This is the time of year in Vermont when the going gets tough, so the tough get reading.
Yes, cooking is wonderful with the heat and aromas from the stove warming the kitchen. But it is also warm and wonderful to curl up with a cup of steaming tea, a sugar cookie and a good book, especially if it centers around food. So “Fork on the Road” readers meet my other passion “The Book Jam“, a blog I write with fellow book lover and good friend Lisa Christie. The post that follows was published on The Book Jam on January 17, 2012 and reviews two of my favorite recent foodie novels. I just couldn’t resist “reserving” them to you here.
Reprinted from The Book Jam, January 17, 2012
Brrrr. Baby, it’s cold outside. No matter. These frigid temperatures make it all the better to cozy up with a book. In bed. Under a pile of blankets. Wearing very thick socks. Mittens, however, are no good, as they would get in the way of turning the pages.
So if these below zero temperatures make you hungry as you struggle to keep your body temperature at 98.6, then we have a couple of titles to fill you up. The best news of all is that they are both calorie free.
White Truffles in Winter by N. M. Kelby (2011). Luscious. If you could never read the words truffle, champagne, lavender honeyand fois gras enough, then add this novel to your list.
In this appetizing story, author Kelby imagines the last days of the famous French chef Auguste Escoffier (1846-1935). It’s clear that she’s thoroughly researched and included many details from his illustrious career (Escoffier was the designer of the Titanic’s menus, one of Sarah Bernhardt’s lovers, a business partner of the hotelier Cesar Ritz, the creator of the modern restaurant kitchen layout, and the designer of such immortal recipes as “Peach Melba” and “Cherries Jubilee”). But this talented writer pushes further and imagines that which “is left unsaid,” believing it to be the most interesting part of any life.
The first pages unfold with Escoffier’s ailing wife, Delphine, wishing for him to create a dish of her very own. Though they have been married for decades, he has never named one after her. They are both dying and it is in their family kitchen that a lifetime of love is explored, remembered, savored, and interpreted for the first time.
This is more than just a book for food lovers. It’s a sensuous, poetic story that brings details from this era of history to life so that readers can truly taste it.
The Hundred Foot Journey (2010) by Richard C. Morais. How did I miss this toothsome treasure when it was first published? Some reviewers have described it as Bollywood meets “Ratatouille.” That’s fitting as this fictional story chronicles the development of a talented chef from his boyhood in India through a brief adolescence in England to a full-fledged culinary career in France. But there is more to it than that.
The main character, Hassan, rises above cultural prejudices, crippling accidents, and jealous competitors to shine in his art despite a cut-throat working environment. Culinary enthusiasts will savor the descriptions of oysters (who knew they could be so tricky?!), French kitchens and country markets. Francophiles will love reading about the Alps and villages of the Jura. But the story really shines once Hassan reaches Paris, the pinnacle of all things epicurean. As a former senior editor at Forbes magazine, author Morais keeps the story moving while seamlessly explaining the fiscal realities, risks, and politics involved in running a multi-million dollar restaurant. This book is an education in flavor, talent, and another tantalizing take on the history of fine dining. Read it and eat!