Online Reading Challenge – June

Hello Fellow Readers!

Welcome to the June Reading Challenge Book Flight! This month our theme is food and fellowship. Yum!

Our main title is Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley. This is a graphic novel and it’s an amazing one. If you have any hesitancy about reading a graphic novel, or have never read one, this is a great one to start with, with charming illustrations and a great story.

Lucy Knisley loves food. The daughter of a chef and a gourmet, this talented young cartoonist comes by her obsession honestly. In her forthright, thoughtful, and funny memoir, Lucy traces key episodes in her life thus far, framed by what she was eating at the time and lessons learned about food, cooking, and life. Each chapter is bookended with an illustrated recipe– many of them treasured family dishes, and a few of them Lucy’s original inventions

Other titles in this month’s Book Flight are:

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J Rayan Stradal. When Lars Thorvald’s wife, Cynthia, falls in love with wine–and a dashing sommelier–he’s left to raise their baby, Eva, on his own. He’s determined to pass on his love of food to his daughter–starting with puréed pork shoulder. As Eva grows, she finds her solace and salvation in the flavors of her native Minnesota. From Scandinavian lutefisk to hydroponic chocolate habaneros, each ingredient represents one part of Eva’s journey as she becomes the star chef behind a legendary and secretive pop-up supper club, culminating in an opulent and emotional feast that’s a testament to her spirit and resilience.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flag. Folksy and fresh, endearing and affecting, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is a now-classic novel about two women: Evelyn, who’s in the sad slump of middle age, and gray-headed Mrs. Threadgoode, who’s telling her life story. Her tale includes two more women—the irrepressibly daredevilish tomboy Idgie and her friend Ruth—who back in the thirties ran a little place in Whistle Stop, Alabama, offering good coffee, southern barbecue, and all kinds of love and laughter—even an occasional murder. And as the past unfolds, the present will never be quite the same again.

Also available in large print, and as in ebook on Libby.

Master Butcher’s Singing Club by Louise Erdrich. Having survived World War I, Fidelis Waldvogel returns to his quiet German village and marries the pregnant widow of his best friend, killed in action. With a suitcase full of sausages and a master butcher’s precious knife set, Fidelis sets out for America. In Argus, North Dakota, he builds a business, a home for his family—which includes Eva and four sons—and a singing club consisting of the best voices in town. When the Old World meets the New—in the person of Delphine Watzka—the great adventure of Fidelis’s life begins. Delphine meets Eva and is enchanted. She meets Fidelis, and the ground trembles. These momentous encounters will determine the course of Delphine’s life, and the trajectory of this brilliant novel.

The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan. A World War II-set story of four women on the home front competing for a spot hosting a BBC wartime cookery program and a chance to better their lives. Two years into World War II, Britain is feeling her losses; the Nazis have won battles, the Blitz has destroyed cities, and U-boats have cut off the supply of food. In an effort to help housewives with food rationing, a BBC radio program called The Kitchen Front is putting on a cooking contest–and the grand prize is a job as the program’s first-ever female co-host. For four very different women, winning the contest presents a crucial chance to change their lives. But with so much at stake, will the contest that aims to bring the community together serve only to break it apart?

Also available in large print and as an ebook on Libby.

These titles and others related to the theme will be on display at each of our locations!

Making Chocolate: From Bean to Bar to S’more by Todd Masonis

Making ChocolateIt is well past Valentine’s Day yet I can’t escape the chocolate that entered our home last month. My mother-in-law usually sends a box the size of my six-year old full of all types of chocolates—Hershey’s, Lindt, Ghirardelli, Godiva, Dove, and Reese’s—because what if we were trapped inside for two years and couldn’t leave the house to get more chocolate? Girl Scout cookies also make their annual appearance around this time and there is less than a month to go until chocolate bunnies will be hopping their way into my stomach. It is a hard time for a chocoholic with no will power.

It seemed inevitable that I would be browsing some of the library’s newest books and come across Making Chocolate: From Bean to Bar to S’more by Tom Masonis, a collaboration by several people who create and sell their own chocolate out of a store in San Francisco called Dandelion Chocolate. The detail used to describe the chocolate-making process, from selecting beans to choosing equipment to creating mouth-watering chocolate, is exhaustive and would certainly be an asset to anyone who is interested in making their own chocolate. Honestly, I was more interested in looking at the gorgeous photography and drooling over pictures of desserts than I was in understanding the five factors of viscosity or figuring out what a nib profile is. I also enjoyed reading about how beans are sourced and how different beans provide different flavors.

The biggest take-away for me was the handy guide to hosting a chocolate tasting event. I cannot wait to gather some friends to try a tasting of my own based on the steps laid out in the book. Although I consider chocolate a perfectly acceptable breakfast food and the authors of the book recommend tasting your chocolate first thing in the morning before your palate can become distracted, I will probably choose a more socially acceptable time for my gathering. I can’t wait!

If you are looking to expand your chocolate repertoire for your own tasting party, try Chocolate Manor in Davenport or the newly opened branch of Shameless Chocolate located right across the river in Moline.

Offal Good: Cooking from the Heart, with Guts by Chris Cosentino

Guest post by Laura

I visited Ireland a couple years ago and ate an Irish breakfast every morning. It consisted of black (blood) sausage, white sausage, an egg, bacon that seemed like plain ham, and a grilled tomato. I felt sorry and a bit embarrassed that the breakfast buffet at a hotel frequented by Americans was out of white sausage but had plenty of untouched black sausage. I hate wasting food.

Various cultures have utilized animals in nearly their entirety from snout to tail when preparing food throughout human history. That practice has been largely lost in the United States. I read Offal Good by Chris Cosnetino after seeing the intensely close-up photo of an animal organ and was intrigued. Cosentino is creative in his recipes and both smart and wicked with his humor beginning with the pun in the book title – offal is pronounced awful. One of his recipe titles requires a knowledge of Spanish slang for a body part to get the joke.

The recipes’ accompanying photos are beautiful and even a skeptic might admit they look delicious in their presentation. I appreciated his identification of the various parts of the animal as well as describing the differences in preparation among the same part of different animals. My interest in organ meats is twofold: they are rich in vitamins and minerals that muscle meat doesn’t provide and it seems more ethical to consume the entire animal rather than discarding parts deemed undesirable by some arbitrary cultural standard.

I decided to try one of the simpler recipes with an ingredient I’m somewhat familiar with, beef tongue. If you haven’t tried tacos de lengua at a local Mexican restaurant, give them a shot. I was squeamish at first and it took a couple of tries for me to adjust to the springy texture, but then again, I felt the same way about shrimp once upon a time. I found beef tongue at a local butcher shop.

I honestly had to quell a bit of revulsion at first but I quickly convinced myself I was just getting in touch with the origins of my food. I was finally being honest. Meat doesn’t spring from a neat Styrofoam-plastic-wrapped container as many of us would like to think. I quickly got in touch with my curious and hungry side and grilled superb thinly-sliced meat using the minimalist recipe provided. The taste was rich and deep. I give the recipe a thumbs up!

I will probably never try a few recipes because I can’t completely erase my cultural biases. This book is an interesting romp through some seriously amazing cuisine that Americans are overlooking. Perhaps millennials will latch onto the growing trend of cooking with offal and will nudge it into the mainstream.

A Year Between Friends by Maria Vettese and Stephanie Barnes

yearbetweenfriendsMaria and Stephanie both live in Portland, but are 3191 miles apart. That’s because Maria lives in Portland, Maine and Stephanie lives in Portland, Oregon. Over the years these friends have shared their lives with each other through letters and photographs. They have managed to forge and maintain a deep bond across the distance, exchanging recipes and practical life tips and sharing the ups and downs of life. They are small town neighbors in the new world of technology.

Collaborating since 2007, Maria and Stephanie continue to document their lives in their blog, 3191. Twice a week they post a diptych, a picture from of them showing what’s going on in their separate lives right now. The focus is on the small and ordinary – flowers, children at play, bounty from the garden, the outdoors and sleeping cats. Recipes and crafts are shared and advice requested and given. A Year Between Friends follows the same format, beginning in January and running through December, with an emphasis on the small pleasures of a life well lived. There are big events too – Maria loses her Mother unexpectedly early in the year, and gives birth to a baby girl in late July. And they aren’t always apart – Stephanie makes the trip cross country after the birth of baby Luna to spend time with Maria and her family.

The photography is exquisite –  you can learn a lot about perspective, cropping and lighting by studying these pictures. The real value, of course, is the stories they tell, of how different and yet how similar these lives are, their mutual appreciation of the beauty around them and the love and support they bring to each other.

Besides the photos and letters, A Year Between Friends includes several crafts, most of which are lovely and practical and simple to make (although I’m not sure about the pinecone ornament – no mater how charming, that’s a lot of sewing!) There are also recipes; I’m not a cook, but I’d be happy to eat just about anything shown here!

This is a lovely, quiet book, an excellent choice to end or begin the year (or anytime really), inviting you to step back and take a look at your life and what is really important. What is it you want to remember when you look back? A child’s smile? A walk through a summer-green forest? Cookies fresh from the oven? A friend’s laughter? A Year Between Friends shows just how special the ordinary can be.

 

Soup for Syria

soup for syriaAcclaimed chefs and cookbook authors the world over have come together to help food relief efforts to alleviate the suffering of Syrian refugees in Soup for Syria. Each has contributed a recipe to this beautifully illustrated cookbook of delicious soups from around the world. Contributors include: Yotam Ottolenghi, Sami Tamimi, Anthony Bourdain, Alice Waters, Paula Wolfert, Claudia Roden, Chef Greg Malouf, Chef Alexis Coquelet, Chef Chris Borunda, Chef Alexandra Stratou, Necibe Dogru, Aglaia Kremenzi, and many others.

– Celebrity chefs contribute favorite recipes to help feed Syrian refugees

– Fabulous soups from around the world-from hearty winter warmers to chilled summer soups

– Easy-to-follow instructions with stunning color photos throughout

– Recipes made with no-fuss ingredients found in your local supermarket

All profits from the sales of the cookbook will be donated to help fund food relief efforts through various nonprofit organizations. Most Syrians hope that one day they will be able to return to their country and rebuild their lives. (description from publisher)

Fresh Fish by Jennifer Thompson

fresh fishCooking fish and other seafood at home is much easier than you think!

Fresh Fish offers simple step-by-step instructions for all of the essential cooking methods, including baking, pan-frying, braising, broiling, steaming, poaching, roasting, marinating, and grilling – along with 175 mouthwatering recipes that bring out the best in everything from fish fillets and whole fish to shrimp, mussels, lobster, clams, calamari, and more. You’ll also learn how to buy fish (even whole fish) with confidence, how to serve fish raw, how to clean freshly dug clams, and much more.

Beautiful photography celebrates both the food and the lazy charm of summers at the beach; this is a delightful read as well as the cookbook you need to easily enjoy your favorite seafood at home. (description from publisher)

Farmer’s Market Cookbook by Julia Shanks

farmers market cookbookFarmers markets and CSAs are among the best places to find high-quality, diverse, and exciting vegetables and fruits. But the rich array of unusual varieties can be confusing and overwhelming.

From detailed produce descriptions to storage tips, preparation techniques, and over 200 flavorful recipes, The Farmers Market Cookbook has the answer to every prospective locavore’s perennial question, “What do I do with this?” Featuring a range of traditional favorites alongside innovative creations showcasing the stunning flavors of heirloom fruits and vegetables, this guide to seasonal eating will help you engage your powers of creativity, learning, and experimentation.

Eating locally cultivates appreciation for those who grow our food. Full of practical insights from field to fork, The Farmers Market Cookbook celebrates the small farmer’s labor of love with recipes that showcase every crop at its best – essential reading for anyone who wants to appreciate fresh food at its best. (description from publisher)

Outlander Kitchen by Theresa Carle-Sanders

outlander kitchenTake a bite out of Diana Gabaldon’s New York Times bestselling Outlander novels with this immersive official cookbook from OutlanderKitchen.com founder Theresa Carle-Sanders!

Claire Beauchamp Randall’s incredible journey from postwar Britain to eighteenth-century Scotland and France is a feast for all five senses, and taste is no exception. From Claire’s first lonely bowl of porridge at Castle Leoch to the decadent roast beef served after her hasty wedding to Highland warrior Jamie Fraser, from gypsy stew and jam tarts to fried chicken and buttermilk drop biscuits, there are enough mouth-watering meals along the way to whet the appetite of even the most demanding palate.

Now professional chef Theresa Carle-Sanders offers up this extraordinary cuisine for your table. Featuring more than one hundred recipes, Outlander Kitchen retells Claire and Jamie’s incredible story through the flavors of the Scottish Highlands, the French Revolution, and beyond. Following the high standards for prodigious research and boundless creativity set by Diana Gabaldon herself, Carle-Sanders draws on the events and characters of the novels to deliver delicious and inventive dishes that highlight local ingredients and traditional cooking techniques. Yet amateur chefs need not fear: These doable, delectable recipes have been updated for today’s modern kitchens.

With full-color photographs and plenty of extras – including cocktails, condiments, and preserves – Outlander Kitchen is an entertainment experience to savor, a wide-ranging culinary crash course, and a time machine all rolled into one. Forget bon appétit.  As the Scots say, ith do leòr! (description from publisher)

A La Mode by Mark Scarbrough

a la modeAre you ready to take your baking over the top? Here are sixty decadent and delightful ice creams and the sixty desserts that are their vehicles. A la Mode offers not just solid dessert recipes, from raspberry oat bars to bear claws, from chocolate pecan pie to a white chocolate pavlova, but also gives you the unforgettable pairings that make these desserts smash hits: apple cranberry pie with Camembert ice cream, chocolate sheet cake with salt caramel frozen custard, and espresso cream jelly roll with mascarpone ice cream.

Let’s face it: vanilla can sometimes be so… vanilla. A great a-la-mode pairing should be as decadent as finding the perfect wine to go with your cheese plate. With A la Mode , IACP winners and cookbook dynamos Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough show you how to create innovative delights such as creamy hazelnut gelato atop coffee-poached pears, or maple frozen custard with a mouthwatering cinnamon roll cake, alongside simpler classics like confetti ice cream with layered vanilla birthday cake. You haven’t lived until you’ve had peanut brittle pie with popcorn ice cream, a Cracker Jack fantasy!

Because what’s a warm pie without ice cream? With A la Mode , you’ll have an answer to that question! (description from publisher)

The New Sugar & Spice: a Recipe for Bolder Baking by Samantha Seneviratne

new sugar and spiceRaise your desserts to a whole new level of flavor with The New Sugar & Spice, a collection of more than eighty unique, unexpected, and uniformly delicious recipes for spice-centric sweets.

Veteran baker Samantha Seneviratne’s recipes will open your eyes to a world of baking possibilities: Her spicy, pepper-flecked Chile-Chocolate Truffles prove that heat and sweet really do go hand-in-hand, and a fresh batch of aromatic, cinnamon-laced Maple Sticky Buns will have the whole family racing into the kitchen. Discover new recipes from around the globe, such as Sri Lankan Love Cake or Swedish-inspired Saffron Currant Braid. Or, give your classic standbys a bold upgrade, such as making Raspberry Shortcakes with zingy Double Ginger Biscuits.

Filled with fascinating histories, origin stories, and innovative uses for the world’s most enticing spices–including vanilla, cinnamon, peppercorns, and cardamom — The New Sugar & Spice guarantees that dessert will be the most talked-about part of your meal. (description from publisher)