A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg
This book, from the author of food blog Orangette, is a delightful combination of memoir and recipe book, and I loved every page. It ranks with Gabrielle Hamilton’s excellent Blood, Bones and Butter for its ability to communicate the deep-seated pleasure of preparing and eating good food. And like all great food writing, it makes you desperately want to eat whatever dish is being described. Even the odd ones. I went out and bought grapes so that I could pickle them because Wizenberg told me that such a thing could be done. I have bought her next book, Delancey, and am really looking forward to diving in.
Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails by David Kaplan, Nick Fauchald and Alex Day
This makes an excellent primer for would-be cocktail makers as well as an excellent resource for those already well-versed in the tricks of mixing drinks. My cocktail-making enthusiasm continues unabated this summer, and this has been an invaluable resource. Did you know that the proper way to shake the ice and liquid in a cocktail shaker is in a circle? The idea is to get the ice to travel around the perimeter of the cocktail shaker, not from end to end. This is because shaking end to end will break the ice into pieces and introduce shards of ice into your cocktail, an undesirable thing. Full of recipes and reasoning for why bartenders do what they do, this book is equally full of resources and temptation.
Top of my summer list of indulgence was to read. And read I did. In this month’s round up of books, I will share with you just a few of the books that made it to the beach with me. These books were easy to get into, but hard to put down.
I have a weakness for immigrant stories. Throw in the tenements, an ocean crossing, and the Statue of Liberty and I am pretty much hooked. The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline particularly resonated because my great-grandmother did immigrate to this country as an orphan and like Kline’s heroine Vivian she spent many years moving from family to family, some less than loving. It’s a story about resilience, strength and human compassion. It’s also a story that needs to be told, as these orphan trains helped to shape our country and establish future generations.
Similar themes are explored in Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok about Kimberly, a young Chinese girl who immigrates to Brooklyn with her mother following the death of her father. When they arrive they find themselves working in a sweatshop, and living in extreme poverty at the hands of the mother’s sister who has sponsored them to come to America. Blinded by her jealousy Auntie does everything in power to keep the pair under her control while Kimberly vows to do all that she can to restore her and her mother’s life to what they once knew. It’s important to note that Kwok’s book does not take place in the era of shirtwaists and petticoats. The novel is set in the 1980s and was intentional on Kwok’s behalf to raise consciousness that sweatshops do exists in North America and they are not a part of a long ago history but part of present day.
Years ago I had read The Paris Wife by Paula McLain and I was swept away by the world of Hemmingway and Hadley so when I saw that she had a new novel, Circling The Sun about famed aviator Beryl Markham and the Happy Valley set, I knew I had to pick it up. A good historical fiction author makes me want to research more about the era, learn more about the people, read more about the places – and that’s just what happened. I knew nothing about the Happy Valley set, and I am embarrassed to admit nothing of Beryl Markham before reading the book. Born in England to wealthy parents, but raised in Kenya by her father (her mother fled after only a few years in the Colony) she befriended the local tribe, became fluent in Swahili, was attacked by lion, married at 16, divorced a few years later, involved in a series of passionate love affairs, became the first licensed horse trainer, and was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. To say that the story of her life is anything short of enthralling is an understatement and McLain does it the justice it deserves when telling it. Her descriptions of Kenya are so vibrant I can almost feel the grit on my skin and taste the champagne she writes of being served at the Muthaiga Club.
My favourite read of the summer so far has been The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. It’s different from anything that I have read (which makes it so compelling) and the characters stayed with me long after I turned the final page. Two stories run simultaneously: there is Leo, the old man and Holocaust survivor who is neurotically awaiting his death and there is Alma, who is navigating adolescence while grieving the loss of her father. Together they are tied together by a sixty-year love story that is hauntingly beautiful.
The good news is there are still many weeks left to enjoy summer reading!