Hello Reading Fans!
We’ve finished up another month of the Reading Challenge. How did your month go reading-wise? Did you find something wonderful or was this an off month for you?
I read – and enjoyed – Delicious! by Ruth Reichl which follows the adventures of Billie Breslin. Billie has fled California and moved to New York City, taking a job as an assistant at the beloved food magazine Delicious. At first hesitant and lonely, she soon makes friends from among the colorful characters working at the magazine. They in turn introduce her to the hidden gems of food shops and markets that populate the neighborhood. Out from under the shadow of her sister, Billie begins to blossom and thrive.
However, all is not well at Delicious. One day the “suits” crunch the numbers and decide to shutter the magazine, leaving everyone out of a job except Billie, who agrees to stay on and answer any incoming correspondence for the next few months. Alone in the old mansion that served as the offices and kitchens for Delicious, Billie stumbles across a secret. A secret that might save the mansion and open new opportunities for herself.
Reichl was the last editor-in-chief of the now defunct Gourmet magazine and is a well-known food writer, including having published several critically acclaimed memoirs. Her writing about food and the rituals and joys of eating and sharing food are exquisite. I must have gained five pounds just reading her descriptions! Reichl’s ability to evoke not only the flavor of the food, but the ambiance of where and how it was created is astonishing. Food is shown as a form of love and fellowship, bringing people of diverse backgrounds together.
While I enjoyed Delicious! a lot, I felt that the characters weren’t always well-developed. In addition, there seemed to be an awful lot of mysteries – 6 or 7 at least – which made the book feel choppy. (And, quite frankly, her idea of how libraries work is bizarre!) However, the mysteries were intriguing and I wanted to keep reading to find out what happened! Instead read this book for its evocative descriptions of food and New York City neighborhoods.
How did your reading go this month? Did you find something wonderful? When I was pulling books for the displays this month I noticed that many food themed titles also had a lot to do with family and crossing cultural barriers. Food, good food prepared with care, has a way of uniting us. What did you discover this month’s?
Americans consume 20 billion hotdogs a year. The key to keeping them “consumed” is to not think about what’s in them, but that’s neither here nor there.
It’s the season, and we’re only a a month an a half away from the ridiculous gorge-fest that is Coney Island on July 4th.
Becky Mercuri has assembled a list of the best hotdogs, some quite artisanal in nature in The Great American Hot Dog Book. It’s a foodstuff so interwoven into the American tapestry as to be synonymous with baseball and apple pie — and last time I checked people weren’t meandering up and down the bleachers at Modern Woodmen park hollering to, “Getcher red hot apple pie…”
She has the best weenie eateries grouped by region, so plan your California vacation accordingly so you can get one of Pink’s Pastrami Burrito Dogs.
One all-kosher beef I’ve got with the book is no pictures.
My favorite essay in John McPhee’s book, The Silk Parachute is “My Life List.” McPhee talks about the weirdest things he’s ever eaten, and, in doing so, he describes an encounter he had with that icon of the 70’s, Euell Gibbons. He shared boiled dandelions and water mint tea (remember the Grape Nuts commercial?) with Euell.
This seems mighty tame compared to the weasel, lion, whale, grizzly bear and bee spit meals he had.
McPhee’s great skill is to make any subject, no matter how arcane, fascinating. He supplies just the right detail and sets the scene and before you know it, you’re sucked in.
In this series of essays written for the New Yorker, he often refers to feedback he received from legendary editor, Wallace Shawn.
Admittedly, we’re probably a several weeks away from harvesting from our gardens, but it doesn’t hurt to start planning early. And what better (or more fun) way than to look through cookbooks? After all, you might never have even considered planting brussels sprouts until you see Keith Snow’s “Brussels Sprouts with Mornay Sauce” in his Harvest Eating Cookbook. OK, maybe you’re still not considering growing brussels sprouts, but you get the idea – grow what you like to eat.
Taken in part from Snow’s PBS series, this book features delicious, simple recipes – none takes longer than a page to describe – using seasonal local ingredients. Some of those ingredients – avocados, mangos – aren’t exactly locally grown here in Iowa, but there are plenty of fresh ideas for local favorites – asparagus, butternut squash, tomatoes, corn, etc.
Don’t have a garden? There’s a huge variety of beautiful, locally grown produce at the Freight House Farmers Market here in Davenport, held every Saturday from 8am to 1pm and every Tuesday 3pm to 6pm, year round.