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,

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 cafĂ© 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.