All We Can Eat took the opportunity to forward him a few e-mail questions about the project, which Martell graciously answered below.
All We Can Eat: First off, congratulations, Nevin, on the cookbook deal with Founding Farmers. How did you get involved with the project?
Nevin Martell: The project has been percolating since the first months of this year, when the restaurant approached me to write a sample introduction to the book as a way of seeing if my voice was a good match for their vision. That essay got me the gig, but the “opening date” kept getting pushed back. Everything finally solidified this autumn. Currently in the midst of writing the book, which I’ll have wrapped up by early spring.
AWCE: Will the Founding Farmers cookbook have a particular focus? And does it have an official title yet?
NM: The book is titled, “The Founding Farmers Cookbook: 100 Recipes for True Food & Drink,” and it will include many of the restaurant’s most well-known and well-loved dishes, like the Bacon Lollies, Frisco Burger and the Southern Pan-Fried Chicken and Waffles.
AWCE: Will the book focus exclusively on Founding Farmers? Or will it venture into the cooking done at other North Dakota Farmers Union restaurants?
NM: This book is exclusively focused on dishes from Founding Farmers.
AWCE: What will you be responsible for with the project?
NM: I’m writing the introduction, chapter headings, recipe intros, sidebars, profiles, blurbs, spotlight bits, etcetera. Pretty much everything except for the recipes, which were originally conceived by the restaurant’s culinary team and are now being reformatted for home cooks by a professional recipe tester.
AWCE: Have you discussed with the Founding Farmers team how to adapt the restaurant’s recipes into something more home-cook friendly?
NM: Since that’s not my purview, I’ve been staying out of those discussions generally. However, I have been talking to the Founding Farmers team a lot about professional culinary advice that they can share that would be easy for home cooks to apply when they make the restaurant’s food at home. Everything from how to perfectly boil an egg to how to make sure your waffles cook evenly, and thoroughly, to how to ensure that you don’t overcook and rubberize your shrimp. I’m looking for little lessons that make a big difference that people can quickly incorporate into their own cooking routines.
NM: This will be my fifth book, but my first cookbook. I’ve written about Calvin & Hobbes and the Dave Matthews Band before, so this content is markedly different. However, the structure and the skills required are the same. In many ways, I’m approaching the “Founding Farmers Cookbook” like the others. One thing is for certain: There will be far fewer references to reclusive cartoonists and hacky sacks in this book.
AWCE: How will this project affect your freelance food writing? Do you see any conflicts?
NM: On a practical level, I’ve had to scale back some of my freelance work (sorry to all my editors who have wondered why I haven’t been pitching as much, if at all!) to accommodate for the large amount of time I’ve been spending on this book. In terms of conflicts, I am making all of my editors aware of my relationship so we can determine that I won’t be crossing any ethical lines in my assignments.
AWCE: When can we expect to see the book on shelves (or, more likely, Amazon’s Web site)?
NM: That’s a great question, but I don’t know the answer. I wish it was up there now so my mom could pre-order a copy.