Monday, February 20, 2017

Food writing

One of the funnest current trends in books is food writing. Whether it’s a cookbook, foodie memoir, novel with recipes, or an examination of how a particular food has fared throughout history, these books will make you hungry and ready to explore new recipes, food ways, and markets.

The library has recently added The Feast Nearby by Robin Mather. Mather’s subtitle outlines her book: How I lost my job, buried a marriage, and found my way by keeping chickens, foraging, preserving, bartering, and eating locally (all on $40.00 a week). Within one week, Mather’s husband left and she lost her job as a food writer at The Chicago Tribune. Mather moved to their small lakeside cabin in the woods of southwest Michigan with her dog and parrot. She immediately endears herself to readers as she embraced her new life and met local farmers, gardeners, farm market vendors, and the neighbors. The book is a year-long seasonal collection of essays journaling her first year alone (with pets) and her thoughts about food production. I’ve read only as far as early spring beets but want to make almost everything she has written about so far. Her recipes appear pretty simple and make me believe I could follow them successfully.

Molly Wizenberg, creator of the blog Orangette, has written two books, A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from my Kitchen Table, and Delancey: A Memoir. The first is a coming-of-age story with delectable essays that recount Wizenberg’s family’s love of food, the grief of losing her father, and her long-distance romance with Brandon, a New Yorker who started out as a fan of Orangette. Each essay reflects on special times in Wizenberg’s life and the food that marks those times. Her tone is charming and comforting and her recipes are within the abilities of the everyday cook. The last recipe in the book is for the five-ingredient chocolate cake that Wizenberg baked for their wedding.

Delancey details the beginning of Wizenberg and Brandon’s married life after Brandon moves to Seattle. Brandon, a composer and graduate student in music, suddenly decides that what he really wants to do with his life is open a pizza restaurant. The book follows Brandon, who with Wizenberg’s supportive yet reluctant help, makes pizza until he finds the perfect recipe; searches for, finances, purchases, remodels, and furnishes an empty building; hires and manages staff; and builds a successful neighborhood business. Wizenberg includes photographs of their hard work. She discusses how her assumptions of marriage change as the couple builds a restaurant and a marriage. Like A Homemade Life, Delancey is written with humor and humility. It includes recipes for the food the couple cooked during this busy time in their lives. No pizza recipe though!

Devonshire Scream is the 17th entry in Laura Child’s cozy Tea Shop Mysteries. Our sleuth, Theodosia Browning, owns the Indigo Tea Shop in Charleston, S.C. She is catering an elegant gem show at Heart's Desire Fine Jewelry, a business owned by her friend Brooke, when a truck smashes through the store’s front window. Thieves rob millions of dollars worth of gems. When the shattered glass finally settles, the body of Brooke’s young niece is discovered, killed by a shard of flying glass. Theodosia devises a plan to lure the killers back. Readers of this series enjoy the characters, setting, clever plotting, recipes, and tea information.

Have you ever wondered about the history of a staple ingredient that most of us take for granted? Former pastry chef, test kitchen editor, and food writer Elaine Khosrova wrote about cheese. Also, she lives in the Hudson Valley between two dairy farms. The combination of cows and cheese developed her interest in butter. Her new book, Butter: A Rich History, studies the complex history of how butter is used around the world. Khosrova covers the science behind butter and the traditions of butter making in countries such as India, Tibet, France, Canada and the U.S. She covers ancient and modern practices of creaming and churning; butter’s use in religion, medicine, and cooking; and its role in economics and politics. Readers will find information about the ancient butter bogs of Ireland as well as recipes for classics that depend on butter such as croissants, sauces, and buttercream frosting. Yummy.

Lucie B. Amundsen is another writer whose husband surprised her when he announced his dream for a new life. Jason (the husband) had a job with benefits. They were raising five eggless hens in their backyard. In Locally Laid: How we Built a Plucky, Industry-Changing Egg Farm—from Scratch, Amundsen writes with humor and honesty about the birth of their commercial, pasture-raised egg farm, the Locally Laid Egg Company in Wrenshall, MN. To start, the couple purchased two-thousand chickens each of whom they named LoLa (short for Locally Laid). The company has grown and now partners with other midsized producers to provide fresh eggs in three Midwestern states. Amundsen shows how sourcing and selling eggs regionally strengthens the local economy, and how this type of farming is healthier and more sustainable than most current agricultural practices. Enjoy these titles and all the other delicious books you’ll find at your local library. If you can’t find eggsactly what you’re looking for, ask for help at the service desks!

--Cathy Seblonka, Collection Development Librarian

Monday, February 13, 2017

Teen love

Romance has traditionally been the most optimistic genre of literature because of its mandatory happy endings. These five complex teen romances don’t necessarily end in “happily ever after,” but each one offers readers a satisfying dose of hope. So go ahead - find a romance on the teen shelves, check it out for Valentine’s Day, and fall in love with a good book.

Libby Strout stayed on my mind and in my heart long after I’d finished Jennifer Niven’s Holding up the Universe. Formerly called “America’s Fattest Teen” after being hoisted out of her house by a crane, with the cameras rolling, Libby has lost 300 of her 643 pounds and is heading to high school with a lilt in her step. She’s feeling strong and ready to embrace life with all its possibilities. Enter Jack, a good-looking, popular boy with a secret he’s desperately hiding. After a cruel prank lands them in group counseling together, Libby and Jack work through their anger and uncover a lovely surprise. This story of a plus-size teen is infused with great respect for its indomitable heroine.

When We Collided, by Emery Lord, tells the beautiful, gut-wrenching story of two damaged teens and the summer romance that saves them. Jonah has lived in the idyllic town of Verona Cove his entire life, and nothing ever changed until his dad died. Now he’s consumed with hiding his mother’s debilitating depression and caring for his siblings. Vivi has just arrived in town but is already in love with everything about Verona Cove. When these two collide, their story will make your heart swell.

If I Was Your Girl, by Meredith Russo, is a powerful, bighearted book that should open more than a few minds and hearts. Amanda is the new girl in town, having arrived with a black eye and a very big secret that prevents her from getting close to anyone at her new high school. But she’s also a normal teenage girl who longs for friendship and even romance. Amanda’s aloof resolve collapses under the attention of a kind and attractive boy, and she gives in to her yearning for love. Does she have to tell him – should she tell him – that she used to be Andrew? The author is a transwoman herself, writing with a level of honesty and compassion that makes a very complex subject relatable. Her author’s notes at the end are a revelation.

Nicola Yoon, author of Everything, Everything, is clearly in love with language – and so is the book’s heroine, Madeleine. Her narrative voice is an intellectual delight. Madeleine is a “bubble girl” allergic to pretty much everything in the world. She has spent most of her life shut inside her germ-free house, all alone but for the company of her mother and nurse. When a new boy moves in next door and she begins to fall in love with him, Madeleine realizes she has some frightening choices to make. Could love be worth risking everything?

Be prepared to cheer for Simon Spier in Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. Readers will wish to be Simon’s friend, but he already has two great BFF’s, a wonderful family he adores, and a budding email romance with a mystery boy who calls himself Blue. When a vindictive classmate outs him via the school Tumblr, Simon is forced to step outside his comfort zone before he’s ready. At the same time, all he really wants to do is discover the identity of his mystery man. The sweetly unfolding relationship between Simon and Blue will make you swoon.

--Mary Schneeberger, Teen Services Coordinator