Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Announcing a Reigning Triumvirate of Cook the Books Winners

Our Featured Author and gracious guest judge, Erica Bauermeister, has read our Cook the Books entries about her novel “The School of Essential Ingredients” and the writing teacher and word addict in her has picked three top entries.  Read on to see what she has to say in her own words:

“What a fabulous, diverse group of blog entries!   I always say that reading is an interactive sport — books are not static entities; their words lift off the page and mingle with our memories and associations and thus become a new and different book in each reader’s mind.  But I have never had the chance to see readers take their interpretations of a book and turn them into food.  Brilliant!  And in many ways so much more “essential” than any discussion of the book in a classroom…

Winners, eh?  Well, that is tricky, as every judge before me has noted.  There were bloggers who replicated and enhanced dishes from The School of Essential Ingredients, bringing their own emotions and/or ingredients to the challenge, and bloggers who roamed far and delightfully afield in their culinary choices.  There were bloggers who cooked with chocolate or veggies from their own yards, those who utilized ingredients brought to them by loved ones, those who injected color into words through food, or made new creations when ingredients weren’t to be found.  Lillian would have been thrilled with all of them.  Which dish is best?  Would it be the subtle shift from cranberries to lemon in the stuffed turkey?  The pork with apples that had me yearning for autumn?  That gorgeous tower of a white cake? The loving recreation of Isabelle’s dinner? The cool eggplant salad that had me glad for hot weather? Or the figs with Grand Marnier and whipped cream that seemed like seduction itself?
In the end, because I am as addicted to words as I am to food (and as all the dishes had me yearning for the kitchen, in any case), my top three had as much to do with voice and literary creativity as they did with food.  Forgive me.  I do love the taste of good words in my mouth.   Here they are, in no particular order…

Girlichef –  I think if you can create both a dish and a new character for a book you get double bonus points.  Girlichef’s character, Heather, took me into her kitchen and her mind and had me craving limes and chiles and the sharp crunch of radishes.  Her pozole is a thing of comfort and beauty — and I agree completely that garnishes should NOT be optional.

It’s A Food Life did a gorgeous job of digging into the book and pulling out the quote or two that epitomized each chapter – but even better, she took the essence of the book and created her own dish, a lush and sensual gift to her husband in the form of a wine reduction sauce.  That last paragraph (“Notes”), with its descriptions of why she included each ingredient, was full of insight about the connection between emotion, memories, meaning and food.

Eats Well With Others — Truly, I am impressed by any medical student who takes the time to make pasta from scratch.  And I agree with some of the comments that suggested Joanne should consider a career in writing.  What an incredible voice!  ”Buy locally.  If you will.”  Just wonderful, and the pasta was perfect for this time of year, the zing of lemon playing off the saltiness of the capers, the sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts and pasta holding steady underneath.  It could almost make you glad that it’s August and zucchinis are about to start exploding in gardens everywhere.

So thank you all — for reading, for cooking, for being so creative.  My next novel will be out next spring and is about seven women who all challenge one another to do one thing in the next year that is new or difficult or scary (and yes, one of the challenges involves food).   Perhaps you all could start a new blog club for challenges, culinary and otherwise? :) “

Congratulations to our three Winners!  Girlichef and Eats Well With Others have already received their culinary laurels in previous Cook the Books rounds, and now It’s A Food Life will win the coveted badge of honor (winging its way to your blog after I type this up).

Deb of Kahakai Kitchen will now take up the hosting reins as we explore the pages of Madhur Jaffrey’s book, “Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India”.

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