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Archive for the ‘recipes’ Tag

Food, Families and Fate   Leave a comment

The Comfort Food Diaries

Emily Nunn knows food. She wrote about it as a staff writer for The New Yorker and Chicago Tribune, among other publications. She also knows heartbreak and self-damaging behavior, which she shares in The Comfort Food Diaries.

A description of her seemingly-ideal life in Chicago where she lives with her boyfriend, dubbed “the engineer” and his lovely daughter, “the princess,” fades quickly. After Nunn learns that her brother has committed suicide she begins her own self-destructive tailspin through alcoholism and ending the romantic relationship.

Nunn reveals her backstory as she seeks to find balance in her life. The loss of her brother, her parents’ dysfunctional marriage – and ultimate divorce – her relationship with other siblings, relatives and friends fill the pages. At the suggestion of a friend, she embarks on a “comfort food tour.”

The direction of this tour is different than what I anticipated. Rather than a road trip around different parts of the country in search of consolation fare, Nunn sojourns to the places of her past and the role of food in her past and present. This isn’t a one-food-fits-all look at comfort, it is only about Nunn and her perceptions.

My family, for example, has dishes deemed “classics” in lieu of comfort foods. Not because they are universal, instead because they’re unique to us. Nunn, with her family and friends, has her own.

In addition to narrating her quest, Nunn shares recipes with her memories and new experiences. Her writing style is conversational and honest. She also knows how to whet the appetite.

The Comfort Food Diaries: My Quest for the Perfect Dish to Mend a Broken Heart
Three-and-a-half Bookmarks
Atria Books, 2017
310 pages

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Growing up With Good Taste   Leave a comment

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Foodies and artists, often one in the same, should enjoy Lucy Knisley’s comic book memoir, Relish: My Life in the Kitchen. It’s humorous, educational and a quick read.

At an early age her parents instilled an appreciation of gourmet food. I’d like to think I did, too, with my own kids, but I never considered serving my toddler children poached salmon. I did, however, insist that they at least try new things even if they only took one bite. The result – years later – is they all have fine palates and enjoy a good meal.

But back to Knisley.

She shares stories about leaving the City for upstate New York following her parents’ divorce. She relates her initial displeasure at having to be around farms, chickens and seed stores. Eventually, her text and accompanying illustrations reflect a tone of gratitude. It’s clear she has good relationships with both parents, but she does include some of the rough spots they endured. These were, no surprise, Knisley’s teenage years. She makes no effort to (literally) draw herself in a better light; this is a highlight.

Humor underlies these chronicles of coming-of-age, food cravings, travel and love for her parents. Knisely also includes illustrated recipes, cooking tips and explanations of cooking techniques.

Among my favorite chapters is the account of her efforts to recreate the croissants she so enjoyed in Italy. Her determination is as evident as her failure, but her humor saves the day. This is always the best ingredient no matter the endeavor.

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen
Five Bookmarks
First Second Books, 2013
173 pages

 

FUDS: What’s Not For Dinner   Leave a comment

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FUDS: A Complete Encyclofoodia by Alfredo & Antonio Mizretti is neither for the weak of stomach nor the humorless. Let’s start with the fact it’s actually written by Kelly Hudson, Dan Klein and Arthur Meyer. This trio has taken the mystique and the occasional arrogance often associated with haute cuisine out of the kitchen and onto the equivalent of a culinary comedy stage.

The authors are irreverent, silly and occasionally gross in the manner of pre-adolescents. They’re also fun and creative. Although the book is “Dedicated to Food,” it could easily be earmarked for those who love food and don’t mind heavy-handed metaphorical flavoring.

The Mizretti personas assumed by the true authors are twin brothers who grew up in Denver eating Mama Mizretti’s homemade specialties, which, according to Alfredo and Antonio “was awful.” Eventually, they open a restaurant, FUDS, in Brooklyn with only three items on the menu.

The content is ridiculous, but for anyone interested in food, and not so full of him or herself that a good laugh can’t be appreciated, it’s entertaining.

The book is comprised of several chapters related to the Mizrettis’ background, food basics a la FUDS, satirical descriptions of kitchen tools and several chapters of recipes – the kind made up at summer camp or on a college campus. Some are, frankly, gross. All are absurd.

A little FUDS go a long way. Its 160 pages, of which many are illustrations, is just about the right length. Of course, it also lends itself to return reads.

FUDS: A Complete Encyclofoodia from Tickling Shrimp to Not Dying in a Restaurant
Four Bookmarks (0 plates)
Bloomsbury, 2015
160 pages

A Half Full Plate/Book   Leave a comment

I’ve probably read half of Diane Mott Davidson’s opus of culinary mystery-lites. It’s been some time since I read the last one; I should have stopped when I was more amused by the style and content, and more tantalized by the recipes interwoven with the plot. The Whole Enchilada, the most recent adventure of Goldy Schultz the Colorado caterer, left me hungry for something of more substance.

Once again, Goldy finds herself in the midst of a murder investigation in the small, mountain community where she lives just west of Denver. The number of murders, through the years, in the small, fictional town of Aspen Meadow is impressive – but not in a good way. If I lived there, I’d consider moving. Thank goodness Goldy is there to assist the local sheriff’s department solve the crime(s).

What I’ve found entertaining in the past is Mott Davidson’s humor and the suspense she has been able to create. The who-dunit was always fun to try to name before it was ever revealed in the book, but this time the element of intrigue is absent. Perhaps this is because there are two murders, one attempted murder and several attacks on Goldy herself. It’s too much strain on the suspension of disbelief.

The recipes featured are not ones I am interested in trying myself – again, this is unlike my experience with Mott Davidson’s earlier works. If the food had been more enticing, I might have had a better appetite for what she served here.

The Whole Enchilada

Three Bookmarks
William Morrow, 2013
369 pages, including recipes

Bringing Home the Bacon   Leave a comment

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Bacon. It’s one of those foods that evoke smiles and salivation no matter when it’s served. Bacon Nation by Peter Laminsky and Marie Rama illustrates that bacon isn’t just for breakfast – as if.

In addition to 125 recipes, from the obvious Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp to the creative Bacon Jam – and that’s just among the appetizers, side dishes, salads, desserts, even poultry, featuring the favored pork product are included.

Last Christmas a friend shared her recipe for what she called “Bacon Crack” due to its addictive qualities. It featured a sweet and savory rub. Bacon Nation doesn’t contain this particular tasty treat, but has several others in the same category, such as Peanut Butter Bacon Cookies. Although not as sinful as Bacon Crack, they are easy to eat.

As with most well-executed cookbooks, Laminsky and Rama don’t rely on recipes alone, even though they could. The authors’ first chapter is dedicated to tips for purchasing and cooking bacon. They recommend thick cut for most of the recipes, and explain the difference between dry and wet cured. The former is rubbed with salt (often pepper, occasionally salt;) and the latter is brined.

Each section, or chapter, features a brief prologue, and individual recipes are accompanied by an also-brief introduction. These range from explanations of how the recipes came about or what was done to modify them for the home cook.

Chapter 12, by the way, is entitled “Breakfast Means Bacon.” Since it comes near the end, I really don’t believe the authors/chefs.

Bacon Nation
Four Bookmarks
Workman Publishing, 2013
310 pages, including photos and index

Mystery Lite   Leave a comment

Revelvet

A wholesome, but fiercely independent, young woman in rural Minnesota isn’t exactly who comes to mind when a murder needs to be solved. Yet, author Joanne Fluke has developed quite the following with her Hannah Swensen mysteries. The only explanation I can surmise lies in the fact that Hannah, who fits the above depiction, is also a baker extraordinaire and it’s worth the easy reading to get some new recipes.

Fluke’s most recent addition to the Hannah Swensen oeuvre is Red Velvet Cupcake Murder, which had been on The New York Times Best Seller’s List for several weeks. That, along with my own penchant for cupcakes, is what drew me to the book. Nonetheless, my expectations, fortunately, were not high, so I was not  disappointed.

Hannah lives in Lake Eden, a small town, where she owns the Cookie Jar, a bakery and coffee shop. The story begins with her catering the opening of a renovated hotel. The cupcakes are a featured attraction, along with several delicious-sounding baked goods. Readers are immediately introduced (or for those Hannah followers re-introduced) to Hannah’s mother, sister, love interests (yes, plural) and friends. Hannah’s nemesis from an earlier book reappears on the scene.

It doesn’t take long for an accident to occur, which requires a lot of cooking on Hannah’s part to help make people feel better. Soon thereafter someone is murdered, and instead of being part of the unofficial investigation, Hannah becomes a suspect. Somehow, thanks to friends and family, the bakery continues to serve the delicious sweets it is known for, and readers can continue to drool over their descriptions.

All of the delectables include clever names to fit the situation. Among them are Razzle Dazzle Brownies, Tickled Pink Lemonade Cookies, Snappy Turtle Pie and the Red Velvet Cupcakes with a Surprise Filling — the storyline is so predictable it’s nice there is at least one revelation that truly unfolds.

Red Velvet Cupcake Murder
Three Bookmarks
Kenninsgton Books, 2013
323 pages, including recipes