Friday, December 19, 2014

This month our book was Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan.  We had previously read The Omnivore's Dilemma some time ago.

Unfortunately, between the holidays and the length of this book, we had a pretty small turnout, and none of us had finished the book.  But it did bring up some good discussion points.  We discussed:

  • How cooking with our families is a big part of our lives.
  • Vernetta mentioned how the book made her aware meat and industrial process, to the point that she will be seriously rethinking her shopping patterns.
  • Stereotype that the best cooks are men, and thought how wonderful it would be to have a tv show that gave tours of their mom's (or other familial inspiration) kitchens ;)
  • How this book could make you a BBQ smokemaster.
  • How roasted animals = the smoke is the offering to the gods (priest gets the meat.) Volcano sacrifice, no meat.
  • Old hogs vs. new....fed horrible things now.  Mad's pig ate rotten milk from dairies. Cows ate better too.
  • Pig story very pig got away.
  • Teacup pigs - a nice fantasy.
  • Fire - bbq - hard to get through if you don't like bbq ;) + manliness and death 
  • Water - braising - family and unity 
  • Air - bread - Stuff taken out of white bread is sold back to you in vitamins - what a racket!
  • Earth - fermentation

Despite having a small crowd, we had a lovely meal and cookie exchange.


Vernetta – taco soup

Katie W. –  homemade honey wheat bread / pecan tassies

Madeline - Mexican salad

Sunny S. – German chocolate wafer cookies 

Heather McN – homemade brownies, and frosted sugar cookies

Dawn –  ginger brew and chocolate shortbread stars

Who made the delicious fruit salad???

Next month we are reading The Abundance by Amit Majmudar (all copies are checked out Sno-Isle's catalog, though there were still a few book group copies at the Mountlake Terrace Library last I checked.  You can also find it for 75 cents (plus shipping) on

Happy holidays!

- Dawn


Friday, November 14, 2014

The Dinner month's book was The Dinner by Herman Koch, something of a suspense novel / psychological thriller that takes place over the course of one dinner (with a ton of flashbacks).  This wasn't a foodie book, per say, but there was a ton of food reference in the book, so it was no problem for us to come up with a great potluck.

A few people really liked this book, but many of us found it hard to read, despite it being very compelling.  Those who liked it were very interested in the question "how far would you go to protect your child", but those of us who didn't like it found the characters to dislikable and the plot disturbing.  We talked about nurture vs. nature, and the difference between people who are psychopaths or mentally ill, and choices that people make that are just plain bad or maybe even evil.

This book has been compared to Gone Girl a lot, but those who had read both, didn't really see it.  They both have some twists, but this book had more psychotic behavior, while Gone Girl has more "average douche-baggery".  However, the author of Gone Girl writes about women in a dark way that is unusual and more nuanced that you usually find, so it sounds worth reading.

We had some really yummy treats this month!

Rachel - cured meats
Katie S. - awesome salad (I didn't have celery root, so I subbed a combo of jicama and actual celery. And instead of tossing it with the baby greens I scooped it into the little romaine leaves. I think there is a lot of room for improvising. The dressing was really good, I'm happy to say I have a little left over for later this week.)

 Vanessa - sandwich rolls and berries (blue, black, rasp)

Michelle - yummy grape salad

Sonja - macaroni a la carbonara

Katie W. - Cheeses and bread

Barbara - olives and stuff cherry peppers

Bobbi - almond cake with raspberry sauce

Julie - cake and raspberries

Dawn - pink champagne and cider

 month we are reading Michael Pollan's Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation.   Tons of copies available through the library!

We will also be having our annual holiday cookie exchange, so bring some cookies and tins :D

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Orchardist

This month we had a great discussion (and even greater feast) around The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin.  We hoped at a minimum we could make a meal around apples and apricots, but the book proved to be full of all kinds of inspiring food.

Overall people seemed to enjoy reading the book, but found it a bit depressing. It was hard to read all the passages with child abuse (there was true worry the baby would be made into a sex slave), and sad that Della never bonded with the baby.  And it was strange when she checked herself into jail, we concluded between the abuse and the near-hanging, she had sustained both emotional and brain damage.  Most of all people were frustrated that we never found out what happened to his sister...while it was agreed this did make the book all the more realistic and tragic, and did explain his actions in defense of lost Della, it made it feel like a presented mystery had no resolution. 

But there were also many moments of lightness and beauty, such as this delightful quote Katie S. shared with us:

There was lots to love in this book.  The trip to the The Peninsula was lovely. Some of us appreciated how as a cobbled together family, everyone in the book had so much space. We really loved the writing, and the  melancholy tone. The pacing was nice and steady, though slow.   Being Washingtonians, we really enjoyed the references to local towns, and the setting in general.  The descriptions of the orchard were so vivid and full of life.  And we drooled over the crab chowder description, and that of the Christmas dinner with rabbit and chestnut dressing.

 Random quote of the evening: "Cell phones don't protect you from bears."

 The food was SO good this month.  Really one of our best feasts!

Barbara – Autumn Apple Salad with Creamy Maple Dressing

Bobbi - Apple, onion, gruyere puffs

Dawn – Watermelon, pickles, lemon drops, cider

 Heather McN – seafood chowder/bisque and nectarine honey tapioca

Julie - Crab (no photos...but tasty!) and chicken and rice 

Katie S. – raisin buns
Vanessa - Artichoke crab dip and mini carmel "apples" (grapes), bacon wrapped chicken fingers

 Madeline - Pork loin with apples and apricots

 Katie W. – plum cake
 Laura – Cornbread and apple pie and honey butter 

Next month's book is The Dinner by Herman Koch. 

It's a summer's evening in Amsterdam, and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant for dinner. Between mouthfuls of food and over the polite scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse -- the banality of work, the triviality of the holidays. But behind the empty words, terrible things need to be said, and with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened.

Can't wait to see what you all think of it...and what you cook!

Thursday, September 11, 2014


Looks like I missed a fun discussion last night!   Happily Katie took notes:

For our September meeting we read Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach. Ah yes, just another meeting of prim ladies enjoying a potluck while discussing super colons, fecal transplants, and fart capturing bloomers.

Actually, we decided to feast and then talk – but with such ample discussion material it was difficult. We were ultimately unable to control ourselves, broke our own rule, and talked about the book while we ate. It turns out there is tons of information inspired by and in Gulp that is perfectly acceptable dinner conversation. Like how sad we all are to hear The Erotic Bakery in Wallingford is closing after 28 years, and the cleaning/healing powers of saliva.

Overall, everyone enjoyed the book. A couple people thought she sometimes got a little too deep into the science of particular topics, while a couple others loved the detailed explanations.  Many of us are excited to read the author’s other books, and we all want to attend a dinner party with her. We’d like to know more about her, what her degree is in and how she came to write the types of books she does. We all appreciated her writing style, and how she told the story in a way that was easy to read.

We were charmed by the description of the dog smelling his way through The Napa Valley with its head out the car window.  It was a surprise to learn the behavior is about smells, not just the joy of wind in your face. It makes me want to bump the documentary Why Dogs Smile and Chimpanzees Cry up in my Netflix queue, to see what else I’ve misinterpreted.

There was a fairly lengthy discussion on prison food, and the prison system in general. I am extra happy to report that Bobbie’s “Nutraloaf” was not a literal interpretation of the dish, but actually delicious meatloaf balls in hash brown nests.  Julie just finished Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman and reported the food described within was indeed grim. (Which doesn’t explain the Orange is the New Black cookbook that turned up in my Amazon search.) We moved on from the food to the general hopelessness of the US prison system and each have different ideas about how to break the cycle of poverty and imprisonment.

It was a surprised to learn how early in life you learn your life-long eating habits. It was fun to reminisce as a group about our childhoods, and the way our mothers and families taught us about food.  It is interesting to note how different our stories and histories are, yet we have come together as a group and forged friendships over our shared zeal for food and reading.
Which brings me to the food. Once again, we had a marvelous feast.

Julie brought chicken skewers, fresh off the grill, with a tasty peanut sauce. And wine!

Heather brought her European sweet & sour pork with decadent mashed potatoes. And yes, those were frankfurters in the bottom of the potato dish.
Bobbie brought a notably delicious interpretation of Neutraloaf – meatloaf balls in hash brown nests.
Mad brought Paul’s famous for a reason potato salad, and Almond Roca. The Almond Roca was a great stand-in for the chocolate covered bananas. You all know why, I don’t have to say it.
Katie brought Franny’s citrus salad with pistachios castelvetrano olives and chilies on a bed of arugula.


Julie’s Asian Peanut Sauce:
Combine equal parts (like ½ a cup each) in a pan and heat. Delicious with grilled chicken!
soy sauce
peanut butter
brown sugar
optionally add crushed red pepper or sriracha to taste.

Heather’s European Sweet & Sour Pork:
1lb 12oz can sauerkraut
1 c chopped onion
1lb 12oz can diced tomatoes
¾ c packed brown sugar
3lbs country style pork spareribs
Layer in a casserole dish as listed, do not stir, cover and bake at 325 for 2hrs 15 minutes. Remove cover and bake for 45 additional minutes.

Franny’s citrus salad with pistachios castelvetrano olives and chilies is from the book Franny’s Simple Seasonal Italian by Andrew Feinberg, Francine Stephens, and Melissa Clark

Additional reading suggestions:
All of Mary Roach’s books – Stiff, Bonk, Packing for Mars, Spook
The Incident at Hawk’s Hill by Allan W. Eckert
Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman
Orange is the New Black Presents: The Cookbook by Jenji Kohan
Lucky Peach Magazine issue 11 “All You Can Eat” Westville Indiana Prison foodarticle

Awesome notes Katie!  You might have a new job ;)

Next month we will be discussing The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin. I expect lots of apple and apricot dishes!