I require two things of a cookbook for me to check it out:
♥ There must be lots of photos.
♥ Those photos must be beautiful.
Checking out a cookbook is not the same thing as USING a cookbook. For me to actually use a cookbook, I require two additional things:
♥ Simple ingredients.
♥ Simple instructions.
Very, very few cookbooks meet these requirements (thus I am forced to make frozen pizza at least twice a week. Sigh. It is so difficult being a lazy cook with high cookbook standards). So when I discovered that Mary McCartney’s new cookbook, FOOD: Vegetarian Home Cooking, exceeded all of my requirements I just had to hug it. Yup, I hug that cookbook. On a regular basis. Because I love it. I really really love it.
For those of you who are not as obsessed with the McCartney family as I am, Mary McCartney is the daughter of Sir Paul McCartney and the late Linda McCartney, and thus grew up in arguably the most famous of vegetarian families. I was worried that Mary’s long history with vegetarian cooking (not particularly my favorite type of food) would result in complicated and unappealing fancy cuisine and thus dash my hopes that I would ever be able to comfortably tuck in if invited to sit at the McCartney supper table.
Upon opening the cookbook, I was first struck (and almost brought to tears) by Mary’s cozy photographs of lovely people and fresh food and how the photographs reminded me just enough of her mother, Linda, but were still very much the artist’s own. Wonderful and crisp.
Then I started looking at the recipes and I was like “HEY I CAN MAKE THESE!” I made a cold Quinoa salad, a Quinoa and white bean soup, granola bars, zucchini pasta, a coconut-pineapple smoothie and all were easy and successful. My favorite recipe was the hummus and hot pepper jam sandwich – So simple, right?! The recipes are delicious and appealing to even a non-Veggie lover like me. Mary McCartney managed to not only make a beautiful and delicious cookbook, but also to make me feel like a confident, capable cook. And that is why FOOD gets a frequent hug from me. You should probably hug it, too.
I read a lot about The Bone Season before I started reading the book, which means that I read a lot about the book’s author, Samantha Shannon. A twenty-one year old recent graduate from Oxford University, Shannon has been marketed as a literary wunderkind. Every interview and review mentions her age or her status as a “young writer”. As a first-time published author, that is to be expected (here I am doing the same), and I would be lying if I didn’t say that influenced my decision to pick it up.
But this novel stands on its own (well, at least until the next six books in the series are released.) Shannon has created a fascinating near-future paranormal fantasy novel that includes elements of revisionist history and dystopian science fiction. Set in Scion controlled London in 2059, this fast-paced novel introduces readers to Paige Mahoney, a member of the clairvoyant criminal underworld. Scion was formed to find and eliminate clairvoyants like Paige, so being a member of Jaxon Hall’s Seven Dials based gang keeps her a protected and fed member of a family. But when Paige commits a crime that leads to her arrest and capture, she finds herself in Sheol I, a penal colony for voyants run by Rephaim, a race of non-human clairvoyants. While in Sheol I, Paige is assigned to the Warden for training and care and she has to decide if she can trust him, as she tries to find a way to save herself and the other humans imprisoned for life in Sheol I.
Shannon has been called the next J.K. Rowling (pressure anyone?) and The Bone Season has been compared to the Harry Potter series and The Hunger Games series. I understand why, and I would recommend that fans of both series check out The Bone Season. But I think that while there are elements of each in this book (magical powers, dystopian future, strong female protagonist), Shannon has created something different. She has said that she was influenced by Margaret Atwood, and this is apparent in her intelligent, literary take on urban fantasy. This might be my favorite read this year (but there are two more months to go, so don’t hold me to that.)
A decade ago, Paul Theroux’s best-selling Dark Star Safari chronicled his epic overland voyage from Cairo to Cape Town, providing an insider’s look at modern Africa. Now, with The Last Train to Zona Verde, he returns to discover how Africa and he have changed in the ensuing years. On this trip, Theroux is journeying through West Africa for the first time. From Cape Town, South Africa, to Namibia to Botswana, he covers nearly 2,500 miles before he is forced to give up what is to be his final foreign trip, a decision he chronicles in a delightfully curmudgeonly and unsparing chapter titled “What Am I Doing Here.”
Vivid, witty, and beautifully evocative, The Last Train to Zona Verde is a fitting final African adventure from the writer whose gimlet eye and effortless prose have brought the world to generations of readers. (description from publisher)
Make a garden of paper flowers bloom with more than 25 sophisticated patterns designed by Jeffery Rudell, whose work has appeared everywhere from Tiffany & Co. and The New York Botanical Garden to Good Housekeeping magazine. The unique projects in Paper Flowers will inspire and delight.
Just follow the full-size patterns and hundreds of step-by-step photos and simply cut, fold, and crumple to create these extraordinary blossoms, which feature a variety of papers such as tissue, origami, rice, vellum, and glassine. Pretty and modern, these easy-to-do projects are perfect for weddings, holidays, and other celebrations and make great centerpieces, garlands, bouquets, card decorations, and more. (description from publisher)
“The Midwest is rising,” writes Minnesota native Amy Thielen – and her engaging, keenly American debut cookbook, with 200 recipes that herald a revival in heartland cuisine, is delicious proof. Amy Thielen grew up in rural northern Minnesota, waiting in lines for potluck buffets amid loops of smoked sausages from her uncle’s meat market and in the company of women who could put up jelly without a recipe. She spent years cooking in some of New York City’s best restaurants, but it took moving home in 2008 for her to rediscover the wealth and diversity of the Midwestern table, and to witness its reinvention. The New Midwestern Table reveals all that she’s come to love – and learn – about the foods of her native Midwest, through updated classic recipes and numerous encounters with spirited home cooks and some of the region’s most passionate food producers.
With 150 color photographs capturing these fresh-from-the-land dishes and the striking beauty of the terrain, this cookbook will cause any home cook to fall in love with the captivating flavors of the American heartland. (description from publisher)
In The Longest Road one of America’s most respected writers takes an epic journey across America, Airstream in tow, and asks everyday Americans what unites and divides a country as endlessly diverse as it is large.
Standing on a wind-scoured island off the Alaskan coast, Philip Caputo marveled that its Inupiat Eskimo schoolchildren pledge allegiance to the same flag as the children of Cuban immigrants in Key West, six thousand miles away. A question began to take shape: How does the United States, peopled by every race on earth, remain united? Caputo resolved that one day he’d drive from the nation’s southernmost point to the northernmost point reachable by road, talking to everyday Americans about their lives and asking how they would answer his question. So it was that in 2011 Caputo, his wife and their two English setters made their way in a truck and classic trailer (hereafter known as “Fred” and “Ethel”) from Key West, Florida, to Deadhorse, Alaska, covering 16,000 miles. He spoke to everyone from a West Virginia couple saving souls to a Native American shaman and taco entrepreneur. What he found is a story that will entertain and inspire readers as much as it informs them about the state of today’s United States, the glue that holds us all together, and the conflicts that could cause us to pull apart. (description from publisher)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Seinfeld, New Adventures of Old Christine) and Tony Hale (Arrested Development) recently won Emmy’s for their roles on HBO’s Veep. Dreyfus plays former Senator/current Vice President Selina Meyer, who is constantly surprised by the banality of her new job. Hale plays Gary, Selina’s extraordinarily loyal personal aide. The cast is rounded out with Selina’s staff played by Anna Chumsky (My Girl!), Matt Walsh (Upright Citizen’s Brigade), and Reid Scott (My Boys, The Big C).
Veep features exceptional satirical writing, but what makes it work is the chemistry and experience of the cast. It would be easy to write off Dreyfus’ Selina as Elaine Benes 2.0, with her nervous energy and superficial nature, but despite her lack of power outside of her office, she has true power over her staff (a power dynamic that Elaine never had). Their deference to her leads to influxes of ego, which are deflated by having to comply with the President’s expectations and perform mundane tasks.
I would be remiss if I didn’t emphasize how great Tony Hale plays Gary. He deserved the Emmy he won for this role, because he somehow quietly, often in the background, overshadows Dreyfus (not an easy task!). Hale’s Gary is Buster from Arrested Development, if Buster could function outside of his mother’s living room. Hale and Dreyfus bring out the best in each other’s characters and the writing. I would recommend this series to fans of Arrested Development, Seinfeld, Parks and Recreation, and Louie.
With the purchase of his newest CD, B.O.A.T.S II, #metime, southern rapper 2 Chainz is releasing a digital Instagram cookbook with some of his favorite recipes called #mealtime. While 2 Chainz is not the first celebrity to offer up a cookbook, he might very well be the first to include a digital cookbook with a CD (I’m going to bet that he is.) You may not be able to borrow #mealtime from the library, but we would love it if you checked out one of these celebrity cookbooks:
The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the Planet by
Cher Horowitz Alicia Silverstone
Silverstone is best known for playing Cher Horowitz in Clueless, but also made a name for herself in recent years for demonstrating mouth-to-mouth feeding of children to many for the first time. This book helps vegetarians and vegans ensure that they’re getting all of the nutrition needed, while still making tasty food.
The Tucci Cookbook by Stanley Tucci
Tucci has been in a number of fantastic films, including The Devil Wears Prada, Julie and Julia, Easy A, and of course, The Hunger Games. As the grandson of Italian immigrants, Tucci has spent his life around food. In this cookbook he shares a mixture of family recipes and stories.
If it Makes You Healthy by Sheryl Crow
Crow’s cookbook is comprised of healthy recipes created by her personal chef, Chuck White. As breast cancer survivor, Crow is more concerned with the health benefits of certain foods and focusing on local and organic than with calorie counts. The title is a pun on Crow’s hit, “If it Makes You Happy” off of her 1996 eponymous album.
Cookin’ With Coolio: 5 Star Meals at a 1 Star Price by Coolio
So, apparently Coolio had a “Cookin’ with Coolio” webseries (that no one told me about!) and as a result, he had a cookbook published. The “Gangsta’s Paradise” and “Fantastic Voyage” rapper (and “Rollin’ with My Homies” featured in the aforementioned Clueless) mixes tongue-in-cheek humor, slang, vulgarity, and a plethora of drug references with simple recipes in this R-rated cookbook.
You can also find cookbooks from Gwyneth Paltrow, Trisha Yearwood, Padma Lakshmi, and Eva Longoria at the library!
Parodies, continuations and alternate universe settings of Jane Austin’s books have become very popular – mysteries, vampire hunters, etc. – with a greater or (more often) lesser degree of success. Now there is a new version using the world and characters Austin’s Pride and Prejudice and it is delightful and beautiful and very much a great success.
Longbourn by Jo Baker follows the story of Pride and Prejudice from the the servants point-of-view. As were good servants in real life, the servants in Austin are mostly silent and unseen. Here they take center stage. They have their own dramas and crisis, joy and heartbreak and a unique, decidedly unglamorous view of the family. The Bennett girls, both thoughtful and frivolous, only rarely acknowledge the servants and the extra work they often unnecessarily create for them (except for sweet Jane who is always undemanding and kind), and offhandedly change the servants lives without consulting what they might wish. Although they are the center around which the servants orbit, the Bennets are regulated to the periphery here and the world of the servant is foremost. The work is physically hard and mind numbing dull, yet for most of the servants their place in the household gives them shelter, both physical and emotional, from a cruel world.
Sarah, orphaned at a young age, is grateful to have a place at Longbourn, yet wonders if she can again find the happiness she remembers before her parents died. Her suspicions of James the new footman gradually change and when she discovers his secret, they become bound by love and a common understanding of those who are alone.
Longbourn is beautifully written – you may find yourself stopping frequently to reread favorite passages – and full of compassion and secrets. James’ story is especially heartbreaking and suspenseful. At heart a love story, Longbourn is also about the restrictions imposed by society and class structure, about what we are willing to sacrifice for those we love, about the power of waiting and standing firm, about finding your own path no matter the obstacles.
Remember the nut-covered, pink-colored cheese balls served at grandma’s house for the holidays? Well, these are not your grandma’s cheese balls. Find out just how different and inventive they can be in Great Balls of Cheese.
Updated for contemporary tastes, Michelle Buffardi’s cheese balls come in both savory and sweet flavors, like cheddar, blue cheese, and Buffalo wing sauce, or Bing cherry, rum, and pecan. And cheese balls are just part of the story. Many of the recipes are in adorable shapes for all kinds of occasions, such as an Easter egg, Thanksgiving turkey, Christmas ornament, or a football for a Super Bowl party. Other designs are just plain fun, like the Nacho Cat, a Wise and Cheesy Owl, or one that looks like a pizza fresh from the oven. There is so much interest in bringing old-fashioned foods back into style, and this is no exception.
Perfect for food lovers with crafty flair or anyone who loves to entertain, this book, with more than fifty inventive recipes and designs, is sure to be turned to again and again. (description from publisher)