Friday, December 1, 2017

Feast of Sorrow Announcement

One book reviewer describes Feast of Sorrow  by Crystal King as "The Food Network meets HBO’s Rome."  That is a spot-on description.  

For the December/January round, we travel to the time of togas.  The novel's plot revolves around Thrasius, a slave who is coveted by many for his culinary prowess, and his master Apicius.  This is a tale of intrigue, power, and obsession as Apicius is determined to become the culinary adviser for Caesar.   He sees his new slave as the key to his success.   

Rendering of  Marcus Gavius Apicius from Vast Morsels

Apicius is based on a historical figure, Marcus Gavius Apicius, who lived during the First Century AD.  He was known as a gourmand and epicurean and is often attributed as the first author of any known cookbook.  Although the truth about Apicius' life is a bit sketchy at best, King takes historical references of his life (from ancient texts) and of his tragic death and fills in the blanks in this work of fiction.  

From The Kitchen Project
Apicius, the collection of recipes that bears his name, was actually compiled in the late Fourth or early Fifth Century.  (A good modern compilation is Cooking Apicius by Sally Granger.)

The list of culinary inspiration is almost infinite in this historical novel.   King teases with just a few offerings on her website including the following:

I cannot wait to see what ancient culinary delights are cooked up for this next round.  For more inspiration and an interesting discussion of this book and ancient Rome, you might want to listen to "What Did Ancient Romans Eat? New Novel Serves Up Meals and Intrigue" (The Salt, April 28, 2017).  

The deadline for Feast of Sorrow is January 31, 2018.  Anyone can join in by reading the current selection, preparing a dish inspired by its contents, and writing about it. Let me know when your entry post is up by commenting on this post and/or sending me an email at 

New to Cook the Books? Welcome to all!  Check out our About and Guidelines pages or leave a question in the comments on this post.


Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Patriarch - A Delicious Roundup

For our reading of The Patriarch, by Martin Walker, everyone seems to have enjoyed all the food and wine inspiration available throughout the novel, and we certainly had an incredible bounty to choose from.  All the tempting selections by our participants with brief snippets follow.  Please do stop and visit each one for their recipes, photos and comments about the book.

First into the mix was Wendy from A Day in The Life on the Farm, with a yummy Braised Venison.  Part of a  fabulous meal that Bruno would have been proud to serve.  She wrote, I "loved the setting of this novel.  I could envision the beauty of the land.  I wanted to taste the wine and partake in the many feasts in the story.  I wanted to rent a vacation house on the property bought by Bruno's girlfriend and spend some time with the horses."

She thought the characters could have been better developed, but enjoyed all the food and wine served up.  "Perhaps if you've read all of the books leading up to this one, you feel that you know them all", Wendy said.

Next up was Terri of Our Good Life, who recreated one of Bruno's little hors d'oeuvres repasts, to be accompanied by her Jalapeno Infused Vodka.  Sounds like a cocktail I'd like to mix up.  She says Bruno " is a true Renaissance man, an unassuming .... gourmet cook, wine enthusiast, gardener who is dabbling in truffle oak trees, a hunter, and a dog man.  He makes his own jams, pates, sausages, confits, etc.  He rides horses and is a sensitive, caring man.  Wish there were more like him!"  Indeed!

Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla, treated us to drinks as well, with her gentian inspired Negroni cocktail, made with a new bitters favorite of mine, Bruto Americano.

While she "wasn't enamored with the book, I did enjoy the descriptions of food that were sprinkled throughout".

Deb of Kahakai Kitchen joined our dinner party with a stunning looking platter of Salmon Salad Nicoise.
She also enjoyed the book, especially the food mentions, but was another who thought the characters could have used more development.  A downside from choosing a book near the end of an ongoing series.

Simona of Briciole and a Cook the Books host, contributed a lovely pairing of cabbages in a a side dish creation of Savoy and Radicchio.  She liked the novel and thought it was "a pleasant read, weaving together into a tense plot, local politics, the history of WWII, and the past and present life of the various characters."  With " plenty of food and wine in the story", even likening two of the principal characters to the two cabbages she chose.

Debra, of Eliot's Eats, another one of our Cook the Books Club hosts, brought a fabulous Tarte Flambee to the party and though not much of a mystery fan, said:  "Walker’s cast of characters (and there is a lot of them) did keep me intrigued along with the rustic traditions and beauty of St. Denis."  She thought " the amount of feasting in the book is as rich and plentiful as the French countryside."

At Honey from Rock, I cooked up a dish inspired by an early mention in the novel, Bruno's Lamb with Monbazillac, however not having that wine available, morphed it into a braise, Lamb with Cotes-Du-Rhone, a nice earthy French red.  Of course I loved the novel, being a fan of Martin Walker's series.  His lead character, Bruno is such a well-rounded kind of guy, and a Foodie, in the best sense.  I also enjoy the way Walker blends in local French culture, history and ongoing current events.

After the deadline, but just in the mix, was Amy of Amy's Cooking Adventures with a warming Roasted Carrot Ginger Soup.  It looks to be just the thing to chase away any lurking colds.

I would recommend reading Walker's series from the beginning.  His first was, Bruno, Chief of Police: A Novel of the French Countryside.

Do join us as we read and cook, inspired by our next selection, Feast of Sorrow, by Crystal King, a novel set in ancient Rome, and hosted by Debra of Eliotseats. The deadline for Feast of Sorrow is January 31, 2018.  See you then!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Our October/November Pick: The Patriarch by Martin Walker

Our next Cook the Books Club pick, for October/November, is The Patriarch by Martin Walker. Martin Walker has written an engaging series of mysteries, all of which are international best-sellers.  Set in the Dordogne region of France, he manages to enfold political and social issues, with romance, fine wines from the area and enticing food, to create a reading delight.  I have been enjoying his books for a few years now, and wanted to share at least one with Cook the Books,especially for all their culinary appeal.

The Patriarch is one of his best and a more recent addition to the oeuvre.  Benoit Courreges, known popularly as Bruno, is Walker's charming protagonist.  The Chief of Police in the small French town, St. Denis, he is a true Renaissance man: gourmet cook, wine enthusiast, a gardener, including his orchard of truffle oaks, a hunter and forager, able to produce his own jams, confits, pâtés, sausages, ham, etc.  All that and he manages to solve the area's crime, settle domestic disputes, ride his horse with lovely ladies and more.  What a guy! I find him quite inspiring.

In this novel, Marco Desaix is known as "The Patriarch", an iconic hero of the French Resistance, fulfills a boyhood dream of Bruno's, inviting him to a lavish birthday celebration being held in his honor.  Of course there is a murder connected with the event, which has political overtones, intrigue, mysterious parentage and inheritances.  Then there is the animal rights activism going on, with outraged hunters and pâté producers.  Politics on a local French level.  

Submissions for this round of Cook The Books are due by end-of-the day Thursday, November 30, 2017. Anyone can join in - just by reading the current selection, preparing a dish inspired by its contents, and writing about it. Let me know when your entry post is up by commenting on this post and/or sending me an email at: 
New to Cook the Books? Welcome! Check out our About and Guidelines pages or leave a question in the comments on this post 


Farmer Boy: The (Delicious) Roundup!

What fun it was reading all of the Cook the Books posts for our August/September selection, Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder. (The announcement post is here) For some it was a reread of a childhood classic and for others, it was the first time--but everyone who joined in found some delicious inspiration.

Here are the mouth-watering submissions for Farmer Boy. Like Almanzo, we definitely loved our apples this round! Each post links back to the individual blog and to the Farmer Boy inspired dish, so if you haven't had a chance to see all of the entries, please stop by the posts to see each person's thoughts on the book and more about their recipes.

Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla said, "I certainly don't remember there being so much food in these books. But Almanzo was constantly hungry. And his mother was constantly feeding him! "It takes a great deal to feed a growing boy," Mother said." Camilla made Sweet Mellow Baked Beans with bacon, coffee and molasses, saying, "the dish that inspired me was baked beans. Almanzo ate the sweet, mellow baked beans. He ate the bit of salt pork that melted like cream in his mouth..." 

Terri of Our Good Life said, "When I learned that we would be reading and cooking from Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, I was so excited. I literally have read this book hundreds of times. Although many might say this is their least favorite of the Little House books, it is most definitely my favorite.  ... Terri found her inspiration in the Wilder siblings making ice cream in the ice house and made her modern version of Dairy Free Homemade Ice Cream.

Claudia of Honey From Rock enjoyed reading the book saying, "Talk about going back to the land.  We have come so far from that sort of life. Refreshing to read about." Claudia found plenty of inspiration, "So many good things were mentioned, among which was Bird's Nest Pudding, something I'd never heard of, even though it is an old time American dish. Also called Crow's Nest Pudding, it featured in an early White House cookbook, as well as the Little House Cookbook, and was served variously with sweetened cream, a tart sauce or maple sugar." 

Debra of Eliot's Eats said. "I was amazed (amazed, I tell you) as to the amount of food in the book. It seems like Almanzo’s memories and recollections (from which his wife based this novel) always revolved around food." Debra found her inspiration in one of Almanzo's favorites, "Almanzo said that what he liked most in the world was fried apples ’n’ onions." About her own Apples 'n' Onions, Debra said, "This was a very delectable dish, in between a savory side and a dessert. In fact, The Hubs had two servings for dinner. I am now thinking of a onion-apple pie and  a Thanksgiving dish with a bit of bacon. Wouldn’t that be crazy delicious?"


Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm listened to the audio book for her reread saying, "I listened to this book way back in July, while floating in the pool with my sister in law, Mary. She enjoyed the book as much as I and we would turn it off and discuss different aspects of the story as they came up." Wendy was inspired by the description of Almanzo's mother's Apple Turnovers. She said, "Tender spiced apples enfolded in a flaky, golden crust made for perfect little turnovers that I'm sure Almanzo would be drooling over."

Lynda of Reviews, Chews & How-Tos found that "There is certainly no shortage of food inspiration in Farmer Boy! It is basically an homage to abundant food (and hard work, and the joys of farming - but mostly food and vast quantities of it)." Lynda found inspiration in Almanzo's favorite Apples 'n' Onions, and made it part of a tasty dinner saying, "For our table, I served it along with Pork Tenderloin (they would have had pork, although I don't know that tenderloin was a cut used at the time - chops or a small roast would also work here), and I added potatoes to the saute, mainly because I had a few potatoes that needed to be used."


This was a first time read of the book and author for Simona of Briciole, "It was an interesting read, giving me a glimpse into some of the literature people my age were exposed to during their childhood and a view into rural life and related activities in an age and place quite removed from mine." Simona found inspiration for her Apple Tart in the book's message of not wasting food, in apples and in pie saying "Almanzo likes all pies. I have nice memories of the first apple pie I tasted, during my first stay in the UK, homemade by my landlady with apples from her garden. Being Italian, my preference goes to crostata, the traditional Italian tart."

Amy of Amy's Cooking Adventures found Farmer Boy "in addition to being a wonderful book to share with my kids (I loved the Little house book when I was little), it is also packed full of foodie inspiration – and so so much of it revolves around apples! I love it!" Amy made Apple-Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal saying, "In the book, Almanzo’s mother often serves apples (I still want to try my hand at Bird’s Nest Pudding) and oatmeal every day at breakfast for her hard-working family. So I made this healthy baked oatmeal (with a drizzle of homemade caramel sauce if you please) that would be sure to hold over even hard-working farm children!"

Finally at Kahakai Kitchen, I too jumped onto the apple bushel and took inspiration from the fruit, as well as all of the jams and preserves Almanzo's family put up (and really, I was just too lazy to make a pie!), making a really yummy Caramel-Apple Jam. I served the jam on fresh sourdough bread, spread with good butter, along with slices of Tillamook cheddar cheese. It was like the illusion of eating apple pie and cheese like Almanzo--but without having to bake. ;-) I really enjoyed rereading Farmer Boy (especially doing it with my CTB friends) and confirming just how much delicious food was in it.

Mahalo to everyone who joined in this round! I believe that I have included all of the submissions that I received by email or by comments on the announcement post, but if I missed anyone--please do let me know. 

If you love food, books, and foodie books, please do join us for October/November when we will be The Patriarch by Martin Walker, a France-set foodie mystery, hosted by Claudia of Honey From Rock.


Deb, Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Our August / September 2017 Pick: Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Coming off of a spate of foodie memoirs, it's my pleasure to kick off our grouping of foodie fiction books, with Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder, our Cook the Books August/September 2017 selection. 

Like many children growing up in the United States, the Little House on the Prairie books were a big part of my childhood. They were favorites of my mom, who loved pioneer stories and she read them to and with us over the years. The television series first came on when I was in elementary school and it stayed on the air into my high school years--so I definitely grew up with the stories and the characters. 

When I was younger, I was not that interested in the character of Almanzo Wilder--much preferring the stories with Laura as a young girl and life with the Ingalls family and so Farmer Boy is the book I am least familiar with out of the nine books in the series.  A few months ago I was exchanging foodie book recommendations with friends on a favorite book site and someone brought up Farmer Boy and what a great foodie book it was. That sentiment was shared by a few different people and I decided I needed to reread this children's classic and the surest way to make it happen was to select it as my Cook the Books pick. 

Farmer Boy is the second book of the Little House series and was first published in 1933. It is the only book that does not focus on the childhood and life of Laura Ingalls and instead focuses on the childhood of her future husband, Almanzo Wilder. Set in the 1860s in upstate New York, before Laura Ingalls was even born, it begins just before Almanzo's ninth birthday and details life on the Wilder family's farm. Almanzo is pretty much constantly hungry and apparently quite the foodie, so I think we'll have a lot of fun exploring the food and recipes of America in the 1860s as we step back into childhood with this selection. I look forward to seeing what everyone comes up with!

Submissions for this round of Cook The Books are due by end-of-the day Saturday, September 30, 2017. Anyone can join in the fun by reading the current selection, preparing a dish inspired by its contents, and writing about it. Let me know when your entry post is up by commenting on this post and/or sending me an email at: 
New to Cook the Books? Welcome! Check out our About and Guidelines pages or leave a question in the comments on this post