It's not quite time to clear away the cookbooks, or to consider Jamie Oliver your new best friend, but the world of blogs, Twitter and Facebook have seriously changed the way one approaches making dinner, even the definition of a "friend," if you're into it.
Think about this evolution: Ten years ago I discovered a beautiful book by Amanda Hesser called "The Cook and the Gardener," which documented the author's year cooking at a French chateau a few miles from St. Julien, and her relationship with the caretaker there. The cookbook is layed out by seasons, with the author aligning essays and recipes with what is growing in Monsieur Milbert's garden, and with what he is willing to quietly relinquish that week to the petite blonde American in the kitchen. Almost every day from May until October, I think of how this rubber-booted Burgundian gardener warmed the water for his vegetables in buckets set out in the sun so that his haricot and carrots were not shocked with cold well water. ( I don't always have the time to treat my own vegetables so tenderly, but I think about it.) I still pull that book from the shelf a few times a year to see what the gardener, who is probably now deceased, had available in — let's say January — and what Amanda was doing with it; Turnip-Thyme Soup, Potatoes Braised with Bay Leaves and Baby Onions, Frisee Salad with Sage Croutons. In fact, now that the exhaustion from holiday sweets has tempered, it may be time to make the Chocolate-Bay Leaf Tart with Apples from December's chapter.
A few years after I dog-eared that book, I had the welcome chance to get a little closer to Amanda Hesser because she started writing a weekly food column in The New York Times. Once a week, I read a good recipe and got to know who she was dating.