Cooking with John Irving

9781400063840_p0_v2_s260x420I recently finished reading John Irving’s latest novel, Last Night in Twisted River, and I loved it. It had been a while since I read one of his, and this one is as good as any. It really reminded me how much I enjoy his fiction — the pacing, the character development, the warm-but-wry tone he often has. Even his afterword, in which Irving detailed some of his writing process, was great. I’m afraid to spoil anything about the plot by explaining too much, but I will tell you that writers writing about writing happens to be one of my favorite things to read, so it was right up my alley.

Tonight I’m making pizza at home, and — what? Yes, this information is relevant, so hold on. Anyway, as I was saying, I am making pizza at home, which involves my easy semi-whole-wheat crust (recipe here). In honor of one of Irving’s characters, though, I changed the recipe. There’s a whole plot point in Last Night in Twisted River where the cook character, Dominic Baciagalupo, in a moment of food-genius inspiration, decides he wants to add honey to his pizza crust recipe.  Reading the book, I decided I definitely wanted to try it myself. Reading about cooking always makes me want to cook (and eat), you know? So I Baciagalupoed that crust right on up. It’s rising in the kitchen right now and I think it’s going to be great. The consistency of the dough just feels right. Better than usual. All I did, if you want to try it too, was add a tablespoon of honey along with the warm water and olive oil. I’ll let you know how it goes.

At any rate, it got me reflecting — I think I also learned how to fire-roast a bell pepper from another John Irving novel, but I can’t quite remember which. There’s a scene where the main character is roasting a bell pepper over the flame on his gas stove and then peeling off the burnt skin, and then gets distracted, maybe when his son runs out into the street? Or when he realizes his son is missing? Or something with a son? Is that in a John Irving novel? I feel like it is. The sort of tender realism with which he writes about cooking in Last Night in Twisted River really reminded me of the bell pepper scene I think I remember. It might be in A Widow for One Year, I thought, but there isn’t a father-son dynamic in that book, that I recall. It might be in The Fourth Hand, but I think all I really remember from that book is the weird sex stuff. I don’t think it’s in an earlier novel, but it could be. Then it occurred to me that it could even be from Don Delillo’s White Noise.

So, does any of that ring a bell? Help if you can! Google could not help. If you know of anything, I’ll be in the kitchen tossing that pizza dough in the air and thinking fondly of Dominic Baciagalupo.


  1. Um…I think it is White Noise, actually. That sounds *REALLY* familiar. Hmm. But Widow for a Year was the first Irving one that popped into my head.


  2. Oh also, I bought a giant jar of local honey today b/c I’m going to try an old wives tale about weight loss (I know). Anyway, I always put about a TBSP of sugar in my crust because I like it a little sweet, so I will mos def be trying this trick too!


    1. Yes! Mine worked out really well, so I’m sure you will like it. The strategy in the book was to put an amount of honey equal to the amount of olive oil. Also, you will have to tell me about this weight-loss thing…


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