Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Baker's Daughter by Sarah McCoy {Intro + Judge}

Our selection for this round is The Baker's Daughter by Sarah McCoy.  I chose The Baker's Daughter because after reading it last year as part of a book tour, I fell hard.  It's one of those books that I want close by...on my living room bookshelf so that it is easily accessible on a rainy day or a sleepless night.

This is the tale of family, love, loss, and life lessons.  Be it the tale of Elsie Schmidt risking the life of her and her family upon discovering a Jewish child on the doorstep of her family's home and bakery in 1945's Germany, or the story of Reba outrunning a turbulent childhood 60 years later, I stayed up 'til all hours wielding my flashlight to read "just one more chapter".

Everything all sort of comes together in one of those "it's a small world" scenarios at some point in the book.  I found McCoy's writing both enthralling and comfortable, and this book is like an old friend now.

I know that's pretty vague, but I don't want to give anything away.  Immerse yourself in the world's of both Elsie and Reba, their friends and family, and the warmth of a good bakery emanating from beyond the pages!

I am also excited to announce that...

Our judge for this round will be none other than the author of The Baker's Daughter, Sarah McCoy!  Since reading The Baker's Daughter for the first time, and writing a post, I've found that Sarah is incredibly kind and generous...and just a regular, old girl (you know, aside from the talented author bit).

We both watch Downton Abbey (okay, who doesn't), and enjoy drooling over some good food.  She's also been busy working on her third novel, which I can't wait to get my hands on.  So, when I decided that I really wanted to feature this book for a round of CTB, I knew I wanted to ask her if she would have the time to judge our submissions.

And as you can probably guess: she said yes!  Let's make her proud.  Thank you, Sarah ☺.
Submissions for this round of Cook the Books will be due by Monday, September 30th.  Please enter your submission in the linky tool below (if you have problems, feel free to leave a link in the comment section of this post).  I look forward to seeing what The Baker's Daughter inspires you to make!

This linky list is now closed.
I'll be gathering all of these links in anticipation of a big roundup after the submissions close (check back after 9/30 for that roundup, and then the judging)!

This post contains an Amazon affiliate link.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Message From Our Guest Judge for How to Cook a Wolf

Our esteemed judge Jeannette Ferrary enjoyed reading all the posts inspired by M.F.K. Fisher's How to Cook a Wolf. This is what she writes:
Being not only a fan but a friend of MFK Fisher, I was totally delighted and truly grateful for this opportunity to peek in on her once again in the company of such fantastic writers. As noted in Eliot's Eats, who knows what Fisher might think of blogging considering her famous “snarkiness” at anything overly trendy. “The cuisine was good,” she once commented about a meal at one of San Francisco’s trendy restaurants whose chef had served each course atop its respective painterly sauce; “definitely the Puddle School from start to finish, but all very fresh and good as well as stylish.” In her personal lexicon, the single word stylish was death.
But I do know that no one appreciated good, clear, sensuous writing more than Mrs. Fisher; and that, in abundance, is what we have here in these Cook the Books essays. I suspect that the quality of the writing might be enough for her to forgive any offending trendiness.

However, you people didn’t do me any favors giving me such an embarrassment of riches from which to choose. Your discussions both of Fisher's menus and of her message showed such sensitivity and appreciation of them in the context of their original intent. Everyone took liberties with the literalness of the recipes, which is exactly what she would have done. And in fact, that's what she did do as witness her comments on her own comments a decade after the initial publication. Best of all, all the Cook the Books riffs were delightful.
Getting to specifics:

Girlichef: I really loved the way the essay learned from itself and expanded into something other than how it started out. Girlichef's observations and openness to experimenting ("I’d never eaten sweet-ish pasta…and needed to remedy that immediately") made for an evolving adventure. Beautifully written, it sparkled with touches of humor, and the final insight is a lesson for us all: "I look forward to inviting the chaos into many more meals." And I look forward to actually making that spaghetti with almonds in cinnamon honey butter. Who knew?

Sweet Almond Tree gave us a sober sense of moment with its reality check on living in wartime. The personal nature of her references lent a particular poignancy  to her observations; yet the piece is alive with occasional humor (the "polenta guru," the christening of Socrates ("a righteous dude")). And her summation of Fisher precepts is a cogent synthesis of the whole book. The story and the recipe for Strapasada were so compelling that, the afternoon I read it, I actually changed my dinner menu in midstream!
So I guess that means two winners for the wonderful Wolf roundup with extremely honorable mentions all around. And again, thank you all for involving me in this fun and soul-satisfying project.

Congratulations to the winners! As always, the prize is the Cook the Books Winner's Badge to be displayed on the blog:

A big Thank you! to our judge for her thoughtful and delightful words.

Looking ahead: Our current selection (soon to be formally announced by Heather) is The Baker's Daughter by Sarah McCoy.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

MFK Fisher's "How to Cook a Wolf" Roundup

First came the announcement, then the reminder, then the deadline and now it's time for the roundup of Cook the Books' June-July 2013 edition for which we read How to Cook a Wolf by M.F.K. Fisher (1942).

For each contribution (given in order of publication), I will give you the official information (author, blog name and post title) and a brief quote from it — a tiny morsel that will entice you to follow the link and read the details not only of the dish prepared, but also of how the reading inspired the activity in the kitchen.

Now, please, make yourself comfortable, then follow me on a little literary / culinary journey on the wings of M.F.K. Fisher's delightful prose.

Tina of Novel Meals prepared  Baked Apples

"Growing up we had several apple trees and my mother, another ingenious cook who made miracles with meager supplies, would use the fruit so many different ways. She made our applesauce, apple tarts, pies, roasted apples with pork and of course… baked apples. My father slathered the baked apples with way too much vanilla ice cream. "

Rachel of and then make soup prepared a Potato Cream Soup

"In the “original” recipe MFK Fisher states “…butter (no compromise here)” so I didn’t reach for my olive oil as I usually would. Oh my. I’d almost forgotten how onions smell cooking in butter. Wowza… Oh and I used Yukon Gold potatoes. Mmmmm, buttery!... That’s it! Simple, tasty, filling, and good hot or cold."

Deb of Kahakai Kitchen prepared Gazpacho

"I love the "herby" taste of this version of gazpacho--the tomatoes and juice are a player in the soup but unlike many gazpachos, the herbs really are the star here. This is a great soup to make after a trip to the farmers market. The freshness of the local ingredients adds a lot to the flavor. I think it tastes best after at least a day--allowing all the flavors to meld."

"This homegrown cauliflower was about half the size of my St. Bernard mix, and I wacked up the flowerets for an Indian-inspired cauliflower curry. However, my latest issue of Mother Earth News contained a short article about the edibility of cauliflower and broccoli leaves, and in the spirit of wolf banishment, I decided to experiment with them instead of consigning them to the compost heap."

"I'm utterly enamored with and utterly confused by this dish all at the same time.  When I read the line "Ah, spaghetti baked with honey and shaved almonds in a buttery dish!"... I knew that I'd never eaten sweet-ish pasta...and that I needed to remedy that immediately. The scent reminds me of those stands at the fair that sell warm, freshly sugared nuts in cones. I can't resist those, either."

"But, let’s consider the egg for this post.   Her chapter, “How Not to Boil an Egg,” is poetic. She writes that the egg is the most private of things; that is, until it is cracked... She continues to write about the best way to eat a fresh egg:  raw, boiled, fried or in some spectacular main dish like this frittata.  I am picking zucchini daily so my choice for this post was easy."

Claudia of Honey From Rock prepared Cold Potato Soup (Vichyssoise)

"It was hard to choose a single recipe, from such a plethora of excellent options, but one which I think captures that period of privation is potato soup, basically potatoes and onions.  Then you add the slap in the wolf's face, a bit of cream, and say,  "Ha ha, you haven't beaten me yet."  And enjoy your meal while he slinks away into the night.

"If beans were luxury eating for my relatives during World War II, polenta was their staple meal. They would eat polenta nearly every day... My grandfather was the polenta guru of the clan, cooking it over an open fire in the yard, and stirring it all the long time it needed to be stirred. Then he would take it to my grandmother who poured it onto a platter and flavored it either with petimezi (a syrup made from grapes), or with feta cheese. Polenta made either sweet or savory."

Simona of briciole (your host) prepared Tomato Soup Cake

"In the chapter "How to Comfort Sorrow" there is the famous War Cake, in which bacon grease can be used, "because of the spices that hide its taste." I was never tempted to try it.  The recipe that follows, on the other hand, Tomato Soup Cake, sounded quite intriguing... As the name suggests, tomato soup is one of the ingredients of the cake. Please, suspend your disbelief. Read the recipe and my experience realizing it, and then decide for yourself whether you want to give this cake a try."

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.

We will give our judge Jeannette Ferrary some time to read the posts and come up with her decision. Then, I’ll be back with the announcement of our winner of the coveted CTB "winner’s badge." And after that, I’ll turn things over to Heather for our next pick The Baker's Daughter by Sarah McCoy.

Arrivederci a presto!