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Posts Tagged ‘cookbooks’

Now more than ever, I enjoy cooking, especially in the colder months: hearty soups, crumbly scones, buttery scrambled eggs (with endless cups of tea). Last July, though, I moved into a studio apartment during an unusually hot Boston summer. After weeks of takeout, stovetop huevos rancheros and ready meals from Trader Joe’s, I needed some new kitchen inspiration.

Enter Cooking Solo, Klancy Miller’s brilliant, colorful cookbook about not only feeding yourself, but enjoying it. I’ve made her risotto, her lemon pancakes, her spicy coconut-sweet potato soup… the list goes on. But more than her recipes, I love Miller’s approach: she insists, as a longtime single person, that investing the time and effort to feed oneself well is worth it. As a recent divorcée, I need that reminder on the regular.

My success with Miller’s recipes inspired me to flip back through some perennial favorites, like Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life. I bake Wizenberg’s Scottish scones at least twice a month, but recently made her ratatouille for the first (and second, and third) time in years. Like Wizenberg, when I am dining alone on something that delicious, “I lick my knife until it sparkles, because there’s no one there to catch me.”

For a broader perspective on solo cooking, I turn to Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant, an eclectic essay collection edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler. Inspired by Laurie Colwin’s eponymous essay (which kicks off the anthology), these pieces, some with recipes, recount the delightful, the depressing and the quirkily indulgent aspects of setting a solo table. Many of the contributors recall solitary meals (or seasons) with deep fondness, even nostalgia. Cooking for one can feel like a depressing prospect, but these books help remind me that there’s a wealth of flavor, adventure and–yes–true sustenance to be found at a table for one.

I originally wrote most of this column for Shelf Awareness, where it ran at the end of March. I submitted it before the virus hit, but it’s more applicable in some ways now than ever.  

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I tend to go through phases in my reading (though I do read a variety of genres in any given month). My Agatha Christie kick is going strong, thanks in part to the read-along. And I cannot get enough of the Moffats and their antics. But there’s more:

The Thirteen Problems, Agatha Christie
I enjoyed this collection of short stories featuring Miss Marple and her friends – I was amazed again and again at Christie’s skill in rendering plot twists and key details. I’m not a very good amateur sleuth (I never could solve the Encyclopedia Brown mysteries as a kid) – so Miss Marple astonished me (and everyone else) every time.

Sisterhood Everlasting, Ann Brashares
I love the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books. LOVE them. So I was both excited and worried about this new chapter in the girls’ lives, right before they all turn 30. And it was more painful and tragic than I ever expected…but it wasn’t all heartbreak. Some wonderful moments of light and joy, too. Not my favorite of the series, but I enjoyed spending some more time with Bee, Carmen, Lena and Tibby (and all the people they love).

A Murder is Announced, Agatha Christie
Miss Marple does it again – playing the sweet-old-spinster shtick to the hilt, while calmly digging up everyone’s secrets right under their very noses. She even confounds the Scotland Yard folks, which makes me love her even more.

Cooking with My Sisters, Adriana Trigiani
A delicious memoir-cookbook, complete with family snapshots and interjections from each sister, as well as lots of yummy-looking recipes. I checked it out from the library, but I may end up buying it – the recipes are that good. (It doesn’t hurt that we love Italian food at our house.)

The Moffats, Eleanor Estes
It’s been ages since I read this book – a fun tale of four siblings in Cranbury, Connecticut in the 1940s. (Similar to the Melendy Quartet, but with a slightly different flavor.) Jane, the third Moffat, narrates most of the fun, and there’s something in every chapter to make me smile.

The Middle Moffat, Eleanor Estes
Jane decides to style herself as the mysterious middle Moffat – and oh, the fun she has being in the middle! Just as charming as The Moffats. Jane is funny, sweet and utterly original – I especially love her friendship with Mr. Buckle, the oldest inhabitant of Cranbury.

Raised Right: How I Untangled My Faith from Politics, Alisa Harris
I’m reviewing this for Shelf Awareness, so more to come – but I will say what I said on Twitter: this is a thoughtful, well-written and witty look at one girl’s journey from uber-conservative homeschooler to a moderate with lots of questions.

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School, Kathleen Flinn
Review in the Shelf to come – but I loved this tale of a Cordon Bleu grad and her class of nine volunteers, gaining confidence by practicing knife skills, making their own vinaigrette and learning how to roast a chicken. A down-to-earth foodie memoir, with delicious-looking recipes.

Poser: My Life in Twenty-three Yoga Poses, Claire Dederer
After reading Lindsey’s gorgeous review, I picked this book up at the library. It’s a hilarious, often sad, poignant exploration of yoga as it relates to life – growing up, becoming a mother, learning how to argue with your spouse, learning to deal with quirky relatives, and coming to terms with the sadness of an unstable childhood. Really well done. (As an ambivalent sometime yogi, I could relate to Dederer’s mixed feelings about the practice.)

Rufus M., Eleanor Estes
The third book about the Moffats – more and more fun, with a dose of wartime travails (chilblains, too little coal, not enough money). The Moffats’ hardships never dampen their spirits for long, though. And the last chapter is purely beautiful.

Viola in the Spotlight, Adriana Trigiani
I find Trigiani’s books compulsively readable, and this second installment in the Viola series was no exception. Viola, teenage filmmaker, has grown up a bit since her first adventure (Viola in Reel Life), and she’s back in Brooklyn, learning to juggle two part-time jobs, figuring out how to be there for her friends and navigating life with a guy BFF who may feel something more. Good stuff.

Don’t Sing at the Table: Life Lessons from My Grandmothers, Adriana Trigiani
Because I’ve read all of Trigiani’s novels and Cooking with My Sisters (see above), I knew the basic outlines of Trigiani’s family history. But oh, there were so many delicious details about Viola and Lucy, the grandmothers, and so many great lessons, from fashion tips to relationship advice to smart business sense. They were two powerhouse women, and their granddaughter writes about them with such love.

Time for the perennial question: What are you reading these days?

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