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The Nach Waxman Prize

for Food and Drink Scholarship

Annoucing the Winner of the Inaugural Nach Waxman Prize for Food and Drink Scholarship

Book Cover: Small Fires: An Epic in the Kitchen

Small Fires: An Epic in the Kitchen by Rebecca May Johnson wins the inaugural Nach Waxman Prize for Food and Beverage Scholarship

Kitchen Arts & Letters and Maron Waxman are delighted to announce that the first-ever Nach Waxman Prize has—by unanimous choice of the panel of judges—been awarded to Small Fires: An Epic in the Kitchen by Rebecca May Johnson (Pushkin Press). The prize carries an award of $5,500.
We invite you to join Rebecca May Johnson and the Waxman Prize judges for a discussion of this remarkable book in a free Zoom meeting on Friday, May 17 at 11 am EDT : 

The Nach Waxman Prize recognizes a well-written book which is likely to attract new readers to the field of food scholarship or to alter significantly the direction of future research. 

Small Fires satisfies that criteria abundantly. In the words of the judges:

Darra Goldstein

Small Fires upends the perception of cooking as a mindless activity, demonstrating instead that recipes can embody intellectual inquiry and even serve as a means of enlightenment. Rebecca May Johnson’s luminous prose offers a profound meditation on the true meaning of kitchen work.

Morna Livingston

If you love food books, the wit of this mind-changing work offers a new way to think about cooking. As an experiment in Small Fires, Rebecca May Johnson decides to make red sauce one thousand times to learn by repetition. As the sauce splashes in the pan, like spray on a "wine-dark sea," she realizes cooking recipes is not a matter for science but holds greater parallels with epics like the Odyssey—changing while "gathering things and words and people together." As recipes are repeatedly cooked and epics retold, she establishes a method in which real spattering over a hot flame is essential.

Mayukh Sen

With great formal risk and narrative invention, Rebecca May Johnson's Small Fires powerfully reasserts that cooking is a pursuit worth taking seriously. I’ve no doubt that this book will inspire young food writers for generations to come, while it may also teach veterans of the practice a thing or two about how to approach their work with spirit and vibrancy—showing us all what food writing can accomplish when we're willing to stretch its parameters.

The Prize is named for Nach Waxman (1936-2021), the founder of Kitchen Arts & Letters bookstore, where he ardently championed the work of food and beverage scholars, as well as other authors who explored and illuminated the culture behind cooking, eating, and drinking. More information about Nach Waxman, as well as the Prize judges, can be found here.



Honorable Mention and Short List Books

The judges chose to offer honorable mention to Invitation to a Banquet: The Story of Chinese Food by Fuchsia Dunlop (W.W. Norton) and Staging the Table in Europe: 1500-1800 (Bard Graduate Center), edited by Deborah L. Krohn.
Also shortlisted for the Prize out of more than 45 entries were Endangered Eating: America's Vanishing Foods by Sarah Lohman (W.W. Norton) and Wild, Tamed, Lost, Revived: The Surprising Story of Apples in the South by Diane Flynt (University of North Carolina Press).

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