Thursday, June 28, 2018

Book Brief: Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

by J. Ryan Stradal 
Pamela Dorman Books/Viking, 2015
310 pages

Motivation for reading: After an especially persuasive negative review, I vowed never to read this book. But Care  loved it... and because she is so persistent and has such awesome taste in books, I promised her I'd at least give it a try.

Source: ebook, purchased as a kindle daily deal

Publisher's summary:

When Lars Thorvald's wife, Cynthia, falls in love with wine--and a dashing sommelier--he's left to raise their baby, Eva, on his own. He's determined to pass on his love of food to his daughter--starting with puréed pork shoulder. As Eva grows, she finds her solace and salvation in the flavors of her native Minnesota. From Scandinavian lutefisk to hydroponic chocolate habaneros, each ingredient represents one part of Eva's journey as she becomes the star chef behind a legendary and secretive pop-up supper club, culminating in an opulent and emotional feast that's a testament to her spirit and resilience.

Each chapter in J. Ryan Stradal's startlingly original debut tells the story of a single dish and character, at once capturing the zeitgeist of the Midwest, the rise of foodie culture, and delving into the ways food creates community and a sense of identity. By turns quirky, hilarious, and vividly sensory, Kitchens of the Great Midwest is an unexpected mother-daughter story about the bittersweet nature of life--its missed opportunities and its joyful surprises. It marks the entry of a brilliant new talent.

Opening lines:
Lars Thorvald loved two women. That was it, he though in passing while he sat on the cold concrete steps of his apartment building. Perhaps he would've loved more than two, but it just didn't seem like things were going to work out like that.
My thoughts:

What a pleasant surprise! I didn't expect to like this book, but the first pages grabbed me (they practically turned themselves) and before I knew it, I'd read the first chapter.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest  is primarily a novel about Eva, yet she is not always front and center. Many chapters focus on other characters as they move in and out of her life.  In some, Eva makes only a cameo appearance.

The chapters don't necessarily flow one into the next and, at times, I wondered if this could actually be a collection of connected stores. Taken together, they paint a portrait of Eva's life... an aspect reminded me of Olive Kitteridge  by Elizabeth Strout.

Food, of course, is a key component throughout. One particular dish is central to each chapter and recipes are included. The ending left this reader completely satisfied. Overall, a very enjoyable book. Thanks for the push, Care!

My rating:


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

My Current Read: Modern Lovers by Emma Straub

In June, the book club was at Zoe's house, which meant that Elizabeth had to carry her heavy ceramic bowl of spinach salad with walnuts and bits of crumbled goat cheese a grand total of half a block. She didn't even have to cross a street. None of the dozen women in the group had to travel far, that was the point. It was hard enough to coordinate schedules and read a novel (though, only half the group ever finished anything) without asking people to get on the subway. Make plans with your real friends on your own time, drive your car across the borough to have dinner if you want to, but this was the neighborhood. This was easy. It was the last meeting before the annual summer hiatus. Elizabeth had sold houses to six of the twelve. She had a vested interest in keeping them happy, though, in truth, it was also good when people gave up on Brooklyn and decided to move to the suburbs or back to wherever they came from, because she got a double commission. Elizabeth liked her job.

Modern Lovers
by Emma Straub

Back in the summer of 2014, I spent a wonderfully lazy, relaxing weekend with Emma Straub's novel, The Vacationers (my review) and am hoping for much the same experience this time around. Approaching the 50% mark, it seems like another winner...

Here is the goodreads summary:
Friends and former college bandmates Elizabeth and Andrew and Zoe have watched one another marry, buy real estate, and start businesses and families, all while trying to hold on to the identities of their youth. But nothing ages them like having to suddenly pass the torch (of sexuality, independence, and the ineffable alchemy of cool) to their own offspring. 
Back in the band's heyday, Elizabeth put on a snarl over her Midwestern smile, Andrew let his unwashed hair grow past his chin, and Zoe was the lesbian all the straight women wanted to sleep with. Now nearing fifty, they all live within shouting distance in the same neighborhood deep in gentrified Brooklyn, and the trappings of the adult world seem to have arrived with ease. But the summer that their children reach maturity (and start sleeping together), the fabric of the adults' lives suddenly begins to unravel, and the secrets and revelations that are finally let loose—about themselves, and about the famous fourth band member who soared and fell without them—can never be reclaimed. 
Straub packs wisdom and insight and humor together in a satisfying book about neighbors and nosiness, ambition and pleasure, the excitement of youth, the shock of middle age, and the fact that our passions—be they food, or friendship, or music—never go away, they just evolve and grow along with us. 
What do you think? Are you tempted to continue?

First Chapter/First Paragraph/Tuesday Intro is now hosted by Vicki at I'd Rather Be At The Beach.


Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Sunday Salon: June 24, 2018

It's Sunday and it's finally time to talk about books again! I managed to read a few books during my blogging break and plan to catch up with a series of mini-reviews or Book Briefs over the next couple of weeks.

Recently finished//

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal
Book Brief coming later this week

The Ten-Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer
It's always a treat to read one of her novels.

audio feminism, narrated by the author

graphic nonfiction, Chast is a favorite

It's easy to see why this won the Audie Award for fiction.

Current reading//

Modern Lovers by Emma Straub
Only 35% in, but this is shaping up to be a perfect summer read.

At the movies//

Have you seen this documentary yet? If not, you really must!

Coming soon//

Paris in July
It's back! Gather your books and movies. Dust off your madeleine trays. Plan an adventure. Tamara will be hosting this beloved event again this year. Find the details here.

Blogger woes//
Blogger is endlessly frustrating even on the best of days. Now they have stopped sending me comment notifications... including for those awaiting moderation. I haven't changed any settings and am completely baffled. Is this happening to anyone else?

Several of you continue to have difficulty commenting here, too. I appreciate your persistence and welcome ideas on how to fix this. Thanks in advance.

Wordpress is looking better every day... but change is scary!

In the kitchen//
I'm so happy to be back in my big kitchen and close to Wegmans! As much as I love Florida, the tiny kitchen and merely adequate grocery stores take much of the joy out of cooking.  This week's recipe success was...

Chili Lime Grilled Salmon with Fresh Pineapple Salsa  from Joyful Healthy Eats. I followed the recipe exactly as written, but might not apply the rub quite as liberally next time. The salsa was a real winner and I'm trying to come up with other ways to use it.

The week ahead//

Appointments, lots of them. Doctor, dentist, car, hair... things we put off  over the winter. (Not the hair... I could never go that long without visiting the salon!)

One of our daughters may visit this weekend. And hopefully I'll finish another book before then...

How was your week? What have you been reading lately?


Thursday, June 21, 2018

Summer is here!

It's been an eventful few weeks... not much reading and even less blogging. We left Sanibel shortly before Memorial Day weekend - around the same time the first named storm of the season, Alberto, was gaining strength. After a quick overnight in Savannah, we headed to Asheville.

The Chihuly exhibit at Biltmore was the draw this time. (A few years ago we stopped for the Downton Abbey costume display.)  The glass sculptures are always stunning, but set against the backdrop of Biltmore House and Gardens they were absolutely spectacular! I shared several photos on Instagram.

We got back to Central NY Sunday night, just in time to enjoy Memorial Day with my family. It was so good to have everyone together again... extra sweet after a long winter away.

A few days later our hearts were broken as we said goodbye to our beloved greyhound, Zelda. Her health had been deteriorating for the past month. At one point we weren't sure she'd be able to make the trip home, but she rallied briefly. Five days later, she was gone.

We tried to distract ourselves by readying the house, patio, and garden for summer. The boat and docks are in, my herb garden is planted, a few more pots must be filled, and a landscaping project is in the works.

Our oldest daughter and a couple of her friends spent a long Father's Day weekend with us and participated in Ironman 70.3 Syracuse. The day was brutally hot and humid, but they all finished with respectable times.

And now it's time to get back into some sort of blogging routine. I'll continue with a bookish update on Sunday or Monday and we'll go from there...

Saturday, June 2, 2018

"Love is a four-legged word."

Run free, Zelda... you were the best dog ever.
2007 - 2018
Gotcha Day: May 26, 2010


Related Posts with Thumbnails