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?
How is the month of February going for you challenge-wise? There have certainly been plenty of snow days which invite lots of cozy reading and movie watching. Unfortunately, it also requires a fair amount of shoveling and scraping-off-the-car time too!
If you’d like some more suggestions for this month’s Food theme, how about trying a movie? There are some great ones!
Ratatouille – Rats in the kitchen is not appealing at all, but somehow Disney makes it adorable. Animated.
The Hundred-Foot Journey starring Helen Mirren. Can two very different restaurants learn to exist across from each other? And even learn from each other?
Chefstarring Jon Favreau. A discouraged, out-of-work chef starts a food truck allowing him to regain his creative purpose as well as his estranged family.
Burnt starring Bradley Cooper. A chef who had it all then loses it because of his reckless lifestyle attempts a comeback. A great look at the chaotic professional kitchen.
Food, Inc – A hard look at the industrialization of our nation’s food supply and how it’s affecting farmers, consumer health, worker safety and our environment.
Physician-turned-journalist Don Colbert, MD offers intriguing and practical advice for optimum nutrition and wellness in Let Food Be Your Medicine: Dietary Changes Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease.Early on, Colbert shares the deceptively simple insight that we catch colds but we develop chronic diseases like Type II Diabetes or Cardiovascular disease. That is not a coincidence, either. In Latin, “Dis” refers to being “apart”, disjointed, or having a negative or “reversing force.” Ease refers “freedom from pain” or being in a tranquil or peaceful state. In essence, disease signifies a breaking away from a peaceful or tranquil state. The process of developing and solidifying disease, however, is complex and involves lifestyle & environmental factors, as well as the interplay of all systems of mind, body, and spirit.
I tend to gobble up books about food, nutrition, and wellness and am naturally obsessed with how the gut or the “microbiome”, i.e. the ecosystem living in the core of your body, is more powerful and influential over our general health & well-being than we once imagined. A discussion about the microbiome is another conversation entirely and is far beyond my scope of knowledge; but Colbert does not overlook discussing current research about the delicate ecosystem living between our brain and bowel. How curious that we may even begin to view our food cravings as tiny demands from the bacteria in our guts who have lives of their own? In essence, we are feeding them. You better believe they don’t always have your best interests in mind, either. The little “voices in your head” (or, gut, in this case) take on a whole new meaning. Read this book to dig in a little deeper as to how and why our microbiome is so influential and critical to our overall health.
Colbert mixes testimonial with current medical evidence to present a compelling argument for being mindful and deliberative when it comes to what we put into our bodies. Learn about his struggle with autoimmune disorders and how his quest to heal himself resulted in weeding nightshade foods (peppers, eggplants, tomatoes) out of his diet. Not all food is equal in its ability to nourish, heal, or harm, either, as you may know. We often take for granted that we do not innately know what foods are harmful or helpful. Many of us grew up in homes in which our parent(s) worked and perhaps did not have the time to prepare and cook whole, nourishing meals all week long. In short, eating “healthy” is not common sense. Failure to meet your daily nutrient requirements or to altogether make harmful dietary choices is not therefore some testament to your lack of willpower. Quite simply, many of us have to learn how to make better food choices, and that starts with education. If you have any curiosity whatsoever in how you can better yourself simply by changing what you put into your body, read this book.
This book is not a fix-all for all that ails you, nor does it substitute for the relationship you have with your primary care physicians or doctors. Part of what is working about healthcare is that we acknowledge that wellness involves the alignment of mind, body, and spirit or the non-physical part of a human being. Grey’s Anatomy sums up the dilemma well in one episode in which Dr. Preston Burke, esteemed neurosurgeon, argues with Dr. Cristina Yang that nurturing a patient’s spiritual state is equally as important as the medical intervention being performed, for the reason that human beings are not merely physical bodies. The non-physical parts of us require care and respect, too. Though Colbert’s book does not discuss the role of spirituality in health in great depth, he no-doubt weaves his own faith into the book (but it is not oft-putting for non-Christians). I can most certainly recall a time in my lifespan of thirty-six years when the words “soul”, “spirituality” and “Ayurveda” would have never made an appearance in a discussion about disease, illness, or health & wellbeing. But today? We are becoming more interdisciplinary & holistic in how we not only view but “treat” illness — and how we care for whole human beings (not just symptoms).
If you are even the slightest bit curious about how food can harm or heal, read this book. If you would be amazed by the prospect of eating a diet that custom made to fight diabetes, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, cancer, auto-immune disorders — read this book. Believe it or not, one of the most powerful statements that Colbert makes in this book is this: cancer, depending upon the type and staging, can and very well does constitute a chronic disease that can actually be managed like other chronic diseases not unlike COPD, heart disease, and diabetes. I don’t know about you, but aside from a cure that’s the very best next thing! Bear in mind, Colbert is not claiming to have a cure for cancer; but he lays out, in one case, a diet plan that is tailored not only to the cancer patient but to the specific stage of cancer in order to increase the chances of putting the cancer into remission…and we can do this with vegetables, micronutrients, plants–with the plentitude of healing, delicious foods that are available to us should we be inclined.
Burnt is a comedy drama telling the story of Adam Jones, a chef in Paris who lost everything because of drugs and alcohol. Adam was a two-star Michelin chef at a restaurant in Paris, known as an incredible chef who spent his days working on creating recipes that exploded with flavor in your mouth. He strove to NOT be consistent and to be different every time he cooked.
After a disastrous blowout at his restaurant and an abrupt disappearance from Paris, Adam puts himself on a self-imposed three year exile in New Orleans. Once he feels he has paid his a-million-oyster-shucking penance, he moves to London, looking up old friends from when he worked in Paris and hustling to get a job as a head chef in a fine-dining restaurant.
Adam desperately wants to get that elusive third Michelin star. In order to do so, he must find a restaurant willing to hand over the reigns to him. Working to make his dream come true, Adam scours London looking for the best chefs and restaurant people to have at his side as he works on recipes and designs a menu to his standards. The people Adam meets force him to confront issues from his past, as well as force him out of his cooking comfort zone. This movie is full of second chances and redemption as Adam works to overcome his reputation and reach for that third Michelin star.
I enjoy a good travel documentary, but what really hooks me in are the ones that focus on the local food that can be found and enjoyed when you are on vacation. I’ll Have What Phil’s Having is what I would call a food travel documentary and definitely fulfilled my wish for more of a focus on food than the sites that you would see in a traditional travel documentary.
I’ll Have What Phil’s Having follows Emmy Award-winner Phil Rosenthal, the creator of the hit show Everybody Loves Raymond, as he travels around the world looking for fantastic food in various countries and cities. Phil visits six sites: Tokyo, Italy, Paris, Hong Kong, Barcelona, and his hometown, Los Angeles. At each place, he seeks out what he thinks to be the world’s best food, looking for chefs, ground-breaking style-setters, and leaders in the culinary world to expand his palate and find places where both locals and tourists go to find the best food.
What I loved about this documentary is that Phil was looking for restaurants and chefs that both kept the food traditions of their communities alive and also were working to create new foods, ideas, and restaurants. He acknowledges that he looks for places that both tourists go to, but that going off the beaten path and looking for places that the locals know of will sometimes lead you on a new adventure.
This documentary caught and held my interest because of the wide variety of food he tested, the places he visited, and because of his hilarious commentary and facial expressions as he experienced anything new for the first time. He also gives tours of the famous and historical sites around as enticement for visiting the places that he is at as well. Highly recommended.
I, for one, love to eat and my friends know it. Our discussions usually go: “What are you eating?” “Where did you get that? I want one…” “You went WHERE to eat without me?!” The typical food-fest. Imagine my joy when I stumbled upon Food: A Love Story by comedian Jim Gaffigan. I had listened to Gaffigan’s standup before and discovered that he LOVES to eat, comes from a very large family, and was raised in the Midwest. I knew I must read it and was not disappointed.
In this book, Gaffigan draws upon his family history, his deep love of ALMOST anything food, and how sometimes you just have to hide your food from others to completely enjoy it and that there is nothing wrong with doing so. Pictures of Gaffigan, his family, and HIS food break up discussions about vegetarians, how he mistakenly overanalyzed and did not realize the worthiness of steak growing up, “adult” junk food, how he decided to eat healthy, and his description of the perceived differences between hot dogs and sausages(and how you must know the correct way to order them in different cities). Make sure to have food nearby as you devour this book and discover the importance difference between many cheeses and it’s okay not to like seafood or fruit.
If you are looking for more Gaffigan, you’re in luck! Food: A Love Story is a follow-up to Gaffigan’s other book, Dad is Fat, which is also available through the Davenport Public Library.
In Ruth Reichl’s first novel Delicious!, Billie Breslin has traveled far from her home in California to take a job at Delicious!, New York’s most iconic food magazine. Away from her family, particularly her older sister, Genie, Billie feels like a fish out of water – until she is welcomed by the magazine’s colorful staff. She is also seduced by the vibrant downtown food scene, especially by Fontanari’s, the famous Italian food shop where she works on weekends.
Then Delicious! is abruptly shut down, but Billie agrees to stay on in the empty office, maintaining the hotline for reader complaints in order to pay her bills. To Billie’s surprise, the lonely job becomes the portal to a miraculous discovery. In a hidden room in the magazine’s library, Billie finds a cache of letters written during World War II by Lulu Swan, a plucky twelve-year-old, to the legendary chef James Beard. Lulu’s letters provide Billie with a richer understanding of history, and a feeling of deep connection to the young writer whose courage in the face of hardship inspires Billie to comes to terms with her fears, her big sister and her ability to open her heart to love. (description from publisher)
Delicious is also available for check out as a free ebook through the RiverShare Digital Library.
Lifestyle blogs are the ‘thing’ right now. Young House Love, Perfectly Imperfect, Smitten Kitchen, and Pioneer Woman are all written by bloggers who are getting famous simply for letting readers into their homes (I like to think of them as still life reality stars.) The best bloggers combine a sharp wit, unique voice, beautiful photos, a glimpse at the personal, and easy to follow how-tos. Many of these bloggers have published books that you can check out from the Davenport Public Library, so stop by and check them out!
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:
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.
Lucy Knisley is an illustrator who loves food. Raised by foodies before they would have been called foodies, Knisley writes and draws about her life through the lens of the meals that she ate. Foie Gras, Kraft Mac and Cheese, apricot jam filled croissants, sushi, fresh tamales, and cherry tomatoes right off the vine all bring back significant memories in Knisley’s life and pepper Relish: My Life in the Kitchenwith funny stories and delicious recollections.
I had read Knisley’s previous foray into food themed graphic novel memoirs French Milk, about her trip to Paris with her mother following her graduation from college, and I wasn’t particularly impressed. But after reading positive reviews of Relish, I decided to give Knisley another chance. I am so glad that I did. She seems to have found her voice (and a better editor) for this book, and has included delightful illustrated recipes at the end of each chapter. It left me wishing that she would write a full graphic novel cookbook. Each of these recipes calls back to a specific memory in Knisley’s life, from childhood to the present, shaping the person she has become. Knisley’s passion is infectious, and this would be a great read for anyone with a lost young adult in their life.
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