Sunday, December 6, 2020

Our December/January Selection: Eat Joy

I confess that this time of year it's often hard for me to focus on being able to relax and focus on my reading so I really love anthologies of essays or short stories--books that give me a taste (food pun intended) of a story or experience, without having to commit to spending a lot of time and effort on it. That's why I wanted to make Eat Joy: Stories & Comfort Food From 31 Celebrated Writers, Edited by Natalie Eve Garrett (2019) our pick for a busy December into January. Also, I was drawn by the comfort food in the title. If any year has had us deserving of comfort, 2020 has certainly been it!

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 from the various authors or you can take inspiration from your own experiences and the dishes that brought/bring you comfort. I look forward to seeing what these essays inspire!

Deadline for contributing your post: Sunday, January 31, 2021.

You can leave a comment below with a link to your post and/or email me at

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.
Happy reading, cooking & eating,

Thursday, December 3, 2020

The Secret, Book and Scone Society: The Roundup

It's time for the roundup of Cook the Books' Club October-November 2020 edition for which we read the novel The Secret, Book and Scone Society by Ellery Adams (2017).

Miracle Springs, North Carolina, is a place of healing, a quiet town with natural hot springs and a renowned spa. Visitors often find their way to Miracle Books, where they tell their stories to owner Nora Pennington who in return chooses some books for them. She also recommends they visit Gingerbread House and talk to the baker, Hester, who will then bake a personalized “comfort” scone for them. Food for the body and then food for the mind and heart.

Cook the Books Club's The Secret, Book and Scone Society-Inspired Menu

Scones (of course):
Cinnamon Apple Scones
Gingerbread Scones with Eggnog Glaze
Peanut Butter Chocolate Scones
'Secret' Meyer Lemon Scones
Taste of Three Scones

Other dishes:
Muffin Tin Cinnamon Rolls
Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Soup
Honeynut Squash, Blue Cheese & Walnut Bites

Beverages (prepared by Nora)
"The chalkboard listed the literary names of the beverages Miracle Books offered: 
  •  The Ernest Hemingway—Dark Roast 
  •  The Louisa May Alcott—Light Roast 
  •  The Dante Alighieri—Decaf 
  •  The Wilkie Collins—Cappuccino 
  •  The Jack London—Latte 
  •  The Agatha ChrisTEA—Earl Grey"
Make yourself comfortable and enjoy the treats.

"This is the first novel I have read by Ellery Adams and I thoroughly enjoyed it... Many times, Hester provides scones that bring back memories of happiness and security. Thinking about what she would provide for me inspired me to make these fresh apple and cinnamon scones. When I was young my family had numerous fruit trees. Every year for my birthday in August the apples would be ready for picking and my mom always made me a yellow cake with sliced apples and cinnamon sugar on top... Flaky dough studded with apples and flavored with cinnamon, these fresh apple scones are a delicious way to start the day."

"I loved the concept of the book - that the right books can soothe our souls, improve our lives, and teach us things that we desperately need to know... Of the characters, Hester is my favorite and I loved how she would bake comfort scones that would help people... But the book leaned a little too saccharine for my tastes. Still this was an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon...  In the end, I decided that gingerbread scones would be my comfort scones! I am a gingerbread fanatic. No, seriously. I really love gingerbread."

"In my opinion this is a delightful novel, featuring not only tempting food, secrets and some magic (or call it inspired intuition), but healing and a bit of romance as well. On top of all that the new found friends solve a mystery... Since I enjoy experimenting with scones, one particular combination near the end of the book sparked real inspiration - Hester's own 'comfort' creation - the peanut-butter cup scone. I didn't use peanut butter cups, but chopped, toasted peanuts and some peanut butter, with melted chocolate swiped on top... my ganache didn't really melt and pour properly; also should have been more glossy, but the taste was totally there." 

"I have to say that Adams had me from the start and I could connect with the characters, the sisterhood they establish, the town of Miracle Springs, and the entrepreneurship of both Nora and Hester... I did enjoy learning about everyone’s secrets and seeing the friendships form, maybe more than the mystery itself. And, I loved Nora who judges food items on 'Can I eat this without putting my book down?'... As you might surmise, The Secret, Book & Scone Society, since it is set in Nora’s bookstore, is also full of reading recommendations."

"The book had an interesting premise... Just too many problems with the writing... To end the review part of this post on a positive note, one thread in the book had promise. Every one of the members of the Secret, Book, & Scone Society had a secret. Could they trust each other enough to tell their secrets? What would finally be each character’s motivation and when would they feel confident enough to trust?... The book did send me off on a deep dive for Scones... I soon found that 'The definitive Scone', well, that’s as much a myth as the definitive pasta e fagioliI decided not to make a choice but to make three different scones."

"In this novel, law enforcement is corrupt, necessitating our regular citizens to take action. Our main character, Nora goes a little too vigilante toward to end, but overall, the book was captivating and well-written... Many bakery items made an appearance in this story and circumstances presented themselves for cinnamon rolls... I wanted to experiment with baking these in a muffin tin with the purpose of sending these in the cold lunch.  Mission accomplished!  The cinnamon rolls were delicious as ever and easy to pack in a lunch."

"I  had purchased the e-book ages ago and needed that push to finally get it read. I had even forgotten the premise of the book and had it in my head that it was set in Scotland (the scones I guess?) instead of western North Carolina. But once I opened the pages I was hooked... With all of that inspiration, I did have in mind to try a scone but... I was more intrigued by the mention of the pimento cheese biscuits and the roasted red pepper spread out of a bread basket Nora and her friends noshed on than I was with the scones... Being not a baker, and wanting something easy, I doctored up a cheddar biscuit mix for my biscuits (this one), but if you have a favorite recipe, you could use it instead. "

Simona of briciole (your host) prepared Honeynut Squash Blue Cheese & Walnut Bites

"The novel strikes a balance between the murder plot and the background stories of the four women, particularly of Nora. She emerges as a courageous person and steadying force in the group. It would have been fitting to develop a recipe for scones, a pastry of which I have been a great fan ever since tasting it for the first time in London, many years ago. This blog includes eight recipes for scones using ingredients like carrots, persimmons, strawberries, red beets... But as the story focuses on the slow opening up of each woman to the others, I thought I would prepare a dish that could be shared during one of their meetings."

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, if you find anything missing or in need of amendment anywhere in the roundup, please do let me know and I will gladly make the necessary correction.

And now, I’ll turn things over to Deb of Kahakai Kitchen who is hosting the December 2020-January 2021 edition in which we are reading the Eat Joy: Stories & Comfort Food from 31 Celebrated Writers edited by Natalie Eve Garrett.

Arrivederci a presto!

Simona, of briciole