I am proud to present the roundup of the 40th edition of Novel Food. I repeat that number to myself: 40th! I have been hosting the event for 13 years and it's been a constant pleasure. Particularly in a year like this, I like to pause to contemplate small successes.
I am happy to celebrate this important milestone with a group of book-loving food bloggers, who have contributed posts to the event. 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.
"Many of Nellie’s chapters begin with vintage recipes and totally dated and misogynistic quotes about housewifery. There’s recipes for the classics like meatloaf, chocolate chip cookies and even fancy Baked Alaska... For this post, I decided to pull out two family cookbooks to see if I could find a retro meatloaf recipe. I found this recipe in the compilation from my maternal grandmother’s stacks of recipes... Around here, we will certainly make this again (and again)! It was a great dinner! I plan to experiment by adding maybe blue cheese and a few walnuts, or adding some jalapenos with the colby-jack cheese and topping with salsa. The possibilities are endless…"
Debra also read THINKING & EATING: Recipes to Nourish & Inspire by the School of Life
and prepared an Orzo Pasta Bake
"Both a cookbook and a manifesto for living, [the book] pairs compelling essays about philosophy and psychology with more than 150 recipes... Warm, insightful and beautifully written, THINKING & EATING reveals the foods we should eat in order to feel like our best selves... Now, for some substantial food to feed your spirit and soul. I think we need more calm because life seems to be 'getting too much' right now so I tried the Orecchiette Pasta Bake. But, because of all the uncertainty (and hoarding) in our lives right now, there was no orecchiette in the pasta aisle. I used orzo for this recipe instead."
I was familiar with the Agatha Raisin series from British television, but it was my first time reading one of the novels. It is very light, escapist reading, a good thing in these challenging times. Based on the title, I thought there would be some discussion on food, but that wasn’t the case. (The pig turned out to be a policeman. On a spit.)... [Bryson's book] was a memoir about his childhood in Iowa... when he spoke about Johnny and Kay’s and their cheesecake, I knew it was a sign. So cheesecake it was... chill overnight. That was the most difficult part! Waiting! It was, however, delicious for breakfast."
In this tale reminiscent of the old Upstairs, Downstairs TV show, a youthful, though excellent chef, in Victorian London, finds herself stretched to her limits with cooking, shopping, (earning enough to support her little girl) all while helping solve the murder of her young assistant. I thought the ambitious and feisty cook was an engaging and well-drawn character... Early on Kat prepares an asparagus soup for the family. I'm not growing asparagus, however we do have avocados... I found this hot version [of avocado soup] on the side of a chicken broth carton. Yes, yes, I do make my own, but keep a few cartons for emergencies. And few of the ingredients that were included caught my eye - shredded chicken, and lime. So we have Chicken Lime Avocado Soup. "
"[The book] was presented to me as 'Metaphysical fiction—contemporary fiction with a speculative element, which gets a bit philosophical (not in a heavy handed way).' I loved this book. It is a totally irreverent look at spirituality... The bigger question here is probably what would you do with god-like powers if you had them? Would you solve the world’s problems or maintain free-will? These are all questions of perspective... There wasn’t a meal or a dish that really seemed relevant (per my previous comment) so I decided to embrace the love both John and Dave had for Peaches the cat. I would make cat treats." Go to Debra's post to read Eliot's review of the treats.
For her final contribution, Debra read A Borrowed Life by Kerry Anne King
and was inspired to prepare BPT Sandwiches
"[The novel] shows a world of reverent hypocrisy, one that is rigid and stifling... Elizabeth (or Liz) does get her life back (sort of) and she keeps a humorous outlook. Her stoic ability to find humor in dire circumstances made me love her... I remember a craving Liz had for a bacon sandwich with pickles. I was in. I also wanted to comment on the fact that she loved pickles growing up but since Thomas did not care for them he did not allow them in his house. Liz, here’s a sandwich I wish you would have served Thomas, with extra spicy pickles. You go girl, and eat all the pickles you want in this new life!... BPT might sound like a psychological disorder but it actually stands for Bacon, Pickle and Tomato!... The results? Deliciousness!!!!!"
The most surprising thing about [the book] is the amount of story that the author packs into about 230 pages. She covers decades in the friendship between two very different women, and their lives and their choices... Women's friendship is an interesting thing--who we choose as friends, who we choose to stay friends with, and how that friendship ebbs and flows over the years, changing and evolving. Frank captures the story of these two women in beautiful, slightly melancholy prose... Since it is such a short book, I wondered if there would be much food in it and there actually was... For my bookish dish I decided to go with the 'fake egg salad made of tofu'. I found a couple of recipes online but I ended up making up my own. "
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and prepared Macaroni and Cheese
"I really liked the first half of this wonderfully written novel. I liked the boy, Jared,... in spite of his alcohol abuse and drug taking... then things got quite surreal, with shape shifting and ravens and sea otters and talking fireflies and grizzly bears that could walk through walls... Still, it held my interest to the end, and I’m eager to read the second part of the Trickster trilogy... I suddenly thought about shape shifting. Because that’s really what we do with ingredients, isn’t it?... J’adore macaroni and cheese. From autumn to late spring, I could eat it every day – breakfast, lunch and dinner. But not macaroni and cheese out of a box. No. No. No. It has to be from scratch..."
"The book opens with a horrific mass murder in a remote Swedish village. Judge Birgitta Roslin, who is connected to some of the victims, gets involved the case, whose roots go back in time and space to the construction of the Pacific Railroad, which relied on the labor of, among others, Chinese workers. The novel travels also to Canton, Beijing, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Copenhagen and London... Tromboncino squash's long, curvy shape is eye-catching and its dense flesh and delicate, pleasant flavor make it a winner. Tromboncino squash does not belong to the Cucurbita pepo species like zucchini and other summer squashes, but rather to Cucurbita moschata, like butternut squash. Like its more famous relative, zucchetta has seeds only in the lower part of its body: the long neck is seedless."
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, which I am hosting, we are reading The Secret, Book and Scone Society by Ellery Adams.
The next edition of Novel Food will start in late winter 2021: 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.