Rebecca's Cooking Journal

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Posts Tagged ‘Molly Wizenberg’

Recent Food Books

spice of life smallI recently finished two food books for the Spice of Life Challenge, the reading challenge I’m hosting. I posted them on my book reviews site, but I neglected to cross-post them here as I had intended to do. I’ve included relevant excerpts from those reviews below.

The first book was Molly Wizenberg’s memoir, A Homemade Life. I loved this book! As I mentioned in my previous post on this site, Molly’s life has been defined by food, and I envy that. As she explains each chapter of her life for us, she provides recipes so we can experience the integral food too, if we choose. It’s so much fun to see a life through the eyes of delicious foods. Molly shows that food is a communal part of our lives, helping to form lasting memories and lasting relationships. Food really can tell the stories of our lives, as Molly’s memoir/cookbook attests.

But A Homemade Life is not just about the food. Molly’s memoir is excellently written, easily readable, and absolutely delightful. I know “delightful” is a cliché, but this book seriously fits the word without being cliché. It is real, and yet amusing and engaging all at the same time. In fact, the only thing missing from this book are the gorgeous photographs Molly normally includes along with her blog posts on Orangette.

Many of the recipes Molly shares are a bit too “fancy” for my tastes. I’m primarily a family cook, and I don’t cook with specialty foods simply for cost reasons. “French style” cooking is not really my thing. But I do like simple food, and some of the recipes appear simple; at least a dozen and a half have entered my personal recipe file for future experimentation.

Molly’s story comes full circle, with the one center point in every part of her life being food.  In the end, I love the concept that foods, and not only the events, make up a life. In the end, I can say I liked reading Molly’s story so much I intend to reread it someday. And maybe cook some of her recipes. (Read the full review on Rebecca Reads.)

The second book I read was a cook book novel, Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel. The traditional Mexican recipes are provided in a novel format as it tells the story of Tita, Tita’s overbearing mother, and Tita’s lover, Pedro, who marries her sister. And yet, it’s not a cook book, and I don’t think it’s not an ordinary novel.

To learn the basic plot and some thoughts about magical realism, read the full review on Rebecca Reads. I will say here that I loved reading this book. It was part novel. It was part romance. It was part magic. It was part cook book (although I’d never attempt to create the meals, given the long-winded, unclear instructions that start with plucking feathers and so forth). Like Water for Chocolate emphasized the need to have a passion, a love, and a purpose in life, and Esquivel defined those aspects of life by the recipes and the sensual exaggerations common in magical realism. Certainly, Like Water for Chocolate had it faults in that it is short and all people in it were caricatures. And yet, I didn’t care. It was a fun book.

I’m giving away my lightly used paperback copy on that site if you want to give a read.

I also recently read a children’s cook book. My son is only 22-months old, but he loves to cook so I look forward to attempting some of the recipes in it. And then I’m also reading a book about knife care, something I desperately need to learn about.

Cream of Cucumber Soup

Molly Wizenberg mentioned in her memoir, A Homemade Life, that she likes to make a pot of soup every week so she has something light for lunch. I decided I’m going to try some new soup every week or two as well. I love a light meal, and soups are just the thing.

So then I had to determine  what kind of soup is appropriate for summer. A friend mentioned that Cucumber soup is what she thinks of. I’d never had it, so I thought I’d have to give it a try.

Oh my. This soup was so good. I don’t normally like uncooked cucumbers, but this was so delicious, especially the second day when it was chilled. It didn’t make very much — or maybe we just ate it too fast! — so I’ll double it next time. Also, I only sliced one-half of a cucumber for garnish and it was sufficient. (The recipe suggests an entire cucumber.)

It is a very thin soup, but I liked that. It was just right for a hot summer evening. We also ate a white pizza and together the meal hit the spot!

I adapted a recipe that I found online. That site claimed it was Julia Child’s but I can’t vouch for that. I simplified it a bit for my own sake.  (more…)

Eating Through Life

I’ve been reading A Homemade Life, a memoir/cookbook by Molly of Orangette. It’s quite delightful reading, simply because it shows how good food has always has been an integral part of her life. Her life is and always has been one of food, cooking, and eating.

I feel jealous.

My life hasn’t revolved around food memories. In fact, I didn’t know until I was 25, for example, that cooked pork chops are not supposed to light gray and tough (apparently, pork chop are not usually steamed). My favorite childhood foods were cinnamon toast and Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and I got through four years of college by eating sugar cookies and cold cereal. Dinner had always just been a necessary thing every night (that is, a way to fill my belly), but food itself had never been a central part of my life and memories.

For many years, rather than begin a fruitless search for something appetizing, I decided I’d rather not eat. Eating was a bother. I skipped dinner most of the time when I was in college.

Reading Molly’s memoir helps me to realize that I want my son’s life to be different than mine. I want him to experience food as a pleasure, not just a necessity. I want him to recall seasons of his life through the foods we eat. I want him to recall dinner with fondness, and not just dessert.

Food, especially dinner, is communal. I want the dinners we enjoy together as a family to be a means to forming life memories and lasting relationships.  Food really can tell the stories of our lives, as Molly’s memoir attests.

And that is why I strive to learn to cook better.

Why do you learn to cook?

Blog Post BINGO “personal” post. Details here.