Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Cinnamon and Gunpowder

This month we read Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown. The story is about a chef who is kidnapped by a pirate, who tells him she will keep him alive only as long as he can continue to surprise her with food.

Overall, folks liked the book but had trouble finishing it in time for the meeting. We think this was because it is rich with long sentences, full of descriptions that beg you to linger...which requires more focus than most of us have during the holidays!  But mostly we loved these description, the writing style, and how he talked about food ALL THE TIME. Some were reminded of The Princess Bride ("Good night, Westley. Good work. Sleep well. I'll most likely kill you in the morning."), but this isn't a bad thing. The boat setting was refreshing and fun, and folks were entranced by how they talked about the sky. Those of us who have been at sea (if cruise ships count) can totally relate.

Owen was a bit of a twit in the beginning, but he became more likable as the book went on, and he began to see things in a more nuanced manner. We were also won over by his creativity and resourcefulness, his passion for food, the way he made friends using food, how he was gleeful and excited to try new things (such as lemongrass and miso), and especially how he lovingly carried his little baby bread dough with him. An especially appreciated scene was when he talked about the monks who trained and raised him, particularly when he talks about the chickpea stew, which reminded us of our own comforting food memories.
The only dark spots for our group (aside from the pacing) was some surprise about how violent the book is (though it is pirates after all), and what a horrible life poor Mabbot suffered through.

There were so many droll worthy moments in this book (aside from her outfit on the cover), but the pheasant, ravioli, and savory griddle cakes with pounded onions and slices of pickled herring (which inspired Katie S. to make oniony Korean pancakes).

We had a lovely feast and cookie exchange, as always:
 o Barbara  - cheese, currant jelly, and bread
o Bobbi – "Rabbit Stew" and chocolate fudge
o Dawn –   smoked salmon and chocolate balls.

o Heather McN - black eye-pea ham soup, short bread balls, cherry chocolate coconut pecan cookies
o Katie S. - Homemade Girl Scout thin mints, turtle thumbprints and Korean pancakes
o Katie W. – saffron rice and chocolate peppermint sandwich cookies
o Laura  –   cheeses with crackers and fruit and Filbert Oat Millies
 o Sunny S. – scalloped potatoes and ham and pretzels

 I'm not sure whose cookies these are?

Next month we are reading John Saturnall’s Feast by Lawrence Norfolk. One member accidentally read it already, and said it is great! ;)

See you January 13, 2016!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Little Century

This month we shared Little Century by Anna Keesey, the story of an orphaned teen who moves out to Eastern Oregon to to live on her cousin's ranch.

Overall, we really liked this, finding it historically quite interesting, surprisingly evocative and occasionally sensual. We really liked the way she wrote, how she would give you a taste of a scene, but leave you hanging, wanting more. This could be a little frustrating at times, not all of us were happy with the ending, but overall it was used to good effect.

The setting may have been the start of the book, but the characters were very intriguing, too. We loved Joe, and how people got absorbed into him. How Esther writes letters to her dear departed mother, and how healing that must have been. And the love story between Esther and Ben had a nice pacing, and sweetness...and was a bit sexy, if barely exposed. We felt the real villain of the story was Violet...the nerve of that woman reading other people's mail...and even worst holding it back or sharing it with others.

There was so much room for escalation in the story, but it rarely reached the heights it could have...making it feel more realistic, and keeping an underlying intensity that moved the story forward most pleasantly.

Last but not least, we loved the term "buckaroos", which made us smile over and over again.

Our meal was, as usually, nicely balanced and delicious.

Katie S. - grilled lamb and zucchini.

Barbara - cornbread muffins

Dawn - chicken
Roberta - ham sandwiches

Katie W. - beef and dumplings

Sunny - salad and sauerkraut  

Laura - cranberry swirl coffee cake

And last but not least, we had potatoes from our guest!  We think her name was Susan?

Next month (week) we are discussing Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown.  There is only one copy left at Sno-Isle, but nearby library systems also own it!

See you soon...

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe

Much thanks to Katie S. for writing up this month's blog post while I (Dawn) was out sick.

The October selection was The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & CafĂ© by Mary Simses. It’s a book with a charming name and a gorgeous cover that was almost unanimously loved by the group.  Only one sourpuss malcontent didn’t like it, but enough about me.  [editor/Dawn's note: I didn't like it either.]

Enjoyed were, the sweet and romantic story, the investigative storyline, and that it was a light and quick read. At least one person even enjoyed feeling annoyed with the main character. Overall people thought it was a refreshing change of pace from some of the more serious and information dense books we’ve read recently. 

Everyone agreed that the food mentioned in the book sounded like the type of food we’d all like to eat – the many composed salads and intriguing sandwich combinations, the seafood, and of course the cornucopia of baked goods. 

The book also brought forth fond family memories for many, such as parents or grandparents making donuts, and having turkey cooked a million different ways. The very important question was raised – can you cook donuts in a turkey fryer? 

We tended to veer off topic pretty easily, agreeing that while the book was enjoyed, it didn’t offer tons of discussion topics. So, it’s only natural that we’d contemplate the merits of green bean casserole, and brainstorm fun things to do with dry ice. 

The food, as always, was top-notch:

Laura – Lentil & potato soup with homegrown leeks 

Mad – Caesar salad 


Sunny – Creamy broccoli casserole and fresh fruit 

 Bobbie – Blueberry muffins 

Barbara – Blueberry encrusted chevre with raisin rosemary crisps 
Katie – Apple cider donuts

Next month we are discussing Little Century by Anna Keesey. I'm really not sure how foodie it is, but a quick peek in google books shows that if nothing else there is chicken, potatoes, whiskey, and ice cream, so we should be alright.

There might still be a few copies at the Mountlake Terrace Library from the book discussion kit (ask at the desk), but there are also plenty of copies in the library system to order, too.

See you next month!

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Telling Room

Where has the time gone? September went by too fast!

Last month we read The Telling Room a Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge and the World's Greatest Piece of Cheese by Michael Paterniti.

This was not our favorite book, despite high hopes (since we love cheese). Some folks found it tedious and uninteresting, and couldn't figure out where it was going. The people who enjoyed it most seemed to be those who skipped the footnotes (that went on forever), although there were a few great asides here and there.

What we appreciated about the book, was the romance of leaving America to live off the land, free of conveniences. The characters, food, and deli chapter were likable. Liked the stories, such as the old woman who walked a far distance every day just to spit on her enemy's grave. (I wanted to know more about the assassin known as The Freckle...she sounded much more interesting them some grouchy old cheese maker.)

 We especially enjoyed the passion of the Spanish people, the crazy folk sayings (I shit in the milk of God), and references to Slow Food movement. The cheese descriptions were divine, as were those of local wine and sausage. 

Overall, there were too many distracting footnotes. It felt too long winded, as though he was trying to stretch a magazine article into a book. One reader said: "The book was like a bad date. The food was great, but I couldn't wait for the author to shut up."

We didn't have a big group, but we did have a good meal:


Dawn – Manchego and wine

Heather McN – egg tart with potatos and onions 

Katie W. – grapes, apples, pears 

Roberta - Paramo Guzman?


Sunny S. – Berry Shortcake and Cream   

Madeline - shrimp and pear salad 

Next month...I mean next WEEK, we will be discussing The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe by Mary Simses. This takes place in Maine and has all kinds of yummy foods in it, but no recipes (so far).

See you very soon!