Friday, February 5, 2021

Our February/March Selection: Where I Come From - Life Lessons from a Latino Chef

There are several world cuisines I admit to favoring over all others, so okay call me biased.  Mexican, or I should say Latino food, is one of the chosen few, which brought to my notice this memoir, sounding so very intriguing, by celebrity chef, Aaron Sánchez, Where I Come From: - Life Lessons from a Latino Chef,  I'm still looking forward to actually reading the book, though now near to the top in our library wait list.  I love that it's a combination of memoir and recipes for his fabulous food.  Can't wait to get cookin', right along with you all.- Mexican, Cuban, Caribbean, etc. Oh Boy!

From the Library Journal:  "In this memoir by celebrity chef Sánchez (Simple Food, Big Flavor), the author shares stories about his early years living with his mother, Zarela Martinez-Gabilondo, a celebrated chef-restaurateur in her own right. Following in Zarela's footsteps, Sánchez knew at a young age that he wanted to be a chef. After getting into some trouble, he was sent to New Orleans for a summer, where he learned the basics and grunt work of cooking in the kitchen of famed chef Paul Prudhomme. Through this experience, Sánchez fell in love with cooking and started out in the kitchens of some of New York's famed restaurants. Sánchez credits many of the chefs and restaurateurs of these establishments with influencing his culinary style and career. He explains the ups and downs of trying to open a successful restaurant while also trying to sustain personal relationships. Some of the triumphs touched on include moving to New Orleans to open his restaurant, Johnny Sánchez. In addition, the book contains several delicious recipes, including one for seafood étouffée."

Posting deadline for this selection is Wednesday, March 31st to read and post your inspired dish.  Something else I'm absolutely looking forward to -  seeing what everyone comes up with.  My mouth is watering already!

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

New participants are very welcome to join in here at Cook the Books: just pick up a copy of the selection from your local bookstore or library, find inspiration from your reading, then cook and post about the book and your dish.  Be sure to check out our Guidelines page if you have any questions.

Enjoy your reading and cooking!


Honey from Rock


Thursday, February 4, 2021

Eat Joy: The Roundup

It's roundup time for our December/January pick Eat Joy: Stories & Comfort Food From 31 Celebrated Writers, Edited by Natalie Eve Garrett (2019)

Whether our Cook the Books participants loved, liked or disliked the book, for sure it inspired some delicious comfort food dishes. Let's dig in!  

Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla was our first entry, saying "December is a good time to read a collection of short stories or essays. With the mayhem of the season, it's nice to be able to digest something standalone instead of having to keep track of a story over a period of days punctuated by not picking up a book at all! This one was a delight." Camilla found lots of recipe inspiration but selected one to make, "However, for this event, it was Lev Grossman's passage about General Tso's Tofu that actually sent me into the kitchen. Grossman is living in his divorce apartment and living on take-out. ... Over dinner I read the passages about my inspiration. The family commented: we were wondering why you were frying things. And, my favorite feedback, "This tastes like it could have come from a Chinese restaurant!" I'll take it." 

Wendy of A Day in the Life on a Farm enjoyed the book saying "Thirty one different authors, all with their own writing style share a memory with us and talk about the food or foods involved with that memory. I, personally, love food memories. There is something about preparing and sharing food with loved ones that make you feel secure and loved when thinking back on them." For her dish, Wendy made Cuban Batidos, inspired by one of  the essays and memories of her childhood,saying "Sweet and frothy this fruity Cuban drink reminds me of the Orange Julius' that used to be in stands in the center of every mall in America. Not quite as thick as a smoothie but just as delicious."

Simona of briciole felt that Eat Joy "is a pleasant read, a reminder of our deep connection with food which crosses nationalities and cultures and brings us together as humans." For her dish, Simona turned turned to Romanesco Broccoli Soup saying, "Seeing as winter is here and storms lash out at the Northern California coast, soup is the food that right now brings me most comfort. I am actually a year-round soup eater ... but in the winter months, soup becomes a constant. My mother would make minestrone fairly regularly but only rarely would she purée vegetables to make passato di verdure. I loved the latter, smooth and silky. It's a familiar story: we crave what is unusual, rarely tasted. I carried this hankering for smooth soups to adulthood and even now, the last step, when the immersion blender does its magic, is the most satisfying."

Amy of Amy's Cooking Adventures didn't find the book to be her cup of tea, finding it "Just awful. For a book with "Joy" in the title, this book was sure a downer. The stories ranged from melancholy (at best) to depressing to self absorbed and self-congratulatory." On a brighter note, it did inspire her to make a fabulous Chicken Alfredo Tortellini Soup. Amy says, "Is there anything better than soup in the winter? This one has it all.  Chicken, cheese tortellini, and the broth tastes just like alfredo sauce! It is divine!" (So much so I ended up making a vegetarian version--accidentally copying Amy's recipe idea. Sorry Amy! An apology for you is below).


Cathy of Delaware Eats is back with us for this round and chose her dish from Bake Your Fear by Rakesh Satyal finding, "Rakesh’s premise is that baking is therapeutic. While the piece is about pie, the same theory applies to baking a torte.I certainly find that the mixing of ingredients, handling the dough and then tasting the delicious outcome provides that peace." Cathy baked a gorgeous Blueberry Torte saying, "I chose to make a dish that my grandmother often prepared, a blueberry torte. Blueberries are perennial plants and a relative of cranberries and huckleberries.  Not only being highly delicious, they are also highly nutritious.Isn’t it great that you can achieve a double win from a single fruit?"

Claudia of Honey From Rock liked the book overall, "Of course, with any compilation of essays, by various authors, there are going to be some you love, some you really like, a few you don't get all that excited about, and some you might skip over, if not actually dislike. There were enough here to make for an enjoyable read, to open up a door of understanding with uncomfortable subjects, some new information, and a bit of just good humor." For her bookish dish, Claudia said found the recipe she "finally decided to post, based on the last suggestion in the book, a yummy pot of Gumbo, from The Boudin Trail by Natalie Baszile. Mine is a Gumbo Z'herbes,more greens and herbs than meat, loosely based on the recipe in Jubilee by Toni Tipton-Martin.


Debra of Eliot's Eats says "We continue to need a lot of joy so this was a great selection.The first essay that resonated with me was “Comfort with Eggs” by Laura Van Den Berg. I was drawn to it just because, I mean, eggs are comforting." Debra made a Spinach & Feta Frittata saying, "Van Den Berg was anorexic as a teenager and had a difficult time seeing eggs as more than “seventy-five calories. She’s also a self-admitted non-cooker. As she moves home as an adult to help her mom recover from knee surgery, she’s reminded of a frittata a friend made upon learning her father had had a stroke. Van Den Berg remembers an “adult goal” she had written years before: “learn to offer sustenance to yourself and others in a time of crisis or really any time” (10). She connects with the unconditional love that can be conveyed in cooking and sharing meals as she looks at her mother and husband enjoying this simple dish. Here’s a slightly adapted version of what she made." 

So Debra actually read two books when she picked up the editor's other book, The Artists' and Writers' Cookbook first, thinking it was our CTB pick. I think it's worth including both dishes, especially since this book edged out Eat Joy for her. She says, "This book was a joy to read (even though I was supposed to be reading Eat Joy). I’m anxious to cook more from it. The recipe reading is as good as or better in some cases as the actual essay.The illustrations were clever, too." For this book, Debra made Potato Soup based on Alice Hoffman's "My Grandmother's Recipe for Life."

Rahda of The Magical Ingredients for a Wholesome Life From the Heart of My Home joins us this round. Welcome! She enjoyed the book saying, "Food brings everyone together. It helps enjoy your happiness, overcome your fears, and comforts loss. This book is about that. When I read the authors describing their experiences, every time my mind connected everything with my mom." Rahda made a dish with her mom's favorite, eggplant, and said, "I decided to share the recipe of Bhagara Baingan as this gives me comfort and happiness. Food helps us enjoy happier times as well as cope up with difficult times. Sharing this recipe makes a lot of sense to me.."

Finally, at Kahakai Kitchen, I must apologize to Amy that I absentmindedly made a meat-free version of the same Tortellini Alfredo Soup that she made! I hadn't looked at her post since she sent it and in a crazy month it totally slipped my mind (but must have been in the back of it somewhere) because when it came to making a comfort soup, I thought it would be clever to combine the Alfredo Sauce and Tortellini Soup mentioned in an essay. It was clever ,but it was Amy's Cooking Adventures clever. I have gone back and noted that fact in my post. It was unintended recipe idea stealing, I promise, and we took different recipes and routes to get there but the only reason I am not completely sorry it that it is...REALLY GOOD SOUP!

Mahalo to all who joined in for this round of Cook the Books! I think I got everyone who submitted, either through comments or by emailing me but if I missed you, please let me know.

I'm handing over the reins to my fellow Hawaii co-host, Claudia of Honey From Rock who is hosting our February/March pick, Where I Come From: Life Lessons from a Latino Chef by Aaron Sanchez. Submissions are due by Wednesday, March 31. 

Aloha and happy reading and eating!

Kahakai Kitchen