Thanks to all that participated for the December/January round of Cook the Books. I appreciate your dedication, especially during this busy time of year. Hopefully by now you have all caught your breath from the holiday season.
A Place at the Table by Susan Rebecca White was my choice for this round. I loved most of the characters in the book, including some of the minor ones like Meemaw and Gus. I wanted to hang out at Cafe Andres especially during the time this book was set---the 1980s. Would I have glimpsed a sighting of Truman Capote or Chuck Close? I wanted to befriend Bobby and offer him some comfort during all of the losses he experiences. I wanted to cook in Alice's apartment as she prepared for Christmas. I wanted to sweep in and rescue Amelia from her horrible existence (albeit a self-imposed one) with Cam. I was rooting for them all.
Let's see what all the other members thought? (In order of posting dates.)
Amy of Amy's Cooking Adventures was the first to post up. Amy was skeptical about the book at the beginning but soon was pulled in by Bobby and Alice. Amelia? Not so much. I found Amy's dish truly inspired, combining two of Bobby's Southern-inspired creations for Cafe Andres: Chicken Pot Pie with Cheddar Biscuit Topping.
Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm was most definitely next up posting on December 18. I was very remiss and left Wendy out of the original post. Please, please, please check out her most delicious looking and sounding Oatmeal Carmelitas. She took her inspiration from the first part of the book during Bobby's childhood. Wendy writes, "I decided on my recipe very early in the story that takes place during the 1970's. One of the main character's, Bobby, and two of his friends are playing a game during which they start talking about Oatmeal Caramelitas. Bobby tells them " They're good. Buttery and a little salty with chocolate chips and a layer of gooey caramel. You're really missing out if you've never had one."
I don't think I've ever had one. You have talked me into it! (Again, Wendy, I apologize profusely!!!!)
Next up was Claudia from Honey from Rock. She presents Duck Purloo. Although the plot stumbled along too much for Claudia's taste, she did present a delicious sounding dish, inspired by Bobby's Duck with Olives from Cafe Andres. "Purloo is a dish which lends itself to endless improvisation with ingredients, in that it includes rice, vegetables, meat, poultry, or various shellfish, sometimes shrimp and smoked sausage. Mine, of course, had the duck and I added olives along with various vegetables. A total improv, though based loosely on the recipe in Gourmet Today."
Deb at Kahakai Kitchen found it hard to get into the book. Granted the "Prologue" does not make for the most cheerful reading. "Once I got into the book and especially the story of Bobby, a young gay man growing up in Georgia who moves to New York and becomes a chef, I found that I really enjoyed it. Much of the story is told by Bobby, with two other characters--Alice, a well-known African-American chef modeled after the famous Edna Lewis, and Amelia, a woman facing the breakup of her marriage." I appreciate that Deb brought up the Edna Lewis angle. She found lots of food inspiration but landed on that famous Chocolate Mousse from Cafe Andres as an inspiration for Creamy (Vegan) Chocolate Mousse.
Believe it or not, I was not the last one to post! I was inspired by the decade and the seminal publication of The Silver Palate Cookbook. The cookbook and the gourmet food shop from whence it came were pretty famous during the 1980s. The Silver Palate is mentioned no less than four times in the novel. The first reference is when Sebastian pulls out the book to make Bloody Marys for a brunch at his parents apartment as they meet Bobby for the first time. I pulled my copy off the shelf and found the exact recipe Sebastian uses: A Good & Spicy Bloody Mary.
Cathy from Delaware Girl Eats decided to follow the seasonal cooking of Chef Alice. Cathy writes, "I agree with this philosophy about cooking and indeed try to only serve seasonal dishes unless my longing for strawberries outweighs my aversion to getting them from the grocery store imported from Florida or California." She presented a simple and delicious recipe for Roasted Kabocha Squash.
Terri from Our Good Life was up next. I was so glad to see that someone made banana pudding. Terri put her own spin on it and instead of pound cake (which is what Bobby used at the restaurant), she created Banana Pudding with Toasted Angel Food Cake. Genius, right? Terri was also taken with the life of the two chefs, Bobby and Alice. "What foodie doesn't yearn to own their own restaurant? I certainly do, although I know my own limitations. That's what inspired my own recipe for this month's Cook the Books Club: Banana Pudding with Toasted Angel Food Cake."
Simona at briciole rounds out the posts with hand-made orecchiette. Simona is known for her homemade pastas! She writes: "Food plays an important role in the novel, which revolves in part around a restaurant in New York City. Except for the bread mentioned in a few places, none of the dishes described inspired me (challah made with delayed fermentation has been part of my repertoire for years). Then I thought: if I were to work in a restaurant kitchen and could decide what to put on the menu, like Bobby does in the novel, what would I do? The answer came easily: handmade pasta—known shapes, like orecchiette, lesser known ones, plus shapes I invented." There is a great tutorial on her site if you need help shaping these "little ears."
Thanks to everyone who participated. Please join us in the next round when The Unprejudiced Palate: Classic Thoughts on Food and the Good Life by Angelo Pellegrini (1948) will be featured:
What did America look like to an immigrant Italian child? How did this child applied his philosophy of life, rooted in Italy, to his new home in Seattle? In this book, the first he published, Pellegrini tells his story but also the way he sees life and in particular the way he approaches growing, making and eating food (and wine too).
Pellegrini’s prose is pleasant and precise (in his “day job” he was an English professor), with the affectionate intensity typical of Italians when they talk about things that are dear to them.He was not part of any school of thought nor did he follow any fashion: with grace and kindness, he told things as he saw them and as he did them.
Simona of Briciole will be hosting this round. Look for her announcement post here soon.