Monday, February 9, 2015

Our February/March Cook the Books Selection: Comfort Me With Apples by Ruth Reichl

I have long admired Ruth Reichl--her writing, her work with the sorely missed Gourmet magazine, her PBS show Diary of a Foodie, and her guest appearances judging on Top Chef Masters. Besides being an excellent storyteller, she also just seems like a fun person to enjoy a meal or a drink with. So when longtime Cook The Books participant Claudia of Honey From Rock requested that we read a Ruth Reichl book, I jumped at the chance to host. As much as I enjoyed her foray into foodie fiction last year with the novel Delicious!, I was in a memoir-ish frame of mind and picked Reichl's 2001 memoir Comfort Me With Apples: More Adventures at the Table as our February/March 2015 reading selection.

Comfort Me With Apples tells of Reichl's journey from chef to restaurant critic and food writer from 1978 through the late 1980s. Although Comfort Me With Apples picks up right after her first book, Tender at the Bone ends, it isn't necessary to have read that book first--although it is also a fabulous read. 

Whether this is a reread, or a new-to-you book, I look forward to seeing what this funny and often moving memoir inspires you to create. There are multiple recipes in the book and a plethora of Ruth Reichl recipes online and in her other books, so there should be no shortage of wonderful dishes to be inspired by!

Submissions for this round of Cook The Books are due Monday, March 30, 2015. Anyone can join in the Cook the Books fun by reading and blogging about the book and cooking up a dish inspired by its contents. Let me know when your entry post is up by commenting on this post and/or sending me an email at:

New to Cook the Books? Check out our About and Guidelines pages or leave a question in the comments on this post. 

Deb at Kahakai Kitchen 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Sustenance and Desire: The Bloggy Feast

Our featured book this time round at Cook the Books has been "Sustenance and Desire: A Food Lover's Anthology of Sensuality and Humor", edited and illustrated by Bascove. This collection brings together poetry and prose by 74 different authors and it inspired the bloggers below to concoct a multi-course feast of words, photographs and foods.

Each of us was taken with a different aspect of the works from this anthology and I present this tasting menu below:


Rachel at The Crispy Cook loved the long poem "Hot", by the late Craig Arnold. "It's a long conversation between two friends who haven't seen each other in a while and had originally bonded over a love of spicy food. When the narrator arrives at his friend's house, he finds that his passion for peppers and food with heat has consumed him. He has parched lips, a haunted look and a fridge full of condiments. Here's the final stanza:

"He stops, expressing heat from every pore
of his full face, unable to give vent
   to any more, and sits, silent,
   a whole minute.—You understand?
Of course, I tell him. As he takes my hand
I can’t help but notice the strength his grip
   has lost, as he lifts it to his lip,
presses it for a second, the torn flesh
   as soft, as tenuous, as ash,
   not in the least harsh or rough,
wreck of a mouth, that couldn’t say enough."


George Bradley's poem "La Past'asciutta con quello che c'e" issued a siren song to Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm. The end result on her table? A comforting bowl of BLT Pasta, with the flavors of the classic sandwich echoed in the pasta sauce. Here's a snippet from Bradley's work: 

"Dried pasta's how a cook accommodates
 the facts.  No artist makes much out of his
dreams but makes the most of what there is."

This same literary piece inspired Simona of Briciole to try a new handmade pasta shape, small concave triangles dressed in butter and Parmigiana. As Simona notes, "Panda" means "handmade" in Italian, and her new pasta shape reminds her of a sitting panda bear, hence the double title. Be sure to check out the short video that Simona made for her post to illustrate her pasta making technique.


Claudia of Honey From Rock was inspired to create her own poem and an elegant salad of pigeon peas harvested from her Hawai'ian garden. Here's her lovely writing:

"I walked out into the garden this morning,
  Sun warming my head and arms,
And the green pigeon peas. 
A breath of legume scent teased out by that sun,
   Brought them to my attention.
Picked a handful, then two.
Dropped into boiling salted water
   For 10 minutes or so, cooled in a colander,
   Shelled -  lifted from their
 Plump nurturing pods, some
   Kissed a bit brown by that sun.
Suitable now for our salad,
Or pigeon peas 'n pasta
With basil and tomato" 


Chilean Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda was one of the three authors in this anthology given a double entry (Margaret Visser and Roy Blount, Jr. were the others)  and his poem "Ode to French Fries" captivated Amy of Amy's Cooking Adventures. She created a Crunchy Onion Chicken Finger recipe to share billing on the menu with the spuds. The following is the last bit from Neruda's ode:

in ivory suits, they fill our plates
with repeated abundance, 
and the delicious simplicity of the soil."

"Creation Story" by American poet Natasha Saje sent Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla to her kitchen stove, where this sensual excerpt produced a vanilla-infused sauce for some beautiful braised duck:

Green pods are cured dark walnut brown.
Sliced open lengthwise: infinitesimal seeds,
printer's ink. Their black flecks ice cream
or a sauce for pheasant...
...From the Spanish vainilla,
diminutive of Latin, vagina,
the term for sheath."


Carol Weston's "My Life in Cookies" fueled Debra of Eliot's Eats' desire to try out the easy recipe for chocolate chip cookies included in this essay. It concludes with these sage lines:

"Mes amis, la vie est belle. And one of the great things about being a grown-up is that you can reach into the cookie jar and savor what's there"

Delaware Girl Eats also found inspiration in Weston's cookie essay and baked up a batch of Oatmeal Crispies. She agrees with Weston that cookies are like kittens, making people smile with their diminutive size and delightfulness.

The End of the Meal

Our culinary and literary sampling continues with a warm cup of Ana's Cinnamon Mocha Coffee, inspired by Langston Hughes' "Harlem Sweeties" poem. As Ana notes more fully on her blog Sweet Almond Tree, "Hughes is offering a hymn of praise to African Americans, and by extension to all people who show their courage by embracing their difference." Here's a Hughes extract:
"Glow of the quince   
To blush of the rose.   
Persimmon bronze   
To cinnamon toes.   
Blackberry cordial,   
Virginia Dare wine—
All those sweet colors   
Flavor Harlem of mine!"


Herbed Poached Egg and Tea 

Wrapping things up the next day, Deb of Kahakai Kitchen gives us a light morning meal based on Diane Wakoski's poem "Breakfast". This excerpt framed the creation of her repast:

"Alone, at the big table
  with my plate, my single
  herbed egg, a goblet of 
  iced water with a fresh sprig of mint
 also from the window garden,
  and my china cup of hot tea I sit
  in my morning kingdom."

That concludes this chapter of Cook the Books. Please note that this post was just a tasting menu and that the full feast of words and images is to be found back at each blogger's headquarters, so be sure to visit them all.

Deb of Kahakai Kitchen will be hosting the discussion of our February/March 2015 book selection, Ruth Reichl's memoir "Comfort Me with Apples". Hope to have you all back with us to dive into this tasty book!

Rachel, The Crispy Cook