Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson – Book Review

Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson
Published by Basic Books

Whether you are an advocate of slow food or most of your nourishment comes from cans, the freezer, or drive-thrus, cooking and eating are integral parts of your daily life. But just how did we get to where we are today? Remember, at one point humankind didn’t even have mastery of fire. Now we have gas or electric ranges, rice cookers, regular and convection ovens, sous vide machines, and much more.

In Consider the Fork,Bee Wilson traces the development of many aspects of cooking and eating, including cutting implements, heat sources, cooling sources, and eating utensils. Although her focus is primarily Western Europe and, later, the United States and Canada, she does make mention of Asian innovations from time to time, particularly the Chinese ton knife and, of course, chopsticks.

Consider the Fork is chock full of interesting things that you never knew about the ways that we cook and eat, such as the fact that the act of cutting food before we eat it (knife and fork eating in the West, ton and chopstick eating in China) actually seems to have changed the alignment of our mouths; an overbite is not helpful if you’re ripping all of your food with your teeth. Although that is the factoid that most impressed and stuck with me, Consider the Fork is packed with similarly fascinating information, such as how a woman from Boston influenced the United States into measuring things in cups, when weight is a much more useful and accurate measure for dry ingredients.

A perfect read for both foodies and those interested in histories of specific objects, Consider the Fork is fascinating and a great read. Highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher, via Netgalley.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2012

Hail to the Chef by Julie Hyzy – Book Review

Hail to the Chef by Julie Hyzy
Published by Berkeley Prime Crime, an imprint of Penguin

My review of the first book in the series: State of the Onion

After a grueling encounter with an old rival and a dangerous encounter with someone who was not who he seemed, Ollie Paras has finally realized her dream of being Executive Chef of the White House. However, if Ollie thought that things – out of the kitchen at least – would calm down once she was in her new role, she was dead wrong. Just in time for the busy holiday season there are mysterious and deadly occurrences everywhere Ollie turns: from mysterious deaths to fake bombs being planted in the White House. Now Ollie has to worry not only about the menus and staffing for some of her biggest events of the year, but she also has to find time to squeeze in mandatory explosives-recognition classes as well as some highly unofficial sleuthing.

I cannot think of much that is more fun than spending time with Ollie and her kitchen. She is smart and relatively confident and not afraid to stick her nose where it doesn’t belong. Hyzy did a good job beginning to grown Ollie into her new role. She is noticeably more comfortable with it than in State of the Onion, but not so much that it seems unreasonable for her given the amount of time in the new position. My only slight problem was with the resolution of the mystery. It was perhaps a bit more complex than I would have guessed and I thought it was perhaps a little much. Other than that, though, Hail to the Chef was a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Recommended

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound |Amazon*

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2011

The Love Goddess’ Cooking School by Melissa Senate – Book Review

The Love Goddess’ Cooking School by Melissa Senate
Published by Gallery, an imprint of Simon & Schuster

All her life, Holly has been somewhat adrift. She tries to have a fulfilling life, including meaningful romantic relationships, but she herself seems unsure of what exactly she wants, and things never quite work out. After her latest failed relationship, Holly returns to her grandmother’s house on Blue Crab Island, off the coast of Maine. Holly’s grandmother is a special women who runs her own Cucinotta, teaches Italian cooking classes, and has been known to tell people’s fortunes – including telling Holly that the love of her life will be a man who loves sa cordula, a dish of lamb intestines with peas. When Holly’s grandmother passes away, Holly inherits everything but her gift of second sight, and must get her cooking skills – and her life – together if she wants to honor her grandmother’s legacy by keeping her store and classes going.

With “The Love Goddess’ Cooking School,” Senate has given us a sweet and well-written book about discovering one’s self and one’s talents. Holly is a likable and well-developed character. I did at times have trouble reconciling her great leaps forward in cooking ability, but I think that Senate supported that well with Holly’s unceasing practice, and the fact that she did grow up around her grandmother’s kitchen in the first place. The romantic angle was somewhat predictable – I knew from the second the love interest first walked into the store that he would indeed be the love interest – but that is not necessarily a bad thing in a fun and uplifting read like “The Love Goddess’ Cooking School.”

Interestingly, of all of the supporting characters, the love interest was perhaps the least well developed, but this did serve to make the book more about Holly and her self-discovery than about the great love foretold by her grandmother, which was somewhat refreshing. The members of Holly’s cooking class were very well sketched, with problems and realities of their own that added to the overall plot without seeming as if they were forced to do so.

Overall a very enjoyable book, and one I would recommend snuggling in with on a cold winter’s day.

Buy this book from:

Powells.*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*
Amazon.*

Source: Library.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

State of the Onion by Julie Hyzy – Book Review

State of the Onion by Julie Hyzy
Published by Berkeley Prime Crime, an imprint of Penguin

As a White House Assistant Chef, Olivia Paras – Ollie, to her friends – has plenty of stress in her life, particularly as her boss and mentor is retiring and she is up against cooking school rival cum television personality for his job. The last thing she needs is anything distracting her right now, but unfortunately nobody told that to the man who broke into the White House grounds as she returned from a break with a commemorative frying pan for her mentor. Suddenly, Ollie finds herself in hot water, embroiled in a course of events. (sorry, I couldn’t resist)

Although I don’t read them very often, I love a good cozy mystery for a change of pace and, as such, I’m so excited to have found Julie Hyzy’s White House Chef series. In my opinion, a cozy is good if it is engaging, the reveal is not overly obvious, and the plot does not become completely ridiculous. “State of the Onion” was absolutely engaging, I found myself reading a hundred pages at a time easily, and even yelling at Ollie when she was about to do something stupid and dangerous. As to the reveal, I had a definite idea as to who the bad guy might be, but Hyzy kept me vacillating between two possibilities right up until the very end. As for the plot, I’m sure there were things that were not completely accurate, but it was nothing for which I could not suspend disbelief, particularly with Hyzy’s engaging storytelling.

I’m very much looking forward to continuing this series, which is now up to four books, with the publishing of “Buffalo West Wing” on January 4th. Recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells.*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*
Amazon.*

The newest book in this series, “Buffalo West Wing,” was just released. Buy it from Powells*|Indiebound*|Amazon* – or check out my giveaway tomorrow

Source: Publisher, via author’s publicist.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

My Life in France by Julia Child – Audiobook Review

My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud-homme, narrated by Kimberly Farr

Synopsis:

This is Julia Child’s memoir of, you guessed it!, her life in France, including her time learning to cook. 

Thoughts on the story:

I know this was co-written with Julia’s nephew, but man, did it ever have a strong sense of Julia’s voice. I was also amazed at how completely the meals that Julia ate and created in the 1950s were described. How could she really remember what she ate for her first meal in France so well as to describe it in exquisite detail? The detail was exquisite, though. She described the food with such passion and love that I almost actually wanted to eat the fish she was talking about, and I do not eat fish. She also inspired me to cook more, and to borrow her cookbook from the library – although I never actually made anything from it.

My only qualm is that she seemed to jump quickly from ‘I don’t really cook’ to “I love to cook and want to learn more!’ It didn’t feel like a very smooth transition.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Fantastic. Kimberly Farr did a fabulous job matching her narration to Julia’s voice in “My Life in France.”

Overall:

I thought this was a lovely audiobook, with mouth-watering descriptions of food and enticing descriptions of life in France post-World War II.

Buy this book from:
Powells: Audio/Print*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound: Audio/Print
*
Amazon: Audio/Print
*

This review was done with a book borrowed from the library.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.