A Mother’s Day Wish

chi

Waiting is the hardest part.

Life as we’ve known has changed. In a matter of weeks shelter in place and social distancing has replaced our everyday lives. And during these unprecedented times, the restaurant industry is one of so many other industries facing an ordeal like no other.

For the past two years after my youngest graduated college, my daughters and I have made plans go out for dinner on most Fridays. That has come to a halt.

Restaurants are the ventricles through which the lifeblood of a metropolis pulses in and out.

As we support our local and go-to restaurants for take-out or delivery, it does not compare to the sit-down dining experiences we are reminiscing. I know I am not alone that is looking forward to once again visiting our third place, to enjoy great food in the company of loved ones and those we call friends.  And as restrictions gradually lift, let’s embrace the “new normal” and continue to stay safe.

Happy Mother’s Day to all!

Cat

Hungry

Coming Soon: watch for my book review of Hungry: Eating, Road-Tripping, and Risking It All with the Greatest Chef in the World 

Generation Chef: Risking It All for a New American Dream

generationchefInside what life is really like for the new generation of professional cooks — a captivating tale of the make-or-break first year at a young chef’s new restaurant.

So you want to become a chef and open your own place?

This is Jonah Miller’s dream turned into reality story of owning his first restaurant; introducing Basque-style cuisine and drinking culture of Northern Spain.

We are taken through the first year of restaurant ownership at one of New York’s first millennial-driven restaurant, Huertas NYC.

huertas

The author shares Chef Jonah Miller’s process in establishing the dream of opening a restaurant: finding the right space (location, location, location), publicity, creating a menu, surviving an industry of openings and shutterings, withstanding critic reviews, staff retention and recruiting a talent base, establishing your niche to remain competitive.

I enjoyed the research and the staff’s candid stories following their own careers and dreams in the culinary industry. It is nothing short of stories of ambition, hard work, sacrifice, dedication, detours, and changes in consumerism, trends, economics.

Other notable chefs mentioned give glimpses of their career trajectory in their careers: David Waltuck, Gavin Kaysen, Stephanie Izard, April Bloomfield, David Chang. Interspersed are vignettes of changes in the industry and the decisions they made along the way.

A recommended read for those who are aspiring to open their own restaurant. A recommended read for those seeking a food memoir, specifically in the restaurant industry. A recommended read for those seeking a blueprint of does and don’ts in opening a place of your own.

This is the epitome of what food writing is all about and is an essential culinary business guide for the aspiring chef!

Huertas serves Basque-influenced fare, evoking the lively eating and drinking culture of Northern Spain.

~ date read 12.28.2018~ 3 stars ~
Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for a fair review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.

Life without a Recipe: A Memoir

Life mechanical_2P_r1.inddGood excuses are everywhere when you’re scared to do something.

I was in second grade. I had been waiting at the playground outside my school waiting for my mom and grandmother to pick me up. Because I was antsy and I saw that I was one of the few left waiting, I decided to walk home, figuring I knew the way home. However, when I kept walking I began to feel lost and began to panic.

As I was on one corner of the street, I stopped with dread, or something like that feeling. I saw a woman peek out of an apartment building door and asked if I was lost. I started to cry. She took me in, and sat me down while she contacted the school. I didn’t know my address was all I could say at the time, in tears. At the time I didn’t even know how she knew which school to call – the uniform said it all.

I don’t remember too much while I sat there. She offered me candy which I took, figuring what harm now. Soon my mom and aunts arrived, asking why I didn’t wait. I shrugged my shoulders. My mom thanked the lady and we left.

Had I walked another block and turned right, my house was a few doors down.

Reading the author’s introduction took me back to that time in my young life.

This is my second read from author Diana Abu-Jaber. The Language of Baklava I remember was about Gus, her Jordanian father. It is a memoir of growing up in upstate New York, about her an immigrant father, and visiting Jordan. In this novel, it is about her father and his culture.

I accuse myself of weakness, wonder if that’s why I started to write. I chose fiction, that protective cloak of imagination.

Life without a Recipe is a memoir of her three marriages, her ticking biological clock, the decision on adoption, and her daughter’s first few years that overturned her life and writing. She shares stories about her maternal grandmother Grace and her daughter Gracie, and the relationships they had with her father Gus. She shares her stories of the passing of her father and father-in-law.

I have to say I enjoyed her sharing the story of finding a house and what transpired.

Each house has its own language. You’re choosing not just a home and a neighborhood but an identity. Find the structure, settle in, as naturally as as a soul dwells in its body.

A few recipes round out this novel: the chocolate chip tahini cookies … yum!

My suggestion would be to read both The Language of Baklava and Life without a Recipe in that order; Gus has made an impact in her life and it shows in her memoirs. And make yourself a batch of chocolate chip tahini cookies as comfort food should you go the path of reading her books.

~ date read 12.24.2018~ 3 stars ~
Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for a fair review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.

The Bread and the Knife: A Life in 26 Bites

breadandknifeSo it begins with the Author’s Note, first sentence: For Imelda Marcos, it was shoes; for me, it’s food.

Being an Asian-american Fiipina, was I supposed to be impressed by such renowned knowledge? With what happened upon the declaration of Martial Law, it’s an embarrassment of riches.

Okay, had to get that out.

The author recounts her memories related to the food that ignites the letters of the alphabet. It is a cute layout and her tales are witty and engaging. At times you have to chuckle at her storytelling.

She matches her culinary memory to each of the 26 letters of the alphabet via food, techniques, and events. She instills her life lessons and “firsts”. It also serves as a travelogue of dos and don’ts and the diatribe: never travel without doing your research. Yes, she sprinkles verbose words.

Her tales of writing for M.F.K. Fischer & Josefina Howard are eye-openers indeed. What was meant to be a dream job, she obviously doesn’t hide the fact that being a biographer was painstakingly challenging bent on anxiety.

She makes mention of her two failed marriages; this made for confusion at times when she references her “husband”, her “former husband”; was she mentioning husband #1 or husband #2? And what was that all about with the “houseguest” & Jeremy?

On another note, I was kind of put off with some of her naming conventions for some of the alphabets: J is for jordan almonds; W is for white truffles; I is for Indian breakfast. However, I did enjoy D is for Dinner Party. I felt like a witness, transported to her Brooklyn apartment, and when she vacationed in Vermont. You’ll get the picture.

She does share a few recipes, including one of which she memorializes “Serves:  you right if you eat this.

On a somber note, she relays Isak Dinesen’s quote:

The Earth was made round so that we would not see too far down the road ~

A delightful read, and one that you can’t help but read through in one sitting. This is not heavy on the culinary, but more of a memoir if you will about her life’s experiences and the role food plays shaping her own biography. Enjoyable just the same to add to your food writing shelf.

~ date read 12.23.2018~ 3 stars ~
Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for a fair review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.

The Dinner List

thedinnerlistIt began with a Philosophy course. A dream board. Then the question: which five people, living or dead, would you like to have dinner with? 

It’s Sabrina Nielsen’s 30th birthday and there’s a birthday dinner in her honor. The attendees: her dinner list. Why now are these six people gathered around a restaurant table having dinner?

In the beginning, I wasn’t quite sure I would like the premise of the story and whether it could be pulled off. Strangers really in their own way. And Audrey Hepburn?

And then chapter after chapter, page after page, I was hooked. This novel will make or break you. It takes an appreciation for magical realism, a suspension of disbelief. Could not be more true than the portrayal of this story.

There is love, grief, disappointment. It is atmospheric underlying the pain, longing, acceptance. So many questions to ponder! Is it love? Is it fate? Just how many chances does one deserve for happiness? When you realize your carry others’ regrets that you become consumed, can you let go? When will enough be enough?

We had twenty-four months left. The clock was on. But I didn’t know it. There, in the dead of winter with him, it felt like the start of forever.

I was touched by this novel’s complexity yet simplicity. A romantic contemporary with many life lessons captured between the lines.

The ending. A solid. Fate. Closure. This is what I feel this book represents.

And of course there are food and wine references—it’s a dinner!

A must read! So grab your copy quick, but savor this read. Because this novel shouldn’t continue to remain unread. Bon Appétit.

In My Life …
Abut the Author:  Rebecca Serle co-developed the TV adaptation of Famous in Love.
~ date read 09.29.2018 ~ 5 stars ~

Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook

ComingtomysensesPeople want to know how I came to open a restaurant at twenty-seven years old. I never went to culinary school, I never cooked professionally. Why a restaurant? Why this kind of restaurant? Why this kind of cooking? How did I have the courage to open it? The truth is, I’d never really thought about it deeply until now.  ~ Alice Waters

This is her autobiography where she goes through great lengths to share her coming-of-age story, and the conception of her long-awaited dream: opening a restaurant. These are her words.

Chez Panisse is born from the counterculture influences she embraced.

And because of the counterculture, I could run my kitchen as I wanted, and do so as a woman.

She clearly credits the experiences during her childhood and early adulthood that shaped her edible education. She is candid here about her relationships, political views, and love of french cooking. I thought it interesting she trained in the Montessori method of education. (She admits not being a good teacher, as you will read.) With this school of thought, she created The Edible Schoolyard Project.

Interspersed in her autobiography are sprinkles of vignettes, in italics. I appreciated the afterthoughts she shared: her passion for garlic, postcards, and film festivals.

What’s endlessly fascinating to me about cooking and eating is the biodiversity of the planet. The depth of the abundance of the earth. I’ll never be able to comprehend it. Nobody can.

And that’s the tragedy of fast food-everything in this country changed with fast food. We wanted shippability, we wanted year-round availability, we wanted food for cheap. And when you achieve all that, you take away everything—you lose touch with nature, and you exist in a hollow place, devoid of beauty and nourishment

The last few chapters focuses on making her dream into reality that is Chez Panisse. Here her many unorthodox ideals come to fruition, for example “this is what we’re having today” menu. Her hiring of staff is unconventional as well, where cooking wasn’t the main ingredient to be hired. And although she states she is opinionated and demanding, she is surrounded by friends.

As other reviewers made mention, there were transition issues distracting from her narrative. Could the transitions have been more fluid? Perhaps. But this is the author’s memoir and I side on the story being authentic.

What an eccentric life she has led. She portrays a vivid picture growing up in the 1960s with fervor. And that anything’s possible with a little help from her friends.

~ date read 09.24.2018~ 3 stars ~
Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for a fair review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.

The Angry Chef’s Guide to Spotting Bullsh*t in the World of Food: Bad Science and the Truth About Healthy Eating

36875525The Angry Chef debunks myths on pseudoscience. And angry he profanely is! It is not only about the aggressive, manipulative media that those have taken advantage to utilize this platform.

It is a dense read. However, this should be one to read if anything to gain another perspective on the art of eating. Basically, it’s looking at some commonly held false beliefs about – our favorite read – food.

I would have to say I was one of many thinking of probiotics, detox, alkaline foods, antioxidants. However, what was a bit of a shock was that the use of such pseudoscience can hinder or replace the need for modern medicine. Such pseudoscience influences and inflicts incorrect data that can cause serious harm.

To deny ourselves any and all opportunities due to false beliefs, fear, is a dangerous decision. This read is not so much as bashing pseudoscience (well, kinda); he brings up topics such as food memory, mental health issues.

My copy is dog-eared by comments and “food for thought”. But to you readers following my blog, sharing the below from the author (nah, not a recipe) words of wisdom we should always keep in mind:

So, the secret to healthy eating:

  1. Eat lots of different stuff.
  2. Not too much or too little.
  3. Try to achieve a bit of balance.
  4. Try not to feel guilty. Most important, never make others feel guilt or shame about the food they eat.

An intriguing look at the overwhelming outlook on healthy eating and what it means, what it’s meant to be.


Assembling a crack team of psychiatrists, behavioural economists, food scientists and dietitians, the Angry Chef unravels the mystery of why sensible, intelligent people are so easily taken in by the latest food fads, making brief detours for an expletive-laden rant. At the end of it all you’ll have the tools to spot pseudoscience for yourself and the Angry Chef will be off for a nice cup of tea – and it will have two sugars in it, thank you very much.
Abut the Author:  Anthony Warner is a professional chef and blogger. A regular contributor to New Scientist and The Pool, his blog has been featured in the Guardian, Mail on Sunday and other publications. In 2017, he was named on the Telegraph’s Food Power List of tastemakers changing the way we eat and drink. He lives in Nottinghamshire, blogs at angry-chef.com and you can follow him @One_Angry_Chef.

Available at: The Experiment Publishing

~ date read 09.11.2018~ 3 stars ~
Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for a fair review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.

Fall back into Autumnal reads

autumnalbooksFall has arrived! It’s that time again where we begin to embrace a change of season. With it comes cooler days, longer nights, and lots of things to appreciate

Although I read all year round, there is certainly something to be said for the fall season with regards to reading, most especially cuddling up with a good read once the weather turns chilly — bonus points if there are freshly baked goods involved.

So here are a few of my food writing upcoming notable reads this Autumnal season:

  • The Bread and the Knife: A Life in 26 Bites
  • The Dinner List
  • The Smiling Faces of My Guests Mean Everything [Nobu: A Memoir]
  • The Missing Ingredient: The Curious Role of Time in Food and Flavor

As I continue to develop my network of publishers and scout for the next food lit read, visit and peruse my recent posts or leave a comment on a recommended read!

I hope my blog continues to inspires you ~ grab your favorite throw and join me!

Cat

What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food that tells their Stories

whatsheateMy first Laura Shapiro read, I was looking forward to six remarkable stories and how food inspired them. It wasn’t my expectation to endure eccentricities and lurid ends. I had thought this was to be a book about what she ate and the food that tells their stories. I wanted to know literally know what she ate: memories of first tastes; captivating cuisines and signature dishes; preferences to eating in or eating out.

Every life has a food story; and every food story is unique.

There are different ways to read a life; however, this was one where their stories were at times difficult to read. The author is candid in her telling of their search for acceptance, experiencing their decline, and where death restored their dignity.

As I continued to read further, it wasn’t that something was amiss, rather there was something else I was picking up. I stopped searching for the connection as to what they ate that I then realized it was what food meant to them, how food inspired them:


Helen Gurley Brown:  But she was eager to attract food and liquor advertising, which meant she had to offer her readers regular, vicarious experiences with delicious meals.
Barbara Pym:  Her favorite place to watch human behavior was a restaurant.
Eva Braun:  Guten Appetit
Eleanor Delano Roosevelt:  E.R.’s revenge.
Rosa Lewis:  If food was going to be her shield and her weapon, she would deploy it at such a an exalted level that nobody could look down on her.
Dorothy Wordsworth:  Dined on black puddings.
Laura Shapiro [the author]:  Afterword

“What Food Meant to Her” would have been a better fitting title.

This is a novel of each woman’s relationship with food — and more. It sets the tone in that food writing records one’s relationship with food and the circumstances surrounding it (ie., postwar rationing; pop culture influences; feminist activism). What an appreciation of and for food writing. A recommended read with a bottle of Moët et Chandon!

NOTE: Don’t pass up on the Afterword as it is a pretty insightful essay.
~ date read 09.21.2018 ~ 3 stars ~
Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for a fair review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review. 

Killing It: An Education

killingitTo understand the title of the novel is to know a bit about the author. Camas Davis was a former food writing editor and writer in print media for 10 years. After being laid off from her job and having ended a serious relationship, she embarks on a desire to lead an authentic life — one she’s preached to others on how to live their best lives.

So she decides to spend seven weeks (in France) to learn how to be a butcher.

Part II: she works as an apprentice in exchange for doing odd jobs. Here she describes the butchering process vividly in detail. She shares with the readers what she’s learned:  foie gras; pastuering; filet mignon; chartcuterie; confit. I truly appreciate this as further education.

Part III: a rather, and perhaps not so, surprising turn of events occur when she returns to Oregon to put her knowledge into practice. The art of butchering through education led her to a supportive audience. This has also opened her up to animal rights activists who nonetheless disapprove of her teaching the art of butchery; most especially slaughtering rabbits for food.

The last chapter closed with “you don’t have to be honest all the time about everything.” This seemed to me a somewhat full circle of what she experienced in this life-changing journey towards an authentic life.

When we’re looking desperately for something particular – a culinary lesson, a person to love or hate, an easy justification for our bad behavior, a reason for why we don’t fit in – or when we are guided solely by our self-serving expectations, we’re willing to tell ourselves whatever story we need to, no matter whether the story is true or not, and, often, no matter the cost.

This is a representation of the nine years worth of experiences she’s had in which she founded the Portland Meat Collective, a transparent, hands-on meat school that has become a local and national resource for meat education and reform. In addition, she also launched the Good Meat Project, a non-profit dedicated to inspiring responsive meat production and consumption through experimental education across the country.

I dare question how seven weeks to learn the art of butchering has led her to her feats above. As a food writer, she vividly details the work of the trade, whole-animal gastronomy. More so she was inspired to share her understanding beyond animal husbandry appreciating where our meat comes from and what buying good food means.

Sometimes we must climb up to a high perch and dangle our very identity – everything we’ve deemed certain and continuous and reliable and safe in our lives – over the edge. We must open our hands and let go of it all, and then listen for the awful sound it makes when it hits the ground. Only then can we go in search of meaning.

The only missing piece for me were recipes. I wished she incorporated recipes such as the subtle mustard vinaigrette as it sounds tasteful.

~ date read 09.18.2018 ~ 3 stars ~
Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for a fair review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.

A Note for other Searching People: Although she adds this page at the end, go to her website the Portland Meat Collective  where she lists her resources to begin your journey.