Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Announcement: Our Next Four Selections

Ready for another great set of reads? Here is the announcement of the next four selections of our book club. Drum roll, please!

Deb (Kahakai Kitchen) opens the series with Miss Cecily’s Recipes for Exceptional Ladies by Vicky Zimmerman (June 2020) for the December 2022 / January 2023 edition

Cook the Booksters, it’s time to help me whittle down my foodie TBR stack. According to Amazon, I purchased the e-book in October of 2020 so two years is actually not bad given the number of books I have yet to read! Besides that, I like something light for a big holiday month and the slowdown of the month after, and this book tagged as women’s fiction and friendship fiction seems like it will fit the bill. 

From the publisher: 

An unlikely friendship between two stubborn, lonely souls anchors this big-hearted book and dares us all to ask for more. 

When her life falls apart on the eve of her 40th birthday, Kate Parker finds herself volunteering at the Lauderdale House for Exceptional Ladies. There she meets 97-year-old Cecily Finn. Cecily's tongue is as sharp as her mind, but she's fed up with pretty much everything. 

Having no patience for Kate's choices in life or love, Cecily prescribes her a self-help book...of sorts. Thought for Food: an unintentionally funny 1950s cookbook high on enthusiasm, featuring menus for anything life can throw at the "easily dismayed," such as: 

  • Breakfast with a Hangover 

  • Tea for a Crotchety Aunt 

  • Dinner for a Charming Stranger

As she and Cecily break out of their ruts, Kate will learn far more than recipes. 

It has some good reviews, so I am hoping we find it enjoyable and it provides some fun inspiration in the kitchen!  

Deb, Kahakai Kitchen

Deadline for contributing your post is Tuesday, January 31, 2023

For the February / March edition, Claudia (Honey from Rock) chose The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan (February 2021)

Ryan's previous books have been delightful, and when I caught up with this one, I immediately realized it would be perfect for our Cook the Books group. During World War II the stressful times at home called up food inspiration and creativity from resourceful women and men too.

From the publishers

Two years into World War II, Britain is feeling her losses: The Nazis have won battles, the Blitz has destroyed cities, and U-boats have cut off the supply of food. In an effort to help housewives with food rationing, a BBC radio program called The Kitchen Front is holding a cooking contest—and the grand prize is a job as the program’s first-ever female co-host. For four very different women, winning the competition would present a crucial chance to change their lives.

For a young widow, it’s a chance to pay off her husband’s debts and keep a roof over her children’s heads. For a kitchen maid, it’s a chance to leave servitude and find freedom. For a lady of the manor, it’s a chance to escape her wealthy husband’s increasingly hostile behavior. And for a trained chef, it’s a chance to challenge the men at the top of her profession.

These four women are giving the competition their all—even if that sometimes means bending the rules. But with so much at stake, will the contest that aims to bring the community together only serve to break it apart?

This novel is an inspiring winner for sure. I just finished it and believe you all will enjoy it as well.

Claudia, Honey From Rock

Deadline for contributing your post is Friday, March 31, 2023

For the April / May 2023 edition, Debra (Eliot's Eats) has chosen Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (April 2022)

This past summer Lessons in Chemistry showed up on my radar. I think I was first made aware of it from a "Summer Reads" section from one of my culinary magazines. Nephew II and I were visiting an independent bookstore in July and I bought the book there. It's been sitting in my TBR stack since then. I have started it and I do love the ironic humor. The 60s fascinate me (the whole Mad Men vibe) so I'm looking forward to finishing it. Here's the abbreviated book blurb:
Elizabeth Zott is a trained chemist. In the early 60s, this is a man's world but she makes a place for herself and finds love (but maybe not acceptance). Fast forward a few years and Elizabeth is now a single mother and surprisingly enough, a television star with a beloved cooking show. Her approach is unique, “combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride." As "Supper at Six" (the title of her show)
The publisher's blurb promises "Laugh-out-loud funny, shrewdly observant, and studded with a dazzling cast of supporting characters, Lessons in Chemistry is as original and vibrant as its protagonist." From the first few pages, this has promise.

Debra, Eliot's Eats

Deadline for contributing your post is Wednesday, May 31, 2023

To round up the list of selections, for the June / July 2023 edition Simona (briciole) chose Food Americana by David Page (May 2021)

As we co-hosts confabulated about the next four selections for our long-running club this book was mentioned and I chose based on the subtitle "The Remarkable People and Incredible Stories behind America’s Favorite Dishes." It reminded me of an earlier choice I made for the club, Twain's Feast by Andrew Beahrs, which looked at foods popular in Twain's time. I thought this would be a way to jump forward to the present and look at foods popular today.  
The remarkable history of American food. What is American cuisine, what national menu do we share, what dishes have we chosen, how did they become “American,” and how are they likely to evolve from here? David Page answers all these questions and more. 
I'm looking forward to reading stories of foods that are common around me but weren't a short while ago. 

Simona, briciole

Deadline for contributing your post: Monday, July 31, 2023.

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:

December 2022 / January 2023: Miss Cecily's Recipes for Exceptional Ladies
 by Vicky Zimmerman (hosted by Deb at Kahakai Kitchen)

February / March 2023The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan (hosted by Claudia at Honey from Rock)

April / May 2023
 Lessons in Chemistry
 by Bonnie Garmus (hosted by Debra at Eliot's Eats)

June / July 2023
 Food Americana by David Page (hosted by Simona at briciole)

Happy reading and cooking!


Thursday, October 6, 2022

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Round Up

Thanks to everyone who participated in the August/September edition of Cook the Books.  It was fun to revisit a childhood classic, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.   

Since I'm late in posting the round-up, let's just jump right in.

Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm was first up with your Mock Turtle Soup.  Wendy says,  "It is the strangest soup I have ever made, containing cookies and hard boiled eggs, and it was surprisingly tasty."  That does sound strangely delicious.

Please note that Wendy has made real snapping turtle soup.  (I'm impressed.)  I also love that she mentioned her previous experience with Alice had been with the Disney version.

Camilla was up next with her colorful Mad as a Hatter Madeleines.  Her cookies look lovely but Camilla did not finish the book:  "Maybe my patience with nonsense is thinning as I get older. I found this a mind-boggling level of ridiculousness. The story wandered and the eponymous Alice was incredibly annoying."

Thanks for still persevering and participating, Cam!

Amy took a different spin and focused on Through the Looking Glass.  Amy further impressed by reading these books aloud to her teenagers.  
I decided to reread them aloud with the kids.  At 12 and & 14 they were not thrilled.  They’re both boys and all about the action, action, action.  Alice was not that.  But we were in the car on a 4000+ mile road trip (that was awesome - all in agreement) and they had no choice (my superpower is being able to read…aloud or silently…in the car).

 She focused on the Bread and Butterfly.

Toast and cheeseball!

Claudia from Honey from Rock (and one of the CTB co-hosts) was one of those among us that had never read the book in its entirety. (This seems to be a common theme.) Claudia's vintage edition included "A Christmas Greeting poem after the prologue was written 'from a fairy to a child.'"  That became her inspiration to make Fairy Cakes for the tea party.  

Tina had another vintage edition and reminded us all that "This book was a trip.  If you've ever listened to Jefferson Airplane's song White Rabbit it will sum up the feeling of traveling with Alice. 🐇"  While there were quite a few sweet treats in the tale, Tina went with trippy 'shrooms.  

Her One-Pot Mushroom Rice looks and sounds delicious.  

Marg from The Intrepid Reader reminisced about an event held for a milestone anniversary for the book. 
Reading this again reminded me of the White Night event that was held in Melbourne back in 2015. In honour of the 150th anniversary of the book being published, one of the themes for the event was Alice in Wonderland, with many of Melbourne's building being transformed into giant canvasses for projections. Here are a few of the Alice related pictures I took that night.

She posts some lovely pictures of this event.  Keeping with a tea party theme, she made a wonderful sounding Earl Grey Tea Chiffon Cake. 

Simona from briciole (another CTB co-host) was quickly inspired.   

knew immediately I'd make cookies for Alice: when I like a cookie, it's like it has EAT ME written on it. Also, in my opinion, the best foods with tea are cookies and scones, and Alice really goes with cookies.

She whipped up some delicious Brown Butter Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.   

 Co-host Deb from Kahakai Kitchen enjoyed revisiting Alice.  

The whimsy and humor of Carroll's writing made more of an impression on me as an adult, I am sure there was much of it that went completely over my had as a child. It's both weird and wonderful, making it a fun afternoon escape.

Let's return to the savory as Deb did another take on the mock turtle soup---(Very Mock Turtle) Creamy Wild Rice Soup with Green Olives.

I love the olives!

I loved Alice’s wonderment as she wandered through Wonderland.   When she grows as big as a house (or even bigger) her only thoughts are “There ought to be a book written about me, that there ought” (34).    Of course an adult would be screaming, “What is happening!!!!”   Alice just goes along for the ride.  In her world, there are no worries.  

As the host for this round of whimsical Alice and her trippy adventures, I'll end with a final savory dish:  Mystical Mushroom Pate.

Thanks to all that participated.  There were some friends we haven't seen in a while.   

We have one more book in this cycle for CTB.  Simona is hosting Cooking with Fernet BrancaStay tuned because we have started discussions about our next four books.  There's a lot of thought going into our next selections.   I think you all will enjoy!  

Saturday, October 1, 2022

October/November selection: Cooking with Fernet Branca

For the October / November 2022 edition I chose the novel Cooking with Fernet Branca by James Hamilton-Paterson (September 2005)

Right around the time when we started talking about our next selections at the beginning of this year, I read an article on The Guardian titled Top 10 cooks in fiction written by Annabel Abbs. Number 10 is Gerald Sampler, protagonist of the novel I chose:   
Gerald is a ghostwriter for C-list celebrities who likes inventing recipes. From his Tuscan hilltop he cooks with great gusto, using copious amounts of an Italian digestif called Fernet Branca. The plot is fast-paced but daft, the characters ludicrous but hilarious, and the recipes imaginative but ridiculous. Mussels in chocolate, garlic ice cream, a pie made from cat and kerosene, all doused in Fernet Branca, and described by one reviewer “lingering in the mind like poems”. This farce of a novel is a perfect reminder that no cook should take themselves too seriously.  
The New Yorker's review clarifies that two expats are the novel's main characters:
In this comic novel, two expats try to live on the same Tuscan mountaintop for the summer without killing each other: Gerald, an effete English snob and amateur cook who makes his living as a ghostwriter; and Marta, a bohemian composer from a crime family in a former Soviet republic. Hamilton-Paterson quickly seduces the reader with the perfectly captured acerbic tone and timing of Gerald and Marta’s badinage. 
I'm looking forward to reading how Gerald uses Fernet Branca in the kitchen, since when I was growing up in Italy it was strictly drunk as a digestivo (digestif).


Deadline for contributing your post: Wednesday, November 30, 2022.

Leave a comment below with a link to your post or email me at simosite AT mac DOT com

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. New participants are always welcome and so are returning ones. For more information about participating, click here.