Thursday, December 3, 2020

The Secret, Book and Scone Society: The Roundup


It's time for the roundup of Cook the Books' Club October-November 2020 edition for which we read the novel The Secret, Book and Scone Society by Ellery Adams (2017).

Miracle Springs, North Carolina, is a place of healing, a quiet town with natural hot springs and a renowned spa. Visitors often find their way to Miracle Books, where they tell their stories to owner Nora Pennington who in return chooses some books for them. She also recommends they visit Gingerbread House and talk to the baker, Hester, who will then bake a personalized “comfort” scone for them. Food for the body and then food for the mind and heart.

Cook the Books Club's The Secret, Book and Scone Society-Inspired Menu

Scones (of course):
Cinnamon Apple Scones
Gingerbread Scones with Eggnog Glaze
Peanut Butter Chocolate Scones
'Secret' Meyer Lemon Scones
Taste of Three Scones

Other dishes:
Sweet
Muffin Tin Cinnamon Rolls
Savory
Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Soup
Honeynut Squash, Blue Cheese & Walnut Bites

Beverages (prepared by Nora)
"The chalkboard listed the literary names of the beverages Miracle Books offered: 
  •  The Ernest Hemingway—Dark Roast 
  •  The Louisa May Alcott—Light Roast 
  •  The Dante Alighieri—Decaf 
  •  The Wilkie Collins—Cappuccino 
  •  The Jack London—Latte 
  •  The Agatha ChrisTEA—Earl Grey"
Make yourself comfortable and enjoy the treats.



"This is the first novel I have read by Ellery Adams and I thoroughly enjoyed it... Many times, Hester provides scones that bring back memories of happiness and security. Thinking about what she would provide for me inspired me to make these fresh apple and cinnamon scones. When I was young my family had numerous fruit trees. Every year for my birthday in August the apples would be ready for picking and my mom always made me a yellow cake with sliced apples and cinnamon sugar on top... Flaky dough studded with apples and flavored with cinnamon, these fresh apple scones are a delicious way to start the day."



"I loved the concept of the book - that the right books can soothe our souls, improve our lives, and teach us things that we desperately need to know... Of the characters, Hester is my favorite and I loved how she would bake comfort scones that would help people... But the book leaned a little too saccharine for my tastes. Still this was an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon...  In the end, I decided that gingerbread scones would be my comfort scones! I am a gingerbread fanatic. No, seriously. I really love gingerbread."



"In my opinion this is a delightful novel, featuring not only tempting food, secrets and some magic (or call it inspired intuition), but healing and a bit of romance as well. On top of all that the new found friends solve a mystery... Since I enjoy experimenting with scones, one particular combination near the end of the book sparked real inspiration - Hester's own 'comfort' creation - the peanut-butter cup scone. I didn't use peanut butter cups, but chopped, toasted peanuts and some peanut butter, with melted chocolate swiped on top... my ganache didn't really melt and pour properly; also should have been more glossy, but the taste was totally there." 


"I have to say that Adams had me from the start and I could connect with the characters, the sisterhood they establish, the town of Miracle Springs, and the entrepreneurship of both Nora and Hester... I did enjoy learning about everyone’s secrets and seeing the friendships form, maybe more than the mystery itself. And, I loved Nora who judges food items on 'Can I eat this without putting my book down?'... As you might surmise, The Secret, Book & Scone Society, since it is set in Nora’s bookstore, is also full of reading recommendations."



"The book had an interesting premise... Just too many problems with the writing... To end the review part of this post on a positive note, one thread in the book had promise. Every one of the members of the Secret, Book, & Scone Society had a secret. Could they trust each other enough to tell their secrets? What would finally be each character’s motivation and when would they feel confident enough to trust?... The book did send me off on a deep dive for Scones... I soon found that 'The definitive Scone', well, that’s as much a myth as the definitive pasta e fagioliI decided not to make a choice but to make three different scones."



"In this novel, law enforcement is corrupt, necessitating our regular citizens to take action. Our main character, Nora goes a little too vigilante toward to end, but overall, the book was captivating and well-written... Many bakery items made an appearance in this story and circumstances presented themselves for cinnamon rolls... I wanted to experiment with baking these in a muffin tin with the purpose of sending these in the cold lunch.  Mission accomplished!  The cinnamon rolls were delicious as ever and easy to pack in a lunch."


"I  had purchased the e-book ages ago and needed that push to finally get it read. I had even forgotten the premise of the book and had it in my head that it was set in Scotland (the scones I guess?) instead of western North Carolina. But once I opened the pages I was hooked... With all of that inspiration, I did have in mind to try a scone but... I was more intrigued by the mention of the pimento cheese biscuits and the roasted red pepper spread out of a bread basket Nora and her friends noshed on than I was with the scones... Being not a baker, and wanting something easy, I doctored up a cheddar biscuit mix for my biscuits (this one), but if you have a favorite recipe, you could use it instead. "


Simona of briciole (your host) prepared Honeynut Squash Blue Cheese & Walnut Bites

"The novel strikes a balance between the murder plot and the background stories of the four women, particularly of Nora. She emerges as a courageous person and steadying force in the group. It would have been fitting to develop a recipe for scones, a pastry of which I have been a great fan ever since tasting it for the first time in London, many years ago. This blog includes eight recipes for scones using ingredients like carrots, persimmons, strawberries, red beets... But as the story focuses on the slow opening up of each woman to the others, I thought I would prepare a dish that could be shared during one of their meetings."

A great Thank you! to everyone who joined in this edition of Cook the Books.

I believe all the submissions I have received are presented in the roundup. However, if you find anything missing or in need of amendment anywhere in the roundup, please do let me know and I will gladly make the necessary correction.

And now, I’ll turn things over to Deb of Kahakai Kitchen who is hosting the December 2020-January 2021 edition in which we are reading the Eat Joy: Stories & Comfort Food from 31 Celebrated Writers edited by Natalie Eve Garrett.

Arrivederci a presto!

Simona, of briciole

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Announcement: Our Next Four Selections

Are you ready? Here are the next four selections of our book club:

Deb (Kahakai Kitchen) opens the series with Eat Joy: Stories & Comfort Food from 31 Celebrated Writers edited by Natalie Eve Garrett (published October 2019) for the December 2020 / January 2021 edition


Let's face it, this year has required a lot of comfort to get through. I have sought my comfort in my usual two places, in books and in the kitchen, so in carrying on with that theme as we end 2020 and enter 2021, I am picking
 Eat Joy: Stories & Comfort Food from 31 Celebrated Writers as our December/January book pick. Just the cover sparks joy in me and I like the idea of diving into short essays about food. 

From the Publisher:

This collection of intimate, illustrated essays by some of America’s most well-regarded literary writers explores how comfort food can help us cope with dark times—be it the loss of a parent, the loneliness of a move, or the pain of heartache.

Lev Grossman explains how he survived on “sweet, sour, spicy, salty, unabashedly gluey” General Tso’s tofu after his divorce. Carmen Maria Machado describes her growing pains as she learned to feed and care for herself during her twenties. Claire Messud tries to understand how her mother gave up dreams of being a lawyer to make “a dressed salad of tiny shrimp and avocado, followed by prune-stuffed pork tenderloin.” What makes each tale so moving is not only the deeply personal revelations from celebrated writers, but also the compassion and healing behind the story: the taste of hope.

There are recipes included with the essays or maybe it will inspire us to make the food that most comforts us! 

Aloha,
Deb

Deadline for contributing your post is Sunday, January 31, 2021

For the February / March edition, Claudia (Honey from Rock) chose Where I Come From: Life Lessons from a Latino Chef by Aaron Sanchez (published October 2019)


I am going for a memoir by this Latino chef, and the food he brings to it, based on very good reviews, since I haven't had a chance to read it yet, plus the fact that we haven't done Mexican at Cook the Books yet, to my knowledge, and that it's one of my favorite cuisines.

From the Publisher:

America's most prominent Latino chef shares the story behind his food, his family, and his professional journey.  Before Chef Aaron Sanchez rose to fame on shows like MasterChef and Chopped, he was a restless Mexican-American son, raised by a fiercely determined and talented woman who was a successful chef and restaurateur in her own right--she is credited with bringing Mexican cuisine to the New York City dining scene. In many ways, Sanchez, who lost his father at a young age, was destined to follow in his mother Zarela's footsteps... 

In this memoir, Sanchez delves into his formative years with remarkable candor... revealing how he fell in love with cooking and started a career in the fast-paced culinary world. Sanchez shares the invaluable lessons he learned from his upbringing and his training... and offers an intimate look into the chaotic and untraditional life of a professional chef and television personality.
From the Library Journal: 
In addition, the book contains several delicious recipes, including one for seafood étouffée. VERDICT Highly recommended for foodies and memoir aficionados.
Aloha,
Claudia

Deadline for contributing your post is Wednesday, March 31, 2021

For the April / May edition, Debra (Eliot's Eats) has chosen the novel Honeysuckle Season by Mary Ellen Taylor (September 2020)


The book tells the tales of four women. 
  • Sadie, a moonshiner's wild child, is trying to help make ends meet while her older brothers are away fighting WWII. 
  • Olivia, a new bride, has escaped London and the Blitz by marrying a rich American doctor, one of the "landed gentry."
  • Libby, a wedding photographer, returns to her hometown to escape a failed marriage and three failed pregnancies.
  • Elaine, the current curator of the estate, is working hard to restore the once massive and elaborate gardens and greenhouse.
The place setting is a large estate in rural Virginia and the surrounding community. The time setting alternates between the 1940s and today.  

These four women's lives are intertwined with a shared history that will be revealed. Besides revolving around these connections, the plot also deals with class stigma, the plight of the poor (especially women), eugenics and certain prejudices in the rural South in the 1940s.

There's plenty of food in the novel of the comforting, downhome kind and the author provides a few recipes at the end:  Buttermilk Pie, Honeysuckle Syrup, and Lemon Cake. This was a quick and enjoyable read. (It's free if you have Kindle Unlimited and only $4.99 to purchase the ebook. I usually don't rate my "free" Kindle books high but this was a five star review.).  

Debra

Deadline for contributing your post is Monday, May 31, 2021

To round up the list of selections, for the June / July edition Simona (briciole) picked the novel 97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement by Jane Ziegelman


Among the proposals on our blog's Suggested Reading page, I found this title quite appealing [Thank you, Lynda!] and decided to add to our club's selections providing a historical perspective on the foods we bring on our table.

Ziegelman puts a historical spin to the notion that you are what you eat by looking at five immigrant families from what she calls the "elemental perspective of the foods they ate." They are German, Italian, Irish, and Jewish (both Orthodox and Reform) from Russia and Germany—they are new Americans, and each family, sometime between 1863 and 1935, lived on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Each represents the predicaments faced in adapting the food traditions it knew to the country it adopted. From census data, newspaper accounts, sociological studies, and cookbooks of the time, Ziegelman vividly renders a proud, diverse community learning to be American. She describes the funk of fermenting sauerkraut, the bounty of a pushcart market, the culinary versatility of a potato, as well as such treats as hamburger, spaghetti, and lager beer. Beyond the foodstuffs and recipes of the time, however, are the mores, histories, and identities that food evokes. Through food, the author records the immigrants’ struggle to reinterpret themselves in an American context and their reciprocal impact on American culture at large.
Simona

Deadline for contributing your post: Saturday, July 31, 2021.

Remember that membership in our book club is open to anyone and we hope you will join us by reading these selections and creating inspired recipes. For more information about participating, click here.  

As always, specific announcement posts can be found at Cook the Books at the beginning of each two-month period and the current selection is always shown on the right side of the homepage.

To recap:

December 2020 / January 2021Eat Joy edited by Natalie Eve Garrett (hosted by Deb at Kahakai Kitchen)











February / March 2021: Where I Come From by Aaron Sanchez (hosted by Claudia at Honey from Rock)


April / May 2021: Honeysuckle Season by Mary Ellen Taylor (hosted by Debra at Eliot's Eats)










June / July 2021: 97 Orchard by Jane Ziegelman (hosted by Simona at briciole)









Happy reading and cooking!

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Recipe for a Perfect Wife Round Up

Thanks for being patient, all.  I know that this round up is a few days late but here it finally is.    Let's jump right in.   

Some of us enjoyed Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown, others...not so much.


Of course, Camilla (Culinary Adventures with Cam) was first up with a not only a delicious sounding meatloaf but she also found a very fitting wine.  

"If you read the book, you'll know why foxglove is important to the plot. I won't spoil it for you, but let's just say that foxglove is poisonous in large doses...or repeated small doses. It's a dangerous beauty for certain."  

Camilla further writes that she is not a fan of the book.  "I liked how the book started; I hated how it ended. Two things I found amusing throughout though: the misogynistic quotations at the beginning of each chapter - with an attribution to an actual person or publication (Someone actual wrote that? And someone actually valued the sentiment enough to put it in print?!?) and Nellie's recipes."

I am a fan of her bacon-wrapped mini meatloaf dish that accompanied the Foxglove Cabernet Sauvignon.

Next up is Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm made Lemon Lavender Muffins.   (Wendy also hosted this novel for Lit Happens, too.)  Wendy read the book in two days and writes:  "This novel grabbed my attention and held it.  That being said, I'm not sure I liked the book.  Perhaps it was that none of the characters were that 'real' to me.  But that's not it.  They were real, with good traits and bad.  Perhaps it was just Alice that I didn't care for.  She got on my last nerve with her lies, secrets and martyrdom.  She reminded me of a sullen, sulky teenager who always wanted things exactly her own way."  

Maybe Alice needed more of these muffins!


Amy's Cooking Adventures went retro with Hot Cheese Puff Canapes.   Amy felt similar to Wendy:  "I had very mixed feelings about the book.  I loved it at the beginning and was disgusted by the end." Regardless, she went to her Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook for this recipe.
I love that she went with a vintage cookbook and presented her recipe in this retro way.

Simona from briciole presented Roasted Eggplant, Zucchini and Tomatoes (melanzane, zucchine e pomodori in teglia). She points out the sections devoted to Nellie and their paired recipes. Simona mentions tuna casserole (another retro favorite) but comments "In the summer, when fresh vegetables abound, I prefer to eat fresh vegetables. Still, I held to the idea of making a baked dish with a small number of ingredients."
This looks fresh and delicious!

Claudia from Honey from Rock did enjoy the book: "I especially loved her exhumation of some old recipes, harking back to my own childhood, and my mom's and mother-in-law's cooking.  Vintage cuisine I guess you could call it. And, an enjoyable, very worthwhile read." Claudia did focus on the tuna casserole.
She used the recipe from the book but did make some adaptions.

Next up is Deb from Kahakai Kitchen. Deb writes, "I like a food book and a book with dual narratives so I really liked those aspects of Recipe for a Perfect Wife. The little retro book and magazine excerpts from homemaking books are fun too."  She created a Tomato Soup with Porcupine (no-meat) Meatballs.  


"This Tomato Soup with (No-Meat) Porcupine Meatballs is really delicious, even if I should have probably called it deconstructed due to some meatballs structural challenges."  It does look like great comfort food.  

Since I am late with the round-up, I am putting my contribution last.  I tried to go retro, too, and used a family meatloaf recipe.   To change it up a bit, I smoked it.  

I enjoyed the book and like many of you, I found Alice to be totally unlikable.  One of the connections between Alice and Nellie is deception.  But, Nellie has to lie to survive.  I'm not sure what Alice's motivation is.

Thanks to all for reading along and cooking some great recipes.  Some are retro and some are inventive and modern.

I can't wait to dive into the October/November selection,  The Secret, Book and Scone Society by Ellery Adams.   Simona is hosting and you can read her announcement post here.  








October/November selection: The Secret, Book and Scone Society

The novel The Secret, Book and Scone Society by Ellery Adams (October 2017) caught my attention first because of the words "book" and "scone" in the title (aren't they perfect together, a book in one hand and a scone in the other?),  then because it revolves around a bookstore, and finally, because it is a mystery.



The bookstore's owner, Nora, having once been healed by books, has chosen to do the same to other people. But healed from what? (I cannot say: it's part of the mystery)

Besides Nora, the society of the title includes three other women, quite different from each other, each with a secret to share, a story to tell. One of them is a baker with a special gift (which you will find out about when you read the novel). 

Miracle Springs, North Carolina, is a place of healing. Strangers flock here hoping the natural hot springs, five-star cuisine, and renowned spa can cure their ills. If none of that works, they often find their way to Miracle Books, where, over a fresh-baked “comfort” scone from the Gingerbread House bakery, they exchange their stories with owner Nora Pennington in return for a carefully chosen book. That’s Nora’s special talent—prescribing the perfect novel to ease a person’s deepest pain and lighten their heaviest burden.
The novel is therefore a mystery on more than one level: there is a murder to be solved, but there are also the mysteries of the women's past, which are slowly revealed, just as the plot that led to the murder is also slowly revealed. 

There are no recipes in the book, but food and hot drinks play an important role in it and I hope the story will inspire you.  


Deadline for contributing your post: Monday, November 30, 2020.

Leave a comment below with a link to your post or email me at simosite AT mac DOT com.

Remember that anyone can participate in Cook the Books: simply pick up a copy of the selection from your local bookstore or library, take inspiration from said reading, cook and post the inspired dish. We look forward to having you read and cook along with us in this selection period and beyond. New participants are always welcome. (Leave a comment here or check out our Guidelines page if you have any questions.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Our August/September Selection: Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown

Since March and our 2020 safer-at-home experience, I have read over twenty books.   Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown is number twenty-one and the August-September  selection for Cook the Books.  

From the Publisher:
In this captivating dual narrative novel, a modern-day woman finds inspiration in hidden notes left by her home’s previous owner, a quintessential 1950s housewife. As she discovers remarkable parallels between this woman’s life and her own, it causes her to question the foundation of her own relationship with her husband--and what it means to be a wife fighting for her place in a patriarchal society.

When Alice Hale leaves a career in publicity to become a writer and follows her husband to the New York suburbs, she is unaccustomed to filling her days alone in a big, empty house. But when she finds a vintage cookbook buried in a box in the old home's basement, she becomes captivated by the cookbook’s previous owner--1950s housewife Nellie Murdoch. As Alice cooks her way through the past, she realizes that within the cookbook’s pages Nellie left clues about her life--including a mysterious series of unsent letters penned to her mother.

Soon Alice learns that while baked Alaska and meatloaf five ways may seem harmless, Nellie's secrets may have been anything but. When Alice uncovers a more sinister--even dangerous--side to Nellie’s marriage, and has become increasingly dissatisfied with the mounting pressures in her own relationship, she begins to take control of her life and protect herself with a few secrets of her own.


About the Author:
Karma Brown is an award-winning journalist and bestselling author of the novels Come Away With Me, The Choices We MakeIn This Moment, and The Life Lucy Knew. In addition to her novels, Brown's writing has appeared in publications such as Self, Redbook, Canadian Living, Today's Parent, and Chatelaine.


The premise of the novel had me captivated from the beginning.  There are recipes included in the book, all with vintage roots mostly in the category of comfort food:  meatloaf, chocolate chip cookies, tuna casserole.  But, there are some more interesting ones as well like rose caramels.  (And perhaps some that you should never, ever make.)  The recipes fall as precursors to Nellie's chapters.  As the narration jumps from a 1950s housewife's POV to that of a modern "homemaker," some startling similarities may arise.  

Please join our merry band of epicurean bibliophiles for this round.  Get a copy of Recipe for a Perfect Wife and read along.  Get inspired by an old classic family recipe from the 1950s or create something new inspired from your reading.  Anyone can participate in Cook the Books and new participants are always welcome!  (Leave a comment here or check out our Guidelines page if you have any questions.)

Deadline for contributing your post is Wednesday, September 30, 2020  Leave a comment below with a link or email me at eliotseats@gmail.com.  

Happy reading!



Debra