I credit most of my current reading to Julie. For one thing, she reads about a mile a minute, and I’m always getting leads from her. For another, she has a podcast where she not only reads books I would have never thought to pick up, but where she also excerpts delectable tidbits from other good reads.

Now, pardon me while I wipe off my keyboard. You see, since starting – and finishing – John Thorne’s Mouth Wide Open, I’m just not able to think about cooking the same way.

Cooking isn’t exactly my favorite topic. At least, that’s what I thought when I started Mouth Wide Open. (That diversion Russ Parsons presented a while back? Pure luck, I thought.) I was no more going to don an apron for anything other than the usual grind than I was going to start rooting for a team wearing maize and blue.

I don’t have a lot of reading time, and the time I have I try to spend on books I’ll enjoy. I listened to three of Julie’s Mouth Wide Open excerpts before buckling down and reserving a copy from the library.

I’m glad I did. What I discovered was writing every bit as brilliant as the excerpts led me to believe. It was entertaining and conversational and a little of something salty – someone who was going to have his say, whether or not I was there to listen.

But why did I listen? Why did I keep reading? Why did I push, Sunday afternoon, to get it finished?

These are the top three reasons:

1. Thorne’s recipes are a germination of ideas, instead of an instruction to replication. I had just never thought of cooking as a coagulation of ideas. This was such a lightning bolt moment for me!

2. The essay format is easy to pick up and put down. It’s not heavy reading (though it may make you long to run into the kitchen and find an egg to cook – or was that just me?), and it’s not a huge investment to get through the essays. I’ll admit, when I first saw the size of this tome, I was a bit doubtful I’d be able to finish it without having to renew it four times. Of course, I was not counting on the ease of reading either.

3. It’s good reading. Period. Thorne is a writer who loves food, and he brings the best to the table. He could keep me turning pages if he was writing about turn-of-the-century nails or manifestos on paper-making. He would have me curled up on the couch late into the night, even if his topic was dull and unrelated to my daily life. And he inserts words worth knowing and using – crepuscular is one of my new favorites (what a lovely coincidence that Karen wrote about it the day after I read the essay on minestrone in Thorne’s book).