A $10 Amazon gift card if in the U.S. A book of their choice (up to $10) from Book Depository if international
I’d like to thank everyone who participated in 2018. We had loads of people with 20 plus links! Our superstars last year were Mark with 33 links and Cam with 38! I really appreciate your enthusiasm and hope to see more of what you are reading (and cooking) in 2019.
The memoir of a young diplomat’s wife who must reinvent her dream of living in Paris—one dish at a time
"Excellent ingredients, carefully prepared and very elegantly served. A really tasty book."—Peter Mayle, author of The Marseille Caper and A Year in Provence
When journalist Ann Mah’s diplomat husband is given a three-year assignment in Paris, Ann is overjoyed. A lifelong foodie and Francophile, she immediately begins plotting gastronomic adventures à deux. Then her husband is called away to Iraq on a year-long post—alone. Suddenly, Ann’s vision of a romantic sojourn in the City of Lights is turned upside down.
So, not unlike another diplomatic wife, Julia Child, Ann must find a life for herself in a new city. Journeying through Paris and the surrounding regions of France, Ann combats her loneliness by seeking out the perfect pain au chocolat and learning the way the andouillette sausage is really made. She explores the history and taste of everything from boeuf Bourguignon to soupe au pistou to the crispiest of buckwheat crepes. And somewhere between Paris and the south of France, she uncovers a few of life’s truths.
Like Sarah Turnbull’s Almost French and Julie Powell’s New York Times bestseller Julie and Julia, Mastering the Art of French Eating is interwoven with the lively characters Ann meets and the traditional recipes she samples. Both funny and intelligent, this is a story about love—of food, family, and France.
I had this book on my iPad for a long time. I had started reading it and then wandered off as I so often do. However, I realized I had this while on my recent riverboat cruise in France, so I decided it was the perfect time to dust it off and finish it up.
I was actually on the outskirts of Lyon when I picked the book back up just in time for the chapter on Lyon. Lyon is known as gastronomic hot spot in France. Their claim to fame are small restaurants that were started by women catering to working class people. They are called “bouchons”. They still exist and are considered some of the best places to eat. I appreciate this book for explaining that they still feature tripe heavily in their meals. Vegetarian-friendly is not a concept most of these have grasped. A few days later I was standing in old town Lyon turning in a circle looking at all the bouchons.
Whispering to the husband – “We aren’t eating anywhere that says bouchon.”
Him – “Why?”
Me, muttering like just saying the word would manifest it in front of me – “Tripe”
Him – “What?””
Me – “It is sort of like restaurants who claim they are Family Restaurants in the U.S.”
He understood my theory that any restaurant that claims that title is using recipes from some old lady who cooked meat and potatoes without any spices and believed that the way to cook vegetables is to boil them until they give up. Also, the soups are totally made with meat broth and if you order vegetable soup anyway odds are 50/50 that there will be unexpected chunks of meat in it. Yes, I am a vegetarian foodie snob.
I would recommend this book for anyone who likes reading about local food traditions in combination with a memoir. She decides to write this book to distract her from the fact that she’s been left in France alone for a year. They just moved there. She knows no one. You see her personal growth over the year as she reaches out of her comfort zone to make friends.
So what did we eat in France? Stay tuned for that post in a bit.
A fun and irreverent take on vegan comfort food that's saucy, sweet, sassy, and most definitely deep-fried, from YouTube sensation Lauren Toyota of Hot for Food.
In this bold collection of more than 100 recipes, the world of comfort food and vegan cooking collide as Lauren Toyota shares her favorite recipes and creative ways to make Philly cheesesteak, fried chicken, and mac 'n' cheese, all with simple vegan ingredients. Never one to hold back, Lauren piles plates high with cheese sauce, ranch, bacon, and barbecue sauce, all while sharing personal stories and tips in her engaging and hilarious voice. The result is indulgent, craveworthy food - like Southern Fried Cauliflower, The Best Vegan Ramen, and Raspberry Funfetti Pop Tarts - made for sharing with friends at weeknight dinners, weekend brunches, and beyond.
This would be a great cookbook for people who want to move to a vegetarian or vegan diet but are hung up on all the foods that they won’t be able to have anymore if they give up meat. The book starts with several pages of recipes devoted to making substitutes for bacon from several different vegetables. It moves onto using cauliflower as a base for vegan fried chicken. A lot of the book concentrates on making vegan versions of meat-based favorites.
I don’t really have any comfort foods that contained meat. I don’t like fried foods. A lot of the recipes in this book don’t appeal to me for those reasons. Others are familiar to people who have been vegetarian for a long time.
What did appeal to me as a long time vegetarian was her section on sauces. She has a very simple vegan mayo recipe (Why does prepared vegan mayo cost a fortune?) and then uses it as a base for several dressings, including my favorite, Thousand Island. I’m definitely going to try that when my current bottle of dressing runs out. She also has basic recipes for cake and frosting and then shows multiple flavor variations. If I baked much, I’d be all over that.
I am going to make the cover recipe this week. It is a buffalo style baked cauliflower sandwich. I’m going to make the cauliflower in slices and combine it with salad fixings for dinner.
This book also has the most delightfully insane recipe I think I’ve ever seen. It is for a double decker veggie burger topped with both Thousand Island and BBQ sauce (yum) but then, then, the buns are made out of ramen noodles. Why are the buns made out of ramen noodles? Because you can.
I love everything in that recipe. Sure, I’ve only had them separately but what could go wrong? I’m a bit concerned about the ability to fit it in my mouth so I would make a single burger. You know, it’s healthier that way. I even bought some ring molds to make the buns. It will happen someday. In the meantime, Thousand Island and BBQ may be my go to burger dressing.
FOREWORD BY LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA AND LUIS A. MIRANDA, JR.
The true story of how a group of chefs fed hundreds of thousands of hungry Americans after Hurricane Maria and touched the hearts of many more
Chef José Andrés arrived in Puerto Rico four days after Hurricane Maria ripped through the island. The economy was destroyed and for most people there was no clean water, no food, no power, no gas, and no way to communicate with the outside world.
Andrés addressed the humanitarian crisis the only way he knew how: by feeding people, one hot meal at a time. From serving sancocho with his friend José Enrique at Enrique’s ravaged restaurant in San Juan to eventually cooking 100,000 meals a day at more than a dozen kitchens across the island, Andrés and his team fed hundreds of thousands of people, including with massive paellas made to serve thousands of people alone.. At the same time, they also confronted a crisis with deep roots, as well as the broken and wasteful system that helps keep some of the biggest charities and NGOs in business.
Based on Andrés’s insider’s take as well as on meetings, messages, and conversations he had while in Puerto Rico, We Fed an Island movingly describes how a network of community kitchens activated real change and tells an extraordinary story of hope in the face of disasters both natural and man-made, offering suggestions for how to address a crisis like this in the future.
Beyond that, a portion of the proceeds from the book will be donated to the Chef Relief Network of World Central Kitchen for efforts in Puerto Rico and beyond.
Chef Jose Andres has developed his theories on food relief first by working with a homeless shelter who used restaurant left overs to feed people and then expanding their process after the earthquake in Haiti. The biggest test so far of his small non-profit came after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico.
His ideas are simple:
Find a working commercial kitchen and chefs. He started in a friend’s restaurant in San Juan.
Source the ingredients locally to avoid delays and to let businesses in the supply chain start to rebuild. In Puerto Rico he used the normal suppliers that restaurants would use.
Make a few simple dishes that can be made in huge quantities. They started with a stew, pans of chicken and rice, and thousands of ham and cheese sandwiches.
Use local food trucks to deliver food to the hardest hit areas. Also partner with whatever group is going into areas and have them deliver food. Among his best delivery teams in Puerto Rico was Homeland Security.
Open other commercial kitchens in strategic areas around the disaster area and repeat. Throughout his time in Puerto Rico they used a convention center, school kitchens, culinary school kitchens, and a church.
One of his major complaints about the food situation in Puerto Rico was that the groups who normally handle this in disasters on the mainland decided that it was too hard to get food to the island so they didn’t. The Red Cross for example, didn’t bring in the Southern Baptists and their mobile kitchens to cook like they normally do so they didn’t have any food to deliver. (I had no idea the Southern Baptists have a whole relief cooking operation despite going to a Southern Baptist church for four years. Never heard of it.) Food and water distribution was not listed as a priority for most groups.
When food was getting distributed it was MREs. These are prepared military food packets and they can get you through a few days but you don’t want them long term. He was also angry that water was being given in bottles only. He campaigned for tanker trucks of water to be taken to towns and let people fill their own containers instead of adding all the plastic waste to the environment. That idea didn’t get taken up.
A lot of this book is about his fight with FEMA. He wanted a government contract to pay for his supplies. He had started ordering food and supplies on a handshake with the distributor with no idea how he was going to pay for it. At their peak they were spending over $50,000 a day on food. Government contracting is a slow business that is doubly hard in a disaster. He talks about contracts that were given to people who never delivered food. The husband was a government contract person (not with FEMA). He listened to some of this part and talked about the other side. After disasters, FEMA contractors are apparently reviewed and taken to task for working too quickly, for not getting bids even if there is only one supplier in the area, etc. Careers get ruined because people were trying to do the right or fastest thing in an emergency and now there is a lot of trouble trying to get anyone to do those jobs and those who remain aren’t likely to take risks. Things are just going to get worse.
This is a good review of what happened in the disaster from the point of view of an outsider to the government. His ideas are definitely worth listening to and I’m interested to see where his nonprofit, World Central Kitchen, goes from here.
The rain in Spain doesn't mainly fall on the plain…
Brits abroad Belinda, Julia, Laura and Georgina need more than the sweetness of churros with chocolate dipping sauce to save them from their unsavoury states of affairs.
Cue Carmen Maria Abril de la Fuente Ferrera, the town's flamboyant flamenco teacher! But can she really be the answer to their prayers?
One thing's for sure: the Costa del Sol will never be the same again
This book tells the story of British people behaving badly in Spain.
Belinda is on the run with her husband Jez. They are living on the yacht that is all they have left after their business collapsed in England, probably because of her husband’s shady dealings.
Julia lives with her husband and daughter. She’s the type of ex-pat who refers to all other foreigners as immigrants and is angry that people in Spain want her to speak something other than English.
Laura lives in a super wealthy English enclave with her husband and mother and children. She spends her time lunching with other wives and is bored out of her mind.
Georgina has been dumped in Spain after a bad breakup and an even worse rebound fling. She’s working in a bar and has just learned that she is about to be kicked out of her housing.
These four end up joining an unorthodox flamenco class in a small town. The first lessons involve learning to step out of your comfort zone. A lot of this happens around eating churros. Most of these women are horrified at the idea of eating anything with so many fried carbs covered in chocolate sauce. But each little act of rebellion against the lives that they are living leads to larger steps until their lives are changed forever.
There is an element of magical realism in this story. The flamenco teacher Carmen is able to determine exactly what push each of them needs. She’s a mysterious figure. You never learn much about her. She never even teaches them to dance. They can just magically do it perfectly. This fits into the stereotype of the “exotic” person who teaches white people to fix themselves and then disappears, presumably to go help others.
I never really warmed up to the characters, except for Laura. She realizes that she is living in Spain and not some English colony. She starts to want to get out more and learn some Spanish and interact with the real country. She moves away from the overwhelming fakeness of her life. I wanted to back away slowly from the other characters. Even as the story progresses and you are supposed to start to feel for them I couldn’t get over the horribleness of how they are first described.
Giveaway – Win a signed copy of The Cocktail Bar (Open Internationally) *Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize. a Rafflecopter giveaway
Author Bio – Isabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalucia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the sea and the mountains. When she isn’t having her cake and eating it, sampling a new cocktail on the beach, or ferrying her children to and from after school activities, she can usually be found writing. As a co-founder and a former contributing writer for the popular online women’s magazine, The Glass House Girls – www.theglasshousegirls.com – she has also been lucky enough to subject the digital world to her other favourite pastimes, travel, the Law of Attraction, and Prince (The Purple One). She has recently become a Book Fairy, and is having lots of fun with her imaginative ‘drops’! Costa del Churros is her third novel with Crooked Cat Books, following on from the hit sensations, Oh! What a Pavlova and The Cocktail Bar.
Social Media Links – www.isabellamayauthor.com Twitter – @IsabellaMayBks Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/IsabellaMayAuthor/ Instagram – @isabella_may_author
The inspiring and sometimes hilarious story of a family that quit the rat race and left the city to live out their ideals on an organic farm, and ended up building a model for a new kind of agriculture. When Brent Preston, his wife, Gillian, and their two young children left Toronto ten years ago, they arrived on an empty plot of land with no machinery, no money and not much of a clue. Through a decade of grinding toil, they built a real organic farm, one that is profitable, sustainable, and their family's sole source of income. Along the way they earned the respect and loyalty of some of the best chefs in North America, and created a farm that is a leading light in the good food movement. Told with humour and heart in Preston's unflinchingly honest voice, The New Farm arrives at a time of unprecedented interest in food and farming, with readers keenly aware of the overwhelming environmental, social and moral costs of our industrial food system. The New Farm offers a vision for a hopeful future, a model of agriculture that brings people together around good food, promotes a healthier planet, and celebrates great food and good living."
A lot of the time when you read memoirs about people moving away from the city and starting a farm they stop the story after a few years. This book chronicles ten years of the ups and downs of a small organic farm.
What I found most interesting was the multiple times that they found that they needed to stray from small organic farm “orthodoxy” in order to have a viable and profitable business.
They tried growing a large number of crops but realized that most people don’t want the exotic stuff so now they grow mostly greens and cucumbers.
They abandoned farmers’ markets and CSAs to sell directly to restaurants
They tried using wannabe farmers as interns for farm labor but they were such bad workers that they ended up hiring Mexican workers instead.
I was interested in the difference between the experience of Mexican migrant farm workers on this farm in Canada versus what I was familiar with in the United States. In Canada there are worker programs so they are in the country legally and have workers’ rights. The guidelines seem reasonable and we should have programs like that too.
I also liked that this book did not shy away from the cruelty involved in animal agriculture. I found the section about their pigs and chickens hard to read. They have moved away from raising pigs in part because they had issues with it too.
There is a truism in farming that you have to go big to survive. They discuss the conflicts that they have had about this. At what point do you stop trying to grow so you don’t destroy yourself or your marriage? They are very honest about the toll that the last ten years have had on their relationships.
I really enjoyed reading this book. I think that this is a good book for anyone interested in what it really takes to have a small farm.
Adèle has only one goal: catch the purple-haired thief who broke into her home and stole her exocore, thus proving herself to her new police team. Little does she know, her thief is also the local baker.
Claire owns the Croissant-toi, but while her days are filled with pastries and customers, her nights are dedicated to stealing exocores. These new red gems are heralded as the energy of the future, but she knows the truth: they are made of witches’ souls.
When her twin—a powerful witch and prime exocore material—disappears, Claire redoubles in her efforts to investigate. She keeps running into Adèle, however, and whether or not she can save her sister might depend on their conflicted, unstable, but deepening relationship.
---------------BAKER THIEF is the first in a fantasy series meant to reframe romance tropes within non-romantic relationship and centering aromantic characters. Those who love enemies-to-lovers and superheroes should enjoy the story!
I picked this up because it combined a baker and a fantasy mystery. There really isn’t as much baking content as I would have liked because Claude the baker is off being a superhero and keeps needing to close the bakery.
What I Liked:
This is a fantasy world based in a French worldview. The author is from Quebec and it shows in the French blended into this story. I don’t know that I’ve seen another book where this is so well combined. Place names, official titles, etc are French.
There are witches in this world but they have been driven underground by persecution in the fairly recent past. Nonmagical people think they are safe now because witches are gone. Witches are not gone.
The main character is Claude/Claire. They are genderfluid. Generally, he is Claude during the day when he is baking and Claire at night when she is a thief. That schedule of genders was working well until recently when Claude is starting to regret not being comfortable working during the day as Claire or spending the night as Claude depending on which gender feels most comfortable at the time.
It tackles issues relating to aromanticism and asexuality. There are several characters at different places on the spectrum of aromanticism and asexuality so you don’t get a single point of view of these topics. It shows how aromantic people have relationships which is important if readers aren’t familiar with this aspect of queerness.
The rest of the cast is also very diverse. Many genders, sexualities, disabilities, and races are represented. It is also very good at body acceptance of various sizes of people.
Things that are slightly off:
This isn’t the author’s fault but there is a major part of the plot that is very similar to part of the plot of Witchmark. I loved that book so much and I read it first, so what should have felt like a surprising plot point felt like, “Oh, this again?” The books came out about just about the same time so it is just a coincidence but it decreased my enjoyment a bit.
Things that I’ll probably get yelled at on the internet for criticizing:
Sometimes the supporting characters were very awkwardly introduced. The author was working hard to include characters from many different backgrounds which is good but it turned every character introduction into a descriptive list. It is a case of telling the reader instead of showing the reader through the character’s actions. For example, you wouldn’t necessarily be told when being introduced to your new boss what her sexual orientation was or that she was polyamorous. Maybe you would see pictures on her desk or it would come up in conversation later.
Sometimes the plot seemed to be set aside in order for a lesson about identity. The worst instance of this was when Claire ran into a burning building, past a female-presenting witch who was setting the place on fire, and into a room where other witches were being held captive, in order to rescue them. The witches inside ask their friend is ok. Claire refers to her as “Fire girl” in her explanation. At that point, she is informed that the witch is agender and not a girl. My thought reading that passage was, “This is why conservatives laugh at us.” You are being rescued from a building that is literally on fire. You were trapped and needed a person with super strength to get you out. Now, while the fire is about to drop the whole ceiling on you, you take the time to admonish your rescuer for misgendering a person they literally saw in passing. Run first – then figure out the proper pronouns of strangers you’ve never spoken to. This book sometimes felt like an educational tome on identity more than a fantasy story. That’s fine if that was the author’s goal but I would have liked to see both aspects blended together more seamlessly.
Clara Gutierrez is a highly-skilled technician specializing in the popular 'Raise' AI companions. Her childhood in a migrant worker family has left her uncomfortable with lingering in any one place, so she sticks around just long enough to replenish her funds before she moves on, her only constant companion Joanie, a fierce, energetic Raise hummingbird.
Sal is a fully autonomous robot, the creation of which was declared illegal ages earlier due to ethical concerns. She is older than the law, however, at best out of place in society and at worst hated. Her old master is long dead, but she continues to run the tea shop her master had owned, lost in memories of the past, slowly breaking down, and aiming to fulfill her master's dream for the shop.
When Clara stops by Sal's shop for lunch, she doesn't expect to find a real robot there, let alone one who might need her help. But as they begin to spend time together and learn more about each other, they both start to wrestle with the concept of moving on…
This novella tells the story of a humanoid robot who is keeping her former owner’s beloved tea shop running almost 300 years after her death. Robots like her have since been outlawed. Robotics technician Clara is thrilled to meet Sal and offers to help fix up her ailing software. What does she want to have changed though? What makes her HER?
This book features a f/f romantic, asexual relationship.
Batter Upby Robyn Neeley on June 15th 2015 Pages: 172 Setting: New York
Bakeshop owner Emma Stevens has a secret. A delicious premonition she shares every Monday evening with the bachelors of Buttermilk Falls as they gather at the Sugar Spoon bakery for Batter Up night.
Investigative reporter Jason Levine just found himself as the man candy for a bachelorette party in Las Vegas. Roped into attending the Vegas nuptials, was he hearing things when the groom shares that the only reason he’s getting married is because a small town baker conjured up the name of his soulmate in her cake batter?
Sparks fly when Jason tries to expose Emma as a fraud, but reality and logic go out the window as he begins to fall under her spell.
This is a fun read that works if you just suspend disbelief and embrace the magical realism of the idea. Emma knows one spell. There really isn't an explanation for that.
I also wondered how they have Batter Up night every week in this very small town and never run out of bachelors who want to commit.
It is a fluffy, light romance with fade to black sex scenes and magical cupcake batter so if you are looking for an escapist quick read this one might be for you.
Gladys Gatsby has dreamed of becoming a restaurant critic for New York's biggest newspaper--she just didn’t expect to be assigned her first review at age 11. Now, if she wants to meet her deadline and hang on to her dream job, she’ll have to defy her fast-food-loving parents, cook her way into the heart of her sixth-grade archenemy, and battle Manhattan’s meanest maitre d’.
Gladys loves food. She loves to read about it, cook it, and eat it. Her parents don’t care about food at all. They pick up dinner from fast food restaurants every night. If they do try to cook, they believe that everything can be cooked just as well in a microwave as on a stove or oven.
Because of this Gladys as been cooking in secret for years. She gets caught the day that her parents come home early just as she sets the kitchen curtains on fire while trying to crisp the top of a creme brulee.
Now she’s in trouble. Cooking is forbidden for six months and/or until she makes some friends and gets involved with what her parents consider normal kids’ activities.
She’s trying to comply but when her entry into a newspaper essay contest in confused for a job application for a freelance food writer, she gets an assignment to review a dessert restaurant. Now she has to find a way to get to New York City from Long Island for her chance to make it big.
This book was really cute. It would appeal to anyone who is more into food than the people around them. If your family doesn’t understand why full fat is better to cook with than nonfat or why you can’t use coffee shop sweetener packets instead of sugar when baking, then you understand Gladys’ troubles.
My only complaint is that I wish there were recipes for the desserts she made.
We had a great start to 2018 in January with 30 links! The winner of the drawing is Tina from Novel Meals. I’ve decided to change up the prizes for the monthly drawing. We’ve been having more international winners recently, which is wonderful. Because the cost of shipping books I already have is high, I have been shipping them books directly from Book Depository. That made it easy. So, I decided to make the same offer to everyone. Any winner can pick a book from Book Depository (or Amazon if in the U.S.) for up to $10 and I will order it for them. U.S. based winners also have the option of getting a $10 Amazon gift card emailed to them.