foods that are rich in umami.” Um, yes please. That is exactly the kind of thing I would do if I had any talent whatsoever in the illustration department. I’ve always thought I would make a good cartoonist if only I could draw at all. But who needs me when we have Julia? Have a peek at her website if you’re so inclined. Her work is really cool.

Next up in the favorites department is a book I’ve been hoarding for a couple of months before offering it to you today in a giveaway. What can I say? I’m a little obsessed with it. You may remember Erin Bried from her lovely book How to Sew a Button and Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew. Well, just like our grandfathers would do, Erin let the ladies have at it first. Now she’s returned with a book that I find even more charming than the first one, if such a thing is possible. It’s How to Build a Fire and Other Handy Things Your Grandfather Knew. Charm aside, this book is full of useful tips from ten wise grandfathers on topics ranging from pioneering (how to build a fire, how to read animal tracks) to leadership (how to handle bad news, how to leave work at work) to cooking (how to brew a great cup of coffee, how to carve a bird) to matters of love (you’ll have to get the book to read more about this one). I am a huge sucker for grandfatherliness. Who isn’t? And Erin strikes the perfect tone with this book, letting the grandfathers’ voices shine through. If you close your eyes and sit very still, you might even be able to feel a chummy pat on the back from where you are right now.

Would you like to win a copy of How to Build a Fire? Leave a comment letting us know the best piece of advice you ever got from your grandfather. If you use Twitter, you can tweet about the giveaway and post a link to your tweet in a separate comment for a second chance to win. The giveaway will close on March 31 at noon Eastern time, and I will draw a winner at random.

Finally, have you ever felt like you’re relegating all those once-beloved, lusty cookbooks on your shelves to eye-candy status as websites and apps become a bigger, arguably more convenient source of recipes? Eat Your Books, a website founded in late 2009 by three very cool women who love books, technology, and cooking, offers a brilliant solution to that problem. I almost wish I’d thought of it myself, but the process they continually go through to bring us this service sounds awfully labor-intensive. So to be honest, even if I’d thought of the idea, I probably wouldn’t have followed through with it. Which makes me love them all the more.

Here’s how it works. You tell Eat Your Books which cookbooks you have. This can take a while if, like me, you Really. Love. Cookbooks. After that initial step, though, the pleasure is all yours. You tell EYB what you feel like cooking, and it tells you which of your cookbooks have a recipe for that dish or combination of ingredients. I, for example, have in my possession 125 recipes for artichokes. I know, right? Need I say more?


Hi there, I'm Carolyn, and I'm delighted you're here. I'm a NYC-area food, travel, yoga, coffee, wine, running, music making and book obsessive with a great family and a love for sharing it all with you. Grab a drink and come on in. Learn more.