Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Bascove's compilation "Sustenance and Desire: A Food Lover's Anthology of Sensuality and Humor" is our next Cook the Books selection, and it features poems, excerpts from novels and autobiographies, short stories and essays that are grouped according to the editor's themes of Nourishment, Desire, Hunger and Sustenance.
Perhaps you will be entranced by a poem by Billy Collins, Natasha Saje or Richard Wilbur. Perhaps Colette's lush prose will entice you. Maybe the siren song stylings of Nabokov and memories of mushroom picking with his mother will lead you to the kitchen. (I am a little worried about whether one of our participants will be inspired by Margaret Visser's essay "The Artificial Cannibal")
Whatever selection you choose from this book, I look forward to receiving your posts about the book and what dish(es) you were inspired to make by the deadline of February 2, 2015. As always, anyone is welcome to join our regular participants here at Cook the Books.
Rachel, The Crispy Cook
Friday, December 5, 2014
It's time for the roundup of Cook the Books' Club October-November 2014 edition for which we read That Old Ace in the Hole by Annie Proulx.
For each contribution (given in order of publication), I will give you the official information (author, blog name and post title) and a brief quote from it — a teaser that will entice you to follow the link and read the details of the dish prepared and of how the reading inspired the activity in the kitchen.
Now, please, make yourself comfortable, then follow me on a little literary / culinary journey to an lesser-known area of the US.
Debra's mother grew up almost in the Oklahoma panhandle, so she has a first-hand experience of the environment described so vividly in the novel. "I still remember the arid dustiness of that time, huge grasshoppers that would rub your legs like sandpaper when you disturbed them, and always being aware and on the lookout for snakes. I also remember the colorful community members. This is a saga and worthy of the vastness of the barren prairie." Debra was attracted to Cy's Onion Pie, not quiche: "the guys here would not eat if I called it that, but if I say onion pie they like it. It’s the word pie."
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, mishaps are part of life, so if you find anything missing or in need of amendment anywhere in the roundup, please do let me know.
And now, I’ll turn things over to Rachel of The Crispy Cook for the December 2014-January 2015 selection: Sustenance and Desire: A Food Lover's Anthology of Sensuality and Humor by Bascove (2004).
Monday, November 24, 2014
Here are our next round of Cook the Books selections to kick off 2015 reading and cooking season. Your hosts Rachel, Deb, Simona, and Debra have picked out the following books for your inspiration and we can't wait to see what delectable dishes they inspire.
Here are the titles we have picked and why we chose them in each host's own words:
December 2014 / January 2015 Round, hosted by Rachel of The Crispy Cook
Sustenance and Desire: A Food Lover's Anthology of Sensuality and Humor by Bascove. (2004)
February / March 2015 Round, hosted by Deb of Kahakai Kitchen:
Comfort Me With Apples: More Adventures at the Table by Ruth Reichl (2001)
"Longtime Cook the Books participant and my fellow Hawaii dweller Claudia of Honey From Rock requested we read a Ruth Reichl book a while back and so my pick this round is dedicated to Claudia. It was not difficult to choose Ruth Reichl, but picking just one of her books to read was a bit harder. I read and reviewed her first fiction book 'Delicious!' this year and enjoyed it but it made me really want to go back and reread one of her memoirs. I love learning how people get to their chosen dream foodie career and so I finally selected 'Comfort Me With Apples'--which tells of her journey from chef to food writer. Although this book takes up after her first book, 'Tender at the Bone' it isn't necessary to have read that one first (although it is wonderful too). This may be a reread for many of you too, but I look forward to seeing what this both funny and moving memoir inspires you to create."
April / May 2015 Round, hosted by Debra of EliotsEats:
The Feast Nearby: How I lost my job, buried a marriage, and found my way by keeping chickens, foraging, preserving, bartering, and eating locally (all on $40 a week) by Robin Mather. (2011)
Deadline for this selection is Monday, June 1st.
June / July 2015 Round hosted by Simona of Briciole:
The Wedding Bees: A Novel of Honey, Love, and Manners by Sarah-Kate Lynch (2014)
"A few years ago, I read 'Blessed Are the Cheesemakers' by Sarah-Kate Lynch and quite enjoyed it. In fact, I featured it in a post. I therefore grabbed on to Betty's note on our suggested reading page to read another novel by Sarah-Kate Lynch, The Wedding Bees. 'Sugar Wallace has been running from her past for years, but in the nicest possible way.' Me: is there really a nice way of running from one's past? If so, I want to hear about it. 'Every spring she moves somewhere new and lightens the lives of whoever she meets using her magic weapons: good manners and honey.' Me: that sounds like a great plan. I want to read Sugar's secret. This is enough for me to want to learn more about Sugar and her honey. I was already a cheese maker when I read Blessed Are the Cheesemakers: who knows, maybe reading The Wedding Bees will get me interested in becoming a beekeper. Sweet reading!"
We hope you join us for some great reading, cooking and community. As always, we welcome everyone to join in. The only requirement to join in the Cook the Books fun is to read the book and blog about it, including making a dish inspired by its pages.
Friday, October 24, 2014
The deadline for publishing your post inspired by That Old Ace in the Hole is Tuesday, December 2nd
When you publish your post (or posts), you can leave a comment to this post or email me at simosite AT mac DOT com. Feel free to write a comment or email message, should you have any questions.
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
A Round Up of Venetian Inspired Dishes: A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena De Blasi (August/September 2014 Selection)
I spent, though not a thousand days in Venice, time enough to understand her appeal. Yes, I wrote 'her'. Venice, the Dame. La Serenissima. The most serene. There is something magical about an entire city that exists on the water.
I loved how Marlena allowed the "stranger" to sweep her away. I also loved how, being more mature, she had limited expectations of what a move to Europe would mean and was only slightly disillusioned by the whole thing. I loved all her experiences at the market place and I felt for her trying to live without all the conveniences with which she was accustomed.
In Italian, to get married is sposarsi. We don't use the metaphorical expression "to tie the knot" (literally, fare un nodo). The current selection of our Cook the Books, A Thousand Days in Venice in which author Marlena de Blasi talks about her marriage to a Venetian man, brought to mind the expression. My passion for turning pasta dough into interesting shapes did the rest: I tried to tie pasta dough into small simple knots and the result was pleasing.
Pleasing, indeed, Simona!
I loved the imagery of the story. The descriptions of the places and the foods makes me desperately want to visit Venice and experience it for all it is. Despite that, I had trouble connecting with Marlena. I’m not sure if it was because I spend most of the book thinking it was a novel (versus a memoir) or just because I’m at a very different stage of life than she is (she’s older and divorced with grown children, I’m younger, married, and my kids are young.)
An exuberant American chef with flamboyant taste in textiles falls inexplicably in love with a repressed Italian bank clerk with daddy issues, and through him falls explicably in love with Venice.
For me, de Blasi just couldn't quite convey why she was attracted to her stranger. She herself seems like a glorious broad who I'd love to go drinking with, but he remained a mystery. But then, this is a memoir, not a romance, and other people's relationships are often a bit baffling. I never understand how people who really like food end up with people who don't much care what they eat.
When it was not raining I prowled the Rialto Market, fascinated with its glorious riot of vegetables and freshly caught seafood. I wandered the dank callees and discovered the local wine bars, among them, Vino Vino, which is mentioned in the first pages of the book. It was near my hotel and became my favorite place to stop by for a warming glass of red wine and nibbles of the appertivos lined up behind the glass window. With only a dozen seats and flanking a canal, the place offered a cozy respite from the damp chill outside.
I liked the fact that De Blasi isn't some young thing and had lived a full life before finally finding love with her "stranger" but, I couldn't quite get the immediate appeal of a somewhat needy, slightly stalker-ish Peter Sellers. (A somewhat needy slightly stalker-ish George Clooney or Liam Neeson maybe...)
If Marlena was your friend, would you think her decision was a bit strange or “as a friend,” would you be supportive of her decision each and every step of the way?
I especially appreciated it as a later-in-life love story, being later-in-life myself, as well as a sucker for lovely fairy tales come true. And, so descriptive, so well written. The woman is a poet.I, however, think Claudia might just be the poet.
Life is not completely perfect, a real fairy tale has an underside. Melding cultures and personalities is never easy, especially for mature folks, set in their ways. Which is actually a good thing. A jolting out of ruts and character flaw stagnation, into something better, new and stronger, without either partner becoming diminished. Marriage is meant to do that, and beautiful when it does.Here is her rendition of de Blasi's Walnut Sauce.
Rachel from The Crispy Cook enjoyed the book.
Marlena seems a larger-than-life character and has a bit of bravado, after suffering a tortuous first marriage and a "grim childhood, scattered here and there with the hideous". As a fellow romantic, I rooted for her to make things work with Fernando and sighed with pleasure when they did. It was not a shudderingly violent sort of love affair, but one that was quiet and sure: "Now all the doors are open, and there is a warm yellow light behind them." Ah.
As Camilla is always the first to post, I am usually the last.
It wasn't hard for me to pick a recipe. I love pasta. I love mushrooms. I love wine. (It was just hard for me to find the time to make the recipe. It didn't help matters that I misplaced my copy of the book. For the last two weeks, I have been searching frantically. Of course, I had put it in a very safe place.)
I made Braised Mushrooms with Homemade Tagliatelle (based on de Blasi's "Wild Mushrooms in Late-Harvest Wine").
To sum up, I think some of us "more seasoned" readers identified more with de Blasi even though we were all a little confused about the attraction. I think we all loved her descriptions of Venice and the food references and recipes. I leave it to you whether or not you follow the rest of Marlena and Fernando's adventures in Italy as chronicled in her other books.
Again, thank you for participating in this round of CTB.Please join Cook the Books for the October/November selection: That Old Ace in the Hole by Annie Proulx and hosted by Simona of briciole. I started this book as soon as Simona announced her selection and I have to say, "I LOVE IT." I love Proulx' writing style and the description of the scenery of the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles. But, I have said enough.
Monday, August 4, 2014
A Thousand Days in Venice: An Unexpected Romance was one of those paperback novels that you pick up on those ubiquitous "Summer Reading" tables at the bookstore. Call these "beach reads" or "fun reads," I typically don't expect a whole lot from this genre. That being said, this "Summer Reading" table is where I was first introduced to Marlena di Blasi.
Debra (Eliot's Eats)
Friday, August 1, 2014
A Roundup of Delectable Jacques Pépin-Inspired Dishes for Cook the Book June/July Selection: The Apprentice
Pépin wasn't on the radar for Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla until she read the book, but she plans to seek him out, especially now that she's tried his Fromage Fort. Camilla says, "It means 'strong cheese' in French and it's the ultimate way of repurposing leftover cheese. I love revamping leftovers into something completely different. Pépin's father used to combine pieces of Camembert, Brie, Swiss, bleu cheese and goat cheese together with his mother's leek broth, some white wine and crushed garlic. These ingredients marinated in a cold cellar for a week to a week-and-a-half. Pépin's wife, Gloria, makes a milder version in a food processor that takes only seconds. It's that version I decided to make."
Welcome Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm, joining out CTB group for the first time! Wendy says she was "flabbergasted by how much I enjoyed reading the story of Jacques Pepin and his life learning how to be a chef. What a down to earth, kind man he is and what a wonderful family he has." She says, "There were a lot of recipes included in this autobiography but the one I decided to make as a side dish for our dinner tonight was the Semi Dry Tomatoes and Mozzarella Salad. I make Caprese Salads quite often but this salad has a couple of twists so I wanted to see how it compares to others that I have enjoyed."
Cathy of Delaware Girl Eats was lucky enough to get to meet Pépin saying, "When I attended a chef’s roundtable, he spoke genuinely about his life working in French kitchens and amiably signed cookbooks afterward. I brought my copy of “Jacques and Julia Cooking Together” and that autographed book holds a special place on my cookbook shelf." Cathy made this gorgeous Bastille Day Red White and Blue Dessert and said, "It features blueberries, which have just come into season in nearby New Jersey. They are a delight dressed with nothing more than a little sugar and whipped cream in this dish which perfect to serve on a sultry July day."
My fellow Hawaii food blogger Claudia of Honey From Rock says, "...what an entertaining writer he is! I have to think when I've so much enjoyed a memoir." It inspired a lovely dinner of Potato Turnip Galette with Roast Chicken. Claudia says, "What came most powerfully to mind for me was the lovely smell of roasting chicken, I don't know why. Especially when liberally covered with chopped garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper, inside and out. ... In another place he writes of a galette (a flat cake) made of potatoes and mushrooms, so I decided to do a combination galette/gratin, one layer of grated potatoes and turnips, with a bit of onion, and milk, topped with Gruyere cheese, to go with the roast chicken."
CTB co-host Rachel, The Crispy Cook, was inspired to make Jacques' Venison Revenge Ragout, saying "...I decided to create something with venison, in reference to the most harrowing incident related in the book: Pepin's nighttime car accident with a deer that left him with a broken back, two broken hips, a broken leg, cracked pelvis and a left arm that was so badly fractured that his surgeon considered amputating it. What an ordeal! But Pepin doesn't dwell on that incident, and segues into his subsequent experiences in teaching cooking classes, working with corporate clients and writing cookbooks. But I feel Jacques should have his revenge against that kamikaze deer with a venison dish, so I pulled some venison stew meat that we had in the freezer care of Dan's hunting cousin and put together a delicately seasoned venison stew."
Tina of Squirrel Head Manor says, "I didn’t know anything about Jacques Pepin’s personal life, his childhood or training in the culinary industry. After reading this book I know so much about him and enjoyed each and every chapter." The simple but flavorful Semi-Dry Tomatoes and Mozzarella Salad called to her, she says, "Recipes follow each chapter so there are many to select and drool over. French cooking doesn’t have to be complicated. Any of the French cookbooks have call for absolute simplicity and this is what Pepin delivers."
CTB co-host Simona of briciole just caught a brief glimpse of Pépin and Julia Child on television years ago but found his memoir "quite a pleasant read, seasoned with a nice dose of recipes." Simona made the unique Tapenade with Figs and Mint, saying, "Pépin's version has two unusual ingredients: dried figs (fichi secchi) and mint leaves (foglioline di menta). When blended with the traditional components of tapenade, the two newcomers create a multi-layered flavor in which the sweetness of figs, the saltiness of preserved olives, the tanginess of capers and anchovies, the fresh aroma of mint (with a light citrusy note in my case) and the richness of olives and olive oil create a combination that surprises at every bite."
The book led to many pop culture connections to Jacques for CTB co-host Debra of Eliot's Eats. (Check out her very humorous post to see!) She says, "What struck me the most about The Apprentice is Pépin’s humor (much of it self-deprecating). He isn’t above describing his humorous misadventures and foibles." For her dish, Debra chose to make a French and American classic inspired by Pépin's maman saying, "What’s more American than apple pie so I decided on Pépin’s recipe of his mother’s Apple Tart. (Besides, The Hubs loves apple pie.)"
Finally, it will come as no surprise to most of you that over at Kahakai Kitchen, I took inspiration in a bowl of soup--Pépin's recipe for Tomato Chowder with Mollet Eggs. I just cannot resist a dish with runny egg yolk or a soup with toppings and it was a chance to try a new technique. Jacques says, "...mollet (moll-ay) eggs are similar to poached eggs in texture, with runny yolks and soft whites. The eggs are cooked in their shells in barely boiling water for about 6 minutes, then thoroughly cooled and carefully shelled." My shelling technique needs work but the resulting soup was one of the best soups I have made/eaten in quite a while. Thank you Jacques!
If it is possible to gain weight from putting together a roundup I am sure I just put on more than a few pounds from the descriptions of all of these incredible dishes. I think Pépin would be proud of all of us! Thanks to everyone who joined in this round of Cook the Books.
Please join us for August/September when we will be journeying to Italy for A Thousand Days in Venice, by Marlena De Blasi hosted by Debra of Eliot's Eats.
Sunday, June 8, 2014
This proved true with The Apprentice. It's hard not to respect Jacques Pépin and be charmed by his warmth and amazed by the career he has had in his over half-century of cooking from his first apprenticeship in a restaurant at the age of 13. Now approaching the age of 79, Pépin is a prolific chef, teacher and author, writing over 20 cookbooks and hosting or co-hosting 13 different cooking shows over the years. In The Apprentice, Pépin, tells of growing up in France and working in his mother's kitchens, his time spent training and cooking in Paris, his move to the United States in 1959 and many stories of the kitchens and the people he worked with--including some of the greats like Craig Claiborne, Julia Child, and James Beard.
Going through my
Submissions for this round of CTB are due Thursday, July 31, 2014. Anyone can join in the Cook the Books fun by reading and blogging about the book and cooking up a dish inspired by its contents. Let me know when your entry post is up by commenting on this post and/or sending me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
New to Cook the Books? Check out our About and Guidelines pages or leave a question in the comments on this post.
Monday, June 2, 2014
Join me now in sampling some of the blog posts and inspired dishes created by the Cook the Books participants:
Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla reports that she loved the book so much she read it twice! Here's a quote from Camilla's post:
I chuckled at her characterization of Berkeley. Having lived there for 5 years for college, I would agree with her assessment - Berkeley wasn't just any armpit, it was an armpit in need of a shave and a shower, an armpit full of well-read people.... Don't get me wrong, I love Berkeley. But her characterization is accurate. I think that's where her humor succeeds. She tells it like it is.Camilla notes that Iranians use rhubarb to add sour elements to savory dishes and she followed up on this aspect with a beautiful Radish, Rhubarb and Strawberry Salad.
Over at Kahakai Kitchen, Cook the Books Cohost Deb relates her experiences with the Iranian family of one of her college roommates and offers her comments about our book selection, including this tidbit:
If you have a family that you love but that sometimes embarrasses you, you have traveled or spent time in/with another culture or country, or even if you just grew up in America, you'll recognize and connect with the author's experiences and enjoy this book.Deb's Persian-inspired contribution to our feast is a fragrant Chickpea and Herb Soup with Eggplant.
Debra of Eliot's Eats, our newest Cook the Books Cohost, shared many snippets from the book, including this humorous passage:
Asking my father to ask the waitress the definition of “sloppy Joe” or "Tater Tots” was no problem. His translations, however were highly suspect. Waitresses would spend several minutes responding to my father’s questions, and these responses, in turn, would be translated as “She doesn’t know.” Thanks to my father’s translations, we stayed away from hot dogs, catfish, and hush puppies, and no amount of caviar in the sea would have convinced us to try mud pie. (8)Debra wisely chose to bring a luscious dessert to our feast: Persian Ice Cream, perfumed with saffron and rosewater, paired with a slice of Chocolate Bundt Cake.
The writer behind Briciole, Simona, the final Cohost in our Cook the Books quartet, did not relish our featured book as much as others did, noting:
I expect a memoir to go beyond a series of vignettes and give the individual experience a universal flavor. This did not happen for me with Funny in Pharsi.Simona made a vibrantly-colored, Persian-inspired, Black Beluga Lentil and Vegetable Soup.
Alicia over at the Foodycat blog enjoyed the book, noting:
A warmly funny memoir of her life growing up as an Iranian immigrant to America, I found this a very pleasant read. Even the parts that had the potential to be quite painful were told with a kindness and generosity of spirit that I found really winning.Foodycat made an aromatic meal of Lamb and Sour Cherry Meatballs, Tomato Salad with Pomegranate Mayonnaise, Saffron Rice and Carrot Salad. How transporting!
Back at The Crispy Cook, I wrote about how I loved Dumas' descriptions of her lovable, dreamer dad, Kazem.
He is such an interesting mixture of intellect and childish enthusiasm. He was a petroleum engineer back in Abadan, Iran, and later earned a Fulbright Scholarship to continue his graduate education in the U.S. It was during his American sojourn that one of his professors took him on a road trip to Princeton where he met (and flummoxed) Albert Einstein. After launching into a endless monologue of his American experiences, Einstein was rendered somewhat speechless. Or perhaps he took a mental vacation to hone his Theory of Relativity during Kazem’s "year's allotment of conversation".Like Alicia, I also had Persian meatballs on my mind, though mine were spiced with cumin, coriander and sumac.
Delaware Girl Eats' reflections about the book:
As a lifelong East Coaster, California seems to be a world unto itself, so I could relate to the author’s lighthearted stories of her bewildered encounters with California traditions. Most of all, I enjoyed her stories about family food traditions. I loved her depiction of the Persian kitchen, marked by the constant desire to feed the people you love, whether they are hungry or not.A refreshing Shiraz Salad with Tomatoes and Cucumbers is her addition to our Persian feast.
To round things up, we have a Claudia's insights about the book from her blog Honey From Rock:
It was indeed funny, lively and insightful as well. Moving to America at the age of 7, back in 1972, and popped right into public school, was an eye-opening experience for a small girl, especially for one who did not speak English. What she remembers from that first day - "The bathrooms were clean and the people were very, very kind." But you have to read the whole story to appreciate.Claudia made the dish Lamb in Pomegranate-Cardamom Sauce, which unhappily did not live up to expectations.
Our next Cook the Books selection will be The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen, by Jacques Pepin. Deb of Kahakai Kitchen will be our CTB host and deadlines for posts are due July 31, 2014. Come join us in reading, blogging and cooking up this great book!
-Rachel, The Crispy Cook