Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Our October/November Selection: Cinnamon and Gunpowder


Ahoy Shipmates!  And welcome aboard!  Are you ready for a rollicking good read?  Pirates, danger and wild women, oh yeah!  Our Cook the Books Club selection for October/November is Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown.  A tale of piracy on the high seas, with kidnapping, doses of danger, and a chef's unique creativity, in extremis, while aboard, serving under the Jolly Roger.  After reading a review of this book last year, it immediately hit me what a good pick it would be for our Cook the Books Club, which reading it only confirmed.  I truly enjoyed Brown's novel!  Just imagine the challenges faced by Chef Wedgwood, cooking under such difficult conditions, and coming up with truly creative meals.

From the Publishers: 
"A gripping adventure, a seaborne romance, and a twist on the tale of Scheherazade—with the best food ever served aboard a pirate’s ship
The year is 1819, and the renowned chef Owen Wedgwood has been kidnapped by the ruthless pirate Mad Hannah Mabbot. He will be spared, she tells him, as long as he puts exquisite food in front of her every Sunday without fail.
To appease the red-haired captain, Wedgwood gets cracking with the meager supplies on board. His first triumph at sea is actual bread, made from a sourdough starter that he leavens in a tin under his shirt throughout a roaring battle, as men are cutlassed all around him. Soon he’s making tea-smoked eel and brewing pineapple-banana cider.
But Mabbot—who exerts a curious draw on the chef—is under siege. Hunted by a deadly privateer and plagued by a saboteur hidden on her ship, she pushes her crew past exhaustion in her search for the notorious Brass Fox. As Wedgwood begins to sense a method to Mabbot’s madness, he must rely on the bizarre crewmembers he once feared: Mr. Apples, the fearsome giant who loves to knit; Feng and Bai, martial arts masters sworn to defend their captain; and Joshua, the deaf cabin boy who becomes the son Wedgwood never had.

Cinnamon and Gunpowder is a swashbuckling epicure’s adventure simmered over a surprisingly touching love story—with a dash of the strangest, most delightful cookbook never written. Eli Brown has crafted a uniquely entertaining novel full of adventure: the Scheherazade story turned on its head, at sea, with food."
Yes indeed, and enough food to tempt and inspire us all. I do hope you'll have fun with this one. The deadline is November 30th.  Cook the Books is always open to everyone, so just pick up this latest selection, read it, and let yourself get inspired to create a dish.  Next, post your creation by the deadline, and comment below with your link Or, email me with it: claudiarileyatyahoo.com
For more information and guidelines, click here

Bon Voyage,
Claudia

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe: The Roundup

I am happy to round up our entry posts for Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber. Overall, our group really enjoyed this sweet southern tale as a summer read, and we have all kinds of delicious dishes, and yes...even some pie to share. 

I am taking a page from Simona's recaps and listing our contributions as a meal of sorts--starting with a cup of tea, and ending with glorious desserts. After that, entries are listed in the order I received them. Enjoy!

Terri of Our Good Life says, "Told from multiple persepectives, over a sixty day time period, this book hooked me from the first line. I was deeply immersed into the all the gorgeous details: teas for maladies, blackbird pie (which is NOT made from blackbirds), lemon verbena soap, soups, baked goods... and the story of how a small town's personality comes alive when a few caring people take care of one another. It's an important book, one that we all need to be reading now.  Tell everyone you know." For her dish, Terri said she decided to dabble in tea, saying "From many wise lessons, I created my own destress tea blend I am calling Bee Calm Tea. The "bee" part is the dash of honey and the calm comes from the three ingredients I chose from learning about what herbals are good for destressing. I hope you enjoy!"


Debra of Eliot's Eats said, "I enjoyed the story and the family drama. I struggled with some of the plot lines and the way one of the mysteries is tied up at the end. But, I still want to visit Wicklow and partake of some pie." For her dish, Debra said, "What to make? It had to be zucchini something.  There was always lots of zucchini mentioned, most of it from a cherished plant in Anna Kate’s garden. I landed on my take on the Zucchini Frittata with Goat Cheese, Onion and Fresh Mint (242). ... I loved the flavors of this recipe! LOVED. It wasn’t the most beautiful frittata but, again, it was delicious."


Camilla of Culinary Adventures With Camilla said. "There seem to be a lot of books with this formula: person inherits a restaurant from a relative, comes to town to wrap up the estate (and sell!), but ends up falling in love with the restaurant and, usually, a person tied to the restaurant or town. Oh, and the person might unearth some family secrets along the way. The fact that the plot is predictable doesn't diminish the enjoyment though!" For her dish Camilla said, "...in the end, I was swayed by my boys' desire to perfect their Karaage, Japanese Fried Chicken, recipe and process. Gideon brings fried chicken to a picnic with Anna Kate. According to the townsfolk, he's famous for it. Josh admitted dreaming about Gideon's chicken." 


Claudia of Honey From Rock said, "I enjoyed this book, the sometimes wacky characters who visit the cafe, the strange occurrences with neighborhood blackbirds, and the development of the protagonists and antagonists as they finally are able to forgive long held bitterness and preconceptions about one another. A little romance adds a nice dollop to the overall picture." For her bookish inspiration Claudia said, "Posting a pie would seem to be the way to go. Maybe for some. I'm not really a pie baker, though I have been known to prepare one on occasion. The food of our American South covers a much bigger palate, however, and I was inspired to do a combination of Red Rice and Beans with a side of Collard Greens and Ham Hocks."


At Kahakai Kitchen, I really enjoyed the book--the sweetness and comfort of the story was exactly what I needed the last few weeks. For my dish, I wanted to attempt the special recipe for Blackberry Sweet Tea, but couldn't find any good fresh blackberries so I channeled Doc's favorite comfort food dish and made Easy Weeknight Comfort Red Beans and Rice. A bonus is that I had everything in my pantry to make it and the leftovers were even better. 


Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm found extra meaning in the book, "Having recently lost my dearest friend, Kirsten, this book especially sang to me much like the blackbirds in the story sang love and comfort to those who heard them." Wendy combined the abundance of zucchini and pies in her unique Zucchini Cream Pie, saying, "I decided to make a pie using zucchini that my neighbor, in my small town, shared with me from his garden.  This pie is the perfect ending for this wonderful novel and will be a perfect ending for your next dinner too."


Amy of Amy's Cooking Adventures, said, "Overall, this was the perfect relaxing summer read. Just enough magical realism to make this fantasy fan smile plus a nice happy ending." There's something magical in the way the ingredients came together for Amy to make the titular Blackberry Pies, and she says, "Hubs agreed that this was one of the best pies to date! Was the the mulberry syrup? I guess we’ll never know. I don’t, however, have Anna Kate's magic as we were not visited by any spirits in our dreams..."


Marg of The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader joined us and said, "I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I hadn't really looked too much into what the book was about but it was my kind of book, and I knew it from page 2!" Marg debated what to make with so much delicious inspiration but said, "In the end though, I have decided to make Hummingbird Cake, because it is a Southern classic, and because I really wanted to make something with cream cheese frosting."


Simona of Briciole said, "The novel is a fairy tale (favola) set in a village in Alabama, mostly in the café of the title. Anna Kate, the protagonist, inherits the business and uses her spare time to untangle family secrets. It is a pleasant read and while the ending is fairly expected, there are a few surprises along the way. When it came to making a dish Simona said, "I am Italian, so when I think about a dessert made with fruit, I think about crostata(tart). I presented crostata di mele (apple tart) some time ago so here I am sharing a recipe for Pear TartWhile the rendition on the photos uses Asian pears (pere asiatiche), the tart can be made with other pear varieties."


Thank you to everyone who joined in this round! I really enjoyed reading your reviews and seeing how Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe inspired you in the kitchen. 

I believe I have all of the submissions, but if I missed someone, please let me know and I'll add them. 

It's time to turn the hosting duties over to Claudia from Honey From Rock with our October/November Selection, Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Our August/September Selection: Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber

Can you believe it's almost fall? We have cycled around again here at Cook the Books Club and I am kicking off our next four selections with a novel, Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber.


I chose this book as it has been languishing on my TBR stack for a couple of years now and I really wanted a push to read it. That push is sharing it with you! 

From the Publisher:

Nestled in the mountain shadows of Alabama lies the little town of Wicklow. It is here that Anna Kate has returned to bury her beloved Granny Zee, owner of the Blackbird Café. 

It was supposed to be a quick trip to close the café and settle her grandmother’s estate, but despite her best intentions to avoid forming ties or even getting to know her father’s side of the family, Anna Kate finds herself inexplicably drawn to the quirky Southern town her mother ran away from so many years ago, and the mysterious blackbird pie everybody can’t stop talking about. 

As the truth about her past slowly becomes clear, Anna Kate will need to decide if this lone blackbird will finally be able to take her broken wings and fly.

I'm in the mood for something sweet and I'm always in the mood for pie, although it seems like there is other southern food inspiration to be found in the pages too. I look forward to seeing how it inspires us in the kitchen!

The deadline for contributing your post is Thursday, September 30, 2021

As always, Cook the Books is open to anyone. Just pick up the latest selection, read it, and get inspired. Then whip up a dish sparked by your reading and post during by the deadline. For more information and guidelines, click here.

Happy reading and cooking!

Deb, Kahakai Kitchen

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

97 Orchard: The Roundup


It's time for the roundup of Cook the Books' Club June-July 2021 edition for which we read 97 Orchard, An Edible History of the Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement by Jane Ziegelman, a historical nonfiction that explores the culinary life of New York's Lower East Side around the turn of the twentieth century through the experiences of five families, all of them residents of 97 Orchard Street.

As I've done in the past, I will present our club members' contributions as a menu, with the dishes in each section ordered alphabetically. For each, I will give you the official information (author, blog name and post title) and a quote from it — a taste: follow the link and read the author's take of the book and how the reading inspired the cooking. 

Cook the Books Club's 97 Orchard-Inspired Menu

First Course:
Spaghetti Aglio e Olio
Vegan Lentil & Sausage Soup

Second Course:
Daikon Root & Potato Latkes
Roasted Eggplant and Tomatoes with Cheese
Timballo di Zucchini

Accompaniment:
Sicilian Bread

Sandwiches:
Beer Brats
Potato Sandwich with Pepperoni and Basil

Make yourself comfortable and enjoy the menu.



"It's an interesting way to chronicle immigrant stories-from the basic perspective of how they nourished themselves. And, as she writes, the kitchen was the center of many, many activities. 'A place to cook and to eat, the kitchen was also used as a family workspace, a sweatshop, a laundry room, a place to wash one’s body, a nursery for the babies, and a bedroom for boarders.'... Initially, I was inspired by this passage about snails... but in the end, I decided to make spaghetti con aglio e olio because I had all of the ingredients in my cabinet and didn't have snails!"



"I love food history and knowing where the different dishes I grew up with in America had their origins. Ziegelman does a good balance of storytelling and details that makes the book entertaining... There were several dishes and recipes I thought would be fun to make for the book but I ended up with the Lentil Soup recipe from Chapter 3 from the German-Jewish perspective... 97 Orchard says: In accordance with family tradition, lentil soup was known as 'hiding soup in the Nussbaum' kitchen, a reference to the way the sausage tended to hide among the lentils."



"Lots of amazing information, things I never knew about our immigrant forebears, their lives and times... those folks were industrious, inventive and struggling to survive, frequently in the face of cruel discrimination.. This book is about so much more than the food, covering as it does the lives of the immigrants as a whole... Bob remembers his mother making latkes, so in honor of that heritage, I am doing a Hawaiian version.  The daikon root a nod to our local Korean immigrants... I thought it would add a nice touch of tang to the classic latkes."


Simona of briciole (your host)
prepared Roasted Eggplant and Tomatoes with Cheese

"A good part of the book's appeal is due to the fact that I am an immigrant myself... Some of the themes covered were known to me, like: 'More than other groups, Italians arrived in this country with the firm knowledge that they were unwanted.'... The chapter about Italian immigrants talks about a number of foods, including tomatoes and eggplant... Probably the most famous Italian dish made with those two ingredients is parmigiana di melanzane... For years I have been making a dish inspired by the rich parmigiana and here I am sharing the recipe."


"The passage that really resonated with me was 'No people are more devoted to their native food than Italians and Italian groceries are filled with imported edibles that flourish in the different colonies of the Americas... The prices of the imported goods is a drain on the purses of the patrons and they wearily try to get the same satisfaction from American-made substitutes, which have the same name and appearance but never the same taste'. The dish that inspired me... is zucchini-based... I chose one more familiar to our Abruzzo region from a book by Ada Boni."



"Many vintage recipes were included in the book.  And while I thought I would try my hand at one of those, I found I was most inspired by a paragraph long mention of Sicilian Bread.  I was inspired because the bread was described as different breads representing the Saints.  Since I’m Catholic, I loved the idea of honoring the saints and set out to research Sicilian Bread... The final shape was a braided bread, in the shape of a cross.  This was by far the favorite in my house (followed by the St. Joseph bread)."



"97 Orchard was a housing tenement in New York built by the Glockner family who emigrated to the USA from Germany.  Mr Glockner started the tenement advancing from Tailor to Gentleman. So in honor of the Glockners, who were the first residents of 97 Orchard, I am serving up Brats in Beer... Maybe if I had not built up this book in my mind as to what I thought it was going to be I could have enjoyed it more.  I don't know and I will never know.  What I do know is that the Germans who emigrated to the USA brought with them Sausages and Beer.  Now, there is something that I can get excited about!!"


"The most interesting part of the book was the description of the Ellis Island cafeteria. My ignorance of the immigrant experience became evident as I read about the feeding of thousands, fresh off the boat. I had no idea that the ship companies paid to feed the immigrants on Ellis Island and that they were fed so abundantly... Throughout, I noticed the part potatoes played in almost every culture mentioned.  Potatoes were a long lasting commodity and could be relied upon to keep families from starvation, not only on the journey to America but also during their initial settlement."

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 Deb of Kahakai Kitchen who is hosting the August-September edition in which we are reading the novel Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber.

Arrivederci a presto!

Simona, of briciole

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Announcement: Our Next Four Selections

This is the moment you've been waiting for: the announcement of next four selections of our book club. 

Deb (Kahakai Kitchen) opens the series with Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber (July 2019) for the August / September 2021 edition



I received a copy of Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe in a book subscription box I tried out. Sadly, it has been languishing in my TBR stack for almost two years and so I thought that choosing it as our August/September selection would be a good push for me to finally read it. Plus, it sounds charming, I believe a touch of magical realism now and then is good for the soul, there's a flock of blackbirds that only sing at night, and of course, there's pie!  

From the Publisher:

Nestled in the mountain shadows of Alabama lies the little town of Wicklow. It is here that Anna Kate has returned to bury her beloved Granny Zee, owner of the Blackbird Café. 

It was supposed to be a quick trip to close the café and settle her grandmother’s estate, but despite her best intentions to avoid forming ties or even getting to know her father’s side of the family, Anna Kate finds herself inexplicably drawn to the quirky Southern town her mother ran away from so many years ago, and the mysterious blackbird pie everybody can’t stop talking about. 

As the truth about her past slowly becomes clear, Anna Kate will need to decide if this lone blackbird will finally be able to take her broken wings and fly.

I've only thumbed through the book a bit so far but it looks like there is more food inspiration than the mysterious Blackbird Pie the cafe serves so I am looking forward to seeing what this Alabama set novel inspires in our kitchens.  

Aloha,
Deb, Kahakai Kitchen

Deadline for contributing your post is Thursday, September 30, 2021

For the October / November edition, Claudia (Honey from Rock) chose Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown. 


This novel was originally recommended, on our CTB suggested reading page, five years ago by Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm. It sounded quite intriguing and so I looked further and read some reviews. What an original concept and development of the whole idea. A bit of historical fiction, some romance on the high seas, adventure with pirates, and the food!! It looks to be a great story for us all.

Here's what the Publishers have to say:

A twist on the tale of Scheherazade—with the best food ever served aboard a pirate’s ship  The year is 1819, and the renowned chef Owen Wedgwood has been kidnapped by the ruthless pirate Mad Hannah Mabbot. He will be spared, she tells him, as long as he puts exquisite food in front of her every Sunday without fail. 
To appease the red-haired captain, Wedgwood gets cracking with the meager supplies on board. His first triumph at sea is actual bread, made from a sourdough starter that he leavens in a tin under his shirt throughout a roaring battle, as men are cutlassed all around him. Soon he’s making tea-smoked eel and brewing pineapple-banana cider.

But Mabbot—who exerts a curious draw on the chef—is under siege. Hunted by a deadly privateer and plagued by a saboteur hidden on her ship, she pushes her crew past exhaustion in her search for the notorious Brass Fox. As Wedgwood begins to sense a method to Mabbot’s madness, he must rely on the bizarre crewmembers he once feared: Mr. Apples, the fearsome giant who loves to knit; Feng and Bai, martial arts masters sworn to defend their captain; and Joshua, the deaf cabin boy who becomes the son Wedgwood never had.
Sounds like a fun read, with lots of food inspiration.

Aloha,
Claudia, Honey From Rock

Deadline for contributing your post is Tuesday, November 30, 2021

For the December 2021 / January 2022 edition, Debra (Eliot's Eats) has chosen Midnight Chicken by Ella Risbridger (June 2019)


On a recent week’s vacation, I ran across a quick blurb for Midnight Chicken in a magazine. I was intrigued. I then found an NPR review which made me even more determined to pick this "book of hope" for my hosting gig. This review describes Risbridger writing as echoing “Bridget Jones' self-effacing wittiness, Julia Child's companionable forgiveness and Sylvia Plath's poetic prose.”  What a combination and such high praise! 

Midnight Chicken contains recipes with categories for breakfasts, soups & breads, picnics, “Storecupboard Suppers & Midnight Feasts,” weekend cooking, and “Sweet Things.” But, it’s also a poetic tale of hope and perseverance and savoring life.

Debra, Eliot's Eats

Deadline for contributing your post is Monday, January 31, 2022

To round up the list of selections, for the February / March 2022 edition Simona (briciole) picked the novel Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews (2014)


Have you ever heard of a spy novel with recipes? I had not until I read the description of Red Sparrow (the first volume in a trilogy) written by a former officer of the CIA’s Operations Directorate.  

From the Publisher:
In contemporary Russia, state intelligence officer Dominika Egorova has been drafted to become a “Sparrow”—a spy trained in the art of seduction to elicit information from their marks. She’s been assigned to Nathaniel Nash, a CIA officer who handles the organization’s most sensitive penetration of Russian intelligence. 
The two young intelligence officers, trained in their respective spy schools, collide in a charged atmosphere of tradecraft, deception and, inevitably, a forbidden spiral of physical attraction that threatens their careers and the security of America’s valuable mole in Moscow.
The combination of espionage thriller and recipe was too intriguing to pass. You can get a taste of it in the Excerpt available on the publisher's website

Simona, briciole

Deadline for contributing your post: Thursday, March 31, 2022.

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:

August / September 2021: Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber (hosted by Deb at Kahakai Kitchen)










October / November 2021Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown (hosted by Claudia at Honey from Rock)
December 2021 / January 2022: Midnight Chicken by Ella Risbridger (hosted by Debra at Eliot's Eats)










February / March 2022: Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews (hosted by Simona at briciole)









Happy reading and cooking!