There is a new American culinary landscape developing around us, and it’s one that chef Edward Lee is proud to represent. In a nation of immigrants who bring their own culinary backgrounds to this country, what happens one or even two generations later? What does their cuisine become? It turns into a cuisine uniquely its own and one that Lee argues makes America the most interesting place to eat on earth. Lee illustrates this through his own life story of being a Korean immigrant and a New Yorker and now a Southerner. In Off the Menu, he shows how we each have a unique food memoir that is worthy of exploration. To Lee, recipes are narratives and a conduit to learn about a person, a place, or a point in time. He says that the best way to get to know someone is to eat the food they eat. Each chapter shares a personal tale of growth and self-discovery through the foods Lee eats and the foods of the people he interacts with—whether it’s the Korean budae jjigae of his father or the mustard beer cheese he learns to make from his wife’s German-American family. Each chapter is written in narrative form and punctuated with two recipes to highlight the story, including Green Tea Beignets, Cornbread Pancakes with Rhubarb Jam, and Butternut Squash Schnitzel. Each recipe tells a story, but when taken together, they form the arc of the narrative and contribute to the story we call the new American food.
Edward Lee is fascinated by what happens to food when people move to a new country. For example, what happens when Korean immigrants move to an area where they can’t get the types of peppers that they are used to using and have to substitute South American varieties instead? What new types of cuisines emerge?
He traveled around America to areas where new immigrant communities have grown up to sample the food. Along the way he tries to ingratiate himself in restaurants to find the best food. It doesn’t always go well.
This book challenges a lot of deeply held beliefs in the foodie world.
What does it mean to call a food “authentic”?
If authentic means “the way it was made at a certain time in the past in a certain place”, does that imply that that culture’s food scene can’t evolve? Must it stay stagnant so rich American people feel it is worth eating?
Who gets to be the judge of authenticity anyway?
Why is he looked at strangely if he decides to open a restaurant serving anything but Korean food? Should he be limited to cooking the food of his ancestors? Isn’t he allowed to evolve too?
There are a lot of recipes in this book. I actually made a few which is really unusual for me. I know now that I don’t like anything pickled except cucumbers. I was making coleslaw at the same time I was reading this and he had a basic coleslaw recipe. It was good.
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.
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.
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.
Fleeing from a romance gone wrong, Ellie Farmer arrives in the pretty little village of Sunnybrook, hoping for a brand new start that most definitely does not include love! Following an unscheduled soak in the village duck pond, she meets Sylvia, who runs the nearby Duck Pond Café. Renting the little flat above the café seems like the answer to Ellie's prayers. It's only for six months, which will give her time to sort out her life, far away from cheating boyfriend Richard.
But is running away from your past ever really the answer?
Clashing with the mysterious and brooding Zack Chamberlain, an author with a bad case of writer's block, is definitely not what Ellie needs right now. And then there's Sylvia, who's clinging so hard to her past, she's in danger of losing the quaint but run-down Duck Pond Café altogether.
Can Ellie find the answers she desperately needs in Sunnybrook? And will she be able to help save Sylvia's little Duck Pond Café from closure?
Books set in cafes in England are my favorites. This story features both a bakery and a cafe.
This is the first of a planned series of three books in this small town. This section has the task of setting up all the characters and situations which is a lot to do in such a small space. As a result it felt a bit like the author was ticking off the boxes of what is expected in this genre.
A woman who just was dumped by her long term boyfriend for another woman
A conveniently single man at her new location complete with an adorable child
An aging proprietor of a failing cafe who wants to take in a total stranger
The story was enjoyable but it never rose above the predictable. There wasn’t enough depth of emotion in the story to draw me in fully. This may be a series read best when it is all completed so the characters have room to develop and grow.
I’m most interested in seeing the development of some of the secondary characters like the secret baker who is learning to stand up for herself.
An enlightening narrative history—an entertaining fusion of Tom Wolfe and Michael Pollan—that traces the colorful origins of once unconventional foods and the diverse fringe movements, charismatic gurus, and counterculture elements that brought them to the mainstream and created a distinctly American cuisine.
Food writer Jonathan Kauffman journeys back more than half a century—to the 1960s and 1970s—to tell the story of how a coterie of unusual men and women embraced an alternative lifestyle that would ultimately change how modern Americans eat. Impeccably researched, Hippie Food chronicles how the longhairs, revolutionaries, and back-to-the-landers rejected the square establishment of President Richard Nixon’s America and turned to a more idealistic and wholesome communal way of life and food.
From the mystical rock-and-roll cult known as the Source Family and its legendary vegetarian restaurant in Hollywood to the Diggers’ brown bread in the Summer of Love to the rise of the co-op and the origins of the organic food craze, Kauffman reveals how today’s quotidian whole-foods staples—including sprouts, tofu, yogurt, brown rice, and whole-grain bread—were introduced and eventually became part of our diets. From coast to coast, through Oregon, Texas, Tennessee, Minnesota, Michigan, Massachusetts, and Vermont, Kauffman tracks hippie food’s journey from niche oddity to a cuisine that hit every corner of this country.
A slick mix of gonzo playfulness, evocative detail, skillful pacing, and elegant writing, Hippie Food is a lively, engaging, and informative read that deepens our understanding of our culture and our lives today.
Obviously I had to listen to this book. They should have just titled it “A Book for Heather.”
This is a history of the health food and vegetarian food movements in the U.S. It starts with briefly talking about health food people like the Kelloggs and Dr. Graham at the end of the 19th century and early 20th century. It then segues into the macrobiotic movement which came to the U.S. from Japan. The bulk of the book focuses on the post-WW II push back to the marketing of processed convenience food.
What I really learned from this book:
White Folks Can’t Cook
The hippie/back-to-the-land movement was overwhelmingly white. That’s briefly addressed but not explored deeply. A lot of these people seemed to come from a background where they didn’t learn to cook without convenience foods. So when they tried to cook whole food ingredients, they pretty much failed. Spices? What are they?
That’s how vegetarian food got a reputation for being bland and boring. It only started to get good when they started stealing ideas from other cultures. Japanese influences came in through macrobiotics. This gets linked to politics because of the 1965 immigration reform that allowed more immigrants from non-European countries. Those people opened restaurants and suddenly people realized that you don’t need to eat food with the texture and taste of tree bark. If the movement was inclusive from the start, hippie food might not have had such a bad reputation.
I loved hearing about how all sorts of foods that we consider staples now came to the United States. Again this is presented from a white, middle class perspective. It talks about starting tofu production in the States but I’m sure there were people in Asian communities who were doing this before white people adopted it and started mass production. The same can go for different spices and/or vegetables that I’m sure were in use in black or Latinx communities. That’s my major criticism of this book.
I would get excited whenever some of my favorites where mentioned. Diet for a Small Planet! (Yes, her made up theory of the necessity of “complete proteins” has been repeatedly debunked. Can we let that die now? Please? Asking for all vegetarians who get asked about it ALL THE TIME.) The Moosewood Cookbooks! Those were some of the first I read.
Read this one if you love food history as it relates to personal ethics and politics.
Cooking a wonderful meal is an art. An act of love. An act of grace. A gift that affirms and gives life—not only does it nurture those who partake of the meal; it also feeds the soul of the creator. These are lessons Gina learns from her mother, daughter of an unfortunate French chef.
Gina is a young woman born to poor parents, a nobody keen to taste life outside the world she was born into. A world that exposes her to fascinating people gripped by dark motives. Her passion for cooking is all she has to help her navigate it.
She gets lucky when she’s chosen to cook at a Michelin-starred restaurant in the San Francisco Bay Area where customers belong to a privileged class with money to spare for a dinner of inventive dishes costing hundreds of dollars. In this heady, scintillating atmosphere, she meets new friends and new challenges—pastry chef Marcia, filthy rich client Leon, and Brent, a brooding homicide detective. This new world, it turns out, is also one of unexpected danger.
The main character is working at a restaurant. She has a chance to serve one of the dishes she created to a favored client. He is there on a date with her childhood best friend. He immediately, like while sitting in front of his date, starts talking about his interest in the main character. That’s super creepy behavior. Then he starts to stalk her in spite of her repeated requests for him to stop.
Apparently every time her friend’s boyfriends meet our main character they immediately fall for her without her doing anything at all to encourage them.
I actually checked several times to confirm that this was written by a woman. You usually don’t see the ‘vapid heroine who doesn’t do anything to attract men but they fall all over her just for existing storyline’ in books written by women. You especially don’t see it to the point where other women are physically attacking her – repeatedly. This book also doesn’t really seem to consider stalking to be a bad thing. It is just proof he loves you. If he won’t stop, you just haven’t said no hard enough and why are you wanting to say no anyway?
I thought our stalking dude was obviously the bad guy of the story but I was wrong. Our MC decides to move in with her stalker because he’s rich and she wants to live that lifestyle until he gets tired of her and kicks her out. That’s her plan. When her mother tells her that it is a completely stupid idea she is presented as out of touch.
I didn’t care about anyone in this story except maybe Christi, the main character’s childhood best friend. Everyone else was only out for themselves and didn’t give you any reason to root for them. I’m not a fan of books with amoral characters. Books where everyone is just using each other with no concern about the right or wrong of their actions don’t usually work for me. That’s definitely the case here.
Evy Journey, writer, wannabe artist, and flâneuse (feminine of flâneur), wishes she lives in Paris where people have perfected the art of aimless roaming. Armed with a Ph.D., she used to research and help develop mental health programs.
She’s a writer because beautiful prose seduces her and existential angst continues to plague her despite such preoccupations having gone out of fashion. She takes occasional refuge by invoking the spirit of Jane Austen to spin tales of love, loss, and finding one’s way—stories into which she weaves mystery or intrigue.
Shelby Preston, a young single mother, is at a crossroads. She feels suffocated by her hardscrabble life in rural Georgia and dreams of becoming a professional chef. Lord knows her family could use a pot of something good.
In Atlanta, Mallory Lakes is reeling from a bad breakup. The newspaper food columnist is also bracing for major changes at work that could put her job at risk. Determined to find the perfect recipe for how to reinvent herself, she gets involved in the growing farm-to-table movement. But an emotional setback threatens to derail everything she’s worked for. Shelby and Mallory couldn’t be more different. But through their shared passion for food, they form an unlikely friendship—a bond that just might be their salvation.
This book has been sitting on my ereader for a long time. Now I’m upset that I didn’t read it sooner.
Shelby is a young single mother who follows food blogger Mallory and loves to make her recipes. She wants to be a chef but that would require her to leave her daughter with her mother in southern Georgia and move to Atlanta to work and go to school.
The newspaper Mallory writes for has just moved totally online and she has thrown herself into creating a new, indispensable, digital persona.
Shelby and Mallory cross paths at the grocery where Shelby gets a job. Their lives start to intersect more and more until the day when they are bound together by an accident.
The writing in this book was very beautifully done and pulled me in immediately. I loved the contrast between the poor, rural Shelby who dreams of a better life and urban Mallory. One of the themes in the book that haven’t seen written about much in foodie fiction was the accessibility of foodie culture. Shelby decides which of the meals that she will make based on what is available and affordable at her local grocery store. She talks about how she understands that Mallory feels that all the produce needs to be organic but that isn’t possible for her. When Shelby tries to get a job in a deli at the grocery store, she wears her best clothes for the interview but realizes that they are shabby compared to the affluent people she sees there. The grocery store in question just rebranded as an upscale store, losing some neighborhood clients in the process.
Overall, I wasn’t as invested in the story by the end as I was in the beginning. I wasn’t a fan of the romance angle for Mallory or of the accident plot that seemed like it wasn’t necessary. However, I think that the well done characterizations of Shelby and the secondary characters is still enough to recommend this book.
There are recipes in the back of this book like there are in a lot of books that feature food. But guys, I actually made one of the recipes. I know, shocking, right. I think that reading all the people who link up at the Foodies Read pages is getting to me.
There was a recipe for Pimento Cheese. I eat 99% vegan at home but back in time I really did love some pimento cheese. I decided to try to veganize it. I used vegan mayo and Daiya cheddar shreds. I love Just Mayo’s vegan mayo but I actually hate Daiya fake cheese. I think they taste like wax. There wasn’t another cheddar selection in the store though so I gave it a try.
It was amazing! Totally had the right taste and texture. I can’t take attractive food pictures to save my life and I contend that there is nothing that can make pimento cheese photogenic anyway, but here it is.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
Barber explores the evolution of American food from the 'first plate,' or industrially-produced, meat-heavy dishes, to the 'second plate' of grass-fed meat and organic greens, and says that both of these approaches are ultimately neither sustainable nor healthy. Instead, Barber proposes Americans should move to the 'third plate,' a cuisine rooted in seasonal productivity, natural livestock rhythms, whole-grains, and small portions of free-range meat
This is the kind of book that I absolutely love. It is a detailed look at ways of growing food with environmental sustainability in mind. It gave me warm fuzzies every time I picked it up.
The author runs a restaurant on a farm in New York. You would think that would be great for the environment but he starts to realize that they plant want he wants to use instead of him using what it is best for the farm to grow. For example, there are cover crops that are ground to help fix nitrogen or add other nutrients to the soil that are just plowed under because they don’t have a commercial use. Why shouldn’t he try to use those crops because it is part of what his farm needs to grow to survive instead of forcing the farm to grow the few things that he wants?
He visits a community of organic farmers in a small town in New York. They are doing extensive work on their soils by using crop rotation. They grew from one family doing this work who spread the word around the town. I loved this part. There is something about reading about building healthy soil that thrills me every time. I accept that I might be weird.
Then he visits the area of Spain famous for jamon iberico. This is a ham made from free-range pigs that ate a lot of acorns. There is a farmer here who is trying to do the same thing with geese to make fois gras without force feeding his ducks. Also in Spain he visits a fish farm next to a national park that is helping to rebuild an estuary to house their fish. Birds use the area as a stop over in migration. The fish farmers consider losing fish to avian predation a sign of a healthy farm ecosystem.
These were stories were interesting to me but I kept thinking about how unnecessary they are. If you really want to get into environmentally healthy eating, why eat meat at all?
At the end the book went back to plants and I was so happy. It discusses heirloom vegetable raising versus breeding for better varieties. So much of the plant breeding going on is for durability. Flavor isn’t considered. This section covers some people who are trying to fix that.
This book reminded me a lot of Omnivore’s Dilemma, especially the section on Joel Saladin. If you loved that book, you’ll love this one.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
A beautifully written food memoir chronicling one cook's journey from her rural Midwestern hometown to the intoxicating world of New York City fine dining and back again in search of her culinary roots.
Before Amy Thielen frantically plated rings of truffled potatoes in some of New York City s finest kitchens for chefs David Bouley, Daniel Boulud, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten she grew up in a northern Minnesota town home to the nation s largest French fry factory, the headwaters of the fast food nation, with a mother whose generous cooking pulsed with joy, family drama, and an overabundance of butter.
Inspired by her grandmother s tales of cooking on the family farm, Thielen moves with her artist husband to the rustic, off-the-grid cabin he built in the woods. There, standing at the stove three times a day, she finds the seed of a growing food obsession that leads to the sensory madhouse of New York s top haute cuisine brigades. When she goes home, she comes face to face with her past, and a curious truth: that beneath every foie gras sauce lies a rural foundation of potatoes and onions, and that taste memory is the most important ingredient of all.
I spent a good portion of this memoir wondering why I listen to books like this. It is no secret that I like foodie books but why do I listen to books where the lovingly drawn out descriptions of the food make me think, “Oh my god, that sounds disgusting!”
I’m not sure I found an answer to that. I guess that will be the lot of wanna-be vegans who listen to chef memoirs. You’ve been warned if descriptions of organ meats and loving talk of bloody juices and fond rememberances of torturing live lobsters bother you.
Amy Thielen was an English major before becoming a chef and it shows in this memoir. The writing is of a more literary quality than a lot of memoirs.
This book starts with the story of how she and her husband started to live a seasonal existence. In the summer they were in their off-the-grid cabin in Minnesota with a huge garden and in the winter they lived in New York. This part of the book ends with their decision to move back to Minnesota full time.
The next part of the book goes back in time for a series of essays about events that take place before the first section. You never find out what happened after the move back from New York. I had never heard of the author prior to reading this book so I wasn’t sure what happened besides writing this book. I guess you are either expected to know that or expected to Google.
I was most fascinated by the story of her husband who actually managed to make a good living as a working artist in New York. I thought that was a fairy tale. The story of making a home in the woods was amazing to me.
The author narrates the audiobook which is normally a horrible decision but she did a very good job. She infuses her story with a lot of emotion as she reads.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
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.
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:
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.
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:
“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.”
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.
You have to watch 8 hours of the trial a day but you can do it on your own schedule.
You have to finish your viewing for the day before you can be served any alcohol.
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 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: