Even though “cooking” these home-renovation days mostly involves making a salad or sautéing up some vegetables, I actually acquired two cookbooks this past week. The first was Peter Miller’s Lunch at the Shop, which arrived in the mail thanks to a KCRW pledge-drive donation made in a fit of NPR gratitude (and corresponding FOX News horror). The second I purchased with great intent (and even greater excitement): The Auntie Em’s Cookbook: A Musician’s Guide to Breakfast & Brunch by Theresa Wahl.
Auntie Em’s is an amazing café down the hill from us in Eagle Rock. We were thrilled to discover it after moving to the neighborhood—a co-worker had rhapsodized about the soups, while another friend couldn’t stop talking about the coconut cupcakes. We tried the place and became instant fans of their creative salads, kick-ass sandwiches and baked goods. Almost as awesome was the vibe—brightly colored, fun, with a bit of a punk rock edge.
It turns out that edge is real: Founder and owner Theresa Wahl used to play in the all-girl band the Red Aunts. Her book opens with comments from café fans you may have heard of (hello, Jack Black, Kate Schellenbach of Luscious Jackson & Beastie Boys, and Josh Klinghoffer of Red Hot Chili Peppers). Following those comes an ode to Mom, Terri’s inspiration, and an introduction titled “From Punk Rock to Pulled Pork” with perfect lines like “In the Red Aunts van, instead of trashy magazines we had stacks of cookbooks and food magazines.” She also explains that, in lieu of wine pairings, her book will match recipes with songs that are particularly suited to rockin’ in the kitchen. I’ll toast to that!
As I paged through the sections, I became more and more pleased with my purchase. Organized by season—while still offering separate “Desserts & Baked Goods,” “Staples” and “Preserving the End of Summer” chapters—the book bursts with must-make recipes. Swiss Chard Gratin. Pear & Cranberry Compote. Something called Green Tomato & Zucchini Chow Chow. And while the coconut cupcakes aren’t included, the café’s famous red velvet cupcakes are.
Perhaps best of all, the cookbook includes photos from Terri’s early years with the band on the road. The best of the lot shows lots of hair, mics and a rapt front row, with the caption “The Red Aunts, rippin’ it.”
I’m totally in love with this cookbook and I haven’t even made anything yet.