Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Announcement: Our Next Four Selections

Are you ready? Here are the next four selections of our book club:

Deb (Kahakai Kitchen) opens the series with Eat Joy: Stories & Comfort Food from 31 Celebrated Writers edited by Natalie Eve Garrett (published October 2019) for the December 2020 / January 2021 edition

Let's face it, this year has required a lot of comfort to get through. I have sought my comfort in my usual two places, in books and in the kitchen, so in carrying on with that theme as we end 2020 and enter 2021, I am picking
 Eat Joy: Stories & Comfort Food from 31 Celebrated Writers as our December/January book pick. Just the cover sparks joy in me and I like the idea of diving into short essays about food. 

From the Publisher:

This collection of intimate, illustrated essays by some of America’s most well-regarded literary writers explores how comfort food can help us cope with dark times—be it the loss of a parent, the loneliness of a move, or the pain of heartache.

Lev Grossman explains how he survived on “sweet, sour, spicy, salty, unabashedly gluey” General Tso’s tofu after his divorce. Carmen Maria Machado describes her growing pains as she learned to feed and care for herself during her twenties. Claire Messud tries to understand how her mother gave up dreams of being a lawyer to make “a dressed salad of tiny shrimp and avocado, followed by prune-stuffed pork tenderloin.” What makes each tale so moving is not only the deeply personal revelations from celebrated writers, but also the compassion and healing behind the story: the taste of hope.

There are recipes included with the essays or maybe it will inspire us to make the food that most comforts us! 


Deadline for contributing your post is Sunday, January 31, 2021

For the February / March edition, Claudia (Honey from Rock) chose Where I Come From: Life Lessons from a Latino Chef by Aaron Sanchez (published October 2019)

I am going for a memoir by this Latino chef, and the food he brings to it, based on very good reviews, since I haven't had a chance to read it yet, plus the fact that we haven't done Mexican at Cook the Books yet, to my knowledge, and that it's one of my favorite cuisines.

From the Publisher:

America's most prominent Latino chef shares the story behind his food, his family, and his professional journey.  Before Chef Aaron Sanchez rose to fame on shows like MasterChef and Chopped, he was a restless Mexican-American son, raised by a fiercely determined and talented woman who was a successful chef and restaurateur in her own right--she is credited with bringing Mexican cuisine to the New York City dining scene. In many ways, Sanchez, who lost his father at a young age, was destined to follow in his mother Zarela's footsteps... 

In this memoir, Sanchez delves into his formative years with remarkable candor... revealing how he fell in love with cooking and started a career in the fast-paced culinary world. Sanchez shares the invaluable lessons he learned from his upbringing and his training... and offers an intimate look into the chaotic and untraditional life of a professional chef and television personality.
From the Library Journal: 
In addition, the book contains several delicious recipes, including one for seafood étouffée. VERDICT Highly recommended for foodies and memoir aficionados.

Deadline for contributing your post is Wednesday, March 31, 2021

For the April / May edition, Debra (Eliot's Eats) has chosen the novel Honeysuckle Season by Mary Ellen Taylor (September 2020)

The book tells the tales of four women. 
  • Sadie, a moonshiner's wild child, is trying to help make ends meet while her older brothers are away fighting WWII. 
  • Olivia, a new bride, has escaped London and the Blitz by marrying a rich American doctor, one of the "landed gentry."
  • Libby, a wedding photographer, returns to her hometown to escape a failed marriage and three failed pregnancies.
  • Elaine, the current curator of the estate, is working hard to restore the once massive and elaborate gardens and greenhouse.
The place setting is a large estate in rural Virginia and the surrounding community. The time setting alternates between the 1940s and today.  

These four women's lives are intertwined with a shared history that will be revealed. Besides revolving around these connections, the plot also deals with class stigma, the plight of the poor (especially women), eugenics and certain prejudices in the rural South in the 1940s.

There's plenty of food in the novel of the comforting, downhome kind and the author provides a few recipes at the end:  Buttermilk Pie, Honeysuckle Syrup, and Lemon Cake. This was a quick and enjoyable read. (It's free if you have Kindle Unlimited and only $4.99 to purchase the ebook. I usually don't rate my "free" Kindle books high but this was a five star review.).  


Deadline for contributing your post is Monday, May 31, 2021

To round up the list of selections, for the June / July edition Simona (briciole) picked 97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement by Jane Ziegelman

Among the proposals on our blog's Suggested Reading page, I found this title quite appealing [Thank you, Lynda!] and decided to add to our club's selections providing a historical perspective on the foods we bring on our table.

Ziegelman puts a historical spin to the notion that you are what you eat by looking at five immigrant families from what she calls the "elemental perspective of the foods they ate." They are German, Italian, Irish, and Jewish (both Orthodox and Reform) from Russia and Germany—they are new Americans, and each family, sometime between 1863 and 1935, lived on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Each represents the predicaments faced in adapting the food traditions it knew to the country it adopted. From census data, newspaper accounts, sociological studies, and cookbooks of the time, Ziegelman vividly renders a proud, diverse community learning to be American. She describes the funk of fermenting sauerkraut, the bounty of a pushcart market, the culinary versatility of a potato, as well as such treats as hamburger, spaghetti, and lager beer. Beyond the foodstuffs and recipes of the time, however, are the mores, histories, and identities that food evokes. Through food, the author records the immigrants’ struggle to reinterpret themselves in an American context and their reciprocal impact on American culture at large.

Deadline for contributing your post: Saturday, July 31, 2021.

Remember that membership in our book club is open to anyone and we hope you will join us by reading these selections and creating inspired recipes. For more information about participating, click here.  

As always, specific announcement posts can be found at Cook the Books at the beginning of each two-month period and the current selection is always shown on the right side of the homepage.

To recap:

December 2020 / January 2021Eat Joy edited by Natalie Eve Garrett (hosted by Deb at Kahakai Kitchen)

February / March 2021: Where I Come From by Aaron Sanchez (hosted by Claudia at Honey from Rock)

April / May 2021: Honeysuckle Season by Mary Ellen Taylor (hosted by Debra at Eliot's Eats)

June / July 2021: 97 Orchard by Jane Ziegelman (hosted by Simona at briciole)

Happy reading and cooking!

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Recipe for a Perfect Wife Round Up

Thanks for being patient, all.  I know that this round up is a few days late but here it finally is.    Let's jump right in.   

Some of us enjoyed Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown, others...not so much.

Of course, Camilla (Culinary Adventures with Cam) was first up with a not only a delicious sounding meatloaf but she also found a very fitting wine.  

"If you read the book, you'll know why foxglove is important to the plot. I won't spoil it for you, but let's just say that foxglove is poisonous in large doses...or repeated small doses. It's a dangerous beauty for certain."  

Camilla further writes that she is not a fan of the book.  "I liked how the book started; I hated how it ended. Two things I found amusing throughout though: the misogynistic quotations at the beginning of each chapter - with an attribution to an actual person or publication (Someone actual wrote that? And someone actually valued the sentiment enough to put it in print?!?) and Nellie's recipes."

I am a fan of her bacon-wrapped mini meatloaf dish that accompanied the Foxglove Cabernet Sauvignon.

Next up is Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm made Lemon Lavender Muffins.   (Wendy also hosted this novel for Lit Happens, too.)  Wendy read the book in two days and writes:  "This novel grabbed my attention and held it.  That being said, I'm not sure I liked the book.  Perhaps it was that none of the characters were that 'real' to me.  But that's not it.  They were real, with good traits and bad.  Perhaps it was just Alice that I didn't care for.  She got on my last nerve with her lies, secrets and martyrdom.  She reminded me of a sullen, sulky teenager who always wanted things exactly her own way."  

Maybe Alice needed more of these muffins!

Amy's Cooking Adventures went retro with Hot Cheese Puff Canapes.   Amy felt similar to Wendy:  "I had very mixed feelings about the book.  I loved it at the beginning and was disgusted by the end." Regardless, she went to her Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook for this recipe.
I love that she went with a vintage cookbook and presented her recipe in this retro way.

Simona from briciole presented Roasted Eggplant, Zucchini and Tomatoes (melanzane, zucchine e pomodori in teglia). She points out the sections devoted to Nellie and their paired recipes. Simona mentions tuna casserole (another retro favorite) but comments "In the summer, when fresh vegetables abound, I prefer to eat fresh vegetables. Still, I held to the idea of making a baked dish with a small number of ingredients."
This looks fresh and delicious!

Claudia from Honey from Rock did enjoy the book: "I especially loved her exhumation of some old recipes, harking back to my own childhood, and my mom's and mother-in-law's cooking.  Vintage cuisine I guess you could call it. And, an enjoyable, very worthwhile read." Claudia did focus on the tuna casserole.
She used the recipe from the book but did make some adaptions.

Next up is Deb from Kahakai Kitchen. Deb writes, "I like a food book and a book with dual narratives so I really liked those aspects of Recipe for a Perfect Wife. The little retro book and magazine excerpts from homemaking books are fun too."  She created a Tomato Soup with Porcupine (no-meat) Meatballs.  

"This Tomato Soup with (No-Meat) Porcupine Meatballs is really delicious, even if I should have probably called it deconstructed due to some meatballs structural challenges."  It does look like great comfort food.  

Since I am late with the round-up, I am putting my contribution last.  I tried to go retro, too, and used a family meatloaf recipe.   To change it up a bit, I smoked it.  

I enjoyed the book and like many of you, I found Alice to be totally unlikable.  One of the connections between Alice and Nellie is deception.  But, Nellie has to lie to survive.  I'm not sure what Alice's motivation is.

Thanks to all for reading along and cooking some great recipes.  Some are retro and some are inventive and modern.

I can't wait to dive into the October/November selection,  The Secret, Book and Scone Society by Ellery Adams.   Simona is hosting and you can read her announcement post here.  

October/November selection: The Secret, Book and Scone Society

The novel The Secret, Book and Scone Society by Ellery Adams (October 2017) caught my attention first because of the words "book" and "scone" in the title (aren't they perfect together, a book in one hand and a scone in the other?),  then because it revolves around a bookstore, and finally, because it is a mystery.

The bookstore's owner, Nora, having once been healed by books, has chosen to do the same to other people. But healed from what? (I cannot say: it's part of the mystery)

Besides Nora, the society of the title includes three other women, quite different from each other, each with a secret to share, a story to tell. One of them is a baker with a special gift (which you will find out about when you read the novel). 

Miracle Springs, North Carolina, is a place of healing. Strangers flock here hoping the natural hot springs, five-star cuisine, and renowned spa can cure their ills. If none of that works, they often find their way to Miracle Books, where, over a fresh-baked “comfort” scone from the Gingerbread House bakery, they exchange their stories with owner Nora Pennington in return for a carefully chosen book. That’s Nora’s special talent—prescribing the perfect novel to ease a person’s deepest pain and lighten their heaviest burden.
The novel is therefore a mystery on more than one level: there is a murder to be solved, but there are also the mysteries of the women's past, which are slowly revealed, just as the plot that led to the murder is also slowly revealed. 

There are no recipes in the book, but food and hot drinks play an important role in it and I hope the story will inspire you.  

Deadline for contributing your post: Monday, November 30, 2020.

Leave a comment below with a link to your post or email me at simosite AT mac DOT com.

Remember that anyone can participate in Cook the Books: simply pick up a copy of the selection from your local bookstore or library, take inspiration from said reading, cook and post the inspired dish. We look forward to having you read and cook along with us in this selection period and beyond. New participants are always welcome. (Leave a comment here or check out our Guidelines page if you have any questions.