With his stocky frame, bristly beard, and wire-rimmed glasses, Thorne doesn't look the part of a culinary superhero, but don't let appearances fool you. Beneath that mild-mannered, shy exterior lurks an incorrigibly curious cook, an adventurer capable of transforming every trip to Stop & Shop into inspired prose and every bowl of baked beans into an opportunity for scholarship. In the two and a half decades since he began producing the homemade-food newsletter Simple Cooking (which, in the language of the day, would have been dubbed a 'zine, had it been authored by a purple-haired 19-year-old and not a bespectacled 40-year old), Thorne, along with his wife and coauthor, Matt Lewis Thorne, have authored five books, won numerous awards, and acquired a fiercely loyal readership. Reading their latest collection of essays, Mouth Wide Open (North Point Press, 2007), I was reminded once again of why, when I'm yearning for the satisfactions of the kitchen—not just a romp through the latest, shiny, coffee table cookbook—and feeling playful or peckish or peevish, it is always Thorne's essays to which I return. It's not just their uncanny ability to reveal the hidden anthropological meanings behind the Campbell's soup shelf at the local supermarket (see the essay "Pepper Pot Hot") or his poetic musings on the pleasures of marrow that lure me back. No; it is the generous, genial approach that Thorne himself calls "a lively conversation—a friendly argument between two cooks". Ever the iconoclast, Thorne is not so much interested in perfecting a set of recipes for someone else to follow as he is in inviting a companionable reader to come along as he fumbles through his own kitchen epiphanies. Luckily for readers everywhere, even his disasters are delightful.