All posts tagged: book review

October Book Review: How to Eat a Small Country: A Family’s Pursuit of Happiness, One Meal at a Time by Amy Finlay

How to Eat a Small Country: A Family’s Pursuit of Happiness, One Meal at a Time by Amy Finlay, 2011. I picked up this book from Amazon a few months ago and I’ve been savouring it ever since. I dream of eating my way around the world and Amy’s escape to France really appealed to me. A mouth watering, sometimes icky account of a mother’s culinary tour around the romantic French countryside to save her sanity, her family and her marriage. Amy is not your typical American foodie. She’s adventurous, strong willed and very creative. If you like reading to whet your appetite, this book is for you. She bares it all and it’s books like these that make me sad that people don’t read much anymore. This is not a stuffy touchy feely book, but it sure cuts and makes you feel. She doesn’t have all the answers and her writing style reminds us that we’re all just doing what we can. Read this if you… If you’ve been to France and want to …

July Book Review: Lobster Karma by Karen Gallas (Kindle Edition)

Lobster Karma by Karen Gallas, 2012. Gasper Destiene is a self taught food critic who has just signed a contract to write a bible on American cuisine. But after a lifetime of wrestling with good and evil, her conscience takes a turn for the better and she turns vegetarian overnight. An inexperienced vegetarian has no place writing about real American food and Gasper knows it. But what is a girl to do? Gasper finds vegetarian food lacking (real American food has meat and soul) but cannot bear to eat meat. That is until she meets Tatupu. Tatupu can turn water into wine…culinarily speaking. Tatupu, the big, brown and beautiful Hawaiian chef who left his home to follow a girl. Tatupu who everyone can’t help but fall in love with because his heart is bigger than his smile. Tatupu who excelled in cooking gloriously fresh chicken, pork and fish in classic luau style but then when he had to, attempted vegetarian cooking. And nailed it. Gasper’s husband, Milo, is so ridiculously supportive, I’m not sure if …

June Book Review: Death By Gumbo by Phil Edwards (Kindle Edition)

I’ve never been to New Orleans, but something about the distinct, fiery cuisine of this city has always excited me. There is romance and comfort and an equal measure of the exotic. I hope to visit New Orleans one day, and discover the foods that make it so famous. Gumbo, Jambalaya, Beignet, Crayfish Pie…Oh yes! When I was really young, in the late ’80s, my parents and their friends had karaoke at their houses and at the restaurants they owned. Karaoke doubled as entertainment and as a babysitter at gatherings back then. It kept the kids out of the adult’s hair while they caught up with each other and the adults could join in after dinner when it was appropriate. One favourite song of mine was Jambalaya (On The Bayou). I didn’t know the meaning of the words as a child, but the words sounded funny and they felt good coming off my tongue. Released in the early 1950’s, it was an unlikely song for an early ’80s, Hong Kong born, Kiwi-raised girl to love, …

May Book Review: Food Rules (Kindle Edition)

Food Rules by Michael Pollan, 2009. This short guide based on “a deep reservoir of food wisdom out there” is a book for foodies and non-foodies alike. Big science words are used apologetically, but this book aims to be comprehensible to a mainstream audience. Less about science and nutrition, more plain common sense, this is a pretty easy read. This book should be read in schools. Imagine a generation of people with proper food wisdom. Stress on the importance of real, live and even fermented foods, with meat used to flavor a dish, rather than as the main event. As someone who always spends her paycheque on good food, my favorite quote that is mentioned in this guide would have to be: “Better to pay the grocer than the doctor”. I found Pollan to be far from preachy, and shares what I’m sure you already kind of know – but might have forgotten – about food. Perhaps food scientists will disagree. Whether you live by these food rules, or just file them away for detox …

April Book Review: Toast: A Story of a Boy’s Hunger (Kindle Edition)

Toast: A Story of a Boy’s Hunger by Nigel Slater, 2003 I’ve heard the name Nigel Slater around the place before, a chef whose claim to fame was being a food writer for The Observer Magazine and also Marie Claire. He’s written several cookbooks and plays art director for his books. This book is the matter-of-fact memoir of a loner growing up in ’60s and ’70s England. Food obsessed since as far back as he can remember, each brief chapter in this book is written like a diary entry with dishes or food items rather than dates to define them. Food and happiness are linked and the point of view is from someone who is lonely, hungry, sexually frustrated and bitter toward most others. He’s not an only child, but he might as well have been. It’s never obvious exactly why he is a loner, but his selfish ways probably don’t help. Not everything is explained in the book and you often have to put two and two together. “Eating a slice of pie is …

March Book Review: East of Eden (Kindle edition)

East of Eden by John Steinbeck, 1952. East of Eden isn’t a foodie book. But I started reading it and I couldn’t put it down. Since I spent so long reading it (for reasons I’ll make clear below), I couldn’t fit another book to review this month I’ll will review this non-foodie book from a slightly foodie perspective. Luckily, food is universal. With a story about people, food inevitably comes into the picture, either as food or in description. The title of this book had instant appeal to me. I live in Eden, on Eden Street, near the mountain of Eden, down the road for Eden Reserve and not far from Eden Park. Written in the 1952 when Steineck was 50, this book is set mostly set in the 1910’s in the Salinas Valley in California. It is the allegory of generations in a brutally honest way. It’s a long story, but I honestly didn’t want it to end. Let me get this straight. I’ve never been a one to read romance novels or floofy poetry. …

February Book Review: Don’t Try This At Home

Don’t Try This At Home: Culinary Catastrophes from the world’s greatest cooks and chefs Edited by Kimberly Witherspoon and Andrew Friedman, 2007. I wonder about if the editors Spoon and Fried are pseudonyms  or just coincidence? This is collection of personal botch up stories from 23 of the well-known chefs including Heston Blumenthal, Mario Batali, Anthony Bourdain, Eric Ripert and Jamie Oliver. Each chapter or story is only a few pages long so it’s a good book just to flick through and read a story or two at a time. If you cook like me – someone who has never followed a recipe to the letter, you will inevitably find yourself with some failures. How you deal with your botch up is up to you. I’ve become quite good at salvaging things either by finding a fix or making something entirely new with what I’ve got. In a creative, stressful arena, in the heat of a commercial kitchen, tight deadlines, egos and people from many different backgrounds are thrown into the mix. It’s a recipe for disaster. …

January Book Review: A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg (Kindle edition)

A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg, 2009. Last night, I bought my first Kindle book. I’ve been browsing sample chapters and free books in the sparse free time I have had, but this was the first sample I couldn’t put down. I fixed myself the first coffee in weeks (I have now decided it isn’t coffee causing my eczema) and stayed up until the wee hours reading until my eyes burned and I conceded to sleep. In the morning, I picked up where I left off. Then at the last moment, I got up, went out, had yum cha with my family in Newmarket and came home and finished the book. I salivated, I almost cried, I envied and I almost cried again. I’m tough like that. It takes a bit to make me cry. This book would make a prone person weep cats and dogs. Molly’s book is like reading your foodie friend’s letters and favourite recipes and it makes sense, since Molly writes a food blog called Orangette. It’s not a blog a …

Noodle Pillows by Peta Mathias

Just finished reading a great food travel book called Noodle Pillows by fellow New Zealander Peta Mathias. Published in 2003, this is an account of Peta’s journey through Vietnam as a single woman, eating everything that stood in her way. It’s always nice reading a Kiwi perspective of food from a faraway location. Full of recipes and at only 182 pages, it’s a very easy read. Some of my favourite bits: Nobody could communicate with anybody, so he took the Russians into the kitchen and pointed to things. They were delighted and wanted everything, absolutely everything. The meal went very well and a light snapped on in the entrepreneurial Vy’s brain. The very next morning she put a sign outside the Mermaid, listing what the customers had eaten the night before – this was their first menu. ‘Vietnamese don’t use menus. It’s like songs. Everyone knows all the dishes and they just ask for what they feel like that day.’ Have you ever been to a restaurant where there was no menu? Where the chef …