Friday, August 3, 2018

Sourdough Announcement

I'm excited to announce the August/September selection: Sourdough by Robin Sloan (September 2017). An NPR review by Jason Sheehan describes the novel in this way: 
Think of it like Candide without the pirates. And set in San Francisco. Wait, that's not quite right. It's like Fight Club meets The Great British Bake Off. It's like Fight Club if no one got punched. It's like Fight Club if Fight Club was written by someone concerned with a different, quieter kind of revolution, and if Fight Club was all about bread.    
I had to host Sourdough for this round if not only for Sheehan's goofily spot-on review.  That leads me to the following question:   Do you like quirky?

I hope so because the August/September round is quirky galore!

Sourdough by Robin Sloan starts out, honestly, very believable.

The plot revolves around a young coder, robots, food, sourdough (obviously), farmers markets, geeky foodies, and mysterious strangers.

Sounds good, right?

Sloan riffs on the whole foodie angle with a plot that borders on a sci-fi mystery.

OK, if you are not intrigued and pulled in by now, I don't know what to do.    As the end of summer nears, pick up this book for your final day on the beach or your last lazy day.  You'll be glad you did.

Robin Sloan is also the author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24‑Hour Bookstore (which I am currently devouring---it's kind of an upbeat Club Dumas).    

Publisher blurb bio:

Robin Sloan grew up near Detroit and went to school at Michigan State, where he studied economics and co-founded a literary magazine called Oats. After college, he worked at the intersection of media and technology, first at the Poynter (pronunciation: pointer) Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida, and then at Current TV and Twitter, both in San Francisco. 
His first novel, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, was a New York Times Best Seller, translated into more than twenty languages. George Saunders called the book “a tour-de-force” and Robin kindly requests that no one say anything else about any of his writing, ever. We are done here. 
With his partner Kathryn Tomajan (pronunciation: TOM-uh-jun), Robin manages a leased three-acre grove of olive trees in the San Francisco Bay Area. Their first batch of extra virgin olive oil will be available in 2018. 

I do hope you join in the fun and pick up Sourdough  for the August/September round.  The deadline for Sourdough is September 30, 2018.  Anyone can join in by reading the current selection, preparing a dish inspired by its contents, and writing about it. 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? Welcome to all!  Check out our About and Guidelines pages or leave a question in the comments on this post.


P.S.  I hope there are lots of yeasty things to post up for this round.  As for me, I have killed two sourdough starters thus far.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Garlic and Sapphires -- The Roundup

Once again we at Cook the Books Club are aligned at the corral gate, with a rousing Roundup of all the participants in our selection, Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl. And, what an adventuresome ride it's been!  Reichl is such a gifted writer, unusually able to not only distinguish, but to vividly communicate the subtle nuances of flavor in food, distinguishing obscure tastes and seasonings. This facility is combined here with her wacky sense of humor, and ability to illuminate personalities, and, adopt them when necessary in the course of her work!  It's been such fun, and the appreciation seems to have been almost unanimous.  Please take the time to read and enjoy all of the posts.  I've included just a short snippet from each to whet your appetites.  Thanks so much everyone for joining in.

First up was Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla, who made us a tasty batch of Afghani Scallion Dumplings.  She enjoyed reading about the various disguises Reichl used in the course of her job as a critic for the NY Times, and writes: "And when I write 'exploits' I mean fully costumed escapades in which Reichl adopted different personae in order to get an unbiased take on a restaurant."  And sums up by saying: "Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Reichl is not only a culinary powerhouse, but she has an appealing prose that makes her vibrant personality shine."

Next in was Debra of Eliot's Eats who made us a lovely dish of Strozzapreti with Tomatoes, Olives and Herbed Goat Cheese, Oh Yum!  She said: "I have every single one of Reichl’s books along with the aforementioned Gourmet Today and the huge yellow The Gourmet Cookbook.   If I were ever to do a “Julie/Julia” type project, I would cook my way through every single one of her books.  Love her! ... one of our true food treasures."

Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm came to the party with sassy, tangy Roasted Rhubarb.  She says that she "was extremely excited when another of her (Ruth's) memoirs was chosen this time.
Did I love it as much as the previous mentioned memoir? I daresay, I loved it even more. This is a laugh out loud, very interesting picture of what life is like to be a restaurant critic. It had never occurred to me that if you were a restaurant critic you needed to be able to dine in restaurants without being recognized. Otherwise, you will only know the service and food you are given as a celebrity instead of a normal Joe, like you and me."  

Claudia, (moi)of Honey from Rock, prepared some of Ruth's Scalloped Potatoes for the blog party, served with salmon and a salad one night, and the next with grilled steak and some of her pureed watercress.  I mentioned that "I am a woman who goes through life seeing the comic absurdity at play all around me. Perhaps why I so appreciate her writing. The disguises she literally got into here!  And, I absolutely love her many transfixing culinary descriptions".

Cathy of Delaware Girl Eats gave us yummy Gougeres - Delicious Cheese Puffs by any namet!  She commented: "Ah but the food. What Brenda, Molly, Chloe, Emily and all the other Reichl ladies ate was mouthwatering and her descriptions of those delicious courses were so enticing that I wished fervently for the opportunity to taste just one or two of the dishes she savored."

From Amy of Amy's Cooking adventures, we have tasty Pasta Carbonara!  Amy said: "I read one of Reichl’s previous memoirs for CtBC a couple years ago (I made a twist on French Onion Soup and it was delicious) and I enjoyed reading about her then – this time I loved it even more.  It was fascinating to read about Reichl’s time as the Times Food Critic!  I loved reading about her disguises and that she included some of her reviews and recipes to go along with them.

Lynda, of Reviews, Chews & How-Tos joined our party with a "simple" Celebration meal, featuring Reichl's Garlic Roast Lamb.  She commented that: " By far the hardest part of this challenge was trying to narrow down what to make, as almost every recipe and a great many of the passing references to food stirred a longing to make that... and that... and that!  For me, that is what a food memoir should do - it should create a sense of desire and longing to commune with food and the many ways of relating to one another through the preparation and eating of food."

Tina of Novel Meals brought some delicious home cooking to the event -  Roast Chicken with Potatoes, Onions and Garlic. Yum!  She said: "This is a second time around with this book but it was my first Ruth Reichl book several years back.  I liked it quite a bit; it’s always good to revisit an excellent foodie book. I’m usually attracted to books about food and restaurants, behind the scenes stuff and recipes included are a bonus."

Fellow Hawaiian blogger, Deb of Kahakai Kitchen came in with dessert, a luscious looking Lemon Panna Cotta, that I've absolutely got to try!  She says: "Reichl's food writing--whether her books, her blog, her work at the now-defunct Gourmet Magazine (Sniff...sniff... has it really been almost a decade since it folded?! So sad...), never fails to make me hungry and happy. The descriptive passages in Garlic and Sapphires make me feel like I am hanging out with her, exploring the nineties New York restaurant scene. A very happy revisit."

Just under the wire, Simona of Briciole came in with her creative round Stuffed Zucchini, a dish I'd like to make myself, though I've never seen those little potbellied vegetables in our markets. Maybe one day.  She commented: "While reading the book, the word "stuffed" kept coming to mind, blinking like a neon sign. I took that as my inspiration and was aided in my recipe development by the appearance at the farmers' market of beautiful round zucchini that just begged to be stuffed.

I think we're all looking forward to the August/September selection: Sourdough by Robin Sloan (September 2017), hosted by Debra of Eliot's Eats.  Get yourself a copy at the library, bookstore or online and join in the fun by reading, cooking up a dish inspired by the book, and posting about it.  For newcomers, there's more about us and a how-to at our Guidelines page.  Thanks again to everyone who participated.