Tag Archives: foodie’s reading challenge

Aftertaste (Meredith Mileti) – Review

Aftertaste : a novel in five coursesAftertaste: A Novel in 5 Courses by Meredith Mileti 
Age: Adult
Genre: Fiction / Chick-lit
Publisher: Kensington
ISBN: 9780758259912
373 pages
Source: Publisher / LibraryThing Early Readers

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Mira Rinaldi had it all as co-owner of the popular New York restaurant Grappa,  a spacious apartment, and brand new baby. In one night, she lost everything when she caught her husband having an affair with one of their employees. Between the anger management classes and divorce proceedings, Mira’s emotional outbursts set in motion her loss of her restaurant and her New York lifestyle. Somehow, Mira is left to pick up the pieces and find a new outlet for her passion for cooking and create a new life for herself outside of New York.

I really enjoyed reading this book. I loved the passages on food, and I thought Mira’s character was full of intricacies and emotional issues that didn’t make her just the victim or just the victor. The supporting staff of characters, although somewhat cliché and predictable, did a good job of balancing the crazy that engulfed Mira’s life after she found her husband cheating on her.

The book is divided into 5 sections, each named after an Italian course. One thing I noticed, and I actually sort of want to go back and do an actual count, is that it seemed like there was wine being drunk like it was water. I found it particularly odd that Mira consumed so much wine as she was still nursing baby Chloe. It felt the characters were drinking wine in nearly every chapter, whether with lunch, dinner, or a mid-night snack.

While I don’t think Mira made the best choices in the beginning of the novel, she does take accountability for her decisions and realizes the consequences of her actions. After moving back home to live with her dad, she is aware of how her behavior is hurting those around her, but is unable to stop it because she is so frustrated with her life.

The story is paced very well, its conversational, not rushed but didn’t drag either. This really gave the reader a chance to get to know the characters and see the character development in Mira. An added perk is that Mileti included a number of the recipes mentioned throughout the book.

This book would be a great read for book clubs because of the content, the recipes and the included discussion questions in the back of the book.

  Book 7

Food Rules (Michael Pollan) – Review

Food rules : an eater's manualFood Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan
Age: Any
Genre: Nonfiction / Food / Health & Nutrition
Publisher: Penguin, 2009
ISBN: 9780143116387
140 Pages

The author of the high acclaimed In Defense of Food & An Omnivore’s Dilemma manages to fit all the major tidbits of information from the first two books into a concise set of 64 rules. The rules are divided into three parts.

  • Part 1: What Should I Eat? (Eat Food)
  • Part 2: What Kinds of Food Should I Eat? (Mostly Plants)
  • Part 3: How Should I Eat? (Not Too Much)

Of the 64 rules, I’m glad to say I follow almost all of them. I think at times Pollan re-used the same rules, he just cleverly re-worded them. For example: Rule 46: Stop Eating Before You’re Full and Rule 61: Leave Something On Your Plate. 

Each rule receives about a page of explanation, some rules receive no explanation as the meaning is pretty evident. I like that Pollan keeps his explanations simple, and I love that this little booklet is not preachy. I think it’s the perfect book for someone looking to change their eating lifestyle. It’s an easy to follow guide that you can apply when shopping at the grocery store.  What Pollan is promoting is not just a healthy diet. It’s a change in our consumer habits both financially and regarding food.

To be honest, making a change like this is not easy and it does not happen overnight. My husband and I used to eat corn dogs and tater tots for dinner, regularly. Our excuse was that we were too tired or lazy to cook. Having read books like Fatland &  In Defense of Food, and having gotten addicted to Bravo’s Top Chef, we slowly began to experiment with meals in the kitchen. This experimentation led to us realizing just how terribly we ate in comparison to how healthy we could be eating. Add frequent trips to the farmer’s market and voila. 3 years later, we have a healthy container garden on our balcony, we eat more fruits and veggies than we eat meat, and we have eliminated soda almost completely from our lives.

The important thing to remember, and something Pollan only touched upon in this book, is that food should be fun and food should be enjoyed.

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Book 44 of 2011

 Book 5

Lunch in Paris (Elizabeth Bard) – Review

Lunch in Paris : a love story, with recipesLunch in Paris: A Love Story with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard
Age: Adult
Genre: Memoir
Location: Paris
Source: Public Library
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company,2010
ISBN: 9780316042796
324 Pages

Lunch in Paris is not your typical love story. Lunch in Paris is about the ups and downs, the trials and tribulations of being an American living in France. We follow Elizabeth’s life from when she first meets Gwendal to their dates, the proposal, the wedding, and life afterward. Their romance is not the center of the story. Elizabeth butts heads with France, she has a love affair with the food, carefully honing in cooking skills from her daily trips to the market. Carefully and thoughtfully woven throughout the chapters are Elizabeth’s insecurities, hesitations, successes and problems with assimilating into the French culture.

I connected with Elizabeth from the very moment she described herself as a “bit of an old-fashioned girl. I feel good in old places.” (page 6). As well as someone who was “born in the wrong century.” (page 19). I can’t say I’ve never felt the same based on my tastes in music, hobbies, movies and art. I felt she was very honest with her struggles in Paris. It seems to be every girl’s dream to fall in love with a charming, dashing Frenchman who just happens to be a good cook to boot. To get married and live in a little bohemian love bungalow with the Eiffel Tower in view from across the distance. Elizabeth fills us in on what happens after that happily ever after moment. The truth about the struggles of living in another continent from your family and friends and trying to start a brand new life.

I could readily identify with Elizabeth’s torn self between American and Parisienne. Although she sheds  a certain amount of American traits (talking loudly everywhere, buying less than quality foods, rushing through meals, etc.) there are some habits and rights of Americans that are not available in other countries. The right to a second, third or fourth medical opinion, the ability to get married and work in the country without any restrictions, optimism and a can-do attitude, the ability to rethink and reuse objects for something other than their intended use. Although France is highly cultured, part of that is the strict adherence to the mentality of stasis.

At the end of each chapter, Elizabeth pens a couple of recipes that she had discussed during the chapter. Food and cooking very important to her, as they were the stepping stones of her entrance into the French life. From her first introduction to her then boyfriend’s closest family and friends, to her ability to improve her French and order meat like a pro at the butcher’s. What I like about the recipes is that I already own most of the ingredients in my pantry. They are regular pantry herbs and spices and only the proteins used would require any extra effort to locate, even that effort is limited. The recipes are a mix of traditional French, recipes of Elizabeth’s Jewish heritage, and sometimes a cross between the two styles, with a little American classic comfort foods thrown into the mix. She begins each recipe with a little paragraph explaining its origin as well as how to change certain ingredients to get a more personal and unique flavor from the dish.

Book 29 of 2011

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  Book 3

Season to Taste (Molly Birnbaum) – Review

Season to taste : how I lost my sense of smell and found my waySeason to Taste by Molly Birnbaum
Age: Adult
Genre: Memoir
Location: East Coast
Source: Publisher
Publisher: Harper Collins,2011
ISBN: 978-0061915314
320 Pages

Passionate and driven Molly is only months away from beginning her education at the American Culinary Institution when she is hit by a car that not only leaves her hospitalized for months, but also damages her olfactory sense, leaving her with anosmia (the inability to smell). The inability to smell leaves Molly unable to taste food, and therefore unable to enjoy food. She does not enter the American Culinary Institute. Instead, she invests her time researching the history, causes and traits of anosmia and olfactory disorders. She goes back to school for a masters in Journalism, and she constantly fights battles against depression when her lack of sense of smell alienates her from the rest of society.

I thought this was a wonderfully penned memoir. Never did I feel that the author took on a “poor me, pity me” stance. She was very straightforward about her depression and how she overcame it, slowly and with the encouragement of family and friends. Over time, Molly managed to regain certain smells, and it was this struggle to identify scents that I found the most intriguing. I loved reading about her trip to Grasse to study with perfume students to learn the intricacies of smell, to her first scent after the accent, and to her self-discoveries about her personality and emotions along the way.

My only complaint is that the book is a mash-up of her blog posts and essays. She jumped around chronologically, so it was somewhat difficult to figure out where she was, especially when in one essay, she was in France, in the US and again in France in the span of 3 paragraphs.

I did enjoy reading about all the research and statistics tied to anosmia and olfactory disorders. This is definitely something that’s not in the mainstream media and certainly not something that really crossed my mind before. Molly’s struggle with food and her cooking ability were very inspiring. Food was her bridge back to her old life, back to the pre-car accident Molly who driven and full of motivation.

The book is equal parts memoir, love of cooking, and study of the olfactory system of the human body. Foodies will enjoy this book because they will most likely run promptly into the kitchen and start sniffing at the spice-rack. Others will enjoy Molly’s travels and scientific research.

Book 25 of 2011

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Book 2