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.

Still my guitar gently weeps …
Abut the Author:  Rebecca Serle co-developed the TV adaptation of Famous in Love.
~ date read 09.29.2018 ~ 5 stars ~

Advertisements

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.

The New Farm: Our Ten Years on the Front Lines of the Good Food Revolution

NewFarmI happened to have found this book on the shelf of my local library. I do not intent to open a farm. But the story they share is a start if you are interested.

We begin the journey through ten years of the inception of an organic farm in nearby Toronto, its growth, challenges, and contributions while riding the wave through the changes of agriculture and how food is viewed today.

What does it take to quit full-time viable city jobs to commit fully in creating a farm – and an organic farm – from scratch. What resources do you have to cultivate the land, create structures while trying to fit in within the community, providing for your family, and pretty much survive.

Pretty much perseverance, a support system, and guts. But the passion, the mindset, and an abundance of resources would have to be there just to survive physically, emotionally, and psychologically.

This book discusses agricultural biodiversity and animal husbandry in the cultivation and expansion of their farm and what it takes to truly become and provide “organic”. It is also an eye-opener on how local government, universities, and labor plays an important part to agriculture and farming.

Dedication plays an important role in their quest for sustainable farming, and their struggle to be part of the change for positive social, environmental, and political change. For us readers, there is a sense of urgency to engage ourselves for change to happen in the undulating awareness of diet-related illnesses, pesticide contamination, climate control, economic inequality.

Our farm has become a place that inspires chefs, activists, and artists alike. The food revolution needs cooks and organizers and distributors and business people and eaters and a whole lot more farmers. What role will you play?

What makes this an interesting read is that they jumped the band wagon as the food industry was going through a revolution: peaking interest in organic foods; renaissance of local farmers markets; creation of CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture); concept of The Good Food Movement. As they adjusted not only to the life of farming, they were on the forefront of the changes that were taking place for farming to continue to not only survive but thrive economically.

More interestingly is what the author calls out:

Our society’s current obsession with all things food and farming isn’t an unalloyed good. It seems like a lot of people spend more time watching people cook on TV than they do actually cooking.

I can claim guilt on spending more time watching people cook on TV than I do actually cooking. Although I cooked much more when my daughters were growing up, I have taken to being entertained ~ I enjoyed watching Martin Yan of Yan Can Cook, Ming Tsai of Simply Ming, and Rick Bayless of Mexico-One Plate at a Time , and chef cooking competitions: Kristen Kish as Top Chef winner, and Jeff Mauro as The Next Food Network Star winner. Additionally, I claim guilt in being inspired; hence, my food writing blog sharing food writing novels I come across.

My interest in food writing the past seven years has provided so much more insight beyond chef memoirs, food basics techniques, and the history of food stuffs locally and around the world ~ although most prevalent for me and my blog. I am fortunate to keep continuing to ride the wave of all things food writing.

This read solidified for me:  appreciating what buying good food means and enjoying the simple pleasures of a shared meal [The Dinner Party is the Sanctuary of Friendship!].

The inspiring and sometimes hilarious story of a family that quit the rat race and left the city to live out their ideals on an organic farm, and ended up building a model for a new kind of agriculture.
~ date read 8.22.2018~ 4 stars ~