Thursday, June 1, 2023

Lessons In Chemistry Round-up

Welcome the the recap of recipes posted for Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus.  This novel was my pick for the April/May edition of Cook the Books.  

Image from Barnes & Noble.

To recap the novel, Elizabeth Zott is a brilliant and beautiful chemist in the 1960s* and has to fight for the right to pursue her career and passion.  Instead of a lab, she finds herself in a television studio hosting Supper at Six.  There she doles out mini-chemistry lessons and challenges children to help their mothers.   While the book tackles some heavy themes of sexism, sexual harassment and abuse, and domestic violence, it also has a fantastical feel.  Garmus creates not only strong female characters (in Zott, her friend Harriet, and even her one time nemesis, Miss Frask), but also showcases an empathetic dog and a genius 5-year-old.  There's a lot going on in this novel.  

Wendy was first to post and was prompted to make a casserole, a staple of the 1960s kitchen. 

Casseroles were very high in popularity during the 60's and Elizabeth made many of them on her show.  However, she did not use all those convenience foods that were so popular during this time much to the chagrin of her producers who were looking to woo sponsors.

Her Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole forgoes the canned soup and uses a homemade cream sauce.  

Next up was Amy's Cooking Adventures.   Amy took the whole chemistry thing seriously and created her own popping boba (or more specifically, she focused on spherification).
While Amy was prepared to not like the book and even went as far to say, "I mentally gird myself for a preachy, self congratulatory book," she did find it enjoyable.    Instead of a preachy book, Amy viewed the quirky Elizabeth as working to change the status quo by just authentically being herself (which encourages those around her to emulate her).    She rated the book 4 out of 5 stars.  Her boba experiment looks like it was a success!

Delaware Girl Eats posted something savory:  Goat Cheese Muffins with Rosemary.  Her recipe also features chives and is yogurt based.  LOVE.  Usually Cathy will morph a family recipe and make it fit the theme.    Instead, she branched out.

In the book, a reviewer says about her program Supper at Six, ”it’s a 30 minute, five day a week lesson in life.  And not in who we are or what we’re made of, but rather who we are capable of becoming”.  I liked the “becoming” part because clearly Elizabeth became someone she didn’t start out to be. 

So, in translating that to my cooking I chose a recipe I had never made before to prepare for a neighborhood gathering.

 Simona of briciole was up next with a Onion and Fava Bean Soup.  Simona doubts that Elizabeth would have featured this recipe on Supper at Six, but if she had "she could have explained to her audience about favism4 (favismo) a severe reaction to consumption of fava beans that occurs in people affected by deficiency of the enzyme glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD), and could have expanded on the role enzymes play in chemical reactions. Once diagnosed, people affected by the genetic condition avoid ingesting fava beans."

I can totally envision Elizabeth giving this lesson.  

Claudia from Honey from Rock featured a couple of different experiments of her own.    One was for Bursting Bubbles (similar to Amy's experiment).   
Claudia is also working on extracting coconut oil.  
We have lots of coconuts here, which I'm sad to admit, have mostly just been dropping to the ground.  Opening and preparing them is a lot of work.  Somewhat like cacao, but with chocolate we have made the time and extended the energy!  So, upon engaging a bit of help (gardener and reluctant Bob) we have begun that oil project.

Deb from Kahakai Kitchen made a delicious sounding and inventive Artichoke Risotto.  
Deb gushed about the book:

I really loved this novel, it's a charming and smartly written book and a debut novel which is hard to believe, it's so good. I loved Elizabeth Zott, she is just quirky enough of a character to be endearing without overdoing it. Intelligent, strong, funny and dealing with so much making her way as a chemist and a woman in the 1950-60s. The supporting characters were fun--my absolute favorite was Six-Thirty. I could keep talking about the book, it will go down as one of my favorites for the year, but it's been a long day and really, you should just go read it (or listen to it) if you haven't already. I am also in half excitement, half fear that Apple TV+ will be doing the series but the end of the audiobook was an interview with the author and she seems to think it's in good hands, so, fingers crossed... 
I focused on CH3COOH  which is how Elizabeth refers to vinegar.   While I didn't make my own vinegar, I shared some tips for infusing vinegar and a recipe for a Spicy Italian version.   

I loved the novel and here's my summation:

This is a rambling tale about love, loss, death, extreme sexism, female empowerment, single motherhood, geniuses, the power of friendship, second (and third) chances, and dog love. I know that sounds like a lot, but Garmus makes it work. I’m not sure another author could have tackled the issues, created the quirky characters, AND have it all come together in a totally readable tale. You have no idea where the story is going but when you get to the end, you say, “Yes.  I see. That worked.”
Thanks to all that read along.

*I'm a bit confused about the time setting of this novel.  The book blurbs say the 60s.  Some searches on the "interweb" say the 50s.   I read that the television series will be set in the 1950s.  Regardless, it was a different time and place (for most things)....

I've already started the June/July edition,  Food Americana by David Page (May 2021).   Simona (briciole) is hosting.   Look for her formal announcement soon!


Eliot's Eats


Simona Carini said...

Thank you for hosting and for the roundup, Debra. I am looking forward to reading the details of everyone's "experiment" :)

A Day in the Life on the Farm said...

Thanks again Debra. It was a fun read and I look forward to the series on Apple.

Delaware Girl Eats said...

Thanks for the roundup and looking forward to reading Lessons in Chemistry....