Molly O'Neill

Award-winning Food Writer & Memoirist
Author of One Big Table

“Like any cuisine, American cooking is about place and weather, people and history, tradition and fashion, economics and ethnicity, religion, culture, and class. But unlike any other cuisine that I know of, American cooking is about the persistence of hope.” —Molly O’Neill

"One Big Table—what a beautiful way to talk about the richness and diversity of American food! It brings us to an important, soulful place." —Alice Waters

For a decade, Molly O'Neill was the food columnist for The New York Times Magazine and the host of the PBS series Great Food. The celebrated food critic, twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, has been creating national conversation on issues ranging from the dark-side of low-fat dieting to body building, trophy stoves, pop spirituality, and the aesthetics of graffiti. She is known for her keen sense of public appetite and consumer habits. “Every food story is a family story; and every family story is also a story of place; and every place is a story of food; and so it goes: the circle of life” — this is the bountiful philosophy of Molly O’Neill.

She is the author of four cookbooks: the highly acclaimed One Big Table: A Portrait of American Cooking (Simon & Schuster 2011)—what she calls the “nation’s community cookbook”; the bestselling New York Cookbook; A Well Seasoned Appetite; and The Pleasure of Your Company. O’Neill is also the author of a memoir, Mostly True, a tale of growing up in a major league baseball family that was hailed by critics “a magical tale of growing up in the middle of the American dream.” Her writing has appeared in magazines ranging from The New Yorker and the New York Times to Family Circle and Life, and she has created books, websites, and collateral for a full range of lifestyle publications and concerns including Dean & Deluca, Readers Digest, Williams-Sonoma, Blackberry Farm, and YES Network. She edited the Library of America’s landmark anthology American Food Writing.

O’Neill won the Julia Child/IACP Award for cookbooks and was awarded three James Beard citations for books, journalism, and television as well as the society’s Lifetime Achievement Award. One Big Table was named Cookbook Of The Year by Booklist, Epicurious, The Wall Street Journal, and 12 other publications.

To compile One Big Table O’Neill spent a decade traveling around America conducting more than 5000 oral-history-style interviews to discover why we eat what we eat. From big cities to small towns, she attended potlucks and church suppers and gathered recipes from fishermen, bakers, farmers, artists, truck drivers, hairdressers, gourmet societies—and even a Nobel Prize winner. In the book’s introduction, she writes, “Recipes are family stories, tales of particular places and personal histories. They bear witness to the land and waterways, to technology and invention, to immigration, migration, ambition, disappointment, triumph, and most of all, change. Living things change, American cooking—fine and silly, real and fake, wonderful and wonderfully awful, heartfelt, homemade and factory-issued—is very much alive….” As part of the ongoing effort to gather and preserve American recipes and food stories, Molly is building, along with friends and colleagues, “One Big Table Across America,” a series of large and small events that celebrate American home cooking, support local agriculture, and prove that community begins when people gather around a table to eat, drink, talk, laugh, think, and dream.

Molly’s talk "I’ve Come to Look for America" reveals, among other things, a history of mid-century American marketing through the lens of Columbus, Ohio, her hometown and “the test-market capital of the United States” for food manufacturers from the 1920s to the 1970s. A bellwether for the nation in all but three presidential elections, O’Neill reports that Columbus was prized by food manufacturers for being “the epitome of average.” She details the changing landscape of food in America. As a presenter, the Columbus Food Adventures praised her thus: “A veritable whirlwind of charm, enthusiasm, curiosity, energy, intellect and good cheer, Molly O’Neill…blew us away with her insatiable interest and endless valuable insights into anything and everything related to food.”

About ONE BIG TABLE (2011)

"Part cookbook and part documentary, One Big Table does more than just show us what we like to eat—it reminds us who we are." —The Christian Science Monitor

Ten years ago, former New York Times food columnist Molly O’Neill embarked on a transcontinental road trip to investigate reports that Americans had stopped cooking at home. As she traveled highways, dirt roads, bayous, and coastlines gathering stories and recipes, it was immediately apparent that dire predictions about the end of American cuisine were vastly overstated. From Park Avenue to trailer parks, from tidy suburbs to isolated outposts, home cooks were channeling their family histories as well as their tastes and personal ambitions into delicious meals. One Big Table is a celebration of these cooks, a mouthwatering portrait of the nation at the table [with] many recipes offer[ing] a bridge between first-generation immigrants and their progeny.…One Big Table reminds us of the importance of remaining connected to the food we put on our tables. As this brilliantly edited collection shows on every page, the glories of a home-cooked meal prove how every generation has enriched and expanded our idea of American food. Every recipe in this book is a testament to the way our memories—historical, cultural, and personal—are bound up in our favorite and best family dishes.

About MOSTLY TRUE (2008)
Molly O'Neill's father believed that baseball was his family's destiny. He wanted to spawn enough sons for an infield, so he married the tallest woman in Columbus, Ohio. Molly came out first, but eventually her father's plan prevailed. Five boys followed in rapid succession and the youngest, Paul O'Neill, did, in fact, grow up to be the star right fielder for the New York Yankees. In Mostly True, celebrated food critic and writer O'Neill tells the story of her quintessentially American family and the places where they come together—around the table and on the ball field. Mostly True is the uncommon chronicle of a regular family pursuing the American dream and of one girl's quest to find her place in a world built for boys. Molly O'Neill—an independent, extraordinarily talented, and fiercely funny woman—showed that home runs can be hit in many fields. Her memoir is glorious.

Molly O'Neill / One Big Table website