Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sweet Revenge report

This month's book was Sweet Revenge by Diane Mott Davidson, the 14th book in the mystery series starring caterer Goldie Schulz.  Not many of us had read books from this series, and we had a variety of reactions.  Some folks found the book paced and fun entertainment.  Others found it annoying...especially the fast talking, obsessive, nosy, and redundant narrator.  Everyone seems to have enjoyed the food references, and folks felt her descriptions of the caterer life seemed right on the ball.

Sonja G - Got-a-Hot-Date Bars

Katie W – Pina Colada Muffins

 Madeleine - Prudent Potatoes au Gratin

 Tania Z-G - Chicken Divine

Dawn – Stylish Strawberry Salad

Laura H - Enchiladas

Carol L - Chicken Divan

Julie – Swedish Meatballs (from Chopping Spree)

Karen T. – mac and cheese casserole

We also did a terrific cookie exchange!

Sonja G - Chocolate-Peppermint Thumbprints
Katie W – Russian tea cakes + spritz
Heather McN - chocolate chip cookies
Karen T. – chocolate buttermilk bars and toffee bars
Madeleine - sugar cookies
Tania Z-G - ginger pumpkin cookies, candy cane cookies
Dawn – white chocolate topped gingerbread cookies
Laura H - coconut bon bons
Carol L - Sugar cookies + Brown sugar Shortbread cookies
Julie – cake balls + sugar cookie

Next month we are reading one of my favorite books of the last few years, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson.

Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired) leads a quiet life in the village of St. Mary, England, until his brother's death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. Drawn together by their shared love of literature and the loss of their respective spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship blossoming into something more. But will their relationship survive in a society that considers Ali a foreigner?  

It is not so much a foodie book, as a great book that features a decent amount of food, but I think we will enjoy discussing and digesting its flavors.  See you on Monday January 9th at 6:30!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Life of Pi & Pie Night report

This month we explored a totally different sort of food that focused on the essentials of food for survival!  Admittedly, Life of Pi by Yann Martel is not particularly foodie, but the group really wanted to have a night celebrating pie and we've found just discussing cookbooks doesn't fill up a whole meeting!

Life of Pi was full of things for us to discuss.  For most of us, it took a little while to get into at first.  The idea of a boy in a boat with a tiger was a bit freaky, and the first 100 pages were a bit dry with heavy religious writing, but everyone who read/skimmed their way past that found the rest of the book very satisfying.

We had a great discussion about Pi's determination to explore three religions simultaneously.  The main lessons folks drew from this was that there are beautiful parts of all religions, and like with the plot of the book, we all have to choose for ourselves what is meaningful.  As one insightful reader observed, we want to find the truth in what he is saying...regardless of which religion it is coming from or how likely his story.

Things people liked about this book:
  • the description of how animals like their territory, and their need for space and food.
  • thinking about sparsity as a foodie issue.
  • the sheer imagination of it all...where does the author get these ideas?
  • the description of Pi's life in the current day, how it celebrates life, love and God.
  • Chapter 22 - (The author's summary of religion) "I can well imagine an atheist's last words: 'White, white! L-L-Love! My God!'-and the deathbed leap of faith. Whereas the agnostic, if he stays true to his reasonable self, if he stays beholden to dry, yeastless factuality, might try to explain the warm light bathing him by saying, 'Possibly a f-f-failing oxygenation of the b-b-brain,' and, to the very end, lack imagination and miss the better story."
  • the detail of the writing, though sometimes it was gruesome it was always fascinating (like Wild Kingdom in the 1970s!).
Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom opening:

Things people disliked:
  • Couldn't stay awake reading it!
  • The zebra took WAY too long to die (while some liked the very biological description, it pained others to read about animal suffering).
Our pie potluck was WONDERFUL!

Tania made traditional meat pies, and her daughter Tatiana made a lovely squash pie.

Sheri made a spinach-ham pie, and Katie S. made a spanakopita (Greek spinach pie).

Heather made a shepherds pie, and Karen made a beef pot pie.

Heather McN made a spicy pumpkin pie, and Laura also made pumpkin pie (can't get too much of that!)

Katie G. made a peanut butter chocolate pie, and Carol made a delicious and beautiful pie that was very sweet (but I can't recall what type!)

Last, but not least, Katie W. made a delicious Hoosier Pie:

Madeleine brought cevich in the spirit of the book (to remember the story and feel a part of it) and her friend Paul.

And I brought salad and milk to wash down all that pie!

Other tidbits from our meeting:

Next month's book is Sweet Revenge by Diane Mott Davidson, a foodie mystery with a holiday theme:

Catering a holiday breakfast for the local library staff, Goldy Schultz is shocked to see a supposedly dead woman who is believed to be Goldy's ex-husband's killer, an encounter that precedes the murder of a high-end map dealer.    

We have copies at Mountlake Terrace Library, and there are many in the system!   This should be a fun light read just perfect for the busy month of December.  And we will be doing a cookie exchange, so bring a batch of your holiday favorites and a container to bring some sweet treats home in!  We will be meeting Monday December 12th at 6:30pm.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Five Quarters of the Orange report

This month's book was Five Quarters of the Orange by Joann Harris.

The discussion was lively, as people were pretty split on their feelings about the book.  Some were confused at first, and frustrated by the clouded timeline.  Others were unsettled by the grim portrayal of humanity. 

Much was said on the topic of innocence and consequences, how the children seemed oblivious to what their actions wrought, but at the same time represented adults behavior in the war too...we may think we know what we are doing, but how can you truly gage the consequences?  An interesting point was brought up about the frontal cortex being underdeveloped in children, which would also limit their ability to process this concept.

Another interesting idea presented was that the mother might not only be suffering from terrible migraines, but also possibly Asperger's syndrome, which would explain her keen obsession and ability in one area (cooking) and her inability to connect emotionally with her children.

Many of us did enjoy was the slowly unraveling mystery.  We all felt the author did a wonderful job of getting into the mind of a child going through a difficult time.  Some really enjoyed the jumps back and forth from childhood to later years.  And of course all of us enjoyed the food references!  The food names were especially delightful, especially when you consider the mother could only seem to express affection through food.

Katie found a great article on the book by the author you might want to read, which provides a little background information on it.  Also, thanks again to Katie for putting together the list of all the foods in the book!

Our feast was ever so tasty!  Here is what everyone brought:

Katie S. - chicken fricassee and peas
Katie W. - cherry clafoutis

Sonja G. - apple strudel
Karen T. - kougin amann

Heather McN – potatoes cooked in half and half
Julie D. – roasted duck breast

Lynn T. - crepes with coulis frambrises
Dawn R. – baguette, brie, and Pâté de Campagne

Laura - cranberry walnut bread with orange zest

Also, thanks to Heather, who donated a microwave to our kitchen. This will be a great help for our potlucks.

Next month's book is Life of Pi by Yann Martel. It doesn't have much to do with food, I just thought it would be a fun and interesting book to read with our pie potluck everyone wanted to do! Plan on bringing some sort of pie...sweet, savory, you decide! Currently we have four copies left at the Mountlake Terrace Library front desk, plus 3 cds.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Homemade Life report

This month's book was the delightful A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes From My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg.

First impressions:
Most of us wanted to start cooking from this book immediately. Even a newbie who admitted to not having a great relationship with food was inspired by the author's love of food and how excited she was about it. We loved how comfortable this book felt, not so much like an formal bestseller, but a cozy invite into the author's kitchen.

Things we loved:
The back stories for the recipes were appreciated, described by one person as "sidekicks", as was the openness about the inspiration for the recipes and the non-secretive attitude. Folks like the little tips, such as how long things should sit for optimum flavor. Creative use of materials was also appreciated (such as the yummy pickled grapes). And people loved that it really felt like you could cook any of these recipes.

"Not one thing". A few were struck by the lack of plot, but for a book made from blog posts it really did have a nice arc. One person felt it was a bit heavy on desserts, but others felt this was a bonus ;)

Her blog Orangette is very similar to the book, but as one person said, "with far more pictures!" It is well worth checking out, and you can sign up to get it delivered by email.

For food, we had quite the feast this month:

Katie G. - Winning Hearts and Minds or Wedding Cake
Lynn T. - Jimmy's Pink cookies

Katie S. - baguette slices with grilled apricots wrapped in prosciutto and goat cheese and Burg's potato salad

Karen T. - pickled grapes and corncakes with bacon and tomatoes

Heather C. - slow roasted tomato pesto with baguette slices
Karen W. - Bouchons Au Thonhttp

Katie W. - French-Style Yogurt Cake with Lemon
Madeline – Italian Grotto Eggs

Dawn – Red Cabbage Salad with Lemon and Black Pepper
Julie – Roasted Cauliflower with salsa verde

It was all ever so tasty! There was some talk of trying to get together a group outing to Molly and Brandon's restaurant Delancey, but it would be challenging to get a table for so many of us.

Next month we are reading Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris. Unfortunately we are already out of copies...but if you go to you can get it for as little as 75 cents (plus shipping). Our meeting will be Monday October 10th at the Mountlake Terrace Library from 6:30-8:30.