Tag Archives: books about food

Four Tasty Treats for a Variety of Appetites: Bon Appétempt, An Appetite for Violets, El Bulli, and Antique Bakery

17 Jun

Whether you crave fiction or memoir, something to read or watch, the library has a variety of enjoyable delights to checkout.

Bon Appétempt: A Coming of Age Story, by Amelia Morris

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Fans of Amelia Morris’s blog and budding home cooks and writers will enjoy her memoir Bon Appétempt.  Morris is an aspiring writer, who spent her teen years and early twenties dieting and seeing food as not a comfort, but as calories to count; this makes her seem unlikely to have a popular food blog.   However, she is inspired one day to throw a dinner party for friends and after a beautifully impeccable layer cake featured in Bon Appetit she recreates fails to live up to its promised perfection and must be served in a bowl, she is inspired to create a blog that juxtaposes the food styled version of recipes from magazines and cookbooks with her own more humble attempts.  She dubbed her blog with the pun Bon Appétempt.  Her memoir by the same name, however, starts well before the blog’s creation in her childhood detailing her experience growing up with divorced parents and eventually falling in love with her best friend from high school.  Morris’s life often seems to be similar to the food in her blog, not quite reaching the perfection she had hoped for.  Yet as my French grandmother would often say about a lopsided cake or fallen soufflé, “You can’t eat the looks” and sometimes the moments that are not as expected are the sweetest and most nourishing in the long run.  Morris learns to embrace her life, imperfections and all and along the way finds joy and success in food writing.  Bon Appétempt includes recipes, many of them reinterpretations of not just dishes from cookbooks, but also from family and friends on which Morris puts her own distinctive twist.

 

An Appetite for Violets, by Martine Bailey

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For fans of Downton Abbey, there is Martine Bailey’s An Appetite for Violets to sample.  I was intrigued by the title since I’m a fan of the flavor of violets (violet ice cream is delicious), but it is something unusual to find now a days, especially in the US.  In Bailey’s novel, violets become symbolic of more than a taste, but also a desire for a life that leads to the downfall of some of the characters.  An Appetite for Violets has elements of mystery and romance.  It focuses mainly on a servant at Mawton Hall, Biddy Leigh, who though she was about to get engaged, instead is swept along on her new mistress Carrina’s journey to Italy.  A few chapters also focus on another servant Loveday, who is seen in flashbacks of his time in his village before he became a slave.  I felt this at times distracted a bit from the main story, but his friendship with Biddy was a sweet spot in a novel that contains a great deal of scheming and social maneuvering.  We learn in the very first chapter that Carrina has died under mysterious circumstances, which adds a level of suspense in the chapters that unfold after that flash back to a year before.  Most chapters begin with historic recipes that though less detailed than our modern ones are charming in their language such as a recipe for Taffety Tart where we are told that it should be filled, “with pippins and quinces and sweet spice and lemon peel as much as delights.”  An Appetite for Violets should surely delight readers of historical fiction.

El Bulli: Cooking in Progress

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If you are curious about molecular gastronomy, the documentary El Bulli will be riveting.  I was fascinated by this Spanish documentary of famed molecular gastronomy chef Ferrarn Adria as he works with his team for the six months before the yearly opening of his world renowned restaurant.  The process moves from the chefs’ ideas and playing with different techniques effects on a variety of ingredients to the final scenes of that year’s finished menu.  The year the documentary was produced they were working on a water theme and one dish actually uses small chunks of ice to add texture and a unique sensory experience to a dish.  So many cooking shows involve challengers tasked with throwing together ingredients on a time limit so it felt like a unique perspective seeing how actual restaurant dishes evolve over time under the masterful taste buds of expert chefs.  Adria has since closed El Bulli, but the documentary remains to be savored.  Hoboken Public Library Resident Card holders and other resident BCCLS library Card holders can access the documentary online from Hoopla or on DVDFerran: The Inside Story of El Bulli and the Man Who Reinvented Food by Colman Andrews is also available for those looking for more insight into the legendary chef and restaurant.

Antique Bakery

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Those looking for a comic animated series will enjoy a visit with Antique Bakery.  When I saw that the anime (Japanese animation) for Antique Bakery was available on Hoopla (as well as on DVD), I was curious to check it out since the Hoboken Library also has some of the volumes of the Manga (Japanese graphic novels) that the series is based on in our collection.  Like many animes, Antique Bakery is intended for an adult audience.  The series centers on Keiichiro Tachibana who is compelled by a childhood trauma to open a Western style bakery, even though he doesn’t like to eat sweets.  He hires a motley crew to work at the bakery including a former boxer with a sweet tooth.  Pastry chef Yusuke Ono can attract any man he wants, except Tachibana who is immune to Ono’s charms.   The animation is unique with both two dimensional and three dimensional animation used.  I especially liked the clever intro with the drawings of the characters surrounded by what looks like a real model of the bakery.  Despite only being drawings, you’ll wish that you could taste the fanciful European style pastries the bakers create.  I found this series to be delightful fun, though it does at times touch on some serious issues such as domestic violence. At only 12 episodes it is not an overly large commitment for binge watching (and less calories than snacking on actual sweets).

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

Love and Chocolate: Like Water for Chocolate, The Chocolate Kiss, and Chocolat

19 Sep

When I think of chocolate I associate it with so many special moments as a child: bunnies for Easter, trick-or-treating for candy bars, and chocolate birthday cakes, but the thing I think of most as an adult is chocolate as the food of love.  One of my favorite memories of falling in love with my husband is making and sharing hot chocolate made from Nutella one snowy evening.  Chocolate appears in many of the books I’ve enjoyed from mysteries like Diane Mott Davidson’s Dying for Chocolate to science fiction with Kage Baker’s chocolate loving cyborgs in her Company series to the absurd humor of Robert Rankin’s the Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse.  But in books focusing on romance it often is a driving force in the novel.  Three examples of this are in the magical realism of Laura Florand’s The Chocolate Kiss, Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate, and Joanne Harris’s Chocolat.

Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel

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I fell in love with Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate when I read it for a women’s literature course in college.  The title comes from the fact that water to make chocolate must be almost at the boiling point, which reflects a passionate nature.  The novel chronicles the life of Tita, who as the youngest daughter in her family is not allowed to marry her true love Pedro, but instead must care for her mother until she dies.  Pedro instead marries one of Tita’s older sisters in order to remain close to Tita.  Tita channels all her emotions into her cooking and as a result people who eat her food feel her intense emotions from passion to sadness.  I remember being charmed by the 1994 movie when I watched it after reading Like Water for Chocolate for the first time, but have found it a little over the top in its execution when I watched it more recently when I led the library’s book discussion of Like Water for Chocolate during Hispanic Heritage month.  Although I might not believe in the fairy tale ideal of “true love” quite as much as when I was in my early twenties there is still a lot of magic in Esquivel’s writing and her description of food.  Although chocolate is in the title there are a number of other foods from wedding cake to quail with a rose petals sauce featured and several recipes are given.

If you are interested in trying food inspired by Like Water for Chocolate or other great books, then you will definitely want to consider going to Novel Night, a delicious fundraiser run by the Friends of the Hoboken Library on October 18.  You can get tickets and learn more at their website. 

The Chocolate Kiss, by Laura Florand

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I found The Chocolate Kiss a sweet read.  For those who may have sampled the nonfiction Parisian treats I had mentioned in a previous blog post, Florand’s The Chocolate Kiss provides a fictional spin on love and delicious delicacies in Paris.  Magalie Chaudron works at her Aunt’s La Maison des Sorcieres, small tea shop in Paris’s charming Ile Saint-Louis (Florand claims she was inspired by an actual chocolate shop she had visited there). Magalie’s Aunt’s tea contains magical properties, but Magalie imparts her wishes in her delicious hot chocolate (a recipe is included at the end of the novel).  When a new branch of Paris’s top pastry shop opens down the block, Magalie is ready for a fight to keep her Aunt’s shop in business, but is surprised to find herself drawn to the charismatic young pastry chef, Philippe Lyonnais who attempts to seduce her with a variety of macarons (these sound so delicious I wanted to run over to one of the French bakeries in town to buy a few of the trendy French cookies).  Although the romance elements are nicely written by Florand, I found myself even more drawn to the story line of Magalie’s overcoming her feeling of rootlessness that came from moving with her parents frequently between America (the homeland of her father) and Provence (where her mother grew up).  The story not only has Magalie finding love, but also herself.  Those who enjoy Chicklit or New Adult genre works will find this a quick and enjoyable read.  Several of Florand’s other novels, including the similarly chocolate infused romances The Chocolate Heart and The Chocolate Touch, are also available from BCCLS libraries.

Chocolat, by Joanne Harris

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When I read The Chocolate Kiss, it reminded me a lot of Joanne Harris’s novel Chocolat which also centers on a magically endowed chocolate maker, Vianne Rocher.  However, Chocolat is set in a small rural village in France rather than cosmopolitan Paris and there is a wider focus on the lives of the supporting characters such as the timid Josephine, who are affected by the magical chocolates of Vianne.  I loved the way that Vianne was able to pick out each character’s favorites and that their choices would be reflective of their innermost self.  In some ways this is the reverse of Like Water for Chocolate, instead of causing people to feel Tita’s emotions, Vianne’s chocolates encourage the villagers to confront their own hidden desires.  Harris followed up Chocolat with two sequels The Girl with No Shadow and Peaches for Father Francis, which did not quite capture the magic of the original for me, but are interesting reads for those wondering what the next chapters for the characters are.  I first encountered the movie that was based on the book staring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp and it is one the few cases where I am equally charmed by the theatrical interpretation as the original print work.  Out of the three novels, this would be my favorite, but all are worth sampling.

You’ll be tempted to have a cup of hot chocolate while you enjoy these books.  If you want to try my own recipe for romance and have hot chocolate made with Nutella for a hazelnut infused chocolate treat, you can try Martha Stewart’s version, which makes a perfect two person portion for those who want to share with their love.

Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

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