Our story: behind the scenes of a cookbook | A Couple Cooks Podcast Episode 60

Ever wondered what it’s like to write a book—and adopt a baby at the same time? This episode is an exclusive with Alex and Sonja about the process of writing their new cookbook, Pretty Simple Cooking. They share about starting A Couple Cooks, deciding to write a book, adopting their son Larson, and all the trials and triumphs in between. Along the way, you’ll learn the entire process of book writing from agent to proposal to launch.

 

Preorder A Couple Cooks cookbook >> Pretty Simple Cooking

 

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Full Transcript

Sonja Overhiser:

It’s A Couple Cooks, the podcast with Sonja and Alex Overhiser. We’re a couple on a mission to find the tastiest, good for you eats you can make in your kitchen. Because the way we eat can make a meaningful difference.

 

Alex Overhiser:

Join us as we chase after real good food through stories, recipes, and conversations about cooking at home and eating well.

 

Alex Overhiser:

Hi and welcome to the A Couple Cooks Podcast. I’m Alex.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

And I’m Sonja.

 

Alex Overhiser:

And we’re glad you’re here.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

This is a special episode of our podcast. Typically we have a guest on for the entire episode. But today it’s just Alex and me.

 

Alex Overhiser:

That’s right. You’re stuck with the two of us.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

We’ll bring in a guest a little bit later in the show. But this episode is all about our cookbook. You’ve probably heard us talking about our cookbook on some other episodes and letting you know that it will release in just one month now, February 6th. And we wanted to share with you some of the backstory. So how we got started cooking, when we decided we might want to write a book. And then how it came to be. What the process was behind this very long journey that we’ve been on.

 

Alex Overhiser:

So if you ever been curious about what it takes to actually publish a book, cookbook or otherwise, you get all the gory details here in this episode.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Alright, should we get started?

 

Alex Overhiser:

Let’s jump right in.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Now are you interviewing me or am I interviewing you?

 

Alex Overhiser:

I’m not really sure.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Maybe we can both interview each other?

 

Alex Overhiser:

That sounds like an A Couple Cooks sort of a thing to do.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Okay. So let’s start at the beginning. If you have listened to our podcast called Our Story, we share some of our story and how we got started in the kitchen together. But let’s retell that story, Alex. What got you into cooking?

 

Alex Overhiser:

I guess I can give all the attribution to you, my beautiful wife.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Oh, thank you.

 

Alex Overhiser:

Because you didn’t cook a darn thing when we got married and so somebody had to do it.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

This is true.

 

Alex Overhiser:

So I would say our first interest in cooking really started right when we got married. And we decided we should eat meals together, which meant we should probably cook something.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

And at the time I could cook Hot Pockets in the microwave. I could cook frozen dinners in the microwave. And I could pour milk onto cereal.

 

Alex Overhiser:

You also made a mean spinach salad. You would eat that about every day.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Good point, good point. I tried to get the healthy in there along with the cereal.

 

Alex Overhiser:

And then I would add some George Foreman grilled chicken and some pasta. That was pretty much our whole repertoire.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Right.

 

Alex Overhiser:

For a good year or two. And then we realized if we’re gonna have people over for dinner, we should probably learn how to cook something.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

So we decided we wanted to try a themed meal. And so I thought French sounded really fancy. And I wanted to impress our guests. So I asked my boss at the time what’s a good French cookbook and she said Julia Child. And at the time, the movie about Julia Child, Julie and Julia, had not been released. I didn’t know anything about Julia Child. I thought she was just some random old lady. And I said, “Are you sure?” But I decided to go ahead, check out that book, and when I started reading it, I read the head notes. And the way that Julia talked about cooking, she was so encouraging, her personality really lept off the pages. And she said, “Hey, you can do this. It doesn’t matter if you’re starting in your 20s, or your 30s, or your 40s, or your 50s, or your 60s. It doesn’t matter if you have no background. You can still learn to cook.” And to this day, she remains a huge inspiration to me of being the first person, though she was not alive at the time, but being one of the first people to say you can do this.

 

Alex Overhiser:

And this must’ve been 2009. I remember you sitting at the dining room table at our old house literally reading the big cookbook from the ’60s like a novel. And just telling me over and over how much this Julia lady just lept off the page when she told you how to flip a crepe or make an omelet.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Right, I was so inspired by her and that inspired our first meal that we cooked together for our friends who came over. And it actually turned out really well even though we were novices. Somehow maybe beginners luck helped us to make a meal that was really good. And our guests loved it and invited us over for dinner again. And we started … Actually started these kind of elaborate meals trying to outdo each other.

 

Alex Overhiser:

Yeah, and we have that tradition with those friends that cook. I think every month we would go back and forth and then we just really fell head over heels in love. We watched every DVD from the library from cooking shows we could find. We read cookbooks. I think at one point we had 75 different cookbooks checked out from the library. That was because of a library fiend back then. Basically had our own branch open there on [Carolton 00:05:01]. And we just fell in love. And so a year or two later we started our blog and decided to document the things we were cooking and really started to develop our own new recipes.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Another really important thing that happened around that time was we read the book Food Matters by Mark Bittman and it really changed the way we thought about food at the time. That was 10 years ago and now there’s a lot more consciousness in our country about eating healthy, eating non-processed foods, eating cleaner. That type of thing. But at the time that we were starting cooking, this was kind of a new thing to us. None of our friends were into it. None of our friends had ever eaten quinoa or sweet potatoes. And so we were just so excited about these new foods that we were trying that we had never tasted in our lives. And so we decided why not put them online to share with other people. So that’s the CliffsNotes version of how A Couple Cooks came to be.

 

Alex Overhiser:

And so that blog really just became our passion. Before it was our business, it was just a place where we fell in love with cooking and we shared those recipes. And fast forward about five or six years, we were at the point where we had our recipe development and our own style and we said, “Hey, what if we started thinking about a cookbook?”

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Yeah, I mean it’s hard in this day and age when so many recipes are online. You could cook off the internet for probably the rest of your life. But we thought it might be fun to have a place where we had all of our favorite recipes together in something physical. And these days, since so much is digital, having something that’s physical that represents what we do was really attractive to us. We also wanted to share kind of the philosophy that we had learned over the years of how do we incorporate cooking into our everyday life. And we’ve try … We had tried for years to figure out how do we say this? How can we bring in all these different things we’ve learned from being mindful about the way we eat? Understanding how seasonal and quality ingredients affects the food that you make, making friends with local farmers and restaurateurs, learning from all these people in our community. Learning how to view food in a healthful manner. How do we bring all those things together into one book? And we spent a really long time pondering that.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

We wrote a few different cookbook proposals trying to articulate these things that we felt like we had learned about. How to make cooking fit into your life in a simple way. And it took quite a while. I mean, we had so many different drafts of proposals, and thoughts, and brainstorms, and little scratches on paper. And it was really difficult to kind of sum up all of that knowledge in one place.

 

Alex Overhiser:

So during this time while we were trying to think about what exactly type of cookbook we’d want to write, we were also networking with some friends who had written cookbooks and we got connected to an agent that we really liked. And her name is Sarah. And she really helped us kind of hone in on exactly the single thing that we wanted to express in our cookbook.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

There are a lot of cookbooks out there as I’m sure everyone knows. There are thousands, millions. Millions?

 

Alex Overhiser:

I will say there are millions.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Billions?

 

Alex Overhiser:

If you include church cookbooks?

 

Sonja Overhiser:

There are so many books. And so trying to figure out how do you tell your story in a unique way that people will understand and gravitate towards, it’s really difficult. So Sarah helped us to kind of hone what we thought was our unique message. And what it turned into was 10 life lessons about how to fit healthful cooking into your lifestyle. And we can’t wait to share these lessons with all of you.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

If you are readers of our blog, you know we’ve been talking about these for years. But one example is something we talk about on the podcast all the time is learning how to handle failure and being able to fail with grace. Being able to pick yourself up again. Have the grit to go back to the table, start again, try a different recipe that you might like better. Try the same recipe again and execute it correctly instead of making the mistake you did last time. Just having that perseverance and grit to know that you can get passed failures. So that’s one example.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Another is just kind of bringing community in to your cooking. And that’s been a huge thing for Alex and I to feel like we can bring in our friends and our family. And we’re having fun while we’re cooking. So those are just two really short examples of some of the lessons that will be in our book. But that is what we were excited about sharing. Not only the 100 recipes that are in the book, but these life lessons that have helped us transform our lifestyle into cooking.

 

Alex Overhiser:

So I would guess that a few of our listeners probably wonder what that proposal actually looks like. Can you tell us literally what it was?

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Yeah, so I think when we started, I thought a proposal was maybe a couple paragraphs of I want to write a book and here’s what it is.

 

Alex Overhiser:

It’s gonna have some healthy recipes and give us some time and tell us when you’re gonna publish it.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Exactly. But we realized as we went through this process that the proposal is actually very detailed. We had to brainstorm 100 recipes that we thought would be in the book. So we just kind of sat down with a piece of paper and brainstormed, okay, 100 of our favorite recipes. They can be breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, snack. But we had to just take the white off the paper. Is that the right saying?

 

Alex Overhiser:

I’m not sure.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Take the white off the paper. And just put something down of what we thought we might create in this book.

 

Alex Overhiser:

Which came back to bite us a little bit later. Preview. Because things that we thought sounded good ended up being really hard to make.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Yeah. I mean, the publishers do allow you some wiggle room in terms of when you say in your proposal, “Hey, I’m gonna make X, Y, Z.” It might turn out to be X, Y …

 

Alex Overhiser:

 

Sonja Overhiser:

  1. Which is totally fine. They just kind of want to get an idea of what you’re thinking. So along with that list of 100 recipes, we also had to talk about us. Who are we? Why should we be authors? Why should this publisher decide to publish our book? We also graphically designed the entire proposal. We had photographs that we had taken of some food on our blog. And then we had to elevator pitch it, right? To say the … A few sentences. Here’s what the book is about. Here’s why it’s something that you should pay attention to.

 

Alex Overhiser:

So I think in the end we had a 10 page PDF between all that.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Right and they always say that … Well, I don’t know if they always say this. That the planning part is the hardest, right? That you have to kind of get all of your vision out onto paper. And then once you’re able to get that out, then you can just go and execute.

 

Alex Overhiser:

And it was so easy to execute.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Well, okay. We’ll get to that later.

 

Alex Overhiser:

So tell us what happens now that you and your agent have a proposal ready to go.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Right. So once we got the proposal, it was time to sell the book to a publisher. And what that looked like was setting up meetings with I think it might have been 10 publishers. If you can remember, Alex.

 

Alex Overhiser:

That sounds about right.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

And we decided to do it virtually. So I was on the phone with these 10 publishers. And it was kind of like speed dating. So they would come on and I would explain the book and the elevator pitch. And they had the proposal. And it’s basically kind of a … Yeah, like dating. To say here’s what I think that I would like to propose as a book. And then they decide if they would like to buy your proposal.

 

Alex Overhiser:

Is that what dating is like? I’m not sure.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Okay. Maybe not. Maybe that’s not a good analogy.

 

Alex Overhiser:

It’s been like 15 years since you were dating. Out of practice. So you talked to I think 10 of them in the same day and it might have been your birthday.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

It was.

 

Alex Overhiser:

In 2016.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

It was my birthday two years ago in February. And we … Yeah, I spent the whole day on the phone. And then a couple weeks later, maybe a week later, my agent called and said, “Hey, you have a buyer,” which was very exciting.

 

Alex Overhiser:

It was thrilling.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

It’s Da Capo Press. And they were super excited to work with us. And so yeah. That was a huge day of celebration to say we’re really doing this.

 

Alex Overhiser:

And that was pretty much it. I mean we had a couple kick off meetings to talk about the details of the actual contract and what it looks like with the publisher and signed some papers. And then we just started developing pretty much the day they give us the green light.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Right. We had a year to develop the entire book. So 100 recipes and 100 photographs. And we decided, by the way, that we wanted 100 photographs that’s not something that is in every cookbook that you see out there. But it was something really important to me personally when I’m cooking from a cookbook, I really want to visually see what I’m cooking. And now that we’ve been through this process, I understand why there are cookbooks that don’t have a picture for every recipe. Because it is so much work to put together that photograph and if it’s another publisher, they have to hire out and pay for that photograph. So it is a lot of work, but to us it was really important to have the visual for ever single recipe. So 100 recipes, 100 photographs, 100 plus photographs. They were due in a year.

 

Alex Overhiser:

So for us we have the benefit of working as a team. So I think we put that brainstorm table of contents into a spreadsheet and just started us adding them to each other saying, “Go write this recipe.”

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Yeah, we were all about the Excel spreadsheet. We had recipes, we had columns for status. Has this been drafted? Has this been tested once, twice, three times by us? And then a really big piece of our development was recipe testers. And some of you listening might be one of our recipe testers. We put out a call on social media and our blog for anyone who likes trying recipes. And we got 100 … Hundreds of people who wrote back and said yes. And so that was one of the best experiences we have had as recipe developers. To be working one on one with everyday people in different kitchens, with different levels of expertise, testing every single recipe in our book many, many, many times.

 

Alex Overhiser:

So a typical recipe … I’ll just say life span of a recipe. Let’s see can we find one on here? How about the best veggie lasagna. So that’s a pretty complicated recipe for pretty simple cooking. It was on the more complicated edge of our recipes. Actually do you want to take a quick moment just to explain how we organized our recipes in this cookbook?

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Sure. So I have a pet peeve of cookbooks. When I open them, I can’t really tell is something going to be quick and easy or is it going to be hard and lengthy. And so the way that we wanted to organize-

 

Alex Overhiser:

And sometimes they put those times in there. It’s like this recipe takes 15 minutes.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Oh yeah.

 

Alex Overhiser:

And then an hour later you’re almost eating.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Right. I’ve always had beef with those timings for recipes. Alex has heard me complain for years about when a recipe says it will take you 20 minutes and really takes 45. So what we wanted to do is … Those recipe timings really depend on your experience in the kitchen. So we didn’t want to say this will take you X, Y, Z time. What we did was try to arrange our chapters so they would flow from the quickest and easiest to the longer and a little more challenging.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

So for example, our main courses. We decided to split them up into three chapters. One, the first chapter is super simple. The second chapter is pretty much every day. And the third chapter is special occasion. And then within those chapters, they are in a time order. So approximate timing, the first recipe you’ll open up to is the quickest. And then as you page through that chapter, it will get gradually get a little more complicated. So we wanted to do that just to kind of help the reader figure out okay if I land in a chapter, how do I figure out which one is fastest or simplest. And which one takes a little more time?

 

Alex Overhiser:

So for the best veggie lasagna, you’ll find that pretty much toward the end of the special occasion. So it’s one of the more complicated recipes that’s on here. But if you’ve never made your own lasagna, it’s still very accessible.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Right. It’s actually not too complicated. I would just say it’s a little bit long.

 

Alex Overhiser:

A little bit more time consuming.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Right. And it takes about two hours to make. One hour of that is actually baking time. So it’s hands off. So that makes it a little [crosstalk 00:18:31]

 

Alex Overhiser:

You’re just sitting around with your family drinking wine. It’s not that bad.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Exactly. And all the steps are pretty simple. So the only thing [crosstalk 00:18:38]

 

Alex Overhiser:

Pretty simple, huh?

 

Sonja Overhiser:

The only thing that is a little more complicated is that it takes a while and you have to clean some dishes. But overall, for a lasagna, it’s pretty simple.

 

Alex Overhiser:

But I think I was telling you about the life span of that lasagna.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

That’s right.

 

Alex Overhiser:

I know early on it was not called the best veggie lasagna. I think it was like spicy kale or some sort of kale lasagna.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Right.

 

Alex Overhiser:

I don’t remember what we were calling it. And we started playing with flavors and playing with different ingredients and lasagnas that we had made before. And we kind of narrowed down, I’d say probably our third or fourth try we really got close to the lasagna we wanted which had a really nice creaminess from crème fraiche and then some bright lemon flavor along with the veggies.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

And some thyme. Fresh thyme.

 

Alex Overhiser:

That’s right. Fresh thyme. And so those flavors just really popped in this lasagna and that took us probably, from the first time we wrote it to when we were ready to have it tested, three or four tries. And so then we sent it out for testing.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

And then we would have multiple people make the recipe and then fill out a really quick and easy form that said whether they liked it, were there any challenging spots, and then kind of rate it in terms of flavor, in terms of ease and accessibility. So our veggie-

 

Alex Overhiser:

And look for typos.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

And look for typos.

 

Alex Overhiser:

Nobody likes typos.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Right. So yeah. This recipe in particular scored very, very highly. And I will say that we would watch this Google form that brought in all of the feedback from our speed testers … Well, at least I would watch it with my breath held. Just nervously hoping that people would love it. And sometimes they didn’t, honestly. Sometimes they would come back with no, this was not good or I had questions. It was confusing. And some recipes we would just have to nix. So we would delete them. And that was hard because we had spent so much time already investing in that recipe and then to know that it was just not going to live in the cookbook. That was hard. That was a challenge. But we knew we were very committed to the fact that we wanted to have recipes that people love.

 

Alex Overhiser:

So speaking of testing, we actually decided to talk to one of our testers today on this episode.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Right. We wanted you to hear from someone who is behind the scenes. So we brought in our super tester, Rochelle. She is a volunteer and she tested almost 90 or-

 

Alex Overhiser:

92 I think.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Well over 90 recipes in our book. She has made so many of them and we thought it would be kind of fun to have her here and talk to her about what it was like to test recipes. Rochelle Moser, welcome to the A Couple Cooks Podcast.

 

Rochelle Moser:

Hey there, thanks for having me.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

So we put out a call for testers for our cookbook and you answered. What drew you to the testing process?

 

Rochelle Moser:

Well to be honest, if my husband and I don’t have to decide what we’re going to eat, I’m all for it.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

So someone planning your meals, you’re ready to go.

 

Rochelle Moser:

We love to cook, but we meal plan. So I want to say the hardest part of planning our week is even making a decision on what to make. So having somebody take that off our plate and still making great meals, I’m all game.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Now I will say most of our testers may have tested a handful of recipes. Maybe two to three or at most maybe six or seven. You tested almost 90 of our recipes. Is that right?

 

Rochelle Moser:

That’s about right, yeah. I believe I am eight short.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Okay.

 

Rochelle Moser:

The last count it was eight.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

So 92 recipes. And you have tested some that didn’t quite work out for us. So you might be even over 92.

 

Rochelle Moser:

I believe so.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

And that’s one of the best things about the testing process for us is that we can send you something that we’re not quite sure about. And you do not feel bad in the least telling us when you did not like it.

 

Rochelle Moser:

I believe that if you’re going to test, you have to be really honest. And if it doesn’t work out, chances are it’s not gonna work out for others. To me, being honest and being forthright with my comments was the most important thing.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

You were an amazing tester. And I know not everybody is so organized as to go in and fill out the form because, as we’ve mentioned on the podcast we had a form for our testers, everything had to be very planned out and with rating systems so that we could get some consistent feedback. How did you keep track of everything when you were making these recipes?

 

Rochelle Moser:

You should see my printouts. We literally drew all over them. We would write notes about things that we absolutely loves. We wrote notes about things that we were questioning. We wrote notes about things that didn’t work out and other suggestions. Sometimes we had an entire page worth of notes. Sometimes it was just a, “Hey, when you say one cup of this did you actually mean a half cup? Because that actually worked out a little better.” So some recipes had a lot. Some had a little. But we literally kept all of them. So we have a stack of the previous versions and we have a stack of newer versions.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

I love thinking about that and I think you’re one of the more organized of the testers that we worked with by far. So let’s talk a little bit about bloopers. Our blooper reel here. What are a few recipes … Do you remember some that didn’t work out so well?

 

Rochelle Moser:

Well, I remember one that was particularly troublesome for us. We wound up making it work. But there was a recipe for rosemary olives. And my husband and I literally drove all over town looking for the amount of olives that were needed, which I’m pretty sure in the original recipe would have made an entire serving platter. So every time we’d go into a store, they would have just a portion of what we needed or they would have half of what we need. So we were constantly asking, “Do you have more of these in the back? I need four jars of these, I need two jars of these.” And the stock men were just thinking we were crazy. I had one person look at me like I sprouted a second head. And he’s just like, “Do you really need that many olives?” And to his point I was like, “I don’t know. Let me check.” I believe that’s when I sent you a frantic email from the aisle of the grocery store.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Yes. And we figured out that it was actually … Olives are specified in dry weight which is half of the normal amount in a can. Like a can of beans would have 15 ounces, but olives for whatever reason are specified in dry weight. And so they would be about six.

 

Rochelle Moser:

Exactly.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

So you went above and beyond driving all over town for these olives. And one … Another one I remember that you really helped us with was an aioli sauce to go on some roasted cauliflower tacos.

 

Rochelle Moser:

Definitely.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

And for whatever reason, your aioli sauce was breaking. And I think maybe you made it three or four times in one night.

 

Rochelle Moser:

I think I made it four times in one night. I had never made an aioli before. I’m sure like a lot of your listeners … That seemed a little too difficult for me. I don’t have a lot of cooking background. I love to do it and I love to learn. But I’m not classically trained. I didn’t grow up in a household where people cooked a lot. So I didn’t know how to make an aioli. So I’m following the instructions as closely as I can. But I think I was adding my oil too quickly. And I was getting impatient. And of course, I have weak arms. So whisking that long really made my arm tired. So I even sent you a video at one point and I’m like, “I don’t think this is how this is supposed to look.”

 

Sonja Overhiser:

That’s right.

 

Rochelle Moser:

I was so proud when it finally came out that I believe I posted it to my Instagram and tagged you guys. I posted a video of this is what an aioli should look like, this is the process of making the aioli. But even today, I still make … I make it from scratch. It’s so gratifying and it’s so … I don’t know. It’s rewarding. To say, “Hey, I made this aioli.” Plus it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump to make your own mayo.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

And your testing was so valuable to us because we could then kind of air proof that process. We knew to tell you to have a bigger bowl. You were using a really small bowl.

 

Rochelle Moser:

[crosstalk 00:27:15]

 

Sonja Overhiser:

And we knew to tell you to drizzle the oil in very slowly so that it could incorporate and emulsify. So every time that we send a recipe to another tester, in a different kitchen, in a different place, with different equipment, it is so valuable to us as recipe developers so we can air proof that recipe. So let’s end on some recipes that worked out. What are some of your favorites from the testing process.

 

Rochelle Moser:

So even today, my husband and I almost weekly will make the kale and goat cheese rigatoni. We mix it up every once in a while. We might change up the pasta. We might throw and an extra ingredient in here and there. Hint, hint. Tomatoes are awesome. But we seriously make this recipe almost weekly.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Oh, good. I’m so glad to hear that.

 

Rochelle Moser:

The other big one is your pizza crust. It was life changing. For years I’ve been making a William Sonoma pizza crust recipe. Without fail, your pizza crust blew that out of the water.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Oh, awesome. Yeah. We’ve been working on that recipe for years and years. So that means a lot to hear that.

 

Rochelle Moser:

[crosstalk 00:28:27] double and triple batches. We make it all the time.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Anything else that stood out from the process?

 

Rochelle Moser:

It was an awesome process. Being able to see the entire creative process from your side was really rewarding. It makes me value my cookbooks a little bit more. It’s one thing to be able to go into a store and buy a cookbook. And you get it home and you might make … I’d want to say a successful cookbook in our house is three to five recipes. We have literally made almost every recipe in this book. And I don’t know. Being able to see the process. Being involved in the process and knowing how much work you guys put into it makes it all that more valuable to us.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

And we are so grateful to you for all your testing help. You’ve been incredible. Thank you so much for joining us today, Rochelle.

 

Rochelle Moser:

Of course. Thanks for having me.

 

Alex Overhiser:

So we had these 100 recipes plus that we were writing, and developing, and having tested. But we weren’t really doing this as our full time job. And we had a lot going on during this year that we were doing all this work.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Right. It was kind of our side, side, side hustle at the time. So it was a very busy year. But the cool thing, I guess, about the timing with this was that if you know our story, you’ll know that we were in the adoption process in 2016. And we actually had a very difficult adoption process. We had three adoptions that fell through in the year of 2016. And that was a really, really difficult time for us emotionally. Having to heal from these adoptions that we thought were going to be our baby. And then ended up that they fell through. And so that was a very difficult time in our lives. And I like to refer to the cookbook project as our lifeline. At least for me it was a lifeline where I could use my mental energy and my creative outlet in another way where I didn’t have to be always thinking about kind of this personal drama going on in our lives. And for me, that was really great to have this distraction. Not to kind of take away all of the feelings and the pain. But just to give me something to divert my energy to when things were going rough. So it, for me, was one of the things that got us through that very challenging year of 2016 was also having this project, this dream project to work on.

 

Alex Overhiser:

So while we were dreaming about our family to be, we had a literal dream at our hands and it was a lot of fun. And a lot of work. We were both working full-time jobs outside of A Couple Cooks during this year. So we were going to coffee shops earlier in the morning, and writing recipes, and testing them late at night, and doing our work during the day. And just having a lot of fun, and then putting a lot of energy into developing this project and trying to get as much done before baby would show up.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

How did you feel during that time, Alex?

 

Alex Overhiser:

It was a bit crazy. I love the cookbook because it was creation totally from scratch. You would sit down, you would take the title of a recipe, and try to write it, and then try to make it. Which was … I love to create. And so that was super fun. But that spreadsheet with 100 items that had to have all the statuses filled in, including the photography which we didn’t even mention that. And so every time we had a recipe finished, we needed to take the picture. So we were taking pictures all year as well. It was just a huge project management.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Headache? Nightmare?

 

Alex Overhiser:

Headache. About 11 months in, we had 90% or so of our recipes done. We were feeling pretty good. Everything was kind of coming together as far as the book project was going. And then in some very fortuitous timing, we were also matched with who would turn out to be our son, Larson. So he was coming right almost … On the exact due date of our cookbook was the due date for our baby.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Yes, so our book was due … I think the first draft was due two weeks after Larson came into our lives. And this story is about the cookbook, not about Larson. But the day that Larson became ours … Well, the day he was born we met him and fell absolutely in love with him. It was an incredible story. And yeah, then we got to take him home from the hospital. He was our baby. And it was an incredibly emotional and exciting time. And all of it was just perfect the way that it worked out. And then there was also this deadline looming of two weeks later you have to provide all these recipes and photographs. And so I have a photo of myself with a tiny newborn sitting in my lap, typing at the computer, trying to finish these recipes and this manuscript. We had to write also the intro of the book. All of the life lessons that we talked about earlier. And so, yeah, we have this newborn. And we’re kind of trading off writing recipes, honing some of the verbiage, finishing our last photographs. And it was an incredibly joyful time, but it was also a little bit difficult I would say to have a newborn.

 

Alex Overhiser:

A little crazy.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

And try to be working on this really huge deadline.

 

Alex Overhiser:

Thank goodness they sleep 20 hours a day for that first month. So we were up all night feeding the baby and just checking for typos and that sort of thing.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

But I think it’s a really beautiful thing that Larson came on the due date of our cookbook. And we had spent that year prior waiting for him and kind of creating this cookbook baby at the same time that he was being created. And then it all just kind of happened at the same time. So he really just was meant to be, I think.

 

Alex Overhiser:

Alright. So that was almost a year ago. And what the heck happened in that year between turning it in, and having a deadline, and actually getting a book in bookstores?

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Right. Well first, we had a champagne toast.

 

Alex Overhiser:

Woo.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Yay.

 

Alex Overhiser:

I think we had a couple. One for the baby, one for the book.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

We had several.

 

Alex Overhiser:

One for the baby, one for the book.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Yup. And then yeah, our publisher asked for all the deliverables one year before they would actually publish it. So in that year, we went through lots of rounds of edits. With our editor, with a copy editor who checks for all of the technical details to be correct in a recipe. Our editor did kind of more of the overall style editing. And there was a lot of go around. There was also the graphic design of the book. There was the cover which we got to collaborate on really closely with the publisher, which was a lot of fun.

 

Alex Overhiser:

And we hired an artist to do watercolors to match each of those 10 lessons in the cookbook about how to become a home cook.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

That’s right. Our friend, Ashley Rodriguez of the blog, Not Without Salt. She’s also an author of Date Night In. She created these beautiful custom watercolors for every lesson. So we told her what our lessons were and then we together tried to brainstorm, “Okay, what’s a illustration that could kind of bring this lesson to life?” So we worked with her very closely to create these 10 custom watercolors, which I’m so excited for everyone to see. They’re just beautiful. And yeah, what else did we do during that time?

 

Alex Overhiser:

I think that was most of it for the book. And it sounds like a year is a long time. But by the time you’re transferring the files back and forth and double checking and triple checking everything, it really went by pretty fast.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

And then there’s a lot of planning that goes into launching something from the kind of publicity and marketing side to the publisher actually getting the copies printed and figuring out all the logistics. They do all of that for us which is really great. And during that time we decided, hey, wouldn’t it be fun to celebrate this momentous occasion when this book does finally get born in February 2018? And so we tried to think of how can we involve people, all of you who are listening, and people all around the world. And we came up with the idea of a pretty simple dinner party. It’s a worldwide virtual dinner party.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

If you’re a long time listener, you will have heard of this before. We are inviting anyone who wants to make recipe from our book and share it with other people on February 17th to join us in this party. And that is the Saturday after Valentine’s Day. The point is just to have a dinner party and enjoy good food, and good people, and eating well in the middle of what will be winter here in the United States. We do have a host that are all around the world. We have hosts in 25 countries. So some of these countries, it will not be winter. But we’re so excited. We have almost all of our states filled too. We have 48 states that are participating. And over 300 hosts now. So it is a huge table. I like-

 

Alex Overhiser:

Hold on. Hold on. You said 48 states?

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Right.

 

Alex Overhiser:

What two states are not represented here?

 

Sonja Overhiser:

We do not have South Dakota and Montana.

 

Alex Overhiser:

Alright. You people who live in the great Midwestern, northern regions of South Dakota and Montana, please let us know if you’re out there and you want to host a party. Because we need to fill in that map.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

So I like to envision a really long table for all these people at the dinner party. The 300 hosts and us. And all the people that would be invited. It’s gotta be like … I don’t know. At least 600, 1000 people at this virtual dinner party.

 

Alex Overhiser:

I would think so. And it’s just fun. To think that we’re all cooking from this cookbook and we’re all talking about good food, and good times in February, and just enjoying company all at the same time.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

So it’s kind of funny. We talked about dates, and timing, so our cookbook will come out on February 6th. Our dinner party is February 17th. And then Larson’s first birthday is February 19th. Two days later. So it’s just … It’s kind of a cool thing that the book baby comes out exactly one year after the real baby. And we actually ended up dedicating the book to Larson. So if you do pick up a copy, you’ll see a picture of him on the first page. And it makes me cry when I look at it. Okay. I’m not gonna cry on the air.

 

Alex Overhiser:

There’s no reason to cry.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

So that’s a story. That’s kind of a long winding story. But that’s how we ended up here. Almost February of 2018. So thank you to all of you who have emailed us or talked to us on social media and told us that you’ve pre-ordered the book, or just excited about it, or just are cheering us on from the sidelines. That has meant so much to us in this process. And we’re so excited. We created all these recipes for you. They’re recipes we love that we know work. And we know we’ll be using this book for years to come.

 

Alex Overhiser:

And if you’re looking to pick up a copy, you can just Google Pretty Simple Cooking and buy it on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. That’s available for pre-order. Or you can go into your local bookstore and they will order it for you.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

And I must say, being through this entire process, I think it gives me a different outlook on books when I see books at a bookstore or on a bookshelf. It really is a part of this person. A huge amount of time, and energy, and your personality that you put into something. And just knowing the huge amount of people that are behind books. Cookbooks and other books. But particularly cookbooks. When you think about these teams of people who are recipe testing. and graphic designing, and publishing, and writing. There are so many people that come together to do this. And I think it’s almost a small miracle that something like this can be published. So I definitely look at books in a different way. They’re so, so special and they’re so personal.

 

Alex Overhiser:

And when we are talking about baby Larson, he is napping. And I think I hear some squeaks coming out of his crib. So we should probably wrap up this episode.

 

Sonja Overhiser:

Well, we hope you’ve enjoyed hearing some of the backstory of what went into the book and that it’s been an interesting process to hear how books are made and cookbooks come to be.

 

Alex Overhiser:

You can always find us on our blog, acouplecooks.com, or over on Instagram @acouplecooks. Or Twitter or Facebook for that matter. And as always, we love to hear from you. Thank you for listening.