Welcome to the roundup of the 33rd edition of Novel Food, the literary/culinary event that Lisa of Champaign Taste and I created in 2007. Novel Food is about literary works (prose or poetry) that inspire the preparation of dishes. I continue to host this event with great pleasure, as it brings together two of my passions: literature and food. Every edition delivers a great reading list and a lovely set of recipes.
A group of book-loving food bloggers has contributed posts, each describing a literary work and the dish that the reading inspired. You are invited to follow me on a literary/culinary tour. For each contribution, I offer a small bite to whet your appetite: follow the link to read the details of the special connection between written word and food that each participant has created.
"The individual stories are well told and woven together. They draw one in, each woman with her unique character and history, so we want to know how things end up for them... All of them are able to bloom in their new environment, to relax and enjoy life more, doing things they love. Interestingly, Mayes notes that no Italian word exists for stress - it's imported from English - lo stress... I made a note when Julia, who was attending a local cooking class, learned to properly prepare wild boar, by soaking first overnight in a vinegar water solution... So, pork was on the menu for my book inspired meal. "
"As I read with a focus for an inspired-by recipe, I discovered Hamburger Walter, a Thanksgiving feast, ficelle and challah, Little Polish Doves, Norwegian delicacies, Peter’s pickles, and his scrambled eggs. In the end, I decided to make my version of Hamburger Walter, Peter’s menu item from Masha’s and Walter Cronkite’s favorite [served Au Poivre with No Vegetables At All]... My version of Hamburger Walter is just a basic Steak au Poivre recipe, swapping out the filet mignon for cheap chuck patties (and adding veggies)... Please don’t let my dislike for June keep you from this novel. I devoured it in no time flat."
Debra also read The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses)
by Terri-Lynne DeFino and prepared Potato Salad with Kombu
"The thought of a regal and exclusive place where the best of the writing world could live out their lives in comfort and elegance was appealing…as were the characters... The inhabitants of the Pen (their name for the retirement home) did have lots of tea (non-caffeinated) and a few cocktails were wistfully remembered by the patrons... There was a plethora of food in the novel... Since there was a Fourth of July picnic for the residents, I decided to focus on a potato salad, something that might have been served at that picnic and something perhaps that Fin might have prepared for one of his wooing sessions on the beach with Cecibel."
For her third contribution, Debra read A Handbook for Beautiful People by Jennifer Spruit
and prepared a Tortellini Salad with Cherry Tomatomes & Olives
"Beach read? No (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Complicated and wonderful and beautifully written novel? Resoundingly YES! Spruit strings her characters together as a motley crew of loneliness, a group... that has nothing to look forward to and nothing good in sight... Truly, is there any food that speaks 'family' more than pasta? Even if the the family is dysfunctional and flawed (as every family truly is to some degree)? What I thought would be a resolution of pain and sorrow and heartache and death in A Handbook for Beautiful People turned out to be a lesson in resolve and love. Serves me right for judging a book by it’s cover or rather the characters by their initial flaws.
"As soon as [she]Maya] arrives on the island, she discovers its traditions and also the preparation of curanto, the typical dish and tourist attraction of Chiloé, '... serving curanto to the tourists was an initiative of Manuel to break down the isolation of this small village ... ' The preparation of this dish takes a long time. The women start early in the morning, because boats with ecotourists arrive before noon. 'The women cut tomatoes, onions, garlic and coriander for seasoning and, following a boring process, prepared milcao and chapalele, potato balls, flour, pork fat,... while men dug a large hole, put a pile of stones on the bottom and lit a bonfire above...'"
"Paula was a pioneer of the American food revolution, bringing these unknown foods to the spotlight in her books, articles and teaching. In her visionary cookbooks, she presented recipes that were unapologetically detailed and that used obscure at the time ingredients so that every dish would be truly authentic. They were challenging but each was married with engaging descriptions that made those dishes shine... Wolfert’s recollections of where and how she first encountered a particular dish or ingredient make for engaging reading along with the dozens of recipes and colorful photos. 'To me, good food is a memory... one time or another, I've had a fling with each of the recipes in my books.'"
"The novel is an account of Count Rostov's philosophical acceptance and survival during the decades that follow. In the hotel, he makes friends with and becomes part of the staff, and also makes friends with various hotel visitors. Food is a part of the scenario, especially since the Count eventually becomes Head Waiter. Occasionally, a long-time friend stops by, and during one particular visit, this friend is visibly upset because changes have been requested to his manuscript on Chekhov, a passage relating to bread. Years later, the friend leaves a book in the Count's care, a collection of literary passages about bread. Since I am a bread baker, that was what I had to make."
"Historical fiction, especially World War II historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. When you add a wine and food element to that, you get a book that hits all of my buttons and The Lost Vintage is that book... along with the wine, the food is plentiful in this novel--primarily French foods, although we get a bit of American food, 'Thaitalian' fusion (made me chuckle) and Mexican food thrown in... I saw Ina Garten's Fresh Lemonade recipe and liked the fact that it was whirled up with ice in my blender--quick, cold and refreshing--so that's what I did. Sometimes fast and simple is just what we need."
"When considering Peter's life experiences in Nazi Germany, it is easy to say 'unspeakable', but his refusal to talk about what happened to him and his family there is at the root of the problems he faces in the life he tries to build in his adoptive country. While I cannot get into the details without revealing too much, I like the image with which the book ends... I decided to use snap peas for this recipe because I like eating the pods: delicately crunchy, they give way to tender peas inside."
"I loved every page of it. The writing is superb and the characters of the stories are drawn with delicacy, precision and empathy... Sometimes it is hard to imagine what Olive wants. She may say something rather rude one moment and the next she empathizes deeply with a stranger or refuses to leave alone a former student whose emotional trouble she senses... I suspect Olive would mumble if I arrived at her place with a bag of buns instead of doughnuts... She would eat one, thank me brusquely and add a morsel of her sharp wisdom, like: 'Don't be scared of your hunger. If you're scared of your hunger, you'll just be one more ninny like everyone else.'"
My special "thank you!" to the event's contributors: I hope you enjoyed participating as I do hosting the event.
You will find a link to this roundup and to those of all the earlier editions on this page. If you are looking for additional reading suggestions, head over to the Cook the Books website. For the June-July edition we are reading Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl, then sharing reviews and recipes. (Follow the link to the website: the current selection is posted on the home page.) You can read about the current set of selections in this post.
The next edition of Novel Food will be in late summer: stay tuned for the announcement. In the meantime, read good books (maybe with the next Novel Food in mind), cook good dishes, enjoy good food and otherwise savor life's local and seasonal offerings.