If you ask most serious home cooks, "How many cookbooks do you own?" they will say something like, "I don't know— a lot. Thirty, maybe?" Ask Jesse Sheidlower the same question, and he immediately replies, "I currently have 573 food-related books, of which 86 are on wine."
This is Jesse in a nutshell: meticulously informed, precise to the point of punctiliousness and a world-class devotee of fine food. The first two of these qualities have been invaluable in his position as the principal North American editor of the Oxford English Dictionary. But it's Jesse's attention to detail coupled with his passion for cooking that have made his parties a quiet phenomenon in the social scene of New York City's publishing world.
Jesse and his wife, freelance editor Elizabeth Bogner, host two types of parties: elegant dinners that typically involve eight guests and seven courses, and raucous "sTews" where upward of 50 friends cram into their apartment for esoteric recipes culled from Jesse's cookbook collection. Jesse explains the genesis of "sTews"—with a capital T—this way: "The first time I had a stew party, in 1996 or so, a guest later announced in an online forum that he had been at 'an erudite party for stew.' That prompted the question, 'What's stew?' and the answer 'A long-simmered meat dish,' and then the follow-up, 'Oh, I thought you were talking about a new webzine—sTew, or something.'"