Monday, July 2, 2012

Genre Reading Group recap - Foodie Fiction

July’s topic is best-sellers, fiction and/or nonfiction. The books on display at the second floor Reference Desk were pulled from USA Today’s 100 Best-selling Books of 2011 and the American Booksellers Association’s Indie Best-sellers of 2011 so please do stop by and have a look. The best-sellers discussion will be on Tuesday, July 31st at 6:30pm.

What a delicious meeting last week! It would have been disastrous without the snacks. Foodie Fiction was a popular display this past month as well as being an outstanding discussion topic.

Georgia’s Kitchen by Jenny Nelson
At thirty-three, talented chef Georgia Gray has everything a woman could want—the top job at one of Manhattan’s best restaurants; a posse of smart and savvy gal pals who never let her down; and a platinum-set, cushion-cut diamond engagement ring courtesy of Glenn, the handsome entertainment lawyer who Georgia’s overbearing mother can’t wait for her to marry. The table is set for the ambitious bride-to-be until a scathing restaurant review destroys her reputation. To add salt to her wounds, Glenn suddenly calls off the wedding. Brokenhearted, Georgia escapes to the Italian countryside, where she sharpens her skills at a trattoria run by a world-class chef who seems to have it all—a devoted lover, a magnificent villa, and most important, a kitchen of her own. Georgia quells her longings with Italy’s delectable offerings: fine wine, luscious cheeses, cerulean blue skies, and irresistible Gianni—an expert in the vineyard and the bedroom. So when Gianni tempts Georgia to stay in Italy with an offer no sane top chef could refuse, why can’t she say yes? An appetite for something more looms large in Georgia’s heart – the desire to run her own restaurant in the city she loves. But having left New York with her career in flames, she’ll need to stir up more than just courage if she’s to realize her dreams and find her way home.

Sideways by Rex Pickett
Sideways is the story of two friends-Miles and Jack-going away together for the last time to steep themselves in everything that makes it good to be young and single: pinot, putting, and prowling bars. In the week before Jack plans to marry, the pair heads out from Los Angeles to the Santa Ynez wine country. For Jack, the tasting tour is Seven Days to D-Day, his final stretch of freedom. For Miles—who has divorced his wife, is facing an uncertain career and has lost his passion for living-the trip is a weeklong opportunity to evaluate his past, his future and himself. A raucous and surprising novel filled with wonderful details about wine, Sideways is also a thought-provoking and funny book about men, women, and human relationships. (The movie adaptation is VERY well done.)

The Road Home by Rose Tremain
In the wake of factory closings and his beloved wife's death, Lev makes his way from Eastern Europe to London, seeking work to support his mother and his little daughter. After a spell of homelessness, he finds a job in the kitchen of a posh restaurant and a room in the house of an appealing Irishman who has already lost his family. Never mind that Lev must sleep in a bunk bed surrounded by plastic toys—he has found a friend and shelter. However constricted his life in England remains, he compensates by daydreaming of home, by having an affair with a younger restaurant worker, and by trading gossip and ambitions via cell phone with his hilarious friend Rudi, who, dreaming of the wealthy West, lives largely for his battered Chevrolet. Homesickness dogs Lev, not only for nostalgic reasons, but because he doesn't belong, body or soul, to his new country—but can he really go home again? Rose Tremain's prodigious talents as a prose writer are on full display in THE ROAD HOME, and her novel never loses sight of what is truly important in the lives we lead.

The Bobby Gold Stories by Anthony Bourdain
Bobby Gold is a lovable criminal. After nearly ten years in prison, he's no sooner out than he's back to work breaking bones for tough guys. His turf: the club scene and restaurant business. It's not that he enjoys the job-Bobby has real heart-but he's good at it, and a guy has to make a living. Things change when he meets Nikki, the cook at a club most definitely not in his territory. Smitten, he can't stay away. Bobby Gold has known trouble before, but with Nikki the sauté bitch in his life, things take a turn for life or death. A fast, furious, pitch-perfect story of food, sex, crime, and mayhem, The Bobby Gold Stories is Bourdain at his best. (In the interests of full disclosure, the reader did not care for this book at all, citing language, violence, and sexuality as dealbreakers.)

Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris
When Framboise Simon returns to a small village on the banks of the Loire, the locals do not recognize her as the daughter of the infamous woman they hold responsible for a tragedy during the German occupation years ago. But the past and present are inextricably entwined, particularly in a scrapbook of recipes and memories that Framboise has inherited from her mother. And soon Framboise will realize that the journal also contains the key to the tragedy that indelibly marked that summer of her ninth year. . . . The novels of Joanne Harris are a literary feast for the senses. Five Quarters of the Orange represents Harris's most complex and sophisticated work yet. A novel in which darkness and fierce joy come together to create an unforgettable story.

The Book of Salt by Monique Truong
The Book of Salt serves up a wholly original take on Paris in the 1930s through the eyes of Binh, the Vietnamese cook employed by Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. Viewing his famous mesdames and their entourage from the kitchen of their rue de Fleurus home, Binh observes their domestic entanglements while seeking his own place in the world. In a mesmerizing tale of yearning and betrayal, Monique Truong explores Paris from the salons of its artists to the dark nightlife of its outsiders and exiles. She takes us back to Binh's youthful servitude in Saigon under colonial rule, to his life as a galley hand at sea, to his brief, fateful encounters in Paris with Paul Robeson and the young Ho Chi Minh.

The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry
After the unexpected death of her parents, painfully shy and sheltered 26-year-old Ginny Selvaggio seeks comfort in cooking from family recipes. But the rich, peppery scent of her Nonna’s soup draws an unexpected visitor into the kitchen: the ghost of Nonna herself, dead for twenty years, who appears with a cryptic warning (“do no let her…”) before vanishing like steam from a cooling dish. A haunted kitchen isn’t Ginny’s only challenge. Her domineering sister, Amanda, (aka “Demanda”) insists on selling their parents’ house, the only home Ginny has ever known. As she packs up her parents’ belongings, Ginny finds evidence of family secrets she isn’t sure how to unravel. She knows how to turn milk into cheese and cream into butter, but she doesn’t know why her mother hid a letter in the bedroom chimney, or the identity of the woman in her father’s photographs. The more she learns, the more she realizes the keys to these riddles lie with the dead, and there’s only one way to get answers: cook from dead people’s recipes, raise their ghosts, and ask them.

The Book of Unholy Mischief by Elle Newmark
In a world of violence and intrigue, who guards the truth? It is 1498, the dawn of the Renaissance, and Venice teems with rumors about an ancient book that holds the secret to unimaginable power. It is an alchemist's dream, with recipes for gold, immortality, and undying love. But while those who seek the book will stop at nothing to get it, those who know will die to protect it.

As a storm of intrigue and desire circles the republic that grew from the sea, Luciano, a penniless orphan with a quick wit and an even faster hand, is plucked up by an illustrious chef and hired, for reasons he cannot yet begin to understand, as an apprentice in the palace kitchen. There, in the lavish home of the most powerful man in Venice, he is initiated into the chef's rich and aromatic world, with all its seductive ingredients and secrets. It is not long before Luciano is caught up in the madness. After he witnesses a shocking murder in the Palace dining room, he realizes that nothing is as it seems and that no one can be trusted.

Armed with a precocious mind and an insatiable curiosity, Luciano embarks on a perilous journey to uncover the truth. What he discovers will swing open the shutters of his mind, inflame his deepest desires, and leave an indelible mark on his soul. Rich with the luxurious colors and textures of Venice, The Book of Unholy Mischief delights the senses and breathes fresh life into an age defined by intellectual revival and artistic vibrancy. A luminous and seductive novel, it is, at its heart, a high-spirited tribute to the fruits of knowledge and the extraordinary power of those who hold its key. 

Cookie Dough or Die by Virginia Lowell
Olivia Greyson is the proud owner of The Gingerbread House-a quaint shop that specializes in all things cookie-and her best friend, Maddie, is her sidekick, baking up scrumptious treats for their cookie-themed parties. But now they must take a break from baking and find a killer, or else their reputation-and quite possibly their lives-will be battered for good.

Jessica Beck’s Donut Shop Mystery series
Glazed Murder
Fatally Frosted
Sinister Sprinkles
Evil Eclairs
Tragic Toppings
Killer Crullers
Drop Dead Chocolate
Powdered Peril
Illegally Iced

Sammi Carter’s Candy Shop Mystery series
Candy Apple Dead
Chocolate Dipped Death
Peppermint Twisted
Goody Goody Gunshots
Sucker Punch

Riley Adams’ Memphis Barbeque Mystery series
Delicious and Suspicious
Finger Lickin’ Dead
Hickory Smoked Homicide

Diane Mott Davidson’s Goldy Schulz series
Catering to Nobody
Dying for Chocolate
The Cereal Murders
The Last Suppers
Killer Pancake
The Main Corpse
The Grilling Season
Prime Cut
Tough Cookie
Sticks and Scones
Chopping Spree
Double Shot
Dark Tort
Sweet Revenge
Fatally Flaky
Crunch Time

Tamar Myers’ Pennsylvania Dutch Mysteries with Recipes series
Too Many Crooks Spoil the Broth
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Crime
No Use Dying Over Spilled Milk
Just Plain Pickled to Death
Between a Wok and a Hard Place
Eat, Drink, and Be Wary
Play It Again, Spam
The Hand That Rocks the Ladle
The Crepes of Wrath
Gruel and Unusual Punishment
Custard’s Last Stand
Thou Shalt Not Grill
Assault and Pepper
Grape Expectations
Hall Hath No Curry
As the World Churns
Batter Off Dead
Butter Safe Than Sorry

Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen series
Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder
Strawberry Shortcake Murder
Blueberry Muffin Murder
Lemon Meringue Pie Murder
Fudge Cupcake Murder
Sugar Cookie Murder
Peach Cobbler Murder
Cherry Cheesecake Murder
Key Lime Pie Murder
Carrot Cake Murder
Candy Cane Murder
Cream Puff Murder
Plum Pudding Murder
Apple Turnover Murder
Devil’s Food Cake Murder
Cinnamon Roll Murder
Red Velvet Cupcake Murder

Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe series
While not strictly food-related, Nero Wolfe is a dedicated gourmand. There are 47 books in the series.

Julie Hyzy’s White House Chef Mystery series
State of the Onion
Hail to the Chef
Eggsecutive Orders
Buffalo West Wing
Affairs of Steak
Fonduing Fathers

B.B. Haywood’s Candy Holliday Mystery series
Town in a Blueberry Jam
Town in a Lobster Stew
Town in a Wild Moose Chase
Town in a Pumpkin Bash

Jenn McKinlay’s Cupcake Bakery Mystery series
Sprinkle with Murder
Buttercream Bump Off
Death by the Dozen
Red Velvet Revenge
Going, Going, Ganache

Laura Childs’ Tea Shop Mystery series
Death by Darjeeling
Gunpowder Green
Shades of Earl Grey
English Breakfast Murder
The Jasmine Moon Murder
Chamomile Mourning
Blood Orange Brewing
Dragonwell Dead
The Silver Needle Murder
Oolong Dead
The Teaberry Strangler
Scones & Bones
Agony of the Leaves
Sweet Tea Revenge

Laura Childs’ Cackleberry Club Mystery series
Eggs in Purgatory
Eggs Benedict Arnold
Bedeviled Eggs
Stake & Eggs

Claudia Bishop’s Hemlock Falls series
A Plateful of Murder (contains the first two novels, A Taste for Murder and A Dash of Death)
A Pinch of Poison
Murder Well-Done
Death Dines Out
A Touch of the Grape
A Steak in Murder
Marinade for Murder
Just Desserts
Fried By Jury
A Puree of Poison
Buried By Breakfast
A Dinner to Die For
Ground to a Halt
A Carol for a Corpse
Toast Mortem
Dread on Arrival
Fete Worse Than Death

Nancy Fairbanks’s Culinary Mystery with Recipes series
Crime Brulee
Truffled Feathers
Death A L’Orange
Chocolate Quake
The Perils of Paella
Holy Guacamole!
Mozzarella Most Murderous
Three-Course Murder
Bon Bon Voyage
French Fried
Turkey Flambe
Blood Pudding

Cleo Coyle’s Coffeehouse series
On What Grounds
Through the Grinder
Latte Trouble 
Murder Most Frothy 
Decaffeinated Corpse 
French Pressed 
Espresso Shot 
Holiday Grind 
Roast Mortem 
Murder by Mocha 
A Brew to a Kill 
Holiday Buzz 

One of our members was quite knowledgeable about the genre of foodie fiction and even cooks some of the recipes featured in the books she reads. One of the most memorable recipes she talked about was the Pork & Bean Bread. I found one on 

1 (15 ounce) can pork and beans 
4 eggs 
3 cups all-purpose flour 
2 cups white sugar 
1 cup vegetable oil 
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1 teaspoon baking soda 
1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
1 cup chopped walnuts 

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease and flour two 9x5x3 inch loaf pans. 
2. Puree undrained pork and beans in a blender or food processor. 
3. In a large bowl, combine eggs, flour, sugar, salt, oil, cinnamon, vanilla, baking soda and baking powder. Mix well. Gently fold in nuts and pureed pork and beans. Divide batter into pans evenly. 
4. Bake for 60 minutes, or until bread tests done. 

Katie found a short list of food history books that are popular right now and I considered it entirely appropriate to share some space on our fiction list for some foodie NONfiction too! 

Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit by Barry Estabrook What has happened to the tomato? Why are store-bought tomatoes so identically shaped, hard, and tasteless? Author Barry Estabrook investigates what has gone wrong on our quest to make cheap produce available in grocery stores all year long. It’s impossible for this exposé not to change the way you think about tomatoes, and you may never buy one at the grocery store again! 

White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf by Aaron Bobrow-Strain 
Alton Brown once said that a rule of thumb for making a good sandwich is that you should use a bread that you would be willing to eat on its own. Upon hearing this, I suddenly realized that I’d never eat store-bought white bread on its own, that I should stop making sandwiches with it, and that I probably should stop consuming it altogether. Beyond exploring what goes into a loaf of white bread and how that came to be, Aaron Bobrow-Strain’s “White Bread” traces the roots of this most popular loaf and what it is has meant to society in terms of race, class, immigration and gender. 

Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil by Tom Mueller 
The health benefits and culinary importance of olive oil have been touted for centuries. But apparently these days there’s a lot of fake olive oil going around. Tom Mueller explores how it has become highly profitable to sell imitation extra virgin olive oil at low prices. Turns out, it’s pretty easy to get away with… 

Eating History: Thirty Turning Points in the Making of American Cuisine by Andrew F. Smith 
Some of Andrew F. Smith’s exciting turning points include Gail Borden’s Canned Milk, Kelloggs’ Corn Flakes, and McDonald’s Drive-In. Each chapter is a short exploration of a defining moment in American cuisine. With this title, you can enjoy your food history like we should all enjoy our meals: in small bites.

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