Monday, February 12, 2024

Announcement: Our Next Four Selections

It's that time of our virtual book club's cycle when we unveil the next four books selected by the co-hosts. We hope the reading will delight and inspire you. Ready? Let's go!

Deb (Kahakai Kitchen) opens the series with Mastering the Art of French Murder (An American in Paris Mystery #1) by Colleen Cambridge (April 2023) for the April / May 2024 edition

Some of my favorite genres are mystery, cozy mystery & historical fiction and Mastering the Art of French Murder (An American in Paris Mystery #1) by Colleen Cambridge seems like it combines them. 

From the Publisher:
Fans of Jacqueline Winspear, Marie Benedict, Nita Prose, and of course, Julia Child, will adore this magnifique new mystery set in Paris and starring Julia Child’s (fictional) best friend, confidante, and fellow American. From the acclaimed author of Murder at Mallowan Hall, this delightful new book provides a fresh perspective on the iconic chef’s years in post-WWII Paris. 
As Paris rediscovers its joie de vivre, Tabitha Knight, recently arrived from Detroit for an extended stay with her French grandfather, is on her own journey of discovery. Paris isn’t just the City of Light; it’s the city of history, romance, stunning architecture . . . and food. Thanks to her neighbor and friend Julia Child, another ex-pat who’s fallen head over heels for Paris, Tabitha is learning how to cook for her Grandpère and Oncle Rafe. 
Between tutoring Americans in French, visiting the market, and eagerly sampling the results of Julia’s studies at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school, Tabitha’s sojourn is proving thoroughly delightful. That is, until the cold December day they return to Julia’s building and learn that a body has been found in the cellar. Tabitha recognizes the victim as a woman she’d met only the night before, at a party given by Julia’s sister, Dort. The murder weapon found nearby is recognizable too—a knife from Julia’s kitchen. 
Tabitha is eager to help the investigation, but is shocked when Inspector Merveille reveals that a note, in Tabitha’s handwriting, was found in the dead woman’s pocket. Is this murder a case of international intrigue, or something far more personal? From the shadows of the Tour Eiffel at midnight, to the tiny third-floor Child kitchen, to the grungy streets of Montmartre, Tabitha navigates through the city hoping to find the real killer before she or one of her friends ends up in prison . . . or worse.
I’m sure our group will have fun solving the mystery and find some great inspiration in the kitchen with this one! 

Deb in Hawaii, Kahakai Kitchen

Deadline for contributing your post is Friday, May 31, 2024

For the June / july 2024 edition, Claudia (Honey from Rock) chose the novel Family Tree by Susan Wiggs (August 2016)

I read this book a few years ago and noted it then in my book diary as a good Cook the Books Club selection candidate for us. Sadly, the plot, characters and story were forgotten in the interval. 
So, I'm referring here to the Booklist Review: 
Don't mess with success. That is what Annie Rush tells herself. The Key Ingredient, the cooking show she created, which stars her husband, Martin Harlow, is wildly successful. So does it really matter if Martin occasionally strays from the show's original vision? Although Annie would like to have been in front of the camera, she must admit that viewers love Martin's perky cohost, Melissa Barrett. Then Annie arrives on the set of the show with wonderful news to share with Martin and discovers him in a private meeting with Melissa. Annie walks away, then suffers a tragic accident. Now, one year later, she is back home in Switchback, Vermont, wondering if she can reassemble the pieces of her life. 
Best-selling Wiggs (Starlight on Willow Lake, 2015) writes with a seemingly effortless sense of grace about what breaks families apart as well as what brings them back together. Add this to her gift for crafting exquisitely nuanced characters as well as her flair for perfectly capturing the rhythm of life in a small town, and you have a soul-satisfying story.

I am absolutely looking forward to re-reading this delightful novel with you all. 

Claudia, Honey From Rock

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

For the August / September 2024 edition, Debra (Eliot's Eats) has chosen the novel The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (November 2001)

I read The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd soon after it was published (2001) but I reread it recently to see if it would be appropriate for Cook the Books and a possible movie tie-in event with Movies & Munchies. I decided I still loved the book and the movie tie-in would work! Kidd is a master at broken characters and tying in a bit of Southern Gothic without being dramatic (or absurd). Lily, a precocious 14-year-old, tries daily to survive her life with T. Ray (her father). Lily's mother died years earlier in a tragic accident and Lily's life was forever changed. Rosaleen, housekeeper/cook and surrogate mother, and Lily find themselves on a necessary road trip. They land on the doorstep of the "calendar sisters." That's when the real story starts. There's lots of honey and peaches mentioned in the novel but there's also a lot of good comfort food, too.
Debra, Eliot's Eats

Deadline for contributing your post is Monday, September 30, 2024

Please, consider joining the Movies & Munchies group to participate in the tie-in movie event. Comment below if interested and I can contact you with more information or email me at eliotseats AT gmail DOT com.

To round up the list of selections, for the October / November 2024 edition Simona (briciole) chose the memoir Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner (April 2021)

In August 2018, the author had an essay published on The New Yorker with the same title. It starts thus:
Ever since my mom died, I cry in H Mart. For those of you who don’t know, H Mart is a supermarket chain that specializes in Asian food. The “H” stands for han ah reum, a Korean phrase that roughly translates to “one arm full of groceries.” H Mart is where parachute kids go to get the exact brand of instant noodles that reminds them of home. It’s where Korean families buy rice cakes to make tteokguk, a beef soup that brings in the new year. It’s the only place where you can find a giant vat of peeled garlic, because it’s the only place that truly understands how much garlic you’ll need for the kind of food your people eat. H Mart is freedom from the single-aisle “ethnic” section in regular grocery stores.
I'm looking forward to learning more about Korean cuisine. 

Simona, briciole

Deadline for contributing your post: Saturday, November 30, 2024.

Note: I reserved this book at the library. Both the ebook and the audio version have long waiting lists. If you also plan to borrow the book from your local library, I suggest checking the wait time.

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:
April / May 2024: Mastering the Art of French Murder 
by Colleen Cambridge (hosted by Deb at Kahakai Kitchen)
June / July 2024
Family Tree by Susan Wiggs 
hosted by Claudia at Honey from Rock)

August / September 2024
 The Secret Life of Bees 
by sue Monk Kidd (hosted by Debra at Eliot's Eats)

October / November 2024
 Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner (hosted by Simona at briciole)

Happy reading and cooking!


Saturday, February 3, 2024

February/March selection: Relish

For the February / March 2024 edition of our book club, I chose the graphic memoir Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley (April 2013)

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. 
And from the book review on NPR:
Lucy Knisley isn't a food hipster. She's a food nerd. 
Which is to say: she doesn't lecture. She enthuses.
Her knowledge of food isn't an excuse to lord her expertise over others. It's a means to connect with them, to get them to understand why she loves what she loves — and, maybe, to get them to love it, too.

Relish contains a series of stories from Knisley's life in the culinary world, from being toted along as a young girl to her mother's job at the first Dean and Deluca, to her own experiences in the Chicago food scene. These are broken up by some of her favorite recipes, lovingly illustrated and annotated in her bright, cartoony style.
I'm looking forward to reading outside my habits' boundaries. 


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

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.  

Friday, February 2, 2024

Undercooked Round Up (with some delicious fully cooked recipes!)

Welcome to the Undercooked round up.  

We all read Dan Adhoot's memoir and how he let searching for the perfect culinary experience control his life (which may have been a dumb way to live).  Adhoot is a comedian and some found his essays hilarious and some found his tales bittersweet and a few didn't find him really funny at all.  Regardless, we outdid ourselves when it came to the food.  

Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm was first up and went out there for her inspired-from dish.  

This memoir is all about food and how Dan obsesses over food to the point that it affects his relationships.  I also obsess about food, the difference is that for Dan food seemed to be all about control and/or power.  For me, food is all about love and/or comfort.

Adhoot mentions offal a couple of times in the book and even serves fresh elk heart to his hunt-mates in the wilds of New Mexico.  This prompted Wendy to make a beef tongue dish (that does look delicious and festive because she posted in December!)

Culinary Cam was next up.  She enjoyed the book!  

I devoured Undercooked in, pretty much, one sitting. I started it when I went to bed; then I woke up and finished it. And I talked about it all through breakfast. This memoir was hilarious, self-deprecating, and wonderfully written. I loved this book and I laughed out loud more than a few times.

Camilla focused on three memory/meals that Adhoot writes about: gnudi, Gougères, and chickpeas (via falafel).  Check out her recipes for both gnudi and Gougères and her commentary on fresh garbanzo beans.  

Amy was not in love with the book. 

I was slightly underwhelmed but I think it’s largely because I was unfamiliar with the author.  Since he is a foodie (and comedian), a lot of food is mentioned (including an undercooked risotto).  Most of the food is very foodie and very fancy and I really had no interest in attempting a home version.  Ultimately, I decided to go with his Persian (Iranian) heritage and made a lavash.

Cook the Books co-host Claudia describes the book as the following:

A very personal, sometimes light-weight romp about his obsession with eating, frequently at high end restaurants, all over the world, to the detriment of any personal relationships, and how he got that way.  As the sub title of his books states "How I let Food Become My Life Navigator and How Maybe That's a Dumb Way to Live".  Well, duh.  It was at times funny, though often in a sad sort of way.  An enjoyable read for the most part.

She was also taken with his early kitchen experience of making a soufflé but ultimately, she decided to pull from Adhoot's Persian culture and make Khoresh-e Ghormeh Sabzi (Persian Herb, Bean and Lamb Stew).

Co-host Simona from bricriole listened to the audio book and didn't find Undercooked  to be a laughfest.  She enjoyed a few of his essays, especially the one about his grandparents:  "When Adhoot describes the grandparents' relationship, he holds his usual jokes and finds moving words. I felt I was finally listening to the person, not the comedian."  She also appreciated his essay about moving home during the pandemic, a time which food helped that relationship heal.  

For her inspiration, she went back to Adhoot's heritage but pulled from a Jewish-Italian cookbook and made Spinach Pie with Pine Nuts and Raisins (Tortino di Spinaci con Pinoli e Uvetta).  I love her photo of the ingredients.

Delaware Girl Eats was taken by Adhoot's essay about his travels in Italy and 
Parmigiano risotto She "was inspired by this story having been to Northern Italy several times and had the opportunity to taste the real thing in trattorias, not the US adaptations.  Enjoying a true Italian master dish in its home environment was life changing…. I chose to make a variation on the dish using mushrooms and peas as key ingredients but believe me there are tons of great ingredient combinations.  Yum!  A really great mid-winter dish."

I also did a risotto but I was inspired by the "undercooked" dish.  
In the namesake chapter, “Undercooked,” Adhoot and his then fiancé score a reservation at Osteria Francescana. The couple struggled with whether or not they have the audacity to actually send back crunchy risotto at the absolute Numero Uno restaurant in the world. On the exact day that it was announced the best restaurant in the world. What would you have done?  And, if you knew the chef would send out a passive-aggressive “filet of mackerel” as a replacement?  Would that help you make your mind up to keep mute?

Here's my Butternut Risotto with Chives and Tomato Powder.   

I'm not sure who was the last person to post, me or Deb.  There's the whole Oklahoma/Hawaii time difference to calculate.  I'm glad that Deb was able to post her thoughts on the book and repost a delicious sounding soup:  Persian Adassi Lentil Stew.  
While she enjoyed the book, she may have pegged Adhoot's personality:  "I think he's a good storyteller and I enjoyed his humorous essays. He's a very bad boyfriend and I don't think I would want to hang out with him (he seems both judgey and needy and very high pressure to go to a restaurant with)."

That's all folks!  Thanks to all that participated and posted some really delicious food. Please consider joining us for the February/March round of Cook the Books.  Simona (briciole) is hosting the graphic novel Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley (April 2013).  Can’t wait.