Comfort Food for Book Groups, Pt. 2
Posted by: Neil Hollands
In this post I’ll continue to highlight the food-related books and culinary treats that came to the meeting of the Williamsburg Regional Library staff group. Pt. 1 of this post came out earlier this week.
Barbara from our Outreach Division read Jacques Pepin’s memoir The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen. Pepin’s path to fame was truly unusual, after a long apprenticeship in traditional French kitchens prior to WWII, he served as personal chef to Charles DeGaulle, then spent time in America, where he turned down the job of chef in the Kennedy White House in favor of less glamorous work for Howard Johnson’s. Most of us know him from his next job, working with Julia Child as a pioneer of culinary television. It’s a fascinating life full of resonant cultural connections.
Ann-Marie chose Andrea Penrose’s Lady Arianna series which has a bit of everything: a regency era setting, romance between the Earl of Saybrook and Lady Arianna, puzzling mysteries, and a historical recipe in every chapter. The first book is Sweet Revenge, but as a chocolate fanatic, Ann-Marie jumped in at book two, The Cocoa Conspiracy. She found the mystery average, but recipes for treats like Whiskey Cake or Olive Oil Brownies all cooked up deliciously. We sampled the Chocolate Spice Cookies, with zesty doses of the savory spices that were typically added to chocolate in its early use and a sea salt top that really made the taste pop.
My pick for the meeting was Gabrielle Hamilton’s earthy memoir Blood, Bones, and Butter: the Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef. For a full write-up, see my earlier post here.
Susan from Youth Services finished the meeting with Comfort Food by The Friday Night Knitting Club author Kate Jacobs, who emphasizes family, friends, and the activities that bring them together. As Augusta “Gus” Simpson heads into her 50th birthday, she’s tired of being the one who plans parties for everyone else. She’s the host of a cooking show in ratings decline. Her network decides to fight the slump with an unusual on-air cooking class. Aided by a handsome sous chef but surrounded by her difficult family and friends as well as a rival who wants to steal her job, Gus discovers that the solution for bad ratings might also solve her personal problems. The story is a bit formulaic, but readers know that going in and get the easy-reading, heartwarming book promised by the title.
When all was said and done, this theme and format were a delight that allowed a big range of books and readers to share a table and a lively discussion. We talked with our mouths full, and we liked it.