Saturday, July 11, 2015

Book Review: Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradel

This book chronicles the life of Eva Thorvald, a woman who becomes one of the greatest chef's in the country that runs a pop up dinner night. Only one short part of the story is told from Eva's point of view; most of the story is told from the point of view of people she interacts with and not always people she interacts with in a very direct way, like the mother of an old high school boyfriend that enters a baking contest where Eva is a judge. This allows the book to make some statements about food and dining as well. 

To me the most interesting things in the book are the day to day lives of the characters. The author does a great job showing all the different personalities and lives of various characters. I wanted to know more about everybody and sometimes was sad that I didn't get to learn more about what happened to various characters. The character that remains the most elusive by the end is Eva herself as the narrators become further removed from Eva's day to day personal life. I know this book is supposed to be all about the food and there is definitely a lot said here about foodie culture and cooking and it's definitely interesting in that respect, but what really made this an enjoyable for me was the people.

The advanced readers copy was sent to my library by the publisher.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Book Reviews: Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way Through Great Books by Cara Nicoletti

I received this book as part of a Goodreads Giveaway. Voracious consists of essays where the author talks about a book she's read, how that book affected her as a person, what was going on in her life when she read it and a food from the book that really spoke to her. She then provides a recipe for that food. 

I really enjoyed reading this book. It brought back warm memories of reading some many of the same iconic titles as a kid or watching the movies. The essay on witches reminded me of watching Witches with my dad and being so traumatized by Anjelica Huston's portrayal of the lead witch that I never read the book; convinced it would be way too scary. I like that she provides context like that in her essays; like who gave her the book and why and how it made her feel. Her explanations of why the titles appealed to her have given me the impetus to try some books that I had always totally dismissed as being completely not for me before. 

The food all sounds amazing (minus some of the meaty things but that is a reflection on my not eating meat not on the writer's recipes.) She provides vegetarian substitutions when she can/it's necessary and I cannot wait to try making some of these things; especially Where the Red Fern Grows Skillet Cornbread with honey butter and The Aenid Honey Poppy seed cake. I'm a little bit intimidated but her directions are pretty explicit so I feel like I got this. 

I will also admit to having been stupidly excited upon reading the acknowledgements to see that the writer spent some time writing at The Anchored Inn in Brooklyn, where I spend most of my Sunday afternoons after practice. I love the food at the Anchored and it kind of just gave me an extra warm fuzzy.