Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Our October/November Selection: Cinnamon and Gunpowder


Ahoy Shipmates!  And welcome aboard!  Are you ready for a rollicking good read?  Pirates, danger and wild women, oh yeah!  Our Cook the Books Club selection for October/November is Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown.  A tale of piracy on the high seas, with kidnapping, doses of danger, and a chef's unique creativity, in extremis, while aboard, serving under the Jolly Roger.  After reading a review of this book last year, it immediately hit me what a good pick it would be for our Cook the Books Club, which reading it only confirmed.  I truly enjoyed Brown's novel!  Just imagine the challenges faced by Chef Wedgwood, cooking under such difficult conditions, and coming up with truly creative meals.

From the Publishers: 
"A gripping adventure, a seaborne romance, and a twist on the tale of Scheherazade—with the best food ever served aboard a pirate’s ship
The year is 1819, and the renowned chef Owen Wedgwood has been kidnapped by the ruthless pirate Mad Hannah Mabbot. He will be spared, she tells him, as long as he puts exquisite food in front of her every Sunday without fail.
To appease the red-haired captain, Wedgwood gets cracking with the meager supplies on board. His first triumph at sea is actual bread, made from a sourdough starter that he leavens in a tin under his shirt throughout a roaring battle, as men are cutlassed all around him. Soon he’s making tea-smoked eel and brewing pineapple-banana cider.
But Mabbot—who exerts a curious draw on the chef—is under siege. Hunted by a deadly privateer and plagued by a saboteur hidden on her ship, she pushes her crew past exhaustion in her search for the notorious Brass Fox. As Wedgwood begins to sense a method to Mabbot’s madness, he must rely on the bizarre crewmembers he once feared: Mr. Apples, the fearsome giant who loves to knit; Feng and Bai, martial arts masters sworn to defend their captain; and Joshua, the deaf cabin boy who becomes the son Wedgwood never had.

Cinnamon and Gunpowder is a swashbuckling epicure’s adventure simmered over a surprisingly touching love story—with a dash of the strangest, most delightful cookbook never written. Eli Brown has crafted a uniquely entertaining novel full of adventure: the Scheherazade story turned on its head, at sea, with food."
Yes indeed, and enough food to tempt and inspire us all. I do hope you'll have fun with this one. The deadline is November 30th.  Cook the Books is always open to everyone, so just pick up this latest selection, read it, and let yourself get inspired to create a dish.  Next, post your creation by the deadline, and comment below with your link Or, email me with it: claudiarileyatyahoo.com
For more information and guidelines, click here

Bon Voyage,
Claudia

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe: The Roundup

I am happy to round up our entry posts for Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber. Overall, our group really enjoyed this sweet southern tale as a summer read, and we have all kinds of delicious dishes, and yes...even some pie to share. 

I am taking a page from Simona's recaps and listing our contributions as a meal of sorts--starting with a cup of tea, and ending with glorious desserts. After that, entries are listed in the order I received them. Enjoy!

Terri of Our Good Life says, "Told from multiple persepectives, over a sixty day time period, this book hooked me from the first line. I was deeply immersed into the all the gorgeous details: teas for maladies, blackbird pie (which is NOT made from blackbirds), lemon verbena soap, soups, baked goods... and the story of how a small town's personality comes alive when a few caring people take care of one another. It's an important book, one that we all need to be reading now.  Tell everyone you know." For her dish, Terri said she decided to dabble in tea, saying "From many wise lessons, I created my own destress tea blend I am calling Bee Calm Tea. The "bee" part is the dash of honey and the calm comes from the three ingredients I chose from learning about what herbals are good for destressing. I hope you enjoy!"


Debra of Eliot's Eats said, "I enjoyed the story and the family drama. I struggled with some of the plot lines and the way one of the mysteries is tied up at the end. But, I still want to visit Wicklow and partake of some pie." For her dish, Debra said, "What to make? It had to be zucchini something.  There was always lots of zucchini mentioned, most of it from a cherished plant in Anna Kate’s garden. I landed on my take on the Zucchini Frittata with Goat Cheese, Onion and Fresh Mint (242). ... I loved the flavors of this recipe! LOVED. It wasn’t the most beautiful frittata but, again, it was delicious."


Camilla of Culinary Adventures With Camilla said. "There seem to be a lot of books with this formula: person inherits a restaurant from a relative, comes to town to wrap up the estate (and sell!), but ends up falling in love with the restaurant and, usually, a person tied to the restaurant or town. Oh, and the person might unearth some family secrets along the way. The fact that the plot is predictable doesn't diminish the enjoyment though!" For her dish Camilla said, "...in the end, I was swayed by my boys' desire to perfect their Karaage, Japanese Fried Chicken, recipe and process. Gideon brings fried chicken to a picnic with Anna Kate. According to the townsfolk, he's famous for it. Josh admitted dreaming about Gideon's chicken." 


Claudia of Honey From Rock said, "I enjoyed this book, the sometimes wacky characters who visit the cafe, the strange occurrences with neighborhood blackbirds, and the development of the protagonists and antagonists as they finally are able to forgive long held bitterness and preconceptions about one another. A little romance adds a nice dollop to the overall picture." For her bookish inspiration Claudia said, "Posting a pie would seem to be the way to go. Maybe for some. I'm not really a pie baker, though I have been known to prepare one on occasion. The food of our American South covers a much bigger palate, however, and I was inspired to do a combination of Red Rice and Beans with a side of Collard Greens and Ham Hocks."


At Kahakai Kitchen, I really enjoyed the book--the sweetness and comfort of the story was exactly what I needed the last few weeks. For my dish, I wanted to attempt the special recipe for Blackberry Sweet Tea, but couldn't find any good fresh blackberries so I channeled Doc's favorite comfort food dish and made Easy Weeknight Comfort Red Beans and Rice. A bonus is that I had everything in my pantry to make it and the leftovers were even better. 


Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm found extra meaning in the book, "Having recently lost my dearest friend, Kirsten, this book especially sang to me much like the blackbirds in the story sang love and comfort to those who heard them." Wendy combined the abundance of zucchini and pies in her unique Zucchini Cream Pie, saying, "I decided to make a pie using zucchini that my neighbor, in my small town, shared with me from his garden.  This pie is the perfect ending for this wonderful novel and will be a perfect ending for your next dinner too."


Amy of Amy's Cooking Adventures, said, "Overall, this was the perfect relaxing summer read. Just enough magical realism to make this fantasy fan smile plus a nice happy ending." There's something magical in the way the ingredients came together for Amy to make the titular Blackberry Pies, and she says, "Hubs agreed that this was one of the best pies to date! Was the the mulberry syrup? I guess we’ll never know. I don’t, however, have Anna Kate's magic as we were not visited by any spirits in our dreams..."


Marg of The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader joined us and said, "I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I hadn't really looked too much into what the book was about but it was my kind of book, and I knew it from page 2!" Marg debated what to make with so much delicious inspiration but said, "In the end though, I have decided to make Hummingbird Cake, because it is a Southern classic, and because I really wanted to make something with cream cheese frosting."


Simona of Briciole said, "The novel is a fairy tale (favola) set in a village in Alabama, mostly in the café of the title. Anna Kate, the protagonist, inherits the business and uses her spare time to untangle family secrets. It is a pleasant read and while the ending is fairly expected, there are a few surprises along the way. When it came to making a dish Simona said, "I am Italian, so when I think about a dessert made with fruit, I think about crostata(tart). I presented crostata di mele (apple tart) some time ago so here I am sharing a recipe for Pear TartWhile the rendition on the photos uses Asian pears (pere asiatiche), the tart can be made with other pear varieties."


Thank you to everyone who joined in this round! I really enjoyed reading your reviews and seeing how Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe inspired you in the kitchen. 

I believe I have all of the submissions, but if I missed someone, please let me know and I'll add them. 

It's time to turn the hosting duties over to Claudia from Honey From Rock with our October/November Selection, Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Our August/September Selection: Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber

Can you believe it's almost fall? We have cycled around again here at Cook the Books Club and I am kicking off our next four selections with a novel, Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber.


I chose this book as it has been languishing on my TBR stack for a couple of years now and I really wanted a push to read it. That push is sharing it with you! 

From the Publisher:

Nestled in the mountain shadows of Alabama lies the little town of Wicklow. It is here that Anna Kate has returned to bury her beloved Granny Zee, owner of the Blackbird Café. 

It was supposed to be a quick trip to close the café and settle her grandmother’s estate, but despite her best intentions to avoid forming ties or even getting to know her father’s side of the family, Anna Kate finds herself inexplicably drawn to the quirky Southern town her mother ran away from so many years ago, and the mysterious blackbird pie everybody can’t stop talking about. 

As the truth about her past slowly becomes clear, Anna Kate will need to decide if this lone blackbird will finally be able to take her broken wings and fly.

I'm in the mood for something sweet and I'm always in the mood for pie, although it seems like there is other southern food inspiration to be found in the pages too. I look forward to seeing how it inspires us in the kitchen!

The deadline for contributing your post is Thursday, September 30, 2021

As always, Cook the Books is open to anyone. Just pick up the latest selection, read it, and get inspired. Then whip up a dish sparked by your reading and post during by the deadline. For more information and guidelines, click here.

Happy reading and cooking!

Deb, Kahakai Kitchen

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

97 Orchard: The Roundup


It's time for the roundup of Cook the Books' Club June-July 2021 edition for which we read 97 Orchard, An Edible History of the Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement by Jane Ziegelman, a historical nonfiction that explores the culinary life of New York's Lower East Side around the turn of the twentieth century through the experiences of five families, all of them residents of 97 Orchard Street.

As I've done in the past, I will present our club members' contributions as a menu, with the dishes in each section ordered alphabetically. For each, I will give you the official information (author, blog name and post title) and a quote from it — a taste: follow the link and read the author's take of the book and how the reading inspired the cooking. 

Cook the Books Club's 97 Orchard-Inspired Menu

First Course:
Spaghetti Aglio e Olio
Vegan Lentil & Sausage Soup

Second Course:
Daikon Root & Potato Latkes
Roasted Eggplant and Tomatoes with Cheese
Timballo di Zucchini

Accompaniment:
Sicilian Bread

Sandwiches:
Beer Brats
Potato Sandwich with Pepperoni and Basil

Make yourself comfortable and enjoy the menu.



"It's an interesting way to chronicle immigrant stories-from the basic perspective of how they nourished themselves. And, as she writes, the kitchen was the center of many, many activities. 'A place to cook and to eat, the kitchen was also used as a family workspace, a sweatshop, a laundry room, a place to wash one’s body, a nursery for the babies, and a bedroom for boarders.'... Initially, I was inspired by this passage about snails... but in the end, I decided to make spaghetti con aglio e olio because I had all of the ingredients in my cabinet and didn't have snails!"



"I love food history and knowing where the different dishes I grew up with in America had their origins. Ziegelman does a good balance of storytelling and details that makes the book entertaining... There were several dishes and recipes I thought would be fun to make for the book but I ended up with the Lentil Soup recipe from Chapter 3 from the German-Jewish perspective... 97 Orchard says: In accordance with family tradition, lentil soup was known as 'hiding soup in the Nussbaum' kitchen, a reference to the way the sausage tended to hide among the lentils."



"Lots of amazing information, things I never knew about our immigrant forebears, their lives and times... those folks were industrious, inventive and struggling to survive, frequently in the face of cruel discrimination.. This book is about so much more than the food, covering as it does the lives of the immigrants as a whole... Bob remembers his mother making latkes, so in honor of that heritage, I am doing a Hawaiian version.  The daikon root a nod to our local Korean immigrants... I thought it would add a nice touch of tang to the classic latkes."


Simona of briciole (your host)
prepared Roasted Eggplant and Tomatoes with Cheese

"A good part of the book's appeal is due to the fact that I am an immigrant myself... Some of the themes covered were known to me, like: 'More than other groups, Italians arrived in this country with the firm knowledge that they were unwanted.'... The chapter about Italian immigrants talks about a number of foods, including tomatoes and eggplant... Probably the most famous Italian dish made with those two ingredients is parmigiana di melanzane... For years I have been making a dish inspired by the rich parmigiana and here I am sharing the recipe."


"The passage that really resonated with me was 'No people are more devoted to their native food than Italians and Italian groceries are filled with imported edibles that flourish in the different colonies of the Americas... The prices of the imported goods is a drain on the purses of the patrons and they wearily try to get the same satisfaction from American-made substitutes, which have the same name and appearance but never the same taste'. The dish that inspired me... is zucchini-based... I chose one more familiar to our Abruzzo region from a book by Ada Boni."



"Many vintage recipes were included in the book.  And while I thought I would try my hand at one of those, I found I was most inspired by a paragraph long mention of Sicilian Bread.  I was inspired because the bread was described as different breads representing the Saints.  Since I’m Catholic, I loved the idea of honoring the saints and set out to research Sicilian Bread... The final shape was a braided bread, in the shape of a cross.  This was by far the favorite in my house (followed by the St. Joseph bread)."



"97 Orchard was a housing tenement in New York built by the Glockner family who emigrated to the USA from Germany.  Mr Glockner started the tenement advancing from Tailor to Gentleman. So in honor of the Glockners, who were the first residents of 97 Orchard, I am serving up Brats in Beer... Maybe if I had not built up this book in my mind as to what I thought it was going to be I could have enjoyed it more.  I don't know and I will never know.  What I do know is that the Germans who emigrated to the USA brought with them Sausages and Beer.  Now, there is something that I can get excited about!!"


"The most interesting part of the book was the description of the Ellis Island cafeteria. My ignorance of the immigrant experience became evident as I read about the feeding of thousands, fresh off the boat. I had no idea that the ship companies paid to feed the immigrants on Ellis Island and that they were fed so abundantly... Throughout, I noticed the part potatoes played in almost every culture mentioned.  Potatoes were a long lasting commodity and could be relied upon to keep families from starvation, not only on the journey to America but also during their initial settlement."

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.

And now, I’ll turn things over to Deb of Kahakai Kitchen who is hosting the August-September edition in which we are reading the novel Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber.

Arrivederci a presto!

Simona, of briciole

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Announcement: Our Next Four Selections

This is the moment you've been waiting for: the announcement of next four selections of our book club. 

Deb (Kahakai Kitchen) opens the series with Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber (July 2019) for the August / September 2021 edition



I received a copy of Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe in a book subscription box I tried out. Sadly, it has been languishing in my TBR stack for almost two years and so I thought that choosing it as our August/September selection would be a good push for me to finally read it. Plus, it sounds charming, I believe a touch of magical realism now and then is good for the soul, there's a flock of blackbirds that only sing at night, and of course, there's pie!  

From the Publisher:

Nestled in the mountain shadows of Alabama lies the little town of Wicklow. It is here that Anna Kate has returned to bury her beloved Granny Zee, owner of the Blackbird Café. 

It was supposed to be a quick trip to close the café and settle her grandmother’s estate, but despite her best intentions to avoid forming ties or even getting to know her father’s side of the family, Anna Kate finds herself inexplicably drawn to the quirky Southern town her mother ran away from so many years ago, and the mysterious blackbird pie everybody can’t stop talking about. 

As the truth about her past slowly becomes clear, Anna Kate will need to decide if this lone blackbird will finally be able to take her broken wings and fly.

I've only thumbed through the book a bit so far but it looks like there is more food inspiration than the mysterious Blackbird Pie the cafe serves so I am looking forward to seeing what this Alabama set novel inspires in our kitchens.  

Aloha,
Deb, Kahakai Kitchen

Deadline for contributing your post is Thursday, September 30, 2021

For the October / November edition, Claudia (Honey from Rock) chose Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown. 


This novel was originally recommended, on our CTB suggested reading page, five years ago by Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm. It sounded quite intriguing and so I looked further and read some reviews. What an original concept and development of the whole idea. A bit of historical fiction, some romance on the high seas, adventure with pirates, and the food!! It looks to be a great story for us all.

Here's what the Publishers have to say:

A twist on the tale of Scheherazade—with the best food ever served aboard a pirate’s ship  The year is 1819, and the renowned chef Owen Wedgwood has been kidnapped by the ruthless pirate Mad Hannah Mabbot. He will be spared, she tells him, as long as he puts exquisite food in front of her every Sunday without fail. 
To appease the red-haired captain, Wedgwood gets cracking with the meager supplies on board. His first triumph at sea is actual bread, made from a sourdough starter that he leavens in a tin under his shirt throughout a roaring battle, as men are cutlassed all around him. Soon he’s making tea-smoked eel and brewing pineapple-banana cider.

But Mabbot—who exerts a curious draw on the chef—is under siege. Hunted by a deadly privateer and plagued by a saboteur hidden on her ship, she pushes her crew past exhaustion in her search for the notorious Brass Fox. As Wedgwood begins to sense a method to Mabbot’s madness, he must rely on the bizarre crewmembers he once feared: Mr. Apples, the fearsome giant who loves to knit; Feng and Bai, martial arts masters sworn to defend their captain; and Joshua, the deaf cabin boy who becomes the son Wedgwood never had.
Sounds like a fun read, with lots of food inspiration.

Aloha,
Claudia, Honey From Rock

Deadline for contributing your post is Tuesday, November 30, 2021

For the December 2021 / January 2022 edition, Debra (Eliot's Eats) has chosen Midnight Chicken by Ella Risbridger (June 2019)


On a recent week’s vacation, I ran across a quick blurb for Midnight Chicken in a magazine. I was intrigued. I then found an NPR review which made me even more determined to pick this "book of hope" for my hosting gig. This review describes Risbridger writing as echoing “Bridget Jones' self-effacing wittiness, Julia Child's companionable forgiveness and Sylvia Plath's poetic prose.”  What a combination and such high praise! 

Midnight Chicken contains recipes with categories for breakfasts, soups & breads, picnics, “Storecupboard Suppers & Midnight Feasts,” weekend cooking, and “Sweet Things.” But, it’s also a poetic tale of hope and perseverance and savoring life.

Debra, Eliot's Eats

Deadline for contributing your post is Monday, January 31, 2022

To round up the list of selections, for the February / March 2022 edition Simona (briciole) picked the novel Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews (2014)


Have you ever heard of a spy novel with recipes? I had not until I read the description of Red Sparrow (the first volume in a trilogy) written by a former officer of the CIA’s Operations Directorate.  

From the Publisher:
In contemporary Russia, state intelligence officer Dominika Egorova has been drafted to become a “Sparrow”—a spy trained in the art of seduction to elicit information from their marks. She’s been assigned to Nathaniel Nash, a CIA officer who handles the organization’s most sensitive penetration of Russian intelligence. 
The two young intelligence officers, trained in their respective spy schools, collide in a charged atmosphere of tradecraft, deception and, inevitably, a forbidden spiral of physical attraction that threatens their careers and the security of America’s valuable mole in Moscow.
The combination of espionage thriller and recipe was too intriguing to pass. You can get a taste of it in the Excerpt available on the publisher's website

Simona, briciole

Deadline for contributing your post: Thursday, March 31, 2022.

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:

August / September 2021: Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber (hosted by Deb at Kahakai Kitchen)










October / November 2021Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown (hosted by Claudia at Honey from Rock)
December 2021 / January 2022: Midnight Chicken by Ella Risbridger (hosted by Debra at Eliot's Eats)










February / March 2022: Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews (hosted by Simona at briciole)









Happy reading and cooking!

Friday, June 4, 2021

Honeysuckle Season Round Up

Thanks to everyone for being a bit patient and waiting for this somewhat late Round-Up post.  

From bestselling author Mary Ellen Taylor comes a story about profound loss, hard truths, and an overgrown greenhouse full of old secrets.

Adrift in the wake of her father’s death, a failed marriage, and multiple miscarriages, Libby McKenzie feels truly alone. Though her new life as a wedding photographer provides a semblance of purpose, it’s also a distraction from her profound pain.

When asked to photograph a wedding at the historic Woodmont estate, Libby meets the owner, Elaine Grant. Hoping to open Woodmont to the public, Elaine has employed young widower Colton Reese to help restore the grounds and asks Libby to photograph the process. Libby is immediately drawn to the old greenhouse shrouded in honeysuckle vines.

As Libby forms relationships and explores the overgrown—yet hauntingly beautiful—Woodmont estate, she finds the emotional courage to sort through her father’s office. There she discovers a letter that changes everything she knows about her parents, herself, and the estate. Beneath the vines of the old greenhouse lie generations of secrets, and it’s up to Libby to tend to the fruits born of long-buried seeds.


April and especially May just totally got away from me and June is starting out jam-packed.  So, without further adieu, let's get to the delicious posts:


Culinary Adventures with Camilla is always first to post.   Cam "was so intrigued by the dynamics in the moonshine timeline, including bribing the Sheriff to keep their business going during Prohibition."    She also found the old Southern tradition of burying moonshine in a graveyard for good wedding-day-luck humorous.   She whipped up a delicious Buttermilk Vanilla Cake with Honeysuckle Buttercream.   (Please check out this recipe and how she steeped dried honeysuckle blossoms.)


Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm was next with a recipe that I am going to try as soon as I am able:   Honeysuckle Tangerine Marmalade!   

I mean, seriously, this sounds delicious!   As for the novel, Wendy writes:  "There are many twists and turns and some surprises as we learn how all of these lives intertwine.  I enjoyed this novel very much and will be sharing my review over at Foodies Read as well."

Now for something savory.   Delaware Girl Eats created a Swiss Chard and Leek Gratin.  Focusing on the setting of the novel, the Blue Ridge Mountains, her recipe was  "inspired by the vegetable casseroles of this region, cheating just a little to add a meat ingredient, which is Italian sausage, to make the dish a little heartier.  While spinach can be used as the key ingredient, I chose to add Swiss Chard instead.  It's often referenced in Blue Ridge recipes and although we typically think of Swiss Chard as an Italian ingredient, it works perfectly well in this gratin."

CTB Co-Host Claudia (Honey from Rock) also made a savory offering.   Her Bacon Biscuits sound absolutely heavenly.  
The very first food mention was, I believe on page 42 (Kindle version), biscuits stuffed with Virginia ham.  That was, in the end, my choice to do a riff on.  My own Scotch Irish ancestors also settled in the Virginia area and, coincidentally, this is a very traditional recipe in that region of our country.  I posted the Scottish original version a few years ago - Aberdeen Butteries - made with yeast, and remembered how delicious they were.  So now we have the Southern incarnation, in biscuits.  Mine reverts to bacon, as I cure it myself, so there's more of a connection in that homemade aspect, as well as deriving from the Scotch original.
Glad you were inspired to make these!

Simona (briciole) is another Co-Host.   She's continuing with savory and contributed a Vegan Zucchini Side dish to our Honeysuckle Season table.   

Simona was familiar with the author and featured her in a "post last year with her novel Winter Cottage2. Both novels are centered around a mansion, whose walls know secrets that the reader learns as chapter follows chapter and the story moves back and forth between present and past."

I may be picking up that book next.  

Let's end our round-up today with a couple of beverages.

Deb, from Kahakai Kitchen (and another Co-Host) stirred up some Honeysuckle Lemonade.  

Sounds lovely, sweet and refreshing.  "For my bookish dish, I decided to combine the lemonade mentioned in the book with the honeysuckle syrup used in the moonshine. Since honeysuckle flowers are not easy to come by here, I ordered some dried honeysuckle flowers from Amazon.  There's a recipe for the syrup in the book but I kind of did my own thing in terms of proportions. I also made a very tart lemonade to mix with the syrup--just so it wasn't over-sweet."

I'll end the Round Up today with my Honeysuckle Season Cocktail.  I was inspired, of course, by the honeysuckle from the title (and the moonshine) plus good Kentucky bourbon.  
I didn't use dried honeysuckle blossoms like Camilla, Wendy, and Deb.  Instead I used honeysuckle tea bags.  

Thanks to everyone who participated this round.  Simona is hosting  97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement by Jane Ziegelman.   You can read the announcement post here.  





Wednesday, June 2, 2021

June/July selection: 97 Orchard by Jane Ziegelman

Among the proposals on our blog's Suggested Reading page, the title 97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement by Jane Ziegelman intrigued me, so I chose it as my selection for this round. As with other titles in past editions, this book provides a historical perspective on the foods we bring on our table. Thank you, Lynda, for the suggestion.


A good part of the book's appeal is due to the fact that I am an immigrant myself and have direct experience of, and perspective on, the process of transplanting one's culinary traditions into another country's soil


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.

You may also find this interview with the author aired on NPR of interest. 

I am looking forward to reading this book and being inspired by it in the kitchen with all of you.

The deadline for contributing your post: Saturday, July 31, 2021.

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.

Simona

Saturday, April 3, 2021

The April/May Selection: Honeysuckle Season by Mary Ellen Taylor

The pandemic has caused or rather allowed me to pick up some books I normally wouldn't have read.  One of these is Honeysuckle Season by Mary Ellen Taylor.  There was so much food mentioned in the book I decided to use it for the April/May edition for Cook the Books.   


From the Publisher:

From bestselling author Mary Ellen Taylor comes a story about profound loss, hard truths, and an overgrown greenhouse full of old secrets.

Adrift in the wake of her father’s death, a failed marriage, and multiple miscarriages, Libby McKenzie feels truly alone. Though her new life as a wedding photographer provides a semblance of purpose, it’s also a distraction from her profound pain.

When asked to photograph a wedding at the historic Woodmont estate, Libby meets the owner, Elaine Grant. Hoping to open Woodmont to the public, Elaine has employed young widower Colton Reese to help restore the grounds and asks Libby to photograph the process. Libby is immediately drawn to the old greenhouse shrouded in honeysuckle vines.

As Libby forms relationships and explores the overgrown—yet hauntingly beautiful—Woodmont estate, she finds the emotional courage to sort through her father’s office. There she discovers a letter that changes everything she knows about her parents, herself, and the estate. Beneath the vines of the old greenhouse lie generations of secrets, and it’s up to Libby to tend to the fruits born of long-buried seeds.

About the author:

A southerner by birth, Mary Ellen Taylor’s love of her home state, Virginia, is evident in her contemporary women’s fiction, including Winter Cottage, Spring House and her latest Honeysuckle Season and The Words We Whisper. She’s also celebrated the city of Alexandria and its storied history in her books The Union Street BakerySweet Expectations,  At the Corner of King Street and The View from Prince Street.

As do so many people, her protagonists search for their place in the world, exploring issues of family, home, love and belonging. Inevitably, Mary Ellen’s stories entwine with those of the places in which they’re set, and the mysteries at their core span past and present.

Mary Ellen is also known nationally as New York Times and USA Today bestselling suspense novelist Mary Burton. Together, they have published forty-five novels and five novellas. Mary Burton’s latest, Near You, debuts April 2021.

When not traveling or holed up writing, Mary Ellen spends time with her husband enjoying their empty nest and spoiling their miniature dachshunds, Buddy, Bella and Tiki.


 As always, Cook the Books is open to anyone.  Just pick up the latest selection, read and get inspired.  Whip up a dish sparked by your reading and post during April or May.  For more information and guidelines, click here.

Note that there are recipes listed at the end of the novel for Buttermilk Pie, Chess Pie, Honeysuckle Syrup, and Lemon Cake.   There's a huge amount of food mentioned in the book, too, everything from scrambled eggs to home baked goodness.   The e-book is free if you have Kindle Unlimited or only $4.99 to purchase on Amazon.  (Or, you can be like me and rediscover your library and their curbside pick-up options.)

Deadline for contributing is May 31, 2021.  Just leave a comment with your link below OR email me at eliotseats@gmail.com prior to the deadline.  I can't wait to see what Southern favorites or floral concoctions are posted.

Happy Spring!

                            ---Debra


Thursday, April 1, 2021

Where I Come From: The Round-up


Our latest Cook the Books Club selection for February/March, a memoir, Where I Come From - Life Lessons from a Latino Chef, has been a truly spicy ride with Aaron Sanchez.  Also a sometimes rocky ride, as his life has had its share of ups and downs. He is a chef, well known TV personality and the author of several cookbooks.  Everyone seemed to get into the spirit of the occasion, and we are now looking at a wonderful feast of delectable inspirations gleaned from our reading.  Come along and enjoy the fiesta, as there is something for everyone here.  


First in this time was Cathy of Delaware Girl Eats, who put together two versions of Swiss Chard and Beans, one from her grandfather and one from our book. Actually, they both sound excellent.  Cathy quoted a passage from the memoir she found interesting, Aaron says, “When I come up with a new dish, a combination of hand-picked ingredients that I’d invented and written down, researched and painstakingly put together with meticulous care, or even something I’d come up with on the fly – and it worked perfectly in the plate and on the palate - every single one of those memories is a moment of magic. Of fulfilment. Of pride and of purpose.” Perhaps this is what drives him to continue to pursue cooking even as a nationally-known TV figure. " She had mixed feelings about the book though, saying that it "contained interesting tidbits but also lots of swearing and trivial information."


Amy of Amy's Cooking Adventures, arrived next bringing a batch of tasty looking Chicken Wings. She was going to make Aaron's version, but remembered having her mom's recipe, which she had never tried, so went with that.  She enjoyed the book and says, that after reading it, "I was impressed. The memoir was well-written and gave a lot of insight into Sanchez’s past. It gave the chef I’d seen on Chopped a lot more dimension. I feel like I will watch old episodes of that show with fresh eyes."


Camilla, of Culinary Adventures with Camilla, whipped up a fantastic sounding batch of Fire and Ice Ceviche, her version of Aaron's recipe.  She clearly enjoyed the book, saying "his story was absolutely wonderful." And that his writing "blends together culinary history, food commentary, and personal experience just as he would blend together a multitude of ingredients to create a delicious dish."



I Claudia, of Honey from Rock, got inspired right from the get go, and came in fairly early with Aaron's Hominy Stew, a tasty pot of  Sautéed Hominy with Pico de Gallo and Oregano.  The book was certainly inspiring from a cooking standpoint, even though some of his ups and downs in life, like many of our lives, were sad and mistakes were undoubtedly made. A truly honest memoir.  But the FOOD!!  And, the creative, innovative restaurants where he worked and later owned.  To die for!


Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm made us a spicy Butternut Squash and Brussels Sprouts Salad also from Aaron's memoir. She says, "... you don't know the real Aaron Sanchez until you hear his story in his own words. I have always liked Aaron and the way he interacted with others, always being kind and gentle in a world where yelling and screaming obscenities is often the norm. Reading his story makes me wish I could have an opportunity to meet him in person and chat over a glass of rose which seems to be his preferred wine."


Next up was Debra of Eliot's Eats with a batch of really incredible sounding burritos -  Uncle Tio’s Famous Chile Con Carne Colorado-Style Burritos. Oh Yes!!  She says, "Sánchez doesn’t romanticize the trials and tribulations of working in and owning restaurants or his Food Network celebrity rise. In fact, he attributes the financial fluidity of some of his restaurants to the extra income coming in from his FN gigs.  I also appreciated his honest narration."


Deb of Kahakai Kitchen arrived with an unusual Mexican pasta dish, Sopa Seca, (dry soup) adapted from Aaron Sanchez's Food Network connection. I think this will be hitting our dinner table very soon!  A quick and easy but delicious riff.  Deb remarked that she had always liked Aaron Sanchez from his TV shows, and, with regard to the book,  "I found myself more interested in his account of the early Food Network and the early "chefs as celebrities" days and his restaurant experiences than I did his personal life--especially his teenage machismo stories, but he does spin a good story." 


And, last but not least, Simona brought us a refreshing (after all the spicy dishes)  Salad of Roasted beets, Blood Orange, Avocado and Daikon. She, along with another of our contributors, had more of a connection with Zarela, Aaron's mother, and noted  that though "It was interesting to read her story told by her son", none of his recipes were "along the lines of what I cook".

I hope you all enjoy sampling these tasty creations from our food roundup of this Cook the Books Club selection.  Next up is Honeysuckle Season by Mary Ellen Taylor, which is being hosted by Debra of Eliot's Eats.  Be sure to check out the book and join in with us.  The deadline will be May 31st.  Open to all!  For more information see the Guidlines page.