You certainly don't need me to add to the myriad stories about the pandemic we are experiencing, so while I acknowledge it and its consequences on all aspects of our life, here I would like to create a small corner of relief from the intense pressure. While different for each of us in content, such pressure is a reality for all of us. One element that has helped me cope with the situation has been the continuing ability to shop at our farmers' markets, to support our farmers and to bring to my kitchen season's produce. The other has been access to the outdoors for physical exercise and de-stressing. I hope you are all finding ways to balance the pressure for maintaining as much well-being as possible.
A group of book-loving food bloggers has contributed posts to the 39th edition of Novel Food. Each post describes a work of written words and the dish that the reading inspired. You are invited to join 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 literary work and the dish each participant describes. We hope you'll be inspired in your reading and in your kitchen.
"Set in the summer on Alabama's coast, it's a perfect summer book for tucking in a beach bag or curling up on the lanai with a cold glass of lemonade or sweet tea, and immersing yourself in Safe Harbor... I knew that I wanted to include shrimp as it is what Rose's family did, especially her nephew Rawlins and was featured heavily. There was a somewhat dubious pimiento cheese dip made by someone named Donna for a big community summer kick-off party... I was going to make pimiento cheese grits and serve it with shrimp but I wondered if I could add shrimp to it as a dip."
"'Forgiveness is often the solution', observes Precious Ramotswe toward the end of Smith's warmhearted, humane 17th No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency novel... One of Precious' favorite treats is a Botswana and South African specialty... Fat cakes or magwinya are little yeast-raised, deep fried doughnuts, basically, popular throughout the world in one form or another... Magwinya is referred to as township food in South Africa. In Botswana, the best fat cakes are bought from street vendors who make them fresh and sell them with fried chips... My first thought was, I wonder if these could be made with my sourdough starter. So, of course, that had to be tried."
"Although there wasn’t a lot of mention of food in this book, there was a passage describing coq au vin. I began by checking my wine supply. All whites, with one exception, and that was the wrong kind of red. So, I began searching for variations on the recipe. There is coq au vin blanc, which does use white wine, coq au vin Riesling, and also coq au vin champagne. Success! I had some leftover champagne in the refrigerator, the right amount, and it was still fizzy... In addition, I also discovered a recipe using the Instant Pot, so I was set... The end result was a delicious coq au vin that I enjoyed for several days."
Elizabeth of blog from OUR kitchen read The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
and prepared Cucumber Mint Raita
"While some of the sections may have arguably gone too far into fantasy... the compassionate lyricism keeps the book open and the pages turning... In short, I was completely entranced by this beautifully written book... In spite of all, we are still trying to stay sane. And we are eating like rajas. And particularly enjoying the cooling miracle of raita made with mint from the garden. Mint that would threaten to take over the garden if we didn’t keep cutting it to make iced tea, or mint pesto, or mint chutney, or more raita. "
"In the book, Russell and Holmes (they address each other using their last name) solve three cases together... In the style of the times, food is not in the forefront and one worries, particularly about Mary, during the difficult hours spent in hiding, waiting, escaping. Easily portable snacks would address the need to stay nourished. I have the same need when going for longish rides on my bicycle, or runs. Packaged energy bites are readily available and some are quite good, but I had wanted to make my own for a while and finally Mary inspired me to do it."
Simona also read The Twenty-Seventh Letter of the Alphabet by Kim Adrian
and prepared a Summer side dish of zucchini, carrots and tomatoes
"The author tells her difficult, often deeply painful, story through vignettes organized in glossary format. The vignettes work like pieces of a puzzle: as the book proceeds, the reader reconstructs the lives of the main characters—the author, her parents and her sister... Zucchini always make me think of my mother: she cooked them in various ways when in season, but as children, neither my brother nor I liked the vegetable. In time, my taste changed (while my brother's didn't), so at least I gave my mother satisfaction when she brought a zucchini dish to the table."
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 Kitchen Chinese by Ann Mah.
The next edition of Novel Food will be in the fall: stay tuned for the announcement. In the meantime, take good care of yourself, your loved ones and your fellow citizens by observing health officials' instructions, read good books (maybe with the next Novel Food in mind), cook good dishes, and savor life's flow in its myriad expressions.