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The Book Lover’s Cookbook



I love to read and I love to cook. My family knows this best and that is why my eldest gave me Outlander Kitchen which I wrote about last week. At any given time I will have a work of fiction and another of non-fiction, in addition to what I have going on my Kindle and what I am reading for blog research.

I typically borrow books from Sister #2 who holds an unbelievable library or my eldest who’s book collection is equally fine but focused towards literature that helped her attain her Masters Degree in Disability Studies. In fact her thesis included excerpts from various fiction and how she related to it in light of her personal disability. The thesis is absolutely fascinating, but I’m her Mom, so I guess that makes me biased. If you would like a copy to ready for yourself, just let me know and I can send it to you.

I also borrow extensively from the library. D and I sometimes go on book dates. We will spend a cozy evening in a bookstore and while I am there, I will make a note about new authors and titles I would like to read and then come home, go online and request them from the library. A good friend of mine who happened to own a bookstore asked me to please not advertise this habit of mine, so that booksellers (who already have a tough go of it), could make some money. I do also purchase second books on Amazon.

When I am in the midst of a good read, I use a bookmark to keep my place but I also turn up the bottom corner of a page that includes a particular culinary reference. I go back through the book once I am finished and make note of these references. Sometimes you see them below as one of “Kath’s Quotes”.


I have never been invited to a book club but I think that I would greatly enjoy one, not just to hear other perspectives but to imbibe with some other bookies. Here is one such book that is extremely popular among the book-club set. It is called The Book Lover’s Cookbook by Shauna Kennedy Wenger and Janet Kay Jensen. Together they have compiled many references to noshing in literature both past and current and then included the recipe for said reference. For example a recipe entitled “Wished-For Spicy Tomato Sauce with Meatballs” includes a reference from Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms.

A number of my favourite writers are quoted, in addition to Ernest Hemingway, including: Anne Tyler, Isabel Allende, Frank McCourt, Maya Angelou, Jan Karon, Margaret Atwood, Jane Austen, Isak Dinesen (Babette’s Feast), Barbra Kingsolver, Elizabeth Berg, Maeve Binchey, Toni Morrison, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Charlotte Bronte, Marlena de Blasi, Robertson Davies, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Fanny Flag, Charles Frazier, Joanne Harris, Alice Munro, John Irving, Wally Lamb, D.H. Lawrence, Madeline L’Engle, C.S. Lewis, Charles Dickens, William Faulkner, Laura Esquivel, Colleen McCullough, Yann Martel, James A. Michener, Anais Nin, Rosamunde Pilcher, Annie. E. Proulx, Anita Shreve and last (but not least) Amy Tan. Wow, I didn’t think the list would be that long!

As I write this it is the coldest day of the year and throughout the night it was -50 degrees! Last night we snuggled up in front of a hockey game and then got under the feather covers to read our books as the wind howled outside our window. Luckily for me, I work from home and had no client meetings to venture out for. This evening just may be the repeat of the last one. Stay warm Lovies.

Kath’s quote: “The return to the kitchen was not easy. I wanted my daughter to know her past, to eat what I had eaten in my childhood; however, I quickly realized that I no longer remembered my family’s recipes…I forced myself to try and remember a recipe on my own. And that is how I discovered, as I had already known in my childhood, that it was possible to hear voices in the kitchen”.-Laura Esquivel, Between Two Fires


Love never fails.

Summer Reading-Recipe for Disaster, Stacey Ballis



Confession time-I have an addiction to renovation shows. My current favourite is Fixer Upper but truly, I love them all. I also love cooking shows, not so much the contest ones but following a home cook in their own kitchen. Pioneer Woman is particularly fascinating because I understand that she started with a food blog just like me. Recently I found a book that combines both my loves. Recipe for Disaster is the story of Anneke as she is forced (due to a lost job and a break up with her chef boyfriend) to live in as she renovates a historic home in Chicago. I was on my way to Chicago so it was serendipitous. As she is demolishing the kitchen she finds the notes and recipes of the house cook that was once employed in the grand old home. She uses the culinary journal to teach herself how to cook. She also relies on the diary to provide practical advice concerning her complicated life. I found this aspect of the novel to be a wee bit hooky, but because I was dawn to both subject matters, overall I enjoyed the read a great deal. Here are a couple of culinary excerpts:

At the end of the day, the difference between being a cook and just cooking is your ability to assess your resources, and make something out of nothing. Any fool can follow a recipe and end up with something edible. But until you can open the larder and see a dish come together in your head, till you have an innate sense of what flavours are good friends, you are just cooking. You cannot call yourself a true cook. Page 240 Used without permission.

I whole heartedly agree with this notion. I feel like a bona fide cook each time I prepare a dish that we call Refrigerator Soup in our house. I typically start with a mire proix, add some stock and then start chopping and throwing things into the pot.

Bread is the staff of life. If you can take, water, yeast, salt and flour and make it into bread, you will never starve. And if you find some skill with it, a loaf and a lump of sweet butter, maybe a jar of preserves, that is a feast worthy of any king. You can be a very good cook without serious skills in pastry art, as long as you can throw together a simple biscuit or cake to end a meal sweetly. There are quality goods in cans and jars available for sale or trade with neighbours, so if you don’t need to stock a cellar for survivial, you don’t necessarily need to can or preserve. But you cannot be a good cook if you cannot put forth a decent loaf of bread. Sometimes, when the stomach is tender, bread is all one can manage to eat, and sometimes when the heart is, it is all one can manage to cook. Page 299 Used without permission.

My Momma patiently taught me how to make bread- a tradition that I hope to pass along to my girls.

I understand that Ballis has a number of culinary themed novels under her belt. Stay tuned, as I read through the collection and mark the pages of some exceptionally fun quotes.

Kath’s quote: “I seldom end up where I wanted to go, but almost always end up where I need to be.”
Stacey Ballis

New York 15-Isla 16 301

Love never fails.


Summer Reading-Tomorrow There Will be Apricots



When I picked up this culinary themed novel, I was not expecting the deep, rich read that it offered up. Told from three different perspectives, the story is as much about the exhausting pursuit of culinary perfection as it is about the fascinating connection between food and love. Here  are a couple of my favourite excerpts.

There was one thing that made my mother truly happy: food. In New Hampshire, to save money, she turned off the heat and kept on the oven while she made four varieties of roasted beet soup. She wore pomegranate perfume. At the supermarket, she was like an ant building a hill. At night she slept with yoghurt and honey on her face.

Food was my mother’s life. Sometimes, I wondered if she’d married my father because of his last name: Seltzer. Her maiden name wasn’t really her own. She was adopted. So she took a last name that represented the only part of herself that felt true: food. And seltzer was her secret to delicate crepes, the perfect French onion tart, and fried chicken that actually glittered. (page 17, without permission)

She smiled like she couldn’t help it, and because of that I knew. I knew why she loved the masgouf. And why she loved that recipe, despite her chef-y-ness. I knew why she was always scanning the obituaries. I knew why she was so lonely-not only because of what was inside her, splintered like dried out marzipan where all the joy could slip through, but because Joseph and Victoria were out in the world, not-dying without her. They were making beautiful, delicious food. The only way she could love them, I thought, was for her to eat it and hope that it would fill her up. (226, without permission)

Through a layered story of complicated relationships, Tomorrow there will be Apricots is about accepting and forgiving the persons that we love. The tale is important, significant and beautifully told.

Kath’s quote: “And that’s what love is, I suppose. The one thing that is most worth hoping for, and the one thing that’s most surprising when it lands. Because it’s better. It exceeds hope, makes hope nearsighted.”
Jessica Soffer, Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots    


Love never fails.




“Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good-A Memoir of Food and Love from a Midwest Family”-Kathleen Flinn


I loved every page of this autobiography: the story of a multi-generational family and how food connected them inexplicably.

…I’m pieces of my parents, siblings, grandparents, and great-grandparents. Like so many of them, I love to cook-enough to drive me to another country. I earned endless lessons in generosity from Grandma Inez and Grandpa Charles. I inherited the thin steel that ran through Della Stark and the salesman, her scoundrel husband, James. I’m the daughter of a marine, a cop, and a man who would rather go without than go back on his word. I’m my mother’s daughter , who was tough enough to kill chickens, yet kind enough to tel me that a church thrift shop was a posh department store so that I wouldn’t feel ashamed of wearing secondhand clothes.

Burnt toast makes you sing good. Be thankful; no matter how little you’ve got, someone’s always worse off than you. You cant give anything away, it always comes back. They handed down these simple life lessons to me as surely as they did their recipes.

I’m a mutt. But as they say with dogs, mixed breeds prove the most resilient. The people in my past helped make me tough, passionate, and endlessly optimistic. That’s what I want to talk about even if it happens that my grandfather wasn’t Irish after all. But a distant grandmother was from County Kerry. So I’m still Irish, at least a wee bit.

All of this, ignited by a short obituary and cheap posters in a farmhouse bedroom, let this Midwest girl to don kitchen whites as I embarked on a love affair in the most romantic city in the world.

But that’s another story.

from the Epilogue, page 247.

Kath’s quote: “I don’t have to tell you I love you. I fed you pancakes.” -Kathleen Flinn


Live simply, laugh often, love deeply.

“Mastering the Art of French Eating-Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris” by Ann Mah


When I read a culinary novel (my obsession), I make note of the pages which do a particularly appetizing job of describing the food or a feeling evoked by the dish or an unusual recipe that I have had the pleasure of tasting.  Often times I have 2-3 pages noted but in the case of scouring through Ann Mah’s recounting of her solo time living in Paris, I had scads and scads of pages noted.  Her book is that appealing to a foodie like me.  After making a really tough decision (“oh poor Kath” you might be thinking -“if only all my decisions were so gruelling”…), I have decided on this excerpt.  Read on and then I will explain why.


From page 171.

I had come to Alsace with the intention of eating choucroute at every meal.  But whenever I sat down in a Winstrub, the same thing happened: I looked at the menu, resolved to order the choucroute garnie, summoned the waitress, and asked for…something else.  I was cheating on choucroute with tarte flambée.

Despite its fiery name, tarte flambée is not a pie filled with burning embers.  It’s a sort of pizza with crisp edges, topped with crème fraiche,  onions, and bacon, cooked in a wood-burning oven.  In Alsatian it’s called flammekueche, or “flame cake”, and was traditionally a plat du pauvre, prepared every two weeks on bread-baking day, when the village’s communal wood oven was lit.

page 172

A lump of dough is rolled thin, spread with luscious crème fraiche, strewn with slivers of raw onions and bacon and singed golden in the kitchen’s ancient wood oven.  “It only takes one minute to cook” Roth said.  The restaurant also serves a non-traditional version, sprinkled with grated Emmental cheese.

I ate both the plain and gratineed varieties under Roth’s watchful eye, savouring the contrast of tangy cream against the luxuriant salty-sweetness of smoked bacon and onions.  Roth brought them out one at a time, waiting until I finished the first to produce the second.  “It’s best eaten hot” she admonished me when she caught me photographing my food instead of eating it.  And when I had finished both, she wanted to know which I preferred.



The first anecdote which came to mind from this excerpt is that D always teases me that he has not eaten hot food since I started “this blogging thing”.  The second is this: Winnipeggers do not need to travel half way across the world to eat authentic tarte flambée (French) flammekueche (Alsatian which sounds German to me) because we have Chez Sophie where they dub their version “French-style Pizza” to avoid confusion.  They still use the onions and bacon but add tomatoes and instead of the traditional thin crust they also offer medium and thick.


The third goes like this.  I have never been to Alsace but it is on our list of “must travel to” destinations.  D and I have long been intrigued by the region which is quite literally half French and half German being geographically on the border of both and having changed hands back and forth during wars fought over territorial rights.  When we first tasted Alsatian wine we were delighted that the flavours were like a bottle of French and German white wines that had been blended together.  We were sharing a bottle at a restaurant that no longer exists, the first time I told D that I loved him (he would ditto my sentiments but not until a couple of weeks later).  Tastes are often associated with milestone events in my life.  Is the same true for you?

Kath’s quote: “What keeps me motivated is not the food itself but all the bonds and memories the food represents.”-Michael Chiarello


D and I the evening of our 30th wedding anniversary before dining out in Boston where we had honeymooned.

Love-that is all.

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