Thursday, April 6, 2023

April/May Selection: Lessons in Chemistry

I'm anxious to dive into Lessons in Chemistry: A Novel  by Bonnie Garmus, the April/May selection here at Cook the Books.  I've had this book for almost a year and a half but have only cracked the first few pages.   I liked what I read but other commitments have gotten in the way.   I'll be diving in with the rest of the CTB members.

Image from Barnes & Noble.

About the book:

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • GMA BOOK CLUB PICK  Meet Elizabeth Zott: “a gifted research chemist, absurdly self-assured and immune to social convention” (The Washington Post) in 1960s California whose career takes a detour when she becomes the unlikely star of a beloved TV cooking show. • LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY COMING FALL 2023 TO APPLE TV+

This novel is “irresistible, satisfying and full of fuel” (The New York Times Book Review) and “witty, sometimes hilarious...the Catch-22 of early feminism.” (Stephen King, via Twitter)

The New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, Oprah Daily, Entertainment Weekly, Newsweek

Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing as an average woman. But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute takes a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans; the lonely, brilliant, Nobel–prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with—of all things—her mind. True chemistry results. 

But like science, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show 
Supper at Six. Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (“combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride”) proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn’t just teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo.  

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.

I can't wait to get to the meat of this novel and I cannot wait to see what some of the more adventurous and creative members will cook up.  (No names, but you know who I mean.)  :)

Drop a line in the chat on this post with your link when you post.  Deadline for posting is May 31, 2023.    

Happy reading!


Saturday, April 1, 2023

The Kitchen Front: A Roundup

We certainly had a most enlightening and delightful read with this book, both from a culinary perspective as well as the cultural one.  And, from everyone participating, there was a good representation of period sensitive meals, as we put ourselves into the shoes of those living through the rationing and shortages of WWII. Thank you all for jumping in and taking part in this round.  Just snippets here to lead into the main events.  Please visit everyone's posts and check out the full stories by clicking onto their links.

 Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm, came in first with her Mashed Potato Dinner Rolls, which immediately went on my To Make list!  She notes, "This historical fiction novel looked at World War II from a totally different perspective and I enjoyed it very much. When I was making these dinner rolls, using leftovers from the night before, I thought they would have made a perfect recipe to share during the broadcast."  Not to mention sharing with all of us!

Amy of Amy's Cooking Adventures arrived next and brought us a very tempting supper of Chicken Cacciatore, which was likely a daring dish for WWII English families, though in the book, it came courtesy of an Italian POW.  Amy said; "This was a great take on WWII from the perspective of ordinary women who needed to survive on the home front, especially in the kitchen with food rationing in place... I always love it when novels include recipes! It’s a great way to focus culinary inspiration. The recipes in the novel appeared to take WWII rationing into account."

Simona, the author of the blog, Briciole brought us a very unusual dish, Red Beet Pakhali, made of beets and walnuts with a piquant mix of spices. She mentioned that "The book includes the competition recipes and a few others. It is interesting to read the alternatives people devised for ingredients that were in short supply, like sugar...  Red beets are mentioned several times in the book using their British name, beetroots. Audrey grows them in her garden and they are featured in a couple of the recipes provided in the book. I don't grow them, but like to get them at the farmers market." Alternative sweets from the plant world!

Next came Camilla of Culinary Cam, bringing us Cream of Mushroom Soup.  Love it!  Just about my favorite soup! As Cam notes, "Contestants needed to create an appetizer, a main dish, and a dessert using their ration books and things that they can easily forage or find. While the food is both interesting and awful - I mean, think cake without sugar or eggs. Ugh. - it's the contestants and their relationships that are the star of this book." So true, though we don't necessarily relate to some of the food, we do to the people!

Cathy from Delaware Girl Eats also prepared that fabulous stew, Chicken Cacciatore.  Oh boy! I want some like right now! As she recounts her inspiration, "In the book,.... The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan this dish plays an ongoing role. One of the leading characters, Nell, is taught to make it by the Italian POW Paolo who is among prisoners near the estate where Nell lives. For him the dish is a loving preparation and he becomes her love interest. She prepares it for the cooking contest which is central to the book." Cathy says the recipe she gives "isn’t exactly his but an adaptation based on my own preparation."


Next to arrive at The Kitchen Front was Marge, The Intrepid Reader and Baker, bringing her version of Gwendoline's Eggless Chocolate Sponge Cake.  I like her comment that she ended up sticking in her swim lane!  Desserts!  Marge remarked that, "I enjoyed watching the relationships between the women evolve; and another highlight for me was the fact that there really was a show called The Kitchen Front on the radio in WWII, and there really were cooking competitions which were designed to help lift morale." 

Debra from Eliot's Eats brought us dessert too, an Eggless Honey-Apple Cake!  Can one ever have too many desserts on hand?  She said "I enjoyed the dynamics between the four characters (or five if you count Mrs. Quince). This is a fun and light read and I enjoyed seeing them find friendship, hope and success in the kitchen during dire times in England."

 Lastly, Claudia of Honey from Rock, moi, came to the festivities with Audrey's Cornish Pasties.  Helped out with some of our wild caught pig!  I truly loved this novel, and became immersed in that World War II period, putting myself in the shoes of those who had to make do in war time, with rations, foraging and bartering. 

I believe that's it folks, with all posts in and accounted for.  Deb of Kahakai Kitchen was unable to join us for this round, and our prayers and best wishes go out to her in all that she's been going through, health wise, loss of her dear kitty companion and with a job changeover to top it all!  Take heart Deb! Things can only improve!

Watch for our upcoming selection announcement.  For the April / May 2023 edition, Debra (Eliot's Eats) has chosen Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (April 2022). I hope you all will join us for that reading round.