Tag Archives For: foodies read

21 Apr, 2017

Binge Worthy Foodie Reads

/ posted in: Reading Binge Worthy Foodie Reads Summer at the Comfort Food Cafe by Debbie Johnson
on April 29, 2016
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 347
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Goodreads

The Comfort Food Cafe is perched on a windswept clifftop at what feels like the edge of the world, serving up the most delicious cream teas; beautifully baked breads, and carefully crafted cupcakes. For tourists and locals alike, the ramshackle cafe overlooking the beach is a beacon of laughter, companionship, and security – a place like no other; a place that offers friendship as a daily special, and where a hearty welcome is always on the menu.
For widowed mum-of-two Laura Walker, the decision to uproot her teenaged children and make the trek from Manchester to Dorset for the summer isn’t one she takes lightly, and it’s certainly not winning her any awards from her kids, Nate and Lizzie. Even her own parents think she’s gone mad.
But following the death of her beloved husband David two years earlier, Laura knows that it’s time to move on. To find a way to live without him, instead of just surviving. To find her new place in the world, and to fill the gap that he’s left in all their lives.
Her new job at the cafe, and the hilarious people she meets there, give Laura the chance she needs to make new friends; to learn to be herself again, and – just possibly – to learn to love again as well.

I’m a sucker for light fiction set in English cafes or tea shops or bakeries.  I recently read these two fun romances that are perfect for Foodies Read.

Laura Walker has been a widow for two years and is just starting to emerge from the fog that she has been in.  She needs a job and she wants to give her children a vacation this year.  She combines the two into working for the summer at a cafe near a beach in Dorset.

This isn’t just any cafe.  It stocks the favorite comfort foods of the regulars to make them feel at home.

Laura, her kids, and her dog Jimbo settle into the community.  They are starting to make new good memories for the first time since the accident that took her husband’s life.  This book is full of quirky characters.  It also feels like it is really set in the present.  Lizzie is documenting her summer on Instagram.  Other people use Skype.  So many of these books tend to ignore any technological details so that was a touch of realism that I appreciated.

The love interest’s name was Matt and he is a veterinarian.  Now you know I’m gonna have to comment on this, right?  Ok, two things.  Of course he is described as being muscular and gorgeous.  He has to be.  That’s in the contract for romance book heroes.  But, I know A LOT of vets.  I don’t know any who fit the bill.  (Send pictures if you know one.)  We tend towards the nerdy side.  I particularly don’t know any who are built like that and never work out.  I’m not sure where his muscles come from.  He never lifts a weight.  Number two, he never really seems to go to work either.  He’s always around.  It is mentioned vaguely that he is “at work” a few times but it doesn’t seem like he is missing from the story very often.  I’d like that schedule.

Anyway, this one is fun and sweet and made me a bit teary in one part that I can’t talk about without being spoilery.


Binge Worthy Foodie Reads Little Teashop of Horrors by Jane Lovering
on March 26, 2017
Genres: Fiction
Format: eBook
Goodreads
Setting: England

Amy Knowles has always been the plain sidekick to her pretty best friend Jules. And whilst the tearoom they both work in on the Monkpark Hall estate in Yorkshire is not exactly awash with eligible bachelors, it’s obvious where the male attention is concentrated – and it’s not just on the cakes!
There is one man who notices Amy. Joshua Wilson also works at Monkpark, where he flies his birds of prey for visitor entertainment. He lives a lonely existence but he has reasons for choosing isolation – and, in Amy, he may have found somebody who understands.
Then a management change brings slick and well-spoken Edmund Evershott to Monkpark. He’s interested in Amy too, but for what reason? Josh suspects the new manager is up to no good – but will Amy?

I read this one right after the first one.  This is told in alternating voices of the two main characters.  Amy is the third generation of her family to work in an historic trust building.  She and her grandmother are able to live in the village at reduced rent because a family works at Monkpark.  This wasn’t Amy’s goal in life but she can’t afford to keep her Gran at home any other way.  She’s always been a bit of a doormat for people but figures that is her lot in life.

Josh loves his birds but is very uncomfortable around people.  He doesn’t like to be in enclosed spaces, even inside houses.  He’s never had a relationship with a woman.  He likes Amy though because she seems to see him as a real person and not just that strange guy with the birds.

I liked the story of trying to keep a historic house profitable.  Amy runs the tea shop and Josh does the falconry demonstrations.

This is an unusual romance.  The characters both have back stories that make them think that they are unsuitable for love.  I wish Amy’s had been a little deeper.  I felt like she was written almost as a cliche at times.  I haven’t seen a lot of male romance characters like Josh though.  There was a lot of trauma in his background that made him stay away from people.  Although the term is never used, he felt like a demi romantic/sexual character.  He did not see people as potential love interests at all until he got to know Amy very well.  I’m not sure if that was an innate orientation for him or if it was all secondary to psychological trauma though.  He doesn’t magically overcome his problems just because he meets a love interest either.  He still has issues that drastically affect his life and relationships.  That’s a nice change from books where the hero or heroine’s entire life gets fixed when they get a lover.


I’d recommend both of these for fun reads.  Of the two, the tea shop book is definitely darker.  The Comfort Food Cafe book stays mostly upbeat except for a few emotional parts.  There is a short story sequel to that one that I’ve downloaded already that is set at Christmas.  I’ll report back on it soon.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Books Set in Europe
  • Foodies Read 2017
08 Feb, 2017

On The Noodle Road

/ posted in: Reading On The Noodle Road On the Noodle Road: From Beijing to Rome, with Love and Pasta by Jen Lin-Liu
Published by Riverhead Books on July 25th 2013
Genres: Cooking, Nonfiction
Pages: 388
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads
Setting: China, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kzyrgystan, Iran, Turkey, Greece, Italy

Feasting her way through an Italian honeymoon, Jen Lin-Liu was struck by culinary echoes of the delicacies she ate and cooked back in China, where she’d lived for more than a decade. Who really invented the noodle? she wondered, like many before her. But also: How had food and culture moved along the Silk Road, the ancient trade route linking Asia to Europe—and what could still be felt of those long-ago migrations?
The journey takes Lin-Liu into the private kitchens where the headscarves come off and women not only knead and simmer but also confess and confide. The thin rounds of dough stuffed with meat that are dumplings in Beijing evolve into manti in Turkey—their tiny size the measure of a bride’s worth—and end as tortellini in Italy. And as she stirs and samples, listening to the women talk about their lives and longings, Lin-Liu gains a new appreciation of her own marriage, learning to savor the sweetness of love freely chosen.


A travel book about noodles?  I had to read this book as soon as I heard of it.  Add in the fact that in 2017 I’m trying to read more Asian authors and books set in Central Asia and this book was perfect for me.  It took me forever to read it though.  I think I found this book so soothing that I would fall asleep after a few pages.  It wasn’t boring.  It just relaxed me.

The author is a Chinese-American journalist who lives in Beijing with her white American husband.  She owns a cooking school.  While most people in the west think of rice when they think of staple dishes of China, noodles are more common in the cuisine of northern China.  She decides to follow the path of the Silk Road to see how noodles spread between China and Italy.  Who invented them?

First of all, the old story about Marco Polo discovering noodles in Asia and bringing them to Italy is not true.  The true history of noodles turns out to be very difficult to figure out.  The author travels from China through central Asia and into Iran and Turkey interviewing chefs and home cooks.  She is taught to cook dishes that amaze her and dishes that she learns to dread like plov, a central Asian rice dish that she was fed at every meal.  I thought plov sounded really good if you left out all the dead animal parts that she kept being served.  For a book that was supposed to be about noodles, it was very heavy on the meat.  She had sheep killed in her honor and a lot of time was spent sourcing and waxing poetic over pork in Muslim countries.

There is also a lot of discussion about relationships and the role of women in society.  At the time she started this trip, the author was recently married and was considering whether or not to have children.  She is very conflicted about what her role should be in her marriage.  Both she and her husband travel for work.  Can they keep doing that?  Should they stay in China?  Does being married automatically mean giving up her independence?  She spends part of the trip traveling alone and part of it with her husband.  She talks to women as they cook about what their relationships are like. She realizes that her love of homemade noodles means that someone has to spend all that time making them. Younger women with jobs outside the house tend not to learn those skills.

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This book does have many recipes if you would like to try making different types of noodles and dishes featuring noodles. It even has recipes for plov. It won’t give you the answer though to where the noodle originated. That answer is lost in time.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Audiobooks
  • Backlist Books
  • Books Set in Asia
  • Foodies Read 2017
  • POC authors
01 Feb, 2017

February 2017 Foodies Read

/ posted in: Reading

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Welcome to February’s Foodies Read!

We had 18 reviews linked up in January.  Thank you to everyone who joined.  The winner of the drawing for a free foodie book is Camilla for her review of Stir with a Kale and Pomegranate Salad. Message me and let me know what book you would like, Cam.

I have some new books in the prize pool this month. Here are the cookbooks.

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Here are the fiction and memoir choices.

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10 Jan, 2017

Murder in the Generative Kitchen

/ posted in: Reading Murder in the Generative Kitchen Murder in the Generative Kitchen by Meg Pontecorvo
on September 2016
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 102
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Goodreads
Setting: Chicago/Acapulco

“With the Vacation Jury Duty system, jurors can lounge on a comfortable beach while watching the trial via virtual reality. Julio is loving the beach, as well as the views of a curvy fellow juror with a rainbow-lacquered skin modification who seems to be the exact opposite of his recent ex-girlfriend back in Chicago. Because of jury sequestration rules, they can’t talk to each other at all, or else they’ll have to pay full price for this Acapulco vacation. Still, Julio is desperate to catch her attention. But while he struts and tries to catch her eye, he also becomes fascinated by the trial at hand.
At first it seemed a foregone conclusion that the woman on trial used a high-tech generative kitchen to feed her husband a poisonous meal, but the more evidence mounts, the more Julio starts to suspect the kitchen may have made the decision on its own.”


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I think this is an amazing idea. It is 2060. Sequestered juries are sent on an all expense paid trip to a resort.  People try to get on juries now instead of getting out of it.  This jury out of Chicago is in Acapulco. They watch the trial on headsets. The headsets can show the trial superimposed on the real world so you can walk around the resort while you watch.

The Rules:

  1.  You have to watch 8 hours of the trial a day but you can do it on your own schedule.
  2.  You have to finish your viewing for the day before you can be served any alcohol.
  3.  You can’t talk to any of the other people in the resort.

If you break the rules, you are sent home with a bill for your vacation.

The Trial:

The defendant has a generative kitchen.  It monitors the health of the people in the home and changes the food to meet their individual needs.  Sick?  It will add nutrients.  Depressed?  Get mood boosters in your food.  There is no question that it increased the cyanide levels in the trout almondine but did the defendant request it or did it do it on its own?

I loved the two original ideas in this novella – the generative kitchen and the vacationing jurors.  The main character is Julio, a juror.  I hated him from the beginning.  He has a wonderful girlfriend at home.  He is planning on breaking up with her because she isn’t very feminine looking and she won’t change her look to please him.  Well good for her!  He starts to get obsessed and stalkerish over another juror at the resort.  She has an ultrafeminine look due to extensive body modification.  He can’t talk to her due to the jury rules but he tries to get as close as possible within the rules.  He imagines a life with her based entirely on how she looks since he has no idea what she is actually like and it never occurs to him to care.

When the jury heads back to Chicago to deliberate he finally gets to talk to this woman of his dreams and finds out that his fantasy and her reality don’t line up.  It is sort of like every internet troll who suddenly has to deal with a woman who has the nerve to be different from what he thought she should be.

I’m not usually a fan of books with unlikeable characters but it served this story well.  No one is on their best behavior but characters learn when confronted with it.  There is a lot packed into a novella.

  • The effects of aging on women and how other people (especially other women) judge them
  • Perception vs reality when dealing with strangers
  • How much power over your life should you give artificial intelligence

At the end of it all I still want a generative kitchen and a chance to go on one of these sequestered juries.  A few weeks at a resort with orders not to talk to anyone?  Heaven.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Foodies Read 2017
05 Jan, 2017

Envy of Angels by Matt Wallace

/ posted in: Reading Envy of Angels by Matt Wallace Envy of Angels (Sin du Jour, #1) by Matt Wallace
Series: Sin du Jour #1
Published by Tor.com on October 20th 2015
Genres: Fantasy & Magic
Pages: 225
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Goodreads
Setting: New York

“In New York, eating out can be hell.
Everyone loves a well-catered event, and the supernatural community is no different, but where do demons go to satisfy their culinary cravings?
Welcome to Sin du Jour – where devils on horseback are the clients, not the dish.”


Darren and Lena are chefs who have been blacklisted from working in New York.  The rent is due.  They suddenly get a call from a former celebrity chef who they heard was dead (He got better) about needing them to work the line at his catering business for a week.  It is step down for them but it is work and the rent is still due.

Sin du Jour is housed in a nondescript building with a high tech interior.  Something seems off about the whole set up.  Darren and Lena notice that before they find out who the clients for the catering business are and what they are expected to serve for dinner.

It’s a foodie urban fantasy book!

You can probably imagine how excited I was to find this series.  There was flailing.

Darren and Lena find out that Sin du Jour is catering a banquet to celebrate the brokering of a peace deal between two clans of demons.  Then the representatives arrive with the main course.  It is an angel that they expect to be butchered and served.  The humans are unnerved by the idea of killing an angel so set about trying to figure out how to fake an angel dinner.  But can you really double cross demons and live?

This is a short book.  I read it in one sitting.  It is totally absurd and that is very high praise.  I can’t wait to read more.

 

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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Foodies Read 2017
01 Jan, 2017

January 2017 Foodies Read

/ posted in: Reading

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Welcome to Foodies Read 2017!

First, let’s wrap up 2016.

Our winner of the December drawing is Amy for her review of Stir.  Here’s the books that are available this month.

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I’ll message you to find out what one you would like. From the top of the stack they are – a mystery, 2 light romances, a how to book with recipes, and a memoir about a foodie who developed celiac disease.

There is also a year long 2016 giveaway for the two people who posted most often.  Counting that up surprised me.  So many of you had so many reviews!  We had 4 people with over 20 reviews each.  Amazing!  I’m glad you are enjoying the challenge as much as I am.

Our top  two were really busy. They both read a huge amount of books.  Mark posted 37 reviews and Cam posted 35.  I’ll email your gift certificates to you both.


Now on to 2017

We have a lot of new people signing up for this year.  I’m looking forward to seeing what you read.

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07 Dec, 2016

The Chocolate Apothecary

/ posted in: Reading The Chocolate Apothecary The Chocolate Apothecary by Josephine Moon
on June 24, 2015
Genres: Fiction
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned
Goodreads
Setting: Australia

“Christmas Livingstone has formulated 10 top rules for happiness by which she tries very hard to live. Nurturing the senses every day, doing what you love, sharing joy with others are some of the rules but the most important for her is no. 10 – absolutely no romantic relationships!
Her life is good now. Creating her enchantingly seductive shop, The Chocolate Apothecary, and exploring the potential medicinal uses of chocolate makes her happy; her friends surround her; and her role as a fairy godmother to her community allows her to share her joy. She doesn’t need a handsome botany ace who knows everything about cacao to walk into her life. One who has the nicest grandmother – Book Club Captain at Green Hills Aged Care Facility and intent on interfering – a gorgeous rescue dog, and who wants her help to write a book. She really doesn’t need any of that at all.
Or does she?”


I hardly ever find any Australian books to read.  I’m not sure why.  I was so excited when this turned out to be set in Tasmania!  I don’t know that I’ve ever read a book set there.

Christmas owns a chocolate store that reminds me a lot of the one in Chocolat, without the magical realism.  Her goal is to combine chocolate and medicine.  She started to store after a heartbreak on the mainland.  Now she is content in her life.  There are two big opportunities for her coming up.  She has a chance to go to an eccentric chocolate making week-long course in France and she is asked to co-write a book on chocolate with a botanist.  Both of these are exciting on their own, but her friends and family are interfering.  They think she should look up her long lost father in France and they think that she should see the botanist as a romantic opportunity.  Christmas is fine without either complication, thank you very much.

This book is mainly about the characters.  Christmas and her family are all unique personalities as are the residents at the Aged Care Facility who decide to work as matchmakers.  That distracts them from the cut throat competition to be in charge of the book club.  There isn’t a lot that happens in the story but getting to know the people is the real joy of this book.

 

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Linking up with Foodies Read and I will have a copy of this book available as a prize for people linking up with us.

 

01 Dec, 2016

December Foodies Read

/ posted in: Reading

Welcome to Foodies Read!

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Our winner of the drawing for November is Louise.  I’ll email you to see what book you would like to receive.

For December we will be having multiple giveaways!

Everyone who links up a review this month will be entered in the drawing for a free book.

In addition, I will be counting up how many links people had for the whole year.  The person with the most will get a $20 Amazon gift card and the second place person will get a $10 gift card.  Thank you to everyone who participated in 2016.  For those of you who wanted to read a set number of books, did you hit your target?  I was aiming for 1 book a month but I read about 17 books.  I just keep finding more and more food books that sound so amazing!

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Announcing Foodies Read 2017

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Do you read books about food?  There are books about food in so many different genres.

  • Cozy mysteries set in bakeries
  • Romance books set in tea shops
  • Nonfiction books about the history of ingredients
  • Cookbooks
  • Memoirs from chefs or waiters or people who just love to eat
  • …the list goes on and on.  Need more ideas? Check out our Pinterest page!

Want to challenge yourself?  Pick a level below.

Short-Order Cook: 1 to 3 books
Pastry Chef: 4 to 8 books
Sous-Chef: 9 to 13 books
Chef de Cuisine: 14 to 18
Cordon-Bleu Chef: More than 19

Don’t like to plan?  Choose the a la carte option and let us know when you read a book about food.

Each month I’ll have a new page for book reviews that you post.  You can find the page for the month linked on the blog’s right sidebar.  Posts will be pinned to Pinterest and publicized on Twitter to get the word out.

There are monthly giveaways.  Every participant is entered in a drawing to win a food-themed book.  I try to have options in several genres so you can pick one that you will love!

If you are making a page with the challenges that you are doing in 2017, feel free to grab the graphic.

Grab button for Foodies Read 2017

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<a href=”http://www.spiritblog.net/december-foodies-read” rel=”nofollow”>
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</a>
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You aren’t required to sign up to play along throughout the year. Join us whenever you read a food book.

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17 Oct, 2016

The Sweet Life in Paris

/ posted in: Reading The Sweet Life in Paris The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World's Most Glorious - and Perplexing - City by David Lebovitz
Published by Broadway Books on May 5th 2009
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Pages: 282
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned
Goodreads
Setting: France

“Like so many others, David Lebovitz dreamed about living in Paris ever since he first visited the city in the 1980s. Finally, after a nearly two-decade career as a pastry chef and cookbook author, he moved to Paris to start a new life. Having crammed all his worldly belongings into three suitcases, he arrived, hopes high, at his new apartment in the lively Bastille neighborhood.
But he soon discovered it’s a different world en France.
From learning the ironclad rules of social conduct to the mysteries of men’s footwear, from shopkeepers who work so hard not to sell you anything to the etiquette of working the right way around the cheese plate, here is David’s story of how he came to fall in love with—and even understand—this glorious, yet sometimes maddening, city.”


This is the book the husband would have written if he lived in France.  He is the person who said halfway through our trip to France that it would be a wonderful country if there were no people in it.  His favorite French vacation story is the time we watched an older French woman beat a disabled British tourist with an umbrella because he didn’t give his seat up to her. He learned that parapluie is umbrella from that incident.

We once had a black, female, French neighbor to whom the husband had to explain several times that while the people in our small town might in fact be both racist and sexist, what was getting her in trouble was being French.  No, it wasn’t ok to park in the fire lane and then cut in line at WalMart because she was parked in the fire lane, for example.

David Lebovitz had this same frustration with French people when he moved to Paris.  Why are they always cutting in line?  Why won’t they help you in a store?  Why does it take so long to accomplish everyday tasks?

This book is hysterically funny.  He is a cookbook author whose new French apartment had a tiny kitchen and suspect plumbing.

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Eventually he learned to adapt and thrive in his new city. He learned to cut in line with the best of them. He started dressing up to take out the garbage. That’s when he knew he was home.


 

There are lots of recipes in this book.  I even made one.  I know!  I’m shocked too.  I almost never make recipes in books.  I made the fig and olive tapenade though and it was scrumptious.  I even took a picture of it as proof but it looks like a glob of clumpy black stuff on some bread.  Yummy food photography is not a skill I have.

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23 Sep, 2016

In Memory of Bread

/ posted in: Reading In Memory of Bread In Memory of Bread: A Memoir by Paul Graham
Published by Clarkson Potter on June 7th 2016
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Pages: 272
Format: Hardcover
Source: From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Goodreads
Setting: New York

“When Paul Graham was suddenly diagnosed with a serious wheat allergy at the age of thirty-six, he was forced to say goodbye to traditional pasta, pizza, sandwiches, and more. Gone, too, were some of his favorite hobbies, including brewing beer with a buddy and gorging on his wife’s homemade breads. Struggling to understand why he and so many others had become allergic to wheat, barley, rye, oats, and other dietary staples, Graham researched the production of modern wheat and learned that not only has the grain been altered from ancestral varieties but it’s also commonly added to thousands of processed foods. In writing that is effortless and engaging, Paul explores why incidence of the disease is on the rise while also grappling with an identity crisis—given that all his favorite pastimes involved wheat in some form.”


This is an unflinchingly honest account of what it is like to give up one of the things that you enjoy most in life.  Paul Graham loves to eat.  He loved bread in all its forms.  He loved beer.  Suddenly he found out that those foods were behind a sudden illness that caused him to lose 25 pounds and end up hospitalized.

The honesty of the writing can certain come across as whiny, especially for those of us who have had restrictive diets by choice or necessity for long enough to have moved past the first stages of grief.  He laments what it means now to travel without being able to eat anything and everything on a menu.  Eventually he learns to move past that and see that there is life after allergies.

“But the most sensitive have also come to know something that “normal” eaters do not often have occasion to consider:  to have anyone make food for you is an implicit extension of trust.  The more serious the consequences, the greater the confidence one puts in the cook.”

Yes!  I can be a nervous wreck when we go to new restaurants.  Honestly, I only implicitly trust food that I make myself for the husband because of his allergy.  The author laments people disrupting the orderliness of buffets so he can’t be sure anything is safe for him.  I can relate totally.

He discusses the privilege that he has as a fairly well off person with the skills and time to cook from scratch in order to accommodate his new diet.  He wonders how people how have to survive on prepared food do it.  The answer seems to be – not well according to the research.  He points out the irony that the foods that were once considered only good enough for poor people are now the rare grains and ingredients that cost more than wheat.

I’d recommend this book for any food lover or person interested in knowing what it is like to live with food allergies.

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Book received in exchange for review from BloggingforBooks.com
17 Aug, 2016

Truffle Boy

/ posted in: Reading Truffle Boy Truffle Boy: My Unexpected Journey Through the Exotic Food Underground by Ian Purkayastha, Kevin West
Published by Hachette Books on February 7th 2017
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Goodreads
Setting: New York

“Ian Purkayastha is New York City’s leading truffle importer and boasts a devoted clientele of top chefs nationwide, including Jean-Georges Vongerichten, David Chang, Sean Brock, and David Bouley. But before he was purveying the world’s most expensive fungus to the country’s most esteemed chefs, Ian was just a food-obsessed teenager in rural Arkansas–a misfit with a peculiar fascination for rare and exotic ingredients.
 The son of an Indian immigrant father and a Texan mother, Ian learned to forage for wild mushrooms from an uncle in the Ozark hills. Thus began a single-track fixation that led him to learn about the prized but elusive truffle, the king of all fungi. His first taste of truffle at age 15 sparked his improbable yet remarkable adventure through the strange–and often corrupt–business of the exotic food trade.”


 This book starts with the admission that it is weird for a 23 year old to be writing a memoir.  It’s good to get that out there early because it is a bit presumptious but you’d be forgiven for forgetting that he’s only 23 while reading this.

While still in high school, Ian Purkayastha started an exotic foods club to make meals with strange ingredients for people in his Arkansas school and raise money for charity.  He used his vacation time to travel to trade shows and meet up with people in the exotic food community.  He set up his own business importing truffles from Italy for chefs in his area. This led to a job after high school graduation importing truffles in New York.  This is where he started to see the problems in the industry.  As he spends the next few years starting his own business, he travels around the world sourcing ingredients and meeting the people who hunt for mushrooms in the United States, Europe, and Asia.

Did you know:

  • A lot of “Italian” truffles come from eastern Europe
  • Truffle oil usually doesn’t have truffles in it
  • U.S. chefs prize the appearance of truffles so much that the vast majority of harvested truffles aren’t sent to the U.S. market because they aren’t the “correct” shape
  • There are attempts being made to raise truffles in specially planted orchards but it will take decades to see if it works

This book tries to dispel some of the snobbery around high end foods.  It shows the work involved in finding and harvesting.  It also points out how markets are kept artificially tight and how some countries become known as the best source of ingredients for reasons that may not be true.

This ARC of Truffle Boy is one of the prizes up for grabs this month for people who link up with Foodies Read.  If you like reading books featuring food, link up your reviews with us!

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03 Aug, 2016

Locally Laid – Why is a Vegan Reviewing a Chicken Book?

/ posted in: Reading Locally Laid – Why is a Vegan Reviewing a Chicken Book? Locally Laid: How We Built a Plucky, Industry-changing Egg Farm - from Scratch by Lucie B. Amundsen
Published by Avery on March 1st 2016
Genres: Nonfiction
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads
Setting: Minnesota

“When Lucie Amundsen had a rare night out with her husband, she never imagined what he’d tell her over dinner—that his dream was to quit his office job (with benefits!) and start a commercial-scale pasture-raised egg farm. His entire agricultural experience consisted of raising five backyard hens, none of whom had yet laid a single egg.”


I laughed when Lucie Amundsen wrote about finding out that one of her first social media followers was a vegan.  After all, here I am, a vegan wannabe reading and reviewing her book.  To understand why people like me would be interested you have to understand that farm animal welfare is a huge issue.  A lot people become vegan because  of it.

Animal Welfare on Chicken Farms

On conventional farms chickens are kept in battery cages where they don’t have enough room to stretch their wings.  Because of this, a lot of people like to buy eggs that are labeled as cage-free.  However, just because they aren’t in cages doesn’t mean the chickens are living a happy life.  A lot of farms keep thousands of birds in large barns crammed together on the floor.  They aren’t in cages but they may not have much more room either.  They may have access to a concrete outside area.

Pasture-raised birds spend part of the day outside on grass.  This is the type of farm that Locally Laid is.  And no matter how nice of a life the chickens have there comes a time when they are no longer laying.  Chickens don’t get a pension plan.


The Amundsens had no farm experience prior to starting a chicken farm so things that I saw as glaring problems they went blissfully into.  For example, there was no water in their rented barn.  They would be getting water from a garden hose and transporting it to the barn.  In winter.  In northern Minnesota. Oh, honey, no.  I’ve had to do that for a few horses for a few days when there have been barn plumbing issues and it sucks.  I can’t even imagine trying to water 1800 chickens that way.  They soon realized that this was a major issue.

Another issue was that Lucie was not on board with this venture.  The stress on their marriage is covered honestly. Is it fair to ask one spouse to (repeatedly) give up her life and goals for the other spouse’s strange dreams?

The book gets into lots of other hot button food production issues like encouraging local agriculture, the role of mid sized farms, and the difficulties of getting organic certification.  Their successes and failures are told with candor and humor.  If you have read a lot about food issues or watched any of the documentaries on this then this isn’t going to be anything new to you but it is interesting to see how it plays out on one farm.

The husband is reading this book too.  He came running out to me one day and was mock crying with his head on my shoulder.  “I just read chapter five!” I couldn’t remember anything sob worthy.  “The birds came.  Myron’s an asshole!”  Oh, yes, Myron.  There is a big difference in caring for an individual bird and caring for a large flock where deaths are seen as the cost of doing business.  Myron was their supplier of the first flock and he wasn’t as into chicken welfare as they were.

The husband proudly showed me the pasture-raised eggs that he bought at the store too.  See, even vegans reading the book and passing it on can help make a difference.

4flower

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01 Aug, 2016

August Foodies Read

/ posted in: Reading

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Welcome to August’s Foodies Read

We had 21 entries in July!  The winner of the drawing for her choice of books is Amy from Read a Latte.  She’ll be able to chose from Death, Taxes, and a Chocolate Cannoli, Hometown Appetites, and My French Family Table.

All of the entries in August will be in a drawing for your choice of:

Sweet Sugar, Sultry Spice: Exotic Flavors to Wake Up Your BakingSweet Sugar, Sultry Spice: Exotic Flavors to Wake Up Your Baking by Malika Ameen

“A diverse and accessible collection of spice-enhanced recipes that will transform your baking and awaken your senses–from a classically trained pastry chef. Welcome to a world of exotic spices and flavorings from the warm embrace of clove and ginger to the fiery touch of peppercorns and chiles, from the sensual kiss of cardamom and rose to the surprising sensations of sumac and za’atar.

With encouraging language, invaluable tips, and a passionate approach to flavor, Malika Ameen seeks to push spices beyond the realm of savory to the world of sweet where they can add everything from a delicate whisper to a surprising punch to cakes and tarts, cookies and bars, ice creams and sorbets, barks and brittles, and more.”

 

Truffle Boy: My Unexpected Journey Through the Exotic Food UndergroundTruffle Boy: My Unexpected Journey Through the Exotic Food Underground by Ian Purkayastha

 

“Ian Purkayastha is New York City’s leading truffle importer and boasts a devoted clientele of top chefs nationwide, including Jean-Georges Vongerichten, David Chang, Sean Brock, and David Bouley. But before he was purveying the world’s most expensive fungus to the country’s most esteemed chefs, Ian was just a food-obsessed teenager in rural Arkansas–a misfit with a peculiar fascination for rare and exotic ingredients.

The son of an Indian immigrant father and a Texan mother, Ian learned to forage for wild mushrooms from an uncle in the Ozark hills. Thus began a single-track fixation that led him to learn about the prized but elusive truffle, the king of all fungi. His first taste of truffle at age 15 sparked his improbable yet remarkable adventure through the strange–and often corrupt–business of the exotic food trade.”


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21 Jul, 2016

The Hindi-Bindi Club

/ posted in: Reading The Hindi-Bindi Club The Hindi-Bindi Club by Monica Pradhan
Published by Bantam on May 1st 2007
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 431
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Goodreads

For decades they have remained close, sharing treasured recipes, honored customs, and the challenges of women shaped by ancient ways yet living modern lives. They are the Hindi-Bindi Club, a nickname given by their American daughters to the mothers who left India to start anew—daughters now grown and facing struggles of their own.


The Hindi-Bindi Club

Meenal

Survived breast cancer this year and has found that this experience has opened her mind to things that she would have rejected in the past

Saroj

Had to flee her beloved hometown of Lahore as a child during Partition.  Now is considering traveling back to Lahore to find the childhood friends left behind.

Uma

Disowned by her father after marrying an Irish man, she wants to translate her late mother’s poetry from Bengali to English if she can get her relatives to give her access to the journals

The Daughters

Kiran

Meenal’s daughter disappointed her family by marrying a man they disapproved of and then getting a divorce.  Now, 5 years later, she is considering a semi-arranged marriage.

Preity

Saroj’s daughter was always the perfect one but she’s haunted by a romance that her mother put a stop to because the man was Muslim.

Rani

Uma’s daughter left her prestigious job to be an artist.  Now she isn’t sure that she made the right choice.


The women would have never been friends if they hadn’t ended up in the same university when they came to the U.S. and then all moved to the outskirts of Washington D.C. Their daughters were never friends despite being thrown together all the time. Each of them is now struggling with major life decisions and finds that they need each other.

I expected this book to be much lighter than it was. There are some serious issues here but there are also funny moments.

There are some amazing sounding recipes here. I want to try the rice dish. I can never get rice to taste as good as it does in Indian restaurants.

A photo posted by @dvmheather on

3flower

07 Jul, 2016

The Mango Season

/ posted in: Reading The Mango Season The Mango Season by Amulya Malladi
Published by Ballantine Books on October 26th 2004
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 229
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads
Set in India

Every young Indian leaving the homeland for the United States is given the following orders by their parents: Don’t eat any cow (It’s still sacred!), don’t go out too much, save (and save, and save) your money, and most important, do not marry a foreigner. Priya Rao left India when she was twenty to study in the U.S., and she’s never been back. Now, seven years later, she’s out of excuses. She has to return and give her family the news: She’s engaged to Nick Collins, a kind, loving American man. It’s going to break their hearts.


Priya is horrified to realize that she considers India differently now than when she left. It is too noisy and chaotic.  She is scared to eat food in the market without washing it first.  She also can’t fit easily back into her family.  Now she sees the racism and misogyny that she grew up with and considered normal.

She knows that her family will probably disown her when she admits to loving a foreigner.  She isn’t going to tell them that she’s been living with him for two years.

Things come to a head during a few days at her grandmother’s house to make mango pickle. Her entire extended family is there. She sees how horribly everyone treats her unmarried aunt and the woman of the wrong caste that her uncle married. Her mother and another aunt spend the whole time in a power struggle. When Priya starts speaking her mind she throws her family into an uproar.

This book made me nervous.  I knew that at some point Priya’s family was going to try to arrange a marriage for her.  So I did the unthinkable.  I read the last chapter to see how it ended.

 

I knew if it was up in the air for me that I would rush through the book to find out. This is a book that should be savored more than rushed.

“I looked at all the women in the room and wondered if behind the facade all of us wore for family occasions we were strangers to each other.

I was trying to be the graceful granddaughter visiting from America but my true colors were slipping past the carefully built mockery of myself I was presenting.  Maybe the masks worn by the others were slipping, too.  Maybe by the end of the day I would know the women behind the masks and they would know me.

I tried once again to talk to Ma but she shunned me and I concluded that she didn’t want to look behind the label:  DAUGHTER, and didn’t want me to look behind the label:  MA.  If she wouldn’t show me hers, how could I show her mine?”

When discussing her grandfather:

“The man was a bigot, a racist, a chauvinist, and generally too arrogant for anyone’s liking, yet I loved him.  Family never came in neat little packages with warranty signs on them.”


I saw this video just after I finished the book and it fit the story perfectly. I laughed at loud at the line about chapati.


4flower

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10 Mar, 2016

Thug Kitchen Party Grub

/ posted in: FoodReading Thug Kitchen Party Grub Thug Kitchen Party Grub Guide by Thug Kitchen, LLC
on October 13th 2015
Genres: Cooking, Vegetarian & Vegan
Pages: 240
Format: Hardcover
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

From the duo behind New York Times bestseller, Thug Kitchen, comes the next installment of kick-ass recipes with a side of attitude. Thug Kitchen Party Grub Guide answers the question that Matt and Michelle have heard most from their fans: How the hell are you supposed to eat healthy when you hang around with a bunch of a**holes who don't care what they put in their pie holes? The answer: You make a bomb-ass plant-based dish from Thug Kitchen. Featuring over 100 recipes to attend or host parties of any kind, Party Grub Guide combines exciting, healthy, vegan food with easy-to-follow directions and damn entertaining commentary. From passed appetizers like Deviled Chickpea Bites to main events like Mexican Lasagna, Thug Kitchen Party Grub Guide is here to make sure you are equipped with dishes to bring the flavor without the side of fat, calories, and guilt. Also included are cocktail recipes, because sometimes these parties need a pick-me-up of the liquid variety.


 

I love my Thug Kitchen cookbook so I was really excited to see that they had a second cookbook out.  I got it from the library first and then bought my own copy.  My husband was concerned about this.  He rightly pointed out that I am not in fact a “social mother-f*cker”.  I told him that I liked to make the recipes for myself and maybe I’d share with him.  He went off muttering about me being the exact opposite of what the book was for.

I keep pushing back posting this review because I keep making more recipes from this book that I love!

I’ve made the Butternut Squash Queso-ish Dip.  No one is going to actually think this is cheese based but it is a nice creamy sauce that I like to put on pasta along with some salsa.  Good way to sneak some extra squash into your diet too!

I’m excited about the Artichoke Dip and the Rosemary Caramel Corn.  The dip was slightly disturbing to look at but tasted great, especially mixed with some salsa.  The caramel for the caramel corn didn’t melt for me as nicely as it was supposed to but it still tasted pretty good.

The Meatball Subs made with kidney beans and lentils were a hit with the omnivorous husband.  Definitely making those again.

The Creamy White Bean sandwich spread is good for a vegan who wants something on a sandwich but can’t have hummus because of food allergy concerns.

Everything I’ve made out of these cookbooks have been great so far.  If you have any interest in food made with healthy ingredients even if you aren’t normally eating a vegan diet, you should check these out.  The emphasis is on people who don’t cook often so the basics are explained.

14 Nov, 2015

Foodies Read 2016 Sign Up Page

/ posted in: FoodReading

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Welcome to Foodies Read 2016!

 

Do you love reading books about food?  Do you want to find more recommendations of books to read and to sing the praises of books that you’ve loved?

You’re in the right place.  Starting in January 2016, I’ll be taking over Foodie Reads.

We will still have a challenge levels and for those of us who don’t like to plan that much there will be an a la carte option.

Want to challenge yourself?  Pick a level below.

Short-Order Cook: 1 to 3 books
Pastry Chef: 4 to 8 books
Sous-Chef: 9 to 13 books
Chef de Cuisine: 14 to 18
Cordon-Bleu Chef: More than 19

Don’t like to plan?  Choose the a la carte option and let us know when you read a book about food.

What counts as a food book?  Any genre – fiction, nonfiction, cookbooks, etc.  If food is a major part of the plot then it counts!

Each month I’ll have a new page for book reviews that you post.  You can find the page for the month linked here and on the blog’s right sidebar.  Each month will feature some posts from the last month.  Posts will be pinned to Pinterest and publicized on Twitter to get the word out.  Along the way there may be giveaways for participants.

 

January Link Up Page

 


 

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