Sunday, February 5, 2017

Our February/March Cook the Books Pick - Dinner with Edward - a memoir by Isabel Vincent

Vincent, a reporter, author, and journalist for the New York Post has written in this memoir of her encounter, and developing friendship with Edward, the father of a good friend, who was at that time out of the country.  Though struggling with her own crumbling marriage, a recent move and demanding new job, Vincent agrees, at her friend's request, to check in on him once in a while. The 93-year-old widower is depressed and ready to give up on life after the death of his much loved wife.

In Dinner with Edward: A Story of an Unexpected Friendship, what began as an occasional dinner meant to keep an old man company soon develops into a rich friendship, giving both Edward and Isabel reasons to reconsider why they’re alive, while encouraging her to appreciate the fine art of living as she begins, with his encouragement, to create a life that's more rewarding and full for herself.  

 And from the Publisher's summary:  "Isabel has no idea that the man in the kitchen baking the sublime roast chicken and light-as-air apricot soufflĂ© will end up changing her life. As Edward and Isabel meet weekly for the glorious dinners that Edward prepares, he shares so much more than his recipes for apple galette or the perfect martini, or even his tips for deboning poultry. Edward is teaching Isabel the luxury of slowing down and taking the time to think through everything she does, to deconstruct her own life, cutting it back to the bone and examining the guts, no matter how messy that proves to be."

As our last CTBC pick was a memoir about physical healing and the food that helped it to progress, this book is more about the emotional wounded and how cooking can sustain and comfort, as well as how casual acts of kindness can morph into not only friendship but life changes.  Each chapter revolves around a meal, with both menu and delectable recipes.

Submissions for this round of Cook The Books Club, hosted by Claudia at Honey from Rock, are due by end-of-the day Friday, March 31st  2017. Anyone can join by reading the current selection, preparing a dish inspired by its contents and writing about it. Let me know when your entry post is up by commenting on this post and/or sending me an email at:   If you are new to Cook the Books Club, you can find out more at our link or the Guidelines page.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals That Brought Me Home: The Roundup

It's time to roundup the entries for our Cook the Books December/January selection, "Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals That Brought Me Home" by Jessica Fechtor. (Here's the the announcement post with a summary of the book and why I picked it in case you missed it.

For the most part, our group enjoyed this book, although some of us did find it tough to read at times--reading about the brain trauma she went through. We could all relate to the power of food and cooking to heal, give solace, or bring us together and the many recipes it contained inspired delicious and homey dishes.  

Here is the roundup with some thoughts on the book and on the dishes that everyone made. For more details and some terrific recipes, click on the links to go visit the respective posts.

Amy of Amy's Cooking Adventures said, "Throughout the story, I just help thinking about how resilient the human body can be. It is truly amazing! As expected, much of the food discussed (and shared) in the story would fall under the “comfort food” category (my favorite!), because of course, one falls back on those comforting childhood favorites in times of distress. As the story progressed, my interest flagged a bit (for the last quarter of the book or so), but overall it was a good read (and fairly quick too!)." She made Sweet and Clear Chicken Noodle Soup.

Camilla of Culinary Adventure with Camilla found Stir difficult to read based on her own experiences with the health of friends and loved ones but said, "I adore her view on the power of food." Camilla was inspired by Fechtor's Kale and Pomegranate Salad and said, "This was delicious and I loved the addition of mustard into the dressing. We'll definitely be making this more often."

Fellow CTB co-host Simona of Briciole said, "I enjoyed the book, both for the writing style — clear, concise, without frills but also rich in vivid images — and for the way the author deals with her health scare, the various setbacks and subsequent challenges. I like that she keeps her focus on her experience as individual." Simona made Cabbage, Roasted Salmon and Persimmon Salad inspired by Jessica's pan-roasted Salmon. 

Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm said, "This story also resonated with me because Jessica writes of her journey back to health. She writes of the support of her husband, family and friends and how she could not have become whole again without them. She talks of finding solace and peace in the kitchen and in the enjoyment of food in general. She talks of blogging about her food and how it allows her to just be her....sharing herself and her life without sharing her broken brain." Wendy made Poached Apple Pears inspired by Fechtor's Baked Apricots recipe. 

Next up was Tina of Squirrel Head Manor and Novel Meals said, "The writing is exceptional. You are transported into Jess’s world – you can smell the aromas she describes, imagine the texture of the berries she ate while in the hospital, you can feel the frustration she expresses. Very descriptive writing." Although she still wants to make some of the recipes, Tina made and enjoyed Jessica's recipes for Pan-Roasted Salmon and Brown Soda Bread.

Ali of Fix Me a Little Lunch said, "I have to say that this wasn’t a book I particularly enjoyed reading.  It’s a well written memoir and there’s no doubt that Jessica Fechtor is an amazing woman who came through a traumatic experience and is inspirational because of her determination to get herself back on her feet, back in the kitchen, and back into life.  It’s just that her descriptions of her trauma were hard for me to read.  I don’t watch medical shows and I try to avoid books about medical anything.  So the book itself was something that definitely stretched my boundaries for what I would normally read." Still, she found inspiration in getting back in the kitchen and made this pretty Blood Orange Vanilla Bean Pound Cake.

CTB co-host Claudia of Honey From Rock found she enjoyed the book and said, "Surprisingly, to me anyway, it was a terrific read, due to the author's straightforward account, evocative writing, and her ability to keep a sense of perspective, objectivity and (gallows?) humor through a truly horrific time.  All that and the fact that we know she does get better in the end." Claudia made her version of Fechtor's comfort breakfast dish, Crispy Rice and Eggs.  

CTB co-host Debra of Eliot's Eats said, "I could not believe all of the health issues that kept piling up for Fechtor. It seems that just when she felt that recovery was within her grasp, some other related ailment would befall her. In the final chapters of the book as she was preparing for her final surgery (to fix her truly broken brain), I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. I kept thinking, “What else could possibly happen to her? Fechtor traces her recovery and reminisces about her life through recipes and meals. Her voice and tone carry a casual familiarity and I felt like I was listening to a close friend." Debra made Jessica's Sesame Noodles with Broccoli and using it in a noodle bowl and as a cold salad.

Finally, over at Kahakai Kitchen, I enjoyed my re-read of Stir and would recommend both or either the audio book or printed versions. For my book-inspired dish I looked to the comfort and restorative powers of a bowl of soup and made Jessica's Simplest Tomato Soup. It was creamy with a tangy, piquant flavor that was perfect for dunking spread spread with a creamy cheese bland and it was even better a few days after it was made.


We have one addition to the roundup that was posted but somehow got missed that I wanted to add. Terri of Our Good Life made a lovely Cherry Clafoutis and said, "I was completely, soulfully and utterly mesmerized by this book. Jessica writes her story in carefully crafted, simple yet powerful sentences, that sets the story free to soar. We walk beside her bleeding brain, recover with her outside of surgery, struggle with physical therapy and the loss of sight and taste, celebrate when things start to go well, cry when they aren't. And between all of this, is food."

I am also adding a late entry from regular participant Delaware Girl Eats that didn't get posted before the deadline but I still wanted to include since she read the book and cooked a beautiful Butter Almond Cake inspired by it. (You can never have too many desserts in a roundup!) She said, "Her reflections on emerging from a life-threatening illness through food were captivating. The writing is spritely and inspiring. Plus there were 27 recipes and she grew up on the East Side of Cleveland, which is where I am from. I’d love to know where but she doesn’t say exactly. An added bonus was that she quoted MJK Fisher, one of my favorite authors."

Thanks to everyone who joined me for this CTB round. I enjoyed hearing what you thought of the book and seeing all of the delicious dishes that it inspired! 

If you missed out on this round and like books, food, and foodie books, consider joining us for our February/March round when my fellow Hawaiian-Island dweller, Claudia of Honey from Rock will be hosting with Dinner with Edward: A Story of an Unexpected Friendship by Isabel Vincent. Hope you join us!