And before you know it, it is time to come to the table to taste the contributions made to the 36th edition of Novel Food, the literary/culinary event that Lisa of Champaign Taste and I created in 2007. Novel Food is about prose or poetry works 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, and this one is no exception.
A group of book-loving food bloggers has contributed posts, each describing a work of written words 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 do not... want to give the impression that this is a predictable tale. It is not. Naoka is a strong character and does what she has to do, but it’s not a tale of woe (even though parts of the story are truly horrific)... I highly recommend this novel. The story is based on true events and do not skip the author’s notes at the end. Heartbreaking. This is not a food-centric novel at all, but I did find a few things to be inspired by... I was stuck on the noodles. I remade an old recipe and tossed in bok choy and cucumbers."
Reading Valencia and Valentine by Suzy Krause inspired Debra
to prepare Grilled Asparagus with Balsamic and Basil
"I enjoyed the alternating story lines (even though I got a bit annoyed at times with Valencia). I kept wondering how the two plot lines were going to intersect and it wasn’t until the final third of the book that I figured it out... The theme that stuck with me the most is how we all want to re-invent ourselves at times and perhaps when we do weave stories with alternate perceptions, we are ensuring our sanity... The line that stayed with me was when Mrs. Valentine inferred she used to be a gardener but now she is relegated to one lonely basil plant."
Debra also read all about sweeteners in Baking With Less Sugar by Joanne Chang
and baked Triple Threat Oatmeal Cookies
Debra enjoyed reading "what led Chang (an accomplished sugared-up pasty chef) to develop low-sugar, no-sugar, or naturally sweetened recipes. [Chang] also discusses the science behind using sugar in recipes, besides adding sweetness... [and] outlines sugar substitutes (beyond artificial sweeteners). These include the obvious maple syrup, honey, agave nectar and molasses along with fruit juices, vanilla, almond extract, dates, stevia, coconut milk, bananas and other fruit, and coconut sugar. All of this is worth reading... I took Chang’s Oatmeal-Raisin-Cranberry Cookies and turned them into a Triple Threat Oatmeal Cookie... significantly less sugar, lots of super foods, and CHOCOLATE!"
Berry season and two books (Jam Session by Joyce Goldstein and Minnesota’s Bounty by Beth Dooley) inspired Debra to prepare several berry-based recipes, including Blackberry Bramble Jam and Blueberry-Orange Preserves
and also freeze a lot of both berries. "We have a U-Pick farm just about two miles away... The blackberries at this place are always ginormous so it didn’t take us long to pick. We picked eighteen quarts before rushing back home to get ready for work... The following Saturday we returned to pick blueberries. They had a new variety that was the size of a quarter but we found (after sampling a few) that the smaller berries really had more flavor."
Claudia enjoyed "the debut novel of a new series... despite a few reservations. Auntie is a definitely a character [a 60-year-old Bavarian widow, who decides to retire to Sicily], albeit one prone to occasionally wavering somewhere on the edges of wonderland... Auntie enjoys eating as well as drinking and flirting, so plenty of good food mentioned, both German and Italian, particularly Sicilian. Poldi fixes a dish for her new Police Inspector friend... a favorite in Sicily."
Claudia also read The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen
baked The Kauai Inn Papaya Cake
Claudia loves Bowen's Royal Spyness and Molly Murphy Series, "as well as her terrific stand alone novels, as is this one. What a great writer! Bowen has the ability to draw in and engage readers with her created world." This is the story a woman’s love and sacrifice during the First World War... "My own garden is chock full of herbs and fruit trees. So, from the garden, which the other day confronted me with an abundance of papaya, comes this old recipe from my card file, embellished with a passion fruit glaze."
"It is a story about what Edward Lee has learned about the food of America, the immigrants that brought certain flavors to certain places, and the combinations of cultures... The chapter called 'German Mustard' really spoke to me on a personal level... My maternal side of the family may not identify as being German anymore, but there is still a lot of German influence in the food and in the culture... I make German food. It’s the food that reminds me of home. But like Lee shows throughout his book, sometimes cultures combine and bring changes to the food... I made a schnitzel I can eat with my diet. Pork rinds provide a great crunchy breading to a keto breaded meat. This schnitzel may not be exactly what I ate as a child, but the flavors are all there."
"While the 'Rules of Civility' was just as compelling, the characters were not quite so charming as those in 'A Gentleman from Moscow'; the overall flavour of the New York story is somewhat bleak. Having said that, the book is still well worth reading. Not to mention that there is an embarrassment of fabulous sounding dishes to make... The choice for what to make was quite difficult, but considering what time of year it is, the asparagus in chapter eleven is exactly right... It turns out that asparagus doesn’t have to be simple to be delicious."
"There are no twists or surprises, but it is a satisfying story that is easy to curl up with and enjoy... a good choice for your summer reading stack if you like women’s fiction, stories about sisters and family relationships, sometimes snarky humor, romance, and stories about personal growth and second chances... I decided to recreate one of the bruschetta appetizers that Margot and Alec put together for a small gathering: 'Margot stirred fresh chopped chives into softened cream cheese, then spread it on the bread and topped it with the mushroom mixture.' I made mine a bit easier..."
"Hamilton's writing and storytelling style makes for an easy reading and the events she narrates with more details are well chosen... As I was reading Hamilton's adventures, I remembered my first vacation away from my family, a fortnight spent with a friend in her hometown of Rossano, in Calabria. A lot of the foods I ate were either new or prepared differently from the way my mother prepared them. The latter group included green beans, which my friend's mother boiled and dressed like a salad, but with the addition of red onion from Tropea."
Simona also read Good To Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery by Christie Aschwanden and prepared a Tomato, cucumber and radish salad
"I do my best to listen to my body, because our body is really good at adapting to challenges and also at signaling when adjustments are needed... Just as I was reading the book, summer arrived... Running in warmer temperatures means sweating more and with it comes the desire to eat water-rich vegetables, like tomatoes and cucumbers... I now favor cherry tomatoes for salads and.. I am fascinated by the pale green, deeply ribbed, long Armenian cucumbers, whose flesh is mild- and sweet-tasting."
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 June-July edition, we are reading Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton, then share reviews and recipes.
The next edition of Novel Food will be in early fall: 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.