The Kitchen Reader


So many times I have finished a book long after I thought it should have ended. You know what I mean, right? You get about 4/5s through a book and are longing for it to be over. That was NOT the case with Ruth Reichl’s first novel – DELICIOUS! I did not want it to end. I was so into the characters and the duel story line that I am now ready for a sequel although I know there won’t be one.

This was the story of Wilhelmina “Billie” Breslin and her journey. Not in the physical sense but in the personal sense. Billie has an awesome gift of a fine palate and the ability to devise a dish just from the tastes and smells. But she doesn’t cook. Not any more. One of the big questions throughout the book is WHY?

After working at DELICIOUS!, a foodie magazine, for just one year the magazine goes out of business and her job flies out the window. Or at least so she thought. She is kept on to answer questions and consider refunds on complaints regarding the recipes in the ‘book’. Her daily phone calls from Mrs. Cloverly,who constantly complains about how the recipes in DELICIOUS! don’t work:

    ‘…the large sea scallops or the little bay kind?”
    “Oh, really! I would never purchase scallops. They are far too expensive. I substituted canned clams.”
    “Any other substitutions? Perhaps you used 1/2 and 1/2 in place of heavy cream?”
    “Don’t be rediculous? I never have cream in the house; it is far too rich. I always use powdered milk.”
    I don’t imagine you had any wine on hand?”
    “I used water but I did add a bit of lemon juice for zip.”
      And she wonders why the recipe was ‘simply vile’

…and her hunt for the illusive Lulu,whose wartime letters to James Beard are found in the library in a hidden room, keep her life on a constant merry-go-round..

    Dear Mr. Beard,

      So when Mother says it is wrong for us to eat better than our brave men overseas, I tell her that I don’t see how eating disgusting stuff helps them in the lest. But Mr. Beard, it is very hard to cook good food when you’re only a beginner!…I’m going to try again; I have my eye on the Peanut Butter and Lima Bean Loaf from a cookbook Mrs. Davis gave me,….

    She definitely needed help and he gave her much for several years.

Through the letters, the friendships, and her family she finally learns the truth about events in her life her entire perspective about herself, her family, and her friends change.

The story is about people but it is also about food. Food that keeps people entertained, keeps people wanting more, keeps people alive, keeps people with family and friends. There are no recipes in the book just snatches of conversations about food, people intimately connected with food, and incidents involving the food industry. It is not an expose. It is a story. A life. A meal.

The Main Characters:

    Billie Breslin, the Heroine!
    Sal and Rosalie, owners of Fontanari’s Italian Food Shop
    Mr. Complainer, the picky Customer
    Lulu, the Letter Writer
    Mrs. Cloverly, the Complainer
    Genie, the Sister

All affected her life. And helped her come to terms with her fears – including cooking.

Through out the book different dishes are mentioned: souffle, gingerbread, pumpkin ravioli, Yorkshire pudding, panettone. So many dishes I could make to ‘celebrate’ the book. I did so want to make her gingerbread but just ran out of time. It will be made.

No earthquakes now….

delicious

This is the JULY selection for The Kitchen Reader an online food related book club with members around the world.

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I have been married about 38 years. All good!! So the idea of eating alone on a regular basis is rather foreign to me. Since I went from my folk’s house, to a college dorm to my own home I haven’t had much chance to eat out alone. I did it once, with a book, and it was nice, but most of the time if I eat alone it is at home. And usually I do take the time to cook for myself. Usually Indian. Or maybe Asian. And usually I enjoy it. But I might not if it was on a regular basis!!

Why am I telling you all this? Because of the book. It is a collection of stories by people who do eat alone on a regular basi. But….

    …eating alone isn’t natural. Life’s greatest sensual pleasure (or at least its most consistenetly attainable) should be shared. I happen to believe that humans were born to feed one another. The meal is our celebration of nurturance, our secular communion.”

      ~Steve Almond~

And that is my feeling exactly. Eating is something that is much more enjoyable with other people. Sharing stories, sharing desserts, sharing togetherness. But maybe alone is okay, too. Quiet. Selfish eating. ME TIME!! Sometimes.

    The Year of Spaghetti by Haruki Murakami
    Eating Alone by Maracella Hazan {probably the first woman in her family to eat alone}
    The Legend of Salsa Rosa by Ben Karlin
    Asparagus Superhero by Phoebe Nobles {she really enjoys asparagus}
    Alone in the Kitchen with Eggplant by Laurie Colwin {in her closet sized apartment with Wilt Chamberlain}
    Instant Noodles by Rattawut Lapcharoensap {“It’s what you add to it that counts!”}
    How to cook in a New York Apartment by Laura Dave {don’t cook that which leaves its smell behind.}

are just a few of the essays included. Some of them funny, some of them sad. {You will have to find out which are which!!} Some of them I read more than once. All of them intriquing.


    And when I cook I refuse to use more than one pan. A great meal alone is joyous but ending it with a lot of dishwashing diminishes the effect.

      ~Amanda Hesser

My favorite was the first story,”Alone in the Kitchen with Eggplant” beacause Laurie’s essay just sort of summed everything up.


    Dinner alone is one of life’s pleasures. Certainly cooking for oneself reveals man at his weirdest. People lie when you ask them what they eat when they are alone. A salad, they tell you. But when you persist, they confess to peanut butter and bacon sandwiches deep fried and eaten with hot sauce, or spaghetti with butter and grape jam.”

Eating is a pleasure – usually – and eating alone can be if the time, place, food is right. As with this recipe from Karlin’s essay:

Salsa Rosa for One

    3 tablespoons olive oil
    5 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
    i small zucchini, sliced (optional)
    3 roma tomatoes, chopped
    1 box Pomi diced tomatoes, around 20 ounces
    2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    1/3 cup parmigiano cheese, grated
    1 box panna (cooking cream), about 6 ounces, or half pint heavy
    cream
    1/3 pound dry pasta (spaghettini, cappellini, or any long thin noodle. Do not try with fusilli, penne, or farfalle)
    Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until it just turns brown.
Add the zucchini and cook, stirring, until it has a yellowish sheen.
Add the fresh and boxed tomatoes. (Canned whole tomatoes will work too—just make sure there are some fresh ones in there.)
Lower the heat a bit and cook until all the tomatoes start break-ing down and forming a sugo (sauce).
Now add the butter, cheese, and cream, but don’t add it in all at once.
Mix it in, so the Sauce continues to cook and reduce down. You want to do at least three or four waves.
Once it’s all in, set the heat to low and cover.
Boil your water and cook your pasta al dente. Remember, it will finish cooking once it’s out of the boiling water, so don’t leave it in too long.
After you strain the pasta, throw it back into the pot with a nice pour of extra-virgin olive oil.
Add some salt and pepper, then pour the salsa rosa over the pasta.
Mix, but not too roughly, just so it gets slithery with sauce.
Eat it.
Run a marathon the next day.

It was VERY tasty. [Sorry no pics, it was late, I was tired.] And yes, you will feel the need to run it off the next day!!!

If you get a chance, pick up this collection of short stories. Enjoyable!

To see other ‘book reports’ visit The Kitchen Reader.

This month’s selection comes from Ani of Anjeme.

I spend entirely too much time reading books that aren’t ‘fun’. I don’t mean that what I read isn’t enjoyable, but I read them for a reason. History books. Cookbooks. Anthropology books. I love these types of books, but once in a while I like to read something that doesn’t require a lot of thinking. Just for ‘fun’! Or, as Sarah put it, “…a perfect relaxing read for the beach or the airplane.” As I started reading The Sugar Queen I thought to myself that I wouldn’t enjoy this book. It just seemed too syrupy.

I. Was. Wrong.


This was just what Sarah said it was, “..a perfect relaxing read for the beach or the airplane.”


What would you do if you opened your closet door and found a woman sitting there? A woman named Della Lee. A woman who was nothing like you. A woman who had had a rough life. A woman who was about to change your life. Completely!!

This is the story of Josey Cirrini. The only daughter of a wealthy woman. She has no friends, no life to speak of, and is the sole caretaker for her mother. Her mother is cold and unbending. She doesn’t like change. And when she starts seeing changes in her daughter it unnerves her. What changes? Josey falls in love. Josey finds a friend. Josey starts to become a person in her own right. Why?

The woman in her closet.

I enjoyed this much more than I thought I would. It was just a simple, easy read.

Each chapter is named for a sweet treat:

    Jawbreakers.
    Snow Candy.
    Lemon Drops.
    Rock Candy
    .

It wasn’t until the third chapter that I realised that the title to each chapter was a clue to it’s contents. But you had to go back and look at the title for that ‘ah, ha’ moment.

This month’s pick is from Karen’s Blog: Shortbread South. I did enjoy it, Karen. Thanks.

You can find out how the other readers liked it by finding the blogroll at
The Kitchen Reader.

    “We set out on a journey. It seemed so ordinary on the face of things to try to do what nearly all people used to do without a second thought. But the rip surprised us many times, because of all the ways a landscape can enter ones’ physical being”

Thus begins the final chapter in the year long journey of the Kingsolver/Hopp family’s year long story of eating local and growing as much of their own food as possible.

This was one of the best books I’ve read since joining The Kitchen Reader. The last two were, while enjoyable and educational, tirades against the American agricultural/industrial food machine. This book, on the other hand, was a personal family story about one family whlle it “…paddled against the tide…” by moving to a family farm place and away from processed foods and natural foods raised 100s or 1000s of miles away from their dinner table.

The Family consists of Barbara Kingsolver, her husband Steven Hopp and their daughters Camille and Lily. They moved from Tuscon where…


    “…developers drew up plans to roll pink stucco subdivisions across the desert in all directions. The rest of us weres supposed to rejoice as the new flow rushed into our pipes, even as the city warned us this water was kind of special They said it was okay to drink, but don’t put in in an aquarium because it would
    KILL THE FISH.”

…to the hills of Virginia to make their own cheese, bake their own bread, breed their own poultry (I learned a lot about Turkey sex!!), and raise their own fruits and veggies. Like our grandparents and great grandparents did – not that long ago in some areas.

Kingsolver discusses the cost of industrialized food both in human and financial costs. She doesn’t berate us for using processed foods and animals raised in brutal conditions. She simply points these things out as we read through her month by month journal of life away from the ‘madding crowd’ of fast food, high fructose corn syrup, Whoopie pies, and bananas.

I especially enjoyed the small inserts by Kingsolver’s daughter Camille. Her recipes, recollections as a teenager and meal plans were entertaining and rather joyous. I am looking forward to trying some of them, especially 30-minute Mozzarella.

I am glad we grow some of our own veggies. I am glad we buy some of our eggs from the lady down the road. I am glad I make all of my own bread. I am glad we occasionally buy at least 1/2 a grass fed cow. I am glad that about 1/3 of our meat comes from my Hub’s hunting and fishing excursions. I am glad I make most of our meals from scratch. But I wish we had the gumption to do more. I don’t want to return to the days where each family was fully self-sufficient, but baby steps toward “locavorism” help. There is no Farmer’s Market closer than 1 hour away. There are very few local food businesses – Springhill Jams/Jellies/Syrups is the exception – but we are working on it. As is the rest of the USA. Farmer’s Markets have grown considerably in number, especially with the current economy, but… Well, I’ll just leave it at that.

Okay, rant over. Buy the book. Read the book. Enjoy the book.
And visit The Kitchen Reader to find the other members. Thank you, Karen (of Shortbread South). Great pick.

    Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly Plants.

That was Pollan’s mantra through out In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. This was an excellent follow-up to last month’s Bittman book. It is a full discussion of how food has left the western diet to be replaced by nutrients. Now, that may not make much sense unless you realize how Pollan defines food. It is NOT the processed chemicalized things people eat for most of our diet. So what do we eat if it’s not food. Consider his ‘rules of thumb’:

    Don’t eat anything your great grandmother would not recognize as food.

      Would she recognize Go-Gurt??

    Avoid food products containing ingredients that are (A) unfamiliar, (B) unpronounceable, (C) more than 5 in number, or that include (D) High Fructose Corn Syrup.

      Have you READ the ingredients in a simple loaf of bread lately?

    Avoid food products that make health claims.

      Don’t forget that trans-fat-rich margarine, one of the first industrial foods to claim it was healthier than the traditional food it replaced, turned out to give peole heart attacks.”

    Shop the peripheries of the super market and stay out of the middle.

      That is where the fresh food is – dairy, fish, meat, produce. The REAL food. {And the produce IS the most important.}

    Get out of the supermarket whenever possible.

      FARMER’S MARKET, people. No weird ingredients, no processing, no high fructose corn syrup. NONE!!

Now in addition to food one should eat mostly plants. And mostly leaves. They won’t hurt you. And they contain the most nutritious ingredients. And the darker the better. Anti-oxidents, omega-3s, and as much diversity as possible. It is what man has eaten for more of his time on earth. Foraging came way before hunting.

But besides the mantra, Pollan discusses the fact that we have given our eating demands over to the government and scientists who basically have ruined us. We are heavier, unhealthier, and unhappier than we have ever been as a population. Fast food. Too much processing. Too much natural removed and replaced by too many fake ingredients. All because the government and nutritionists and reductionists and bad scientists think they know more than we do.

So, what do we do to save ourselves?

We pay more, eat less. We eat Meals instead of snacking 24/7. We eat at the table and not alone. We don’t buy food were we buy car fuel. We eat slowly and listen to our bodies. And we cook and plant our own food.

And I leave you witH TWO words. ORTHOREXIA NERVOSA

    “…an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating.”

Not yet recognized by the DSM-IV as an eating disorder, but caused by the very people we depend on (as if we are too simple minded) to help guide us on our food pathways.

Thanks, Micheal, for giving me something to think about.

And, as I said with Bittman’s book, the people who really need to read this book won’t. But you should. You really should.

This was my choice this month for The Kitchen Reader. I am glad I chose it. Now on to Pollan’s other books.

    Two years ago, a report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) landed on my desk. Called Livestock’s Long Shadow, it revealed a stunning statistic: global livestock productin is reponsible for about one-fifth of all greenhouse gases – more than transportation.

Thus begins Bittman’s discussion of America’s Food Policy which affects every individual living in the USA as well as land and peoples in other parts of the world.

I have one thing to say about Bittman’s FOOD MATTERS. The people who ought to read it WON’T!!!

You may recall Mark Bittman. He is the author of How to Cook Everything and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian both of which are enormously popular. He is not a chef, he is a journalist. He has been writing and researching about food for more than 30 years. He knows food. He knows how it’s grown. He knows how it’s handled. He has created a ‘manifesto’ about America’s Food Policy, it’s connection to food and nature, and it’s subsequent connection to us – the eaters of the food. And it is scary stuff!!

Some simple suggestions/ideas from Food Matters:

    Eating local has more positives than negatives.

      Locavorism (This word was the creation of Jessica Prentice of the San Francisco Bay Area at the time of World Environment Day, 2005.)has become the password of the day and is becoming more and more a way of life with the new resurgence of Farmer’s Markets and the CSAs etc. It merely means to eat what is grown locally rather than lettuce that has been trucked in 3000 miles.


    Gorge on Plants. Literally.

      Eat fewer animal products than average and increase the amount of fruits, veggies, and nuts. Your body will thank you for it. Green leafy veggies are probably the most beneficial of all foods. As a nation we eat more meat than most other countries. “…10 times as much meat as people in developing countries.” We even eat too much protein by our own gobernment’s generous standards. If you want to find out more read the article in the NYT. And it is not good for us. Protein is necessary, but the amount of meat we eat is not.

    The goal of eating sanely is not to cut calories; that will happen naturally.

      Bittman’s book is a beware of what you eat book, but it is also a weight loss book. If we follow the ‘rules’ of sane eating, we will lose weight. Just that simple. Cut down on the sugar (avearge American consumes 1 cup/day). Cut down of beef. Eat more veggies/fruits. That is what he calls SANE EATING.


Bottom Line: “Much about the typical American diet is wrong. It’s damaging both individually and globally, and we can’t expect Big Food or the government to help us fix it.” Of course a lot of the problem is Big Food. They cannot make up their mind what is more important. Our health or their profit. What is good for us and what isn’t. And it changes all the time.

I could list so many more of Bittman’s facts/ideas/suggestions but you would tire of reading. If you want more, buy this book. It will open your eyes. Seriously.

BTW there are some seriously good recipes (entrees, salads, snacks, desserts) at the end (70) for healthier eating that leans heavily on sustainability (key word in today’s food world), good food, and good taste without bad consequences.

These are just a few of the healthy, sane eating, weight loss recipes he has in the book. They are ALL on my list. As well as many other of the recipes.

Get the book. You won’t be sorry. And visit the other Kitchen Reader Members for their take on

Thanks to Elizabeth at Spike Bakes for this months choice. It is not something I would have fhosen on my own.

I didn’t discover Ruth Reichl’s books until I borrowed one from my Mom. She is a very ecclectic reader and I have found some interesting books through her. Ruth’s books are among those. I enjoy her books so much that I took a second turn at them. Yes, they are that entertaining.

This one, Tender at the Bone, is the first of her autobiographical presentations. She is only about 10 or 11 when the story starts and right away we know all about her family. Her father, Ernst, is easy going. He has to be, considering Ruth’s mom, Miriam, is rather…eh… intriguing. She can “make a meal out of anything!” Often much to her family’s chagrin. Ruth even states her brother, Bob, was lucky to have made it to the age of 25.

    Most mornings I got out of bed and went to the refrigerator to see how my mom was feeling. You could tell instantly just by opening the door. One day in 1960 I found a whole suckling pic staring out at me. I jumped back and slammed the door, hard. Then I opened it again. I’d never seen a whole animal in our refrigerator before, even the chickens came in parts. He was surrouned by tiny crab apples, ….. and a whole wreath of weird vegetables.

Now you know why I said her mother was intriguing. And thus begins the story of Ruth’s life.

Family anecdotes fill the pages of Ruth’s book. As do stories of her love relationships. Tales of her travels in Europe with her mother, North Africa with Serafina,

    We passed dark shops filled with patterned rugs, woven clothes, and amber beads. The cook, thick walls closed around us. Serafina licked her lips and hissed at me, “We could get lost and never find our way out. We could disappear forever. Nobody even knows we’re in Tunis!”

And this after traveling with two young men they didn’t know. Can you imagine doing that today!!

But it was cheap and exotic!!!


Her job at The Swallow Restaurant where she worked and learned about so many different foods and different people.

    I began studying the othr members, thrying to figure out how to persuade them to vote for me. Chrissy and Linda were the easiest; they were the backbone… Peter and Michael were easy too: they wanted help making soup. …Antoinette who was French and talented…. Judith, the professor’s wife, was not impressed with me either.Bob, considered me insufficiently temperamental to be a great cook.

But I don’t want to tell you too much. What you need to do is read Tender at the Bone.

And then read Comfort Me With Apples.

And then read Garlic and Sapphires.

All of them whimsical, entertaining, enlightning, sad, inspiring, and truly, truly intriguing.

And, there is ONE little thing I forgot – THE RECIPES!! But only in Tender…

    Mrs. Bergamini’s Sliced Veal Breast
    Mohammad’s Bisteeya
    The Swallow’s Pork and Tomatillo Stew
    Coconut Bread

and Comfort….

I enjoy her books and look forward to reading them again – for the third time. Visit The Kitchen Reader and see how the other book club members liked Ruth’s Book.

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