Thursday, October 18, 2012

Our October-November 2012 Cook the Books Selection: Heartburn by Nora Ephron

As Deb (Kahakai Kitchen) announced recently, Cook the Books co-founder Joanna (Food Junkie Not Junk Food) has stepped out of her role of co-host, and Heather of girlichef and I (Simona of briciole) have stepped in. For my inaugural hosting, I am pleased to announce a book that had been on my to-read list for a while: Heartburn by Nora Ephron (1983).

As you may know, American journalist, essayist, playwright, screenwriter, novelist, producer, director Nora Ephron passed away a few months ago. When the sad news of her death became known, many articles were published celebrating her life and achievements, so readers who may have been only vaguely familiar with her work (maybe by having seen the movie When Harry Met Sally, which she wrote and produced, or Sleepless in Seattle, which she wrote and directed) became more aware of the wide span of her creative work.

In the novel Heartburn (loosely based on the author's marriage to famed Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein), Ephron tells the story of the unraveling of Rachel Samstat's second marriage after she discovers that her husband is in love and having an affair with another woman. Samstat is a successful cookbook author and her narrative is sprinkled with recipes. 

Ephron's sparkling style and humor propel the story forward until the last page. I won't reveal any more details about the novel (in particular about its ending), but will finish with a nice quote from the book:
Vera said: “Why do you feel you have to turn everything into a story?”
So I told her why.
Because if I tell the story, I control the version.
Because if I tell the story, I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me.
Because if I tell the story, it doesn’t hurt as much.
Because if I tell the story, I can get on with it.

I’ll be back soon to announce our judge for this round. To join the fun, all you need to do is obtain a copy of Heartburn, prepare a dish inspired by the book and then blog about it by Monday, December 3rd (please note the extended deadline to account for the Thanksgiving holiday in the US). You can leave a comment below to let me know that you have written your post or email me at simosite AT mac DOT com

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Announcements! Annoucements! (And Our Next 4 Books!)

It is hard to believe that Cooks The Books began four years ago this month! It all started when a few comments about how great a virtual foodie book club would be were traded about on the Foodie Blogroll and three book-devouring foodies; Rachel, The Crispy Cook, Joanna of Food Junkie Not Junk Food, and me (Deb at Kahakai Kitchen) formed a friendship and were off and running with a bi-monthly foodie book-inspired blogging event. Whether you joined us in the early days, or discovered us more recently, we value your participation and the sharing of thoughts and dishes inspired by the 24 books we have shared.

Rachel and I are very sad to announce that our co-host Joanna is stepping out of her hosting role at Cook The Books, needing to concentrate on her family and personal life right now. From the early days of setting up our CTB site and picking some really wonderful books to host, Jo will always be interwoven into the heart and soul of our group. We hope that she will pop in and visit us as she can in the future, and we thank her for all she has done to make this little blogging event a success.

As hard as it is to lose our good friend and co-founder Jo, we are very excited to introduce two new Cook The Books hosts—although they really don’t need much of an introduction as they have been among our long-time dedicated CTB participants. Please welcome Simona of briciole and Heather of girlichef, taking us from a trio to a quartet, starting this month, as Simona takes over the hosting duties for our current pick, Heartburn by Nora Ephron. (Note: We have extended the Heartburn deadline to Monday, December 3rd).  Both fabulous bloggers, Simona also hosts her own virtual book event, Novel Food if you can’t get enough of reading and cooking! Heather’s passion for books, film and food caused her to create the monthly Food ‘n Flix event which some of you participate in and which we will be tying into our December/January CTB round.

Without further ado, we have our next four book selections—taking us through July of 2013, giving you plenty of time to locate them or add them to your holiday wish list! We have a great assortment—a dystopian thriller blockbuster, a Sicilian murder mystery, a macaron and pastry filled novel set in Macau, and a classic book of foodie essays from an icon in the food world.

December 2012/January 2013

Heather of girlichef is leading us of with the thrill-a-minute mega-best seller, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, adding a fun optional opportunity to share some foodie book and film fun. She says, “Imagine if you will, a post-apocalyptic world in which the select few dress, eat, and live extravagantly.  The rest?  They hunt, forage, and farm to put foods in their bellies.  Also imagine having to send your child between the ages of 12 and 18 to fight to the death, with only one winner, alongside 23 other children.  A tale of survival set in the Nation of Panem sometime in the future, this novel may have been written with a young audience in mind, but I think that people of all ages can (theoretically) relate.

*Special edition: This book was recently made into a film, and we will be announcing an optional feature this round - combine reading the book with watching the film-adaptation.  We will be joining forces with Food 'n Flix for an extended dose of The Hunger Games.” (Details to come but you can learn more about Food ‘n Flix here.)
The deadline for The Hunger Games is Monday, January 28th.

February/March 2013

Chasing those winter doldrums away, Rachel, The Crispy Cook takes us back to Sicily with her pick of The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri. Rachel says, “Our very first Cook the Books pick focused on Sicily (we read Lily Prior's novel "La Cucina" and I propose we return to the "scene of the crime" by reading the first book in Andrea Camilleri's Inspector Montalbano mysteryseries by author Andrea Camilleri. "The Shape of Water" is the book and in it, the scrupulously honest Inspector searches to uncover the facts behind the death of an engineer that local bigwigs, including Montalbano's police chief, don't want investigated. However as the rear cover blurb on my copy of the book notes, "Picking his way through a labyrinth of high-comedy corruption, delicious meals, vendetta firepower, and carefully planted false clues, Montalbano can
be relied on, whatever the cost, to get to the heart of the matter
The deadline for The Shape of Water is Monday, March 23rd.

April/May 2013

From the Sicily and The Shape of Water, we journey to over China for The Color of Tea by Hannah Tunnicliffe, hosted by me (Deb aKahakai Kitchen). I am just now immersing myself in this descriptive foodie novel about Grace Miller, an English expat moving with her Australian husband to the tiny island of Macau in China. A stranger in a strangle land, Grace, escaping the realities of the shattered dreams of her life, uses her passion for baking to open a cafĂ©—serving coffee, tea and pretty-colored macarons to the women of Macu. There should be plenty of food and baking inspiration in this lovely book about boldly creating a new life and blossoming in a different place.
The deadline for The Color of Tea is Monday, May 27th.

June/July 2013

Back to Simona of briciole with a foodie classic, How to Cook a Wolf by M.F.K. Fisher. Simona says, “Where can I start to talk about M.F.K. Fisher? Probably the best way is to choose one of her books and invite you all to read it. This will give you a good sense of how wonderful she was as a writer. Of the books written by M.F.K. Fisher (1908-92) that I have so far read, my favorite is How to Cook a Wolf, which, I believe, illustrates well the qualities that make her writing enchanting. After spending three years in France with her first husband, she came back to the United States in 1932. Five years later she published her first book, Serve it Forth. In 1941 came Consider the Oyster, followed, in 1942, by How to Cook a Wolf, described by James Beard as “her brilliant approach to wartime economies for the table.”

Wartime brings special challenges to anybody trying to eat “with both grace and gusto.” Fisher refuses to allow all pleasures to disappear from the wartime table and provides advice and recipes that creatively make the best of what can be obtained and prepared at a time of tight budget and scarcity. As usual with Fisher’s books, the food at hand provides the springboard for reflections on topics ranging from the balanced diet to the choice of a drinking partner. Each chapter of How to Cook a Wolf presents Fisher’s thoughts on a topic: “How to Boil Water,” “How Not to Boil an Egg,” etc. Expounded principles are applied in recipes inserted in the text. The recipes are interesting (they include the aptly named War Cake, in which bacon grease can be used, “because of the spices that hide its taste”), though the main pleasure of reading the book is to listen to Fisher philosophize, muse, get passionate, gently satirize (herself first), and tell stories, where she describes people and events of her life.
The deadline for How to Cook a Wolf is Monday, July 29th.

And there you have it—our reading list for the next several months. Simona will be back shortly with a post  on our current October/November pick Heartburn. Until then, happy reading and cooking to you all!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Our “Home Cooking” Winner!

There was so much wonderful home cooking happening for our Cook the Books August/September selection “Home Cooking” by Laurie Colwin, that our judge for this round; avid reader, book lover, blogger (at Year of Magical Reading and The Ultimate Bridesmaid Guide), J. Crew copy editor and free-lance book editor Caitlin Kenney, had a tough time choosing a winner. Caitlin was up for the challenge however, and without further ado, here is her announcement:
“Thanks again for the fun opportunity to judge Cook the Books! After much thought, I’m happy to announce the winner: Claudia of Honey From Rock!
One of my favorite quotes from Colwin regards how closely tied food is to friendship. She says:
“It is a fact of life that people give dinner parties, and when they invite you, you have to turn around and invite them back. Often they retaliate by inviting you again and you must then extend another invitation. Back and forth you go, like Ping-Pong balls, and what you end up with is called social life.”
I was happy to see that so many of the Cook the Books entrants shared their recipes with family and friends. I’m sure Colwin would approve. After reading through all the adventures with simple bread, fried chicken and wonderful lentil soup, I had to choose Claudia of Honey From Rock as the winner. It seemed like destiny since she already has Colwin’s most time-consuming and intriguing recipe—West Indian Black Cake—stewing away in preparation for the holidays. Colwin says that chicken salad “has a certain glamour about it,” and though I personally find it more homey than chic, I will admit that it’s a versatile and delicious dish. I love that Claudia chose to serve her friends the curried chicken salad that Colwin recommends for a ladies luncheon. It truly feels as if she brought a little moment of the book to life. Well done!
All best,

So congratulations to Claudia for your elegant Curried Chicken Salad on Watercress! (This makes her a four-time winner I believe!). Wear that winner’s badge proudly over at Honey From Rock.
A big mahalo (Hawaiian for thank you) to Caitlin Kenney for being a fabulous judge, and an open invitation for her to cook along with us any time she likes!
We will be back soon with our next book selection–Nora Ephron’s “Heartburn” plus our upcoming book picks and some exciting Cook the Books announcements.