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 prior to the deadline.  I can't wait to see what Southern favorites or floral concoctions are posted.

Happy Spring!


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.