Thursday, October 20, 2016

Announcing the Next Four Picks

How many foodie memoirs have been written in the last twenty years?   Probably too many to count.   In fact, I would classify this style of writing as a new genre unto itself.  For the next four books, our hosts all picked a food-centric memoir.  We hope you enjoy these selections: one by a young woman trying to regain her health, one from an award-winning journalist, one from a food blogger, and one from a food writer and cookbook author.

Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals That Brought Me Home (2015) hosted by Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for December/January.

Jessica Fechtor was on a treadmill in a hotel gym at a graduate student conference when an aneurysm burst in her brain. Jessica was 28, newly married, and healthy, when she collapsed and nearly died. Luckily, she was rushed to the hospital quickly, but between the aneurysm and subsequent infection she lost her sense of smell, the sight in her left eye, had to have numerous surgeries, and needed to wear a helmet to protect her head for nearly two years. The impact on her career and her life was devastating. Some might give up, but with the support of her family and friends and the healing power of the food and cooking, Jessica found a new normal.

From the book jacket: “Jessica’s journey to recovery began in the kitchen as soon as she was able to stand at the stovetop and stir. There, she drew strength from the restorative power of cooking and baking. Written with intelligence, humor, and warmth, Stir is a heartfelt examination of what it means to nourish and be nourished. 

After reading a review of Stir on Beth Fish Reads blog, I borrowed the audio book from the library and was immediately caught up in Jessica’s often moving, sometimes humorous, and always inspiring story. Her wit and warmth pour through the pages as she shares food-laden memories of growing up, her family, courtship with her husband, and her recovery--interwoven with twenty-seven recipes that helped her on her journey. Although the audio book gave a link to the recipes and many of them can be found on her food blog Sweet Amandine, I found myself compelled to buy my own print copy of the book. I hope you enjoy her story and her recipes as much as I did.


Deadline for Stir posts is January 31, 2017.

Dinner with Edward, A Story of Unexpected Friendship by Isabel Vincent (2016) hosted by Claudia at Honey from Rock for February/March.

Isabel Vincent, author of four previous books, investigative journalist, reporter for the New York Post, and previously a foreign correspondent, is the recipient of numerous journalism honors.  In this well-crafted, charming memoir Vincent uses the evocative language of a novelist and the economy of a reporter, with food as a metaphor for love.

Though struggling with her crumbling marriage, a recent move and demanding new job, Isabel opens her life to Edward, a 93-year-old widower, the father of a good friend (currently out of the country).  He is depressed and ready to give up on life after the death of his much loved wife, when Vincent agrees, at her friend's request, to check in on him once in a while.

What began as an occasional dinner meant to keep an old man company soon develops into a rich friendship, giving both Edward and Isabel reasons to reconsider why they’re alive, while encouraging her to appreciate the fine art of living as she begins to create a life that's more rewarding and full for herself.

As Vincent writes, “I believed in the magic of Edward,” and readers begin to believe along with her.  He turns out to be a very wise old/young at heart individual, and it is in his kitchen and at the dinner table that his character and wisdom are revealed.  Every chapter title is a small dinner menu – and Vincent goes out of her way to punctuate her writing with tempting descriptions of these meals. Between melting Gruyere cheese, delicious entrees and fine wines, it is easy to succumb to the overcoming optimism of a man determined to live exactly the way he wants. Isabel invests her memoir with a real sense of gratitude for Edward's presence and influence in her life.

Though she did wheedle him into writing down some of his recipes for her, one of the things that really amazed me about Edward, was that he actually used no recipes.  He wrote them out for her, remembering what he did as he went along.  I loved his spontaneous, intuitive, and creative yet collected approach to cooking.  No rush, no worries.  This is how I want to be with my own cooking.  So inspiring.


Deadline for Dinner with Edward posts is March 31, 2017.

Life from Scratch:  A Memoir of Food, Family, and Forgiveness by Sasha Martin (2015) hosted by Debra at Eliot's Eats for April/May.

Some of you may be familiar with Sasha Martin from her food blog, Global Table Adventure.   Although I have not been following her blog per se, I was made aware of her through our local paper and some local appearances.

Since she resides in Tulsa, I was anxious to read her memoir.   I will let her book trailer be the blurb for this selection.  

As Martin states in the above video, her adventures through the world's cuisines led her to examine her own origins.   How did she get to her life in Oklahoma with a loving husband and child, far from her unorthodox childhood in Boston and her troubled teenage years in Europe?

Although this is more of a traditional memoir than what I would classify as the recent trend of recipe-laden-"foodie" ones, I think that we all will find some inspiration, whether its from Martin's childhood memories or her adventures with international flavors.  


Deadline: May 30, 2017.

Winner of three James Beard awards, a contributing editor at Travel + Leisure magazine and the author of five acclaimed cookbooks, Anya Von Bremzen grew up in a communal Moscow apartment where eighteen families shared one kitchen. When Anya was ten years old, she and her mother fled Brezhnev-era Russia and arrived in Philadelphia. The contrast between the two places created a nostalgic longing for the food of home: she immediately missed the celebration of food that was taken for granted in America. 

"Mom and I both grew up within a triumphalist, scarlet-blazed fairy tale of socialist abundance and glorious harvests. Our experiences, though, featured no happy kitchens enveloped in an idyllic haze of vanilla, no kindly matriarchs setting golden holiday roasts on the table. Tea cakes rich in bourgeois butter? I do have such a memory ... It's of Mom reading Proust aloud in our Khrushchevian slum; me utterly bored by the Frenchman's sensory reveries but besotted with the idea of the real, edible cookie. What did it taste like, that exotic capitalist madeleine? I desperately wanted to know."

"It was my mother, my frequent coconspirator in the kitchen and my conduit to our past, who suggested the means to convey this epic disjunction, this unruly collision of collectivist myths and personal antimyths. We would reconstruct every decade of Soviet history — from the prequel 1910s to the postscript present day — through the prism of food. Together, we'd embark on a yearlong journey unlike any other: eating and cooking our way through decade after decade of Soviet life, using her kitchen and dining room as a time machine and an incubator of memories. Memories of wartime rationing cards and grotesque shared kitchens in communal apartments. Of Lenin's bloody grain requisitioning and Stalin's table manners. Of Khrushchev's kitchen debates and Gorbachev's disastrous antialcohol policies. Of food as the focal point of our everyday lives, and — despite all the deprivations and shortages — of compulsive hospitality and poignant, improbable feasts.”


Deadline: Monday July 31, 2017

Remember that anyone can participate in Cook the Books, simply pick up a copy of the selections from your local bookstore or library, take inspiration from said reading, cook and post an inspired dish. We look forward to having you read and cook along with us in 2017. New participants are always welcomed with open arms! (Leave a comment here or check out our Guidelines page if you have any questions.

Happy Reading!
Deb, Simona, Debra, and Claudia 


Alicia Foodycat said...

I went to school with someone called Isabel Vincent - had to check to make sure it wasn't the same one! (it isn't).

Claudia said...

Looking forward to reading all of these wonderful selections, and even re-reading my own.

A Day in the Life on the Farm said...

Great Line-up. It's going to be a great year.

Simona Carini said...

What a great line-up! I am looking forward to sitting down and feasting.

Vicki said...

Great selections! I plan on joining in for all except Life From Scratch, which I already read.

Camilla M. Mann said...

Great. Just ordered all the books. Can't wait.

A Day in the Life on the Farm said...

very excited about this line up... 2017 is going to be a great reading year.