Welcome to the roundup of the 34th 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.
"I loved this quirky book about mysterious immigrants, robots, and sourdough. It’s an odd combination with an equally eccentric cast of characters, but Sloan makes it work. He weaves this tale of mystery and magic together and has us suspend disbelief. I did believe that Lois’ sourdough had special powers... I was determined to establish a sourdough culture, get it to live, and actually make something... Here is my version of sourdough pizza crust and, wanting to keep in the spirit of a farmers market, I loaded it with local toppings."
Debra also read Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners
by Gretchen Anthony and prepared Olive Tapenade and Crostini
"If Evergreen Tidings had been set in the 50s, 60s, 70s or even 80s, I might have been able to connect with it a bit more. But since it is set in present day suburban Minnesota, I had some issues... As I read Violet’s yearly holiday letters (which was a clever way to structure the novel), I was struck that I was reading something written by a 1950’s housewife... Although I think Anthony’s writing and plot is clever, I could not get past the obvious time warp. But, it is a fun ride." Two passages from the book inspired Debra's choice of recipe.
For her third contribution, Debra went shopping, bought and read My Pantry by Alice Waters
and prepared some Avocado Toast
I had a lot of sourdough bread on hand recently and just because I had an almost over-the-hill avocado, I made us some toasts for a weekend lunch. I just added salt, pepper and a bit of lemon juice, mashed it up, and topped the toasts with a bit of home grown tomato. Delicious! Where have I been and why did I not make these sooner?!?!?!?!... I loved that Waters has a 10-liter oak barrel in her kitchen that she makes wine vinegar in. She dumps in all the leftover wine, no matter what color or region. She even dumps in sparkling wine."
Barnes's book "is a funny, sad, literary novel from the 1980s and in my lightweight view is one of the finest written during my lifetime... This is old-school Normandy cooking and I must admit that the aromas drifting from a classic Normandy kitchen are pretty much guaranteed to transport me to a very happy place. Presumably that was also true for the Reverend Musgrave not to mention Flaubert; although I can't say the same for his parrot since it appears that it was stuffed."
Lucia of Torta di Rose read Everything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout (in Italian: Tutto è possibile) and
prepared Corn with chili pepper and ginger (Mais saltato in padella con peperoncino e zenzero)
"I was inspired by the large fields of corn and soybeans that are a recurring landscape throughout the story... We are in Amygash, Illinois, the hometown of Lucy Barton, who left for New York many years before and never returned, except in a bookstore with her latest book... The story is... like many others, without twists, but the author focuses on people and their personal histories, their suffering, weaknesses, traumas never completely overcome, imperfect feelings because we are all imperfect. In the end, however, there is hope, despite everything."
Ruth Reichl's Comfort Me With Apples and My Kitchen Year inspired Cathy of Delaware Girl Eats
to prepare Apple Cider-Brined Pork Tenderloins with Roasted Vegetables
"Reichl wrote about braising pork shoulder in cider but brining tenderloins in it was just as delicious. Pork in general benefits from brining and the cider brine worked magic, imparting sweetness, juiciness and tons of flavor, which was heightened by drizzling the meat with a pan sauce for serving. Roasted Yukon Gold potatoes, Red Onions and Granny Smith apples rounded out the meal. The best part? Other than the time for brining, this was a fast and nearly effortless meal to prepare."
"I loved this book, even reading it the second time, picked up stuff missed on the earlier go round... There are more adventures than can be recounted here... Lois writes to her friends, who have gone back to Europe, that she wants to make her own spicy soup. I was intrigued by that idea, of making my own Spicy Soup, using tangy ingredients from our garden... kaffir lime leaves, galangal, ginger, curry leaves and basil, along with others of the usual suspects: garlic, onion, chili peppers."
"It’s a story about motherhood, relationships, and secrets, and it demonstrates that seemingly simple decisions can have long-reaching impacts and consequences. One of the meals towards the end of the novel featured Chinese take-out. I decided to prepare two dishes, non-take-out/better-than-take-out style... For the lo mein, I used soba noodles, which I like and could find in the local grocery store. I enjoyed both dishes, and would definitely plan to make them again."
"Being familiar with the San Francisco Bay Area contributed to the story's appeal, but even if you don't know the island of Alameda or the San Francisco Ferry Building, you will enjoy the twists and turns of Lois Clary's adventures in robot-aided bread baking. The atmosphere is sci-fi, so don't expect your sourdough starter to behave the same way as that of the title... this time what got me scouting for recipes was the idea of using the starter in between feedings that would otherwise be wasted."
"Besides being good mysteries, the novels attract me because of their setting: Victorian England. They look at the life of that time with a modern sensitivity. The author explains some situations, because she knows that her readers are not familiar with the social norms of the time, for example the uneasy relationship between upper class people and the Police, some of the norms regulating the movements of servants inside the house where they work... I prefer tarts over pies, so with a nod to Charlotte Pitt, I created a recipe for savory tart using a gluten-free crust. "
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 Club website. For the October-November edition we are reading The Cooking Gene by Michael Twitty, then sharing reviews and recipes. (Follow the link to the website: the current selection is posted on the home page.)
The next edition of Novel Food will be in late winter: 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.