Saturday, December 9, 2023

December/January Pick: Undercooked by Dan Adhoot

Welcome to the holiday season at Cook the Books.   I'm hosting the December/January round.  It never occurred to me to pick a holiday themed book.   I guess I should have considered some holiday classics or a holiday cookbook.  Instead I selected Undercooked: How I Let Food Become My Life Navigator and How Maybe That's a Dumb Way to Live by Dan Ahdoot (March 2023).   

I chose Undercooked after listening to the “Eating with Funny People” episode of Splendid Table where comedian Dan Ahdoot and his new book were featured. Undercooked is a compilation of essays regarding his connection with food and his family and his relationships.

From the publisher: Despite an impressive résumé as an actor and writer, Dan Ahdoot realized that food has been the through line in the most important moments of his life. Growing up as a middle child, Ahdoot struggled to find his place in the family until he and his father discovered their shared love for la gourmandise. But when the tragic death of his brother pushed his parents to strengthen their Jewish faith and adopt a strictly kosher diet, Ahdoot and his father lost that savored connection.

To fill the absence left by his brother and father, Ahdoot began to obsess over food and make it central in all his relationships. This, he admits, is probably crazy, but it makes for good stories. From breaking up with girlfriends over dietary restrictions, to hunting just off the Long Island Expressway, to savoring his grandmother’s magical food that was his only tactile connection to his family’s home country of Iran, to jetting off to Italy to dine at the one of the world’s best restaurants, only to send the risotto back, Ahdoot’s droll observations on his unconventional adventures bring an absurdly funny yet heartfelt look at what happens when you let your stomach be your guide.

I hope you enjoy.  There is a lot of humor in this book (along with the sadness mentioned above in the publisher's blurb).   I've only read the sample version on my Kindle but I can't wait to pick it back up.

Debra, Eliot's Eats

Deadline for contributing your post is Wednesday, January 31, 2024.  Just comment below with your link.  

Saturday, December 2, 2023

The City Baker's Guide to Country Living: The Roundup

As mentioned in my original pick overview, for The City Baker's Guide to Country Living, the novel truly did sound the double horn: foodie fiction, with good plot and character driven writingI really enjoyed this book.  It was a lovely break from the normal working routine around here, as is every good book.  It's why I read!  

So, away we go with Roundup time!  An online dinner party, where we all contribute a dish.  Sort of like a virtual potluck. Though you could almost call this one a dessert potluck.  All are the creative and inspired posts from our current book selection contributors, just teasers here.  Be sure to go to the various links and check out their whole posts.  In order of appearance we have: 

Camilla, of Culinary Cam, who came in with three dishes, two in the dessert category; Pumpkin Pie Creme Brûlée and Lattice topped Apple Pie, and in appetizers, Savory Popovers! Wow! Winners all.  She commented: "This is a quick, breezy read that's perfect for the season. As you can imagine, there is a lot of food in this novel." And in her post as well.

Next, Wendy, of A Day in the Life on the Farm, brought us a delicious dessert, some very delightful sounding and looking Apple Pie Cookies!  I think I would (will, as they are on the TBM list) like these a lot!  She had this to say about the book: "It is a fun easy read, perfect for picking up on a quiet weekend as it only takes a day or two to read."

I, Claudia of Honey from Rock, came up with a dish of Stuffed Mini Pumpkins, inspired by the protagonist's Pumpkin Creme Brûlées baked in mini pumpkins, which I made into a savory version, and filled with a tasty mixture of mushrooms, Swiss chard and several different cheeses.  About the book, I mentioned that it was "A fun, food filled and romantic light read. Nothing too serious, but still encouraging for anyone wanting to begin again, or starting a new project in a new place. I enjoyed it and found lots of delicious cooking inspiration."  

Then Cathy of Delaware Girl Eats, arrived with, yes, a delectable dessert, Apple Cranberry Bundt Cake, which sounds so good!  I am more than ready for some.  Right now!  She remarked about the judging of desserts that took place in the novel, "Thank goodness I didn’t have to go through that process because in the end desserts are judged on so many personal factors like memories they evoke and just plain tastiness." So true.

Next, predictably with another dessert, we have Amy of Amy's Cooking Adventures who brought us Mini Cherry Pies.  Oh boy!  We're certainly getting some yummy sounding treats.  She thought the book was "Ultra sappy but engaging." Hopefully, her pies made it all worthwhile, they do look very good.  

The famous Marge of The Intrepid Reader and Baker, fame also brought us a dessert, Apple Turnovers! They look amazing! She said about the book; "I read it while I was on holidays and I thoroughly enjoyed it. With some books you know from the first chapter that it is your kind of book, and this was one of those books."

Then Simona of Bricole came along with a very interesting post and a savory dish of Farrecchiata with Cheese.  It's about a virtually unknown type of legume made into a version of polenta.  She says: "I don't have a sweet tooth and we don't eat dessert at home, so I looked for inspiration elsewhere, namely in the weather: it's cold in Guthrie in the winter, and it snows a lot. Growing up, my father would describe a cold day as "polenta day," a not-so-subtle hint to my mother to prepare one of his favorite dishes." 

And,  to round things off, Debra of Eliot's Eats brought us a lovely Harvest Salad, with a Maple-Balsamic Vinaigrette, inspired by a Harvest Dinner Salad mentioned in the book, only with fresh apples.  Perfect for our virtual feast!  She observed that "The City Baker’s Guide is a tale about simple living in a small town in Vermont with a happy ending.  Yes, it could be a Hallmark movie…but you know something? I think I would watch it."

Finally, just under the wire, Deb of Kahakai Kitchen arrived with a comforting Creamy Potato and Spinach Soup, inspired by the weather in the New England town, as was Simona.  She says, "Overall, I enjoyed this story as books where starting over in a small town/community or starting over, in general, are my jam, especially where food is involved. I do admit to not liking Olivia much when the book started, but she grew on me as the story continued."

That's all folks!  A marvelous selection of dishes, thanks all of you who contributed, though if I missed anyone, please let me know.  Now, stay tuned, Debra of Eliot's Eats will be heading up our next pick, for December/January: Undercooked: How I Let Food Become My Life Navigator and How Maybe That's a Dumb Way to Live by Dan Ahdoot.

Monday, October 2, 2023

October/November Pick - The City Baker's Guide to Country Living

It's that time again!  A new selection here at Cook the Books Club!  The City Baker's Guide to Country Living, by Louise Miller.  A new one for me as well.  I only recently heard about this novel so haven't read it yet, but am definitely looking forward to getting into the book along with you all. From the reviews, it sounded the double horn: foodie fiction, with good plot and character driven writing. 

Review from the Library Journal: 
"Flambéed" is an apt description of both Olivia's career and personal life. The pastry chef for a four-star Boston dinner club flees in the aftermath of a meringue pie mishap. Worse yet, she's been jilted and humiliated by the club's president after she is exposed as his side interest. Nursing a wounded ego and a serious craving for a slice of key lime, Olivia lands in Guthrie, VT, home of her longtime best friend, where she astounds herself by accepting a job at the local inn. An embittered spinster and county fair ribbon winner who lost the only thing that really mattered, a wise elderly banjo player, and Martin, a charming, bespectacled man with a checkered history of ditching town, all school Olivia in the art of small-town living. VERDICT Mix in one part Diane Mott -Davidson's delightful culinary adventures with several tablespoons of Jan Karon's country living and quirky characters, bake at 350 degrees for one rich and warm romance. Fans of Jeanne Ray and Judith Ryan Hendricks will enjoy this lighthearted love story that's as homey as a slice of prized crumb apple pie."

I  hope you enjoy the reading and will join in with our Foodie Read party for this selection. Please remember to comment below with your link.  Deadline for contributing your post is Thursday, November 30, 2023
Claudia, Honey From Rock

Love & Saffron: The Roundup

Happy October! I'll be rounding up our Cook the Books August/September selection Love & Saffron: A Novel of Friendship, Food & Love by Kim Fay. I'm so glad so many of you enjoyed the book and the friendship between Joan and Imogen. It certainly inspired some delicious dishes!

Amy of Amy's Kitchen Adventures said,  "This is one of those books that is simply "ok". There's nothing wrong with it (yes, Immy's storyline was very predictable and Joan's was a bit odd) but it's not a super captivating page turner either." For her dish, Amy said, "Of the more “exotic” (for the time at least) recipes mentioned in the book, Jamaican Jerk Chicken stood out. A few months ago, Hubs and I took a long overdue trip (just us, no kids) to Daytona Beach, FL. After an afternoon  of beach walking, we had dinner at a beachside restaurant with deck seating and live music and I ordered a Jerk Chicken Salad. It was delicious and perfect after walking for a few hours! With the further inspiration from the book,I decided to recreate that salad at home!"

Camilla of Culinary Cam said, "I devoured Love & Saffron in a single sitting. It had delicious prose and embodied the spirit of a true friendship between two women in a sisterhood that they chose. I figured it was the perfect opportunity to revisit a few dishes that I made for one of my very best friends." Camilla's saffron-infused dinner included Savory Ricotta Cupcakes with a Saffron Salsa,Whitefish B'stilla and Saffron-Cardamom Ice Cream. Check out all the photos and recipes on her post.

Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm said, "Let me start off this review by saying I LOVED this quick, easy read. It is perfect for the dog days of summer. It is written, for the most part, in a series of letters that span through the years. These letters foster a close friendship between Joan and Imogen even though there is a 30-year difference in their ages." Wendy made Joan's Quesadillas, saying, "As a bonus, the women share recipes with each other, and thus the author shares recipes with the readers. One of these recipes was Quesadillas provided by Joan to Imogen. These quesadillas, like the others, are easy to make, budget-friendly, quick, and delicious. I would recommend both the recipe and the novel."  

Claudia of Honey From Rock said, "It was also a reminder of the friendships in my own life, those I communicate with daily.  Particularly a good friend of many years, just recently more closely reconnected with. We now email back and forth about what we're cooking, planting, research of the various aspects of it all, and food we're experimenting with; occasionally visiting local farmers markets, and sharing meals. Claudia's Ulu and Deconstructed Kebabs came from the following, "Immy was lamenting her many trips to the big city wasted, eating Dick's burgers when she could have been relishing shish kebab at the Turkish restaurant. So, that's what I made last night with some boneless lamb sirloin steaks. Only in my version, deconstructed like my kitchen, the meat was left in largish pieces!  I believe in simplifying when possible. Also instead of the pita bread side, breadfruit was substituted."

Debra of Eliot's Eats enjoyed the book saying, "You can see there is a bit of international flair along with 1960s staples like those sad jello molds. Both Joan and Imogene are adventurous epicures who spur each other on to try new things. It was interesting that garlic, limes, tortillas and other things we take for granted as staples were hard to find. Or how very few people even knew about Mexican food." Debra chose a recipe from the book saying, "I had to try one of the Mexican recipes and I had lofty plans to make carne asada and the One-Bean Salad. Time was once again my enemy so I went only with the salad with a few modifications. This recipe is listed in the back of the novel. “The one-bean is the pinto, which is fundamental to Mexican cookery. Nopales are tender portions of cactus that are sold fresh or canned in little green dice in Mexican markets.

Marg of The Intrepid Reader said, "I don't participate in Cook the Books all the time, but this month I was able to read the book, and it is a case of reading a book that I might not otherwise have read! When I started this book, I knew straight away that I was going to enjoy it! And I did!  There were a number of recipes shared in the text, as well as mentions of specific dishes but in the end we decided to go with a dish from a cuisine rather than a specific dish. Throughout the story, there was discussion about the influence of Mexican flavours so we decided to make a version of Beef Enchiladas from the Recipetin Eats: Dinner cookbook that we are still cooking so many recipes from!"

Cathy of Delaware Girl Eats liked the book and the mention of Julia Child in one of the letters, saying, This characterization of Julia and her groundbreaking program cracked me up in that it was so dead on." For her contribution, Cathy made Mini Citrusy Cheesecakes, noting, "Although the cheesecake recipe isn’t mentioned in the book, I felt Julia deserved some acclaim. So below is an adaptation of mini-cheesecakes inspired by my friend and partnered with Julia’s usual wisdom."

Muffins 9-18-23

Simona of briciole said, "During the course of the novel, Joan starts exploring the food scene of Los Angeles and Imogen's husband learns to cook, aided, in part, by a friendship that develops between him and Angelo Pellegrini, whose The Unprejudiced Palate ("a book on bread and wine in relation to life") was a Cook the Books Club's selection some years ago. ... There are a number of foods mentioned ... and some recipes, none of which I wished to replicate. Instead, Joan's love story with Mateo and her appreciation, through him, of Mexican food, reminded me of a dish I had wanted to make for a while: chimichurri. I thought it would be great on Francis's (Imogen's husband) omelettes. Except that, once I re-read the article that sparked my interest, I realized the sauce is from Argentina, not Mexico: too late, my mind was set and Chimichurri it was."

Finally, at Kahakai Kitchen, I enjoyed this book and found it an engaging read. For my book inspired dish, I ended up going with curry. Joan wrote, "At Stanford I was drawn to students from India because they cooked up little pots of curry in their rooms." I too am drawn to the smells of a delicious curry and I love how easy it is to knock one together. I decided on an old favorite, Aloo Gobi Matar which is simple potatoes, cauliflower and peas in a dryish simple tomato curry, served with rice. 

I believe I captured everyone's entries, but if I missed anyone, please let me know. As usual, I wish we could have a Cook the Books potluck and try all of these delectable-looking recipes. Thank you for joining in this round!

For our October/November, Claudia from Honey from Rock will be hosting with The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller. We hope you join us!

Happy Reading and Cooking!

Kahakai Kitchen

Monday, August 7, 2023

August/September Pick: Love & Saffron

Our August/September pick is Love & Saffron: A Novel of Friendship, Food, and Love by Kim Fay. This one is a newer book (pub February 2023), but it went immediately on my TBR list when it came out, and I am excited to read it with all of you! 

Publisher's Blurb:

In the vein of the classic 84, Charing Cross Road, this witty and tender novel is a sensuous experience of food and a deep friendship between two very different women in 1960s America.

Two strangers. One recipe. A friendship for the ages.

Creamy risotto alla Milanese. Mussels in a hot, buttery broth. Chicken spiced with cinnamon and cloves. Joan Bergstrom and Imogen Fortier understand the key to a savored life—delicious food. Young Joan is just discovering herself as a foodwriter in bustling Los Angeles, while experienced columnist Imogen is settled in her decades-long marriage on Camano Island outside Seattle. When Joan sends a fan letter to Imogen with an enclosed packet of saffron and a recipe, their journey of culinary exploration and soul-deep friendship begins. A long-lost flavor surfaces buried memories, and a quest to make carne asada opens the doors of a sheltered life. Into this beautiful, intimate world comes the ultimate test of their friendship, and of their belief that food and love can sustain us during our darkest hours.

I love a good epistolary novel and when you add in food and friendship, it sounds like a perfect end-of-summer read to me. I look forward to seeing what delicious dishes that you all are inspired to make!

To join in this Cook the Books Club round, just read the book, make a dish inspired by your reading, and submit it by our deadline of Saturday, September 30th. 

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

Happy Reading & Cooking!

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Food Americana: The Roundup

It's time for the roundup of Cook the Books' Club June-July edition for which we read Food Americana by David Page. 
As I've done in the past, I will present our club members' contributions as a menu organized in courses. For each dish, 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 Food Americana-Inspired Menu 

Smoked Salmon Breakfast Bagel 
Connecticut-Style Lobster Rolls
Za'atar Bagels 

Mexican Taquitos    

Three-Chile Mole
Everything But The Bagel & Nova Salmon Cottage Cheese Bowl
Ethiopian Red Lentil Stew

No Churn Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Avocado Sherbet

Make yourself comfortable and enjoy the menu.

"The food descriptions were remarkable, the history interesting and the personalities of the people who brought and introduced the foods to America were charming.  The only problem with this book was that I came back from each walk starving and ate up all the calories I had just burned LOL... My recipe was taken from the chapter where we met Russ and Daughters who introduced bagels and lox to New York City.  I had everything on hand that I needed for this sandwich that I enjoyed for lunch after my morning walk."

"Page details and I already knew there were two distinct kinds of lobster rolls: Maine-style vs. Connecticut-style. After testing both, I realized... I vastly prefer Connecticut lobster rolls!... Maine-style lobster rolls are served cold, tossed in a mixture of mayonnaise, tarragon, celery, and scallions. Served on a buttered, toasted bun, this is the kind of lobster roll you'll likely find most easily. Connecticut-style lobster rolls hold the mayonnaise and bring on the butter. Yep. I'm sold already. Then they are served warm with more butter."

Camilla of Culinary Cam baked Za'atar Bagels 

"For this post, I was inspired by Page's discussion of Russ & Daughters in New York. They are 'Not just any bagel. Russ & Daughters makes their own, two-hundred-dozen a day, triple that on holidays, each bagel hand-rolled, boiled, and baked in the traditional way, on burlap-covered wooden planks in a rotating deck oven with six deep shelves...' Once I got the hang of bagels, I make them about every other week. I've made them with poppy seeds, with salt, with dried cranberries, and more. But the bagel I'm sharing today is my Za'atar-Dusted Bagel."

Cathy of Delaware Girl Eats baked an Mexican Taquitos (El Indio's Specialty)

"I’m awfully fond of Mexican cuisine and seek out the real deal when I’m in a part of the country where it’s truly authentic, in other words not along the East Coast. This is how I ended up at the El Indio Restaurant in San Diego which has been in business for over 80 years... they do indeed offer masterful Mexican food. So when I read Food Americana and saw in the chapter 'Mexican Food in the US' that this restaurant was highlighted, I read avidly about the history of the place and its long-time owner/operators who produce 'authentic Mexican food."

Camilla of Culinary Cam prepared Tree-Chile Mole 

"Mole just means sauce - a sauce made with chiles. And Cesario Ruiz of My Mom's Mole likened it to curry. 'It's a like a Mexican curry. You know, every cook has a different way of making it and each curry tastes different', Ruiz said. 'And you can taste the time, love, and passion in each one.' 'This is a big process', he says. 'You have to fry each ingredient one by one. In the end, you blend.' (Food AmericanaThis definitely takes time and I have tried to streamline the process by grouping them as they are prepared. Then they all come together in the end."

Claudia of Honey from Rock prepared A Good BBQ

"I decided to go with BBQ as my inspired dish from the book, or from life anyway.  Bob was asked to do the grilling honors on Father's Day and I made the barbecue sauce.  This sauce has a double purpose, getting grass-fed steaks tender and tasty.  We had opened a ripe (we thought) pineapple, which as it turned out was on the tart side.  Perfect I thought for helping to tenderize the meat. Pineapple has an enzyme in it called bromelain, found in the flesh of the pineapple and in the juice as well. Bromelain is a fast-working meat tenderizer that is great for tough cuts of steak. But you don't want to leave it too long, as the meat could end up on the mushy side.  Good thing the coals didn't take any longer to get ready!"

As a creator and producer of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, Page knows how to keep it interesting and I'd recommend this book to any foodie looking for a good read. Although my new job has me working from home which lessens my commute, it also means that I need to come up with quick and easy, healthy home lunches. A new favorite way to get lots of protein is making cottage cheese bowls. Cottage cheese has had a big comeback this year and has become the cauliflower of the healthy eating world. I decided to take inspiration from the chapter on bagels and make a bowl with Nova salmon and everything but the bagel-spiced cottage cheese, along with some other toppings that might be found on a bagel and some Everything But the Bagel Chips. 

Simona of briciole (your host) prepared Ethiopian Red Lentil Stew

"[T]he reading got me thinking about how living in the U.S. has brought me into contact with cuisines from around the world, of which the Ethiopian one is a favorite. So I decided to make a favorite dish among those that are served at Ethiopian restaurants when you order the vegetarian combo, which consists of an injera (the traditional flat bread made with teff flour) spread on a large plate and topped with small mounds of various dishes, one of which is Misir Wot (or Misir Wat), a spicy red lentil stew."

decided to take inspiration from the ice cream section.  I have a feeling that the ice cream chapter would have a strong opinion about no churn ice cream and its air content (but they were in to super weird flavors).  However, no churn is what I have since I’m not willing to buy an ice cream machine at this time. I’ve made several different no churn ice creams, but I've never made the classic: vanilla! As always, no churn ice cream is silky smooth with a great punch of flavor from the vanilla bean."

Debra of Eliot's Eats prepared Avocado Sherbet

"I really enjoyed learning about the history [of ice cream]. Apparently the ice cream cone 'became a sensation at the World’s Fair of 1904 and kicked off a boom in ice cream consumption nationwide' (196)... Maybe the most surprising history and testimony to ice cream’s restorative powers, came during WWII:  “'t was considered so important for America’s troops to get ice cream during World War Two that an ice cream manufacturing plant was set up on a barge in the South Pacific. Military doctors prescribed ice cream to help soldiers recover from combat fatigue' (196)... I decided to try a weird recipe that my sister found in a retro cookbook mom had when we were growing up:  Avocado Sherbet."

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. If you find anything missing or in need of amendment anywhere in the roundup, please do let me know.

And now, I’ll pass the baton to Deb of Kahakai Kitchen who is hosting the August-September edition in which we are reading the novel Love & Saffron by Kim Fay.

Arrivederci a presto!

Simona, of briciole

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Announcement: Our Next Four Selections

It's that time of our virtual book club's cycle when we unveil the next four selections, books selected by the co-hosts to (hopefully) delight and inspire you. Ready? Let's go!

Deb (Kahakai Kitchen) opens the series with Love & Saffron: A Novel of Friendship, Food and Love by Kim Fay (February 2022) for the August / September 2023 edition

I am so busy lately that picking a short book for our August / September selection seemed like a great idea, and at 240 pages, Love & Saffron: A Novel of Friendship, Food, and Love fits that description. But what really sold me on it was all the great reviews I have been seeing and that it is told in letters. I do love a good epistolary novel!

From the Publisher:
In the vein of the classic 84, Charing Cross Road, this witty and tender novel follows two women in 1960s America as they discover that food really does connect us all, and that friendship and laughter are the best medicine.

When twenty-seven-year-old Joan Bergstrom sends a fan letter—as well as a gift of saffron—to fifty-nine-year-old Imogen Fortier, a life-changing friendship begins. Joan lives in Los Angeles and is just starting out as a writer for the newspaper food pages. Imogen lives on Camano Island outside Seattle, writing a monthly column for a Pacific Northwest magazine, and while she can hunt elk and dig for clams, she’s never tasted fresh garlic--exotic fare in the Northwest of the sixties. As the two women commune through their letters, they build a closeness that sustains them through the Cuban Missile Crisis, the assassination of President Kennedy, and the unexpected in their own lives.

Food and a good life—they can’t be separated. It is a discovery the women share, not only with each other, but with the men in their lives. Because of her correspondence with Joan, Imogen’s decades-long marriage blossoms into something new and exciting, and in turn, Joan learns that true love does not always come in the form we expect it to. Into this beautiful, intimate world comes the ultimate test of Joan and Imogen’s friendship—a test that summons their unconditional trust in each other. A brief respite from our chaotic world, Love & Saffron is a gem of a novel, a reminder that food and friendship are the antidote to most any heartache and that human connection will always be worth creating. 
With inspiration like Creamy risotto alla Milanese. Mussels in a hot, buttery broth. Chicken spiced with cinnamon and cloves. Joan Bergstrom and Imogen Fortier understand the key to a savored life—delicious food.
I look forward to seeing what we can create from this one!

Deb, Kahakai Kitchen

Deadline for contributing your post is Saturday, September 30, 2023

For the October / November 2023 edition, Claudia (Honey from Rock) chose The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller (February 2021)

I just heard about this novel so haven't read it yet, but am looking forward to getting into the book along with you all. From the reviews, it sounded the double horn, foodie fiction, with good plot and character driven writing. 

From the Publishers Weekly: 
At the outset of Miller's endearing debut, 32-year-old pastry chef Olivia Rawlings loses her job after she drops a tray of baked Alaska and starts a fire at the prestigious Boston club where she works. In need of comfort, she heads to Guthrie, Vt., to visit her best friend, Hannah Doyle, who lands her a job at the nearby Sugar Maple, a picturesque inn owned by the stern yet protective Margaret Hurley. As Olivia adjusts to her new life, her growing attachment to Margaret's friends, the McCrackens-especially Martin, the fiddle-playing son-prompts her return to banjo and folk music. But even as she settles in and joins a contra dance band, she struggles to navigate the secrets, gossip, and long-held animosities that animate the town. 
Miller, a pastry chef herself, writes about food with vivid detail, but her rhythmic prose is even crisper when her interests converge: "From the stage you could see the lattice pattern the dances made, the couples weaving in and out like fluted strips of piecrust." Miller also excels at characterization, revealing her protagonist's complex pasts in subtle ways. Even minor characters such as Alfred, Olivia's coworker at the Sugar Maple, and Henry, the ailing McCracken patriarch, are sharply drawn and memorable. Throughout, the novel's empathetic spirit and unhurried pace allow it to grapple with grief, family, and belonging, while keeping the focus on Olivia's difficult decisions.

Claudia, Honey From Rock

Deadline for contributing your post is Thursday, November 30, 2023

For the December 2023 / January 2024 edition, Debra (Eliot's Eats) has chosen Undercooked: How I Let Food Become My Life Navigator and How Maybe That's a Dumb Way to Live by Dan Ahdoot (March 2023)

While I was traveling recently, I heard the “Eating with Funny People” episode of Splendid Table. Comedian Dan Ahdoot and his new book were featured. Ahdoot’s book is a compilation of essays regarding his connection with food and his family and his relationships. In the Splendid Table episode he relates the time he visited a 5-star Michelin restaurant and sent the risotto back. I’ve read everything that was available in the sample preview and have enjoyed it thus far! In the introduction Ahdoot sets the premise:
When most people say they have an unhealthy relationship with food, they mean they eat too much of it or too little. When I say I have an unhealthy relationship with food, I mean it’s what gives my life meaning. That’s a really dumb way to live your life, as the stories in this book will attest to.

I have never heard of Ahdoot, but apparently he is mildly famous. Besides being  a comic headliner, he is a frequent guest on The Tonight Show, and is currently acting on Netflix’s Cobra Kai. Ahdoot also hosted Food Network’s Raid the Fridge.   

Debra, Eliot's Eats

Deadline for contributing your post is Wednesday, January 31, 2024

To round up the list of selections, for the February / March 2024 edition Simona (briciole) chose the graphic novel Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley (April 2013)

A recent comment on our Suggested Reading page written by Deb of Readerbuzz included a title that caught my attention. When I checked the details, I saw that it is a graphic novel, so something a bit different. 

From the author's website:
In her forthright, thoughtful, and funny memoir, Lucy traces key episodes in her life thus far, framed by what she was eating at the time and lessons learned about food, cooking, and life. Each chapter is bookended with an illustrated recipe—many of them treasured family dishes, and a few of them Lucy's original inventions. 
A welcome read for anyone who ever felt more passion for a sandwich than is strictly speaking proper, Relish is a graphic novel for our time: it invites the reader to celebrate food as a connection to our bodies and a connection to the earth, rather than an enemy, a compulsion, or a consumer product. 
I'm looking forward to reading outside my habits' boundaries. 

Simona, briciole

Deadline for contributing your post: Sunday, March 31, 2024.

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 2023: Love & Saffron by Kim Fay
 (hosted by Deb at Kahakai Kitchen)

October / November 2023The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller (hosted by Claudia at Honey from Rock)
December 2023 / January 2024
 by Dan Ahdoot (hosted by Debra at Eliot's Eats)
February / March 2024
 Relish by Lucy Knisley (hosted by Simona at briciole)

Happy reading and cooking!