Cherries in Winter – Suzan Colon

030747593x-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_This is the story of how the author’s family used food to get through hard times, framed with her experiences being laid off from her magazine job during the Great Recession in 2008/2009. It’s a really nice story of family, and sticking together through hard times. I really just picked it up because it was next in line in the stack, but it turned out to be what I need this week.

I don’t write a lot about politics and the like in this blog, because I don’t feel like that defines my existence, but that’s not to say I don’t have strong opinions on it, and the election (and the season leading up to it) last week was definitely a low point in our modern political history. I don’t know what’s going to happen with soon to be president Cheeto – I’ll do my best to respect the office, but I cannot respect the man – but this book was exactly what I needed to counteract the general air of depression hanging over a lot of us right now. In that general spirit, I’m going to focus on positive things – like the 17th annual Mocksgiving last weekend, and all the friends that make that happen, as well as the soon to be niece or nephew who is now officially my niece M. Those are the kinds of things that are important.

Comfort Me with Apples – Ruth Reichl

 

c8f9acc29c26a09597557436867434f414f4141

I usually like a good food memoir from a famous chef or food writer – even as a kid, they seem to have always has the most fascinating meals, and you can usually get some vicarious foodie fun out of those stories. I’ve read some of Reichl’s other work (from the timeframes before and after this book is set), and enjoyed those in that foodie spirit.

Not so much this book. I suspect it’s a generational thing. I’m at the younger end of Gen X, and Reichl is firmly Baby Boom. This book transitions from the time she was living in a commune in Berkeley, CA to becoming a food writer – something a little too much “for the man” for the people she had been living with. It’s the transition from hippie to yuppie, I suppose. And I just can’t get into it. I think it’s both too close, and too far from my experience. I actually had to read this book on alternate nights with another one to get through it – it was annoying me that much. There’s some interesting food writing interspersed with the personal stories, but this was just too much personal story for me.

In a French Kitchen – Susan Herrmann Loomis

Librarything Early Reviewers book.

I very much enjoyed this book for the recipes, but not so much for the chapter content.      Each chapter is arranged around some aspect of French home cooking, with the author using various friends and neighbors as examples.     I think the best way I can characterize those chapters is a magazine piece stretched unnecessarily long – I found myself hurrying through the content to get to the recipes at the end of each chapter.

The recipes are why I’ll keep this book around – they’re simple, with fresh ingredients – some interesting twists on items I’ll be able to find at my farmer’s market soon enough.

A Moveable Feast – ed. Don George

This is a Lonely Planet book, so it’s all about food and travel.   There are a wide variety of writers: chefs, food critics, and regular people.      And there are a wide variety of stories, usually about a particularly memorable meal while traveling, but that could range from a simple meal shared with a family in a Himalayan hut after a hiker was trapped by a snowstorm, to a food critic managing to get a reservation at Ferran Adria’s El Bulli, not long before that restaurant closed for good.

I think my favorite story was “Peanut Butter Summer”.   It’s a story of the author’s first trip to Europe, with her first love, where she discovered that people can have very different ways of looking at life.    What she encapsulated was how I see travel – going with the flow and hoping you’ll serendipitously find new and exciting things.     And I even say that as someone that has to plan the ever loving bejesus out of a trip before I go.    But, I happened to realize, due to a separate conversation I was having, while in CA, while reading this book, that I do this planning as grounding.    I do still hope to find those little surprises that make travel special – I just try to put myself in the best possible position to catch them.

French Women for All Seasons – Mireille Guiliano

I read French Women Don’t Get Fat ages ago (definitely pre-blog), and I don’t remember having any strong feeling about it either way.     It was basically a treatise on French attitudes toward food, and trying to apply that to our American eating habits.    So, when I found a used copy of this book, the follow up, I figured, what the heck.

I feel like I have a greater appreciation for French culture than I did when I read the first book (having researched the hell out of Paris for this year’s trip), and I’m not sure if that’s why I found this book preachier than I remember the other one being.    I can’t even put my finger on exactly why – there’s just a general tone that I didn’t particularly enjoy, which is a shame, because I do think the theory behind the book is sound.

Candy Freak – Steve Almond

Candy Freak is a journey to find America’s small candy makers and some of their iconic candies.   Most of these are candies that you’ve probably only heard of if you live in a specific region, and they’re sadly disappearing.   I didn’t realized how bad the big three (Hershey’s, Mars and Nestle) are making it for the little guys.   I am aware of slotting fees in supermarkets (why you should make a point of not looking right in front of you if you want to find more uncommon things), but the candy industry seems to have taken things to a new level.

The author starts at home in Boston (home of the Necco company, which I have actually driven by), and travels across the country to find some obscure candies (including some he remembers as a child in California), and manages some self discovery along the way.    The book is an interesting slice of an industry that’s seen some big changes.

Paris, My Sweet – Amy Thomas

Read for LibraryThing EarlyReviewers.

Do not read this book on an empty stomach.

The author was given the chance of a lifetime when her advertising agency offered to send her to the Paris branch to work on the Louis Vuitton contract. She’d been pretty much obsessed with Paris since she spent a semester there in college, so jumped at the chance to go.

Now, contrary to the title, this book is actually a sweet-foodie’s love story of both Paris and New York. Hence the don’t read on an empty stomach warning – each chapter is centered on a particular food item, contrasting American and French cuisine. After a couple of chapters, I was ready to throw the book aside and hop a jet to either city just to get my hands on some of the food she described.

There’s a personal component to the book as well, with the author finding it difficult to fit in in Paris, and also finding that life in New York is moving on while she’s gone. I’ll admit that that struggle got a bit old by the end of the book, but I was so focused on the food, I was ready to overlook that.

I’m probably not going to be moving to Paris anytime soon, but I may be able to visit in a year, and I’ve definitely gained some most visit places to add to my list from this book.