Gabrielle Hamilton is the chef/owner of a restaurant called Prune in New York City. Blood, Bones & Butter is the story about her lifetime involvement with food and becoming a chef. Having a French mother who loved to cook certainly set her off in the right direction to pursue a career in the food industry, and probably tweeked her desire to buy a run-down, decrepid, filthy restaurant, and eventually turn it into one of New York’s finest. Her early days, as a dishwasher, busser (there’s a word I’d never heard before), and server are a bit of a shocker – she certainly got into her share of mischief on the long road to recognition. Even her marriage makes you wonder about her sanity… but I won’t give that part away. I hate it when a review gives away too much of the story. Anyway, there are certain passages, even entire pages, where her descriptions of what it means to be a chef, or why she loves a certain restaurant are enough to make anyone want to head out and follow her path. She is an extremely good writer – she has an MFA in fiction writing and her work has appeared in Bon Appetit and Food & Wine to name a few places. The book is full of humour, she’s very funny and frank (a little to descriptive in one spot for my taste), but it’s totally engrossing. Even if you’re not a foodie like me you’ll find it thoroughly enjoyable.
Archive for Non-fiction
For a change of pace -I’m going to recommend a cookbook. And I don’t usually gravitate to anything by Martha Stewart, but she’s written a great book so who cares if it’s by Mrs. Perfect (is there anything this woman can’t do?!). Everyday Food: Great Food Fast has so many good recipes, they’re easy to make, use only real ingredients (no fake food like yolkless eggs) and they taste terrific. A few of my favourites – sauteed chicken in mustard cream sauce… curried zucchini soup… pureed butternut squash soup… shrimp, tomato and basil pasta… creamy broccoli soup… chicken curry… curried carrot soup (yes, I like to make soup)… beef bulgogi. And there are oodles of ways to do veggies that are really fast, practical and delicious. This book is a winner. It’s soft covered – something that I think all cookbooks should be (who needs to pay all that money for a hardcover when it’s only going to get stained and tattered… or at least it should if it’s well used). Another must for the avid cook. Check it out and bon appetit!
And now for something completely different. I never recommend any kind of “self-help” book, but if you’re like millions of others out there who suffer from any kind of back problem, and even if you don’t and just want to keep your back healthy, you might just like to take a peek at The Yoga Back Book by Stella Weller. She’s a registered nurse who has taught yoga and stress management to people of all ages. It’s a yoga book, but it’s not just about yoga poses. She discusses everything - essential back exercises, strong legs for strong backs, abdominal support, as well as breathing techniques, and even relaxing for a pain free back. It’s illustrated, well written, and not difficult to follow. She even shows alternative poses if you’ve got back issues already and find the traditional poses too difficult. Even if you never do a single sun salutation it’s worth reading for all the other stuff. Winter’s here, and I’m positive people have more problems with their back at this time of year than any other. Before you shovel – read this first.
I’m not the only one making lists… check out The Globe & Mail’s 100 best books for 2010. It’s a great place to start if you’re looking to buy someone a great book. They usually have a good book section in their weekend paper so I respect their choices and I’ve kept this section – from the PAPER edition I will add!! – to consult when looking for a good read. But you can definitely find it online.
Nora Ephron is who I call the “author of the month”. We all know she’s a fantastic screen writer, but she’s also an author who’s book I Feel Bad About My Neck is well worth reading. It’s not new. I read it a few years ago. It’s a small book and I completely devoured it on a train between Toronto and Ottawa. It’s thought provoking, funny as hell, and you will recommend it to everyone after you’re finished. Guaranteed. It becomes like a chain letter, on and on the recommendation goes. The reason I’m telling you to read it now is that she has a new book out called I Remember Nothing and this book is the reason that it’s everything Nora Ephron right now. It’s on my winter reading list and I only hope I can hold on long enough to enjoy it when the snow flies and the temp falls. It will require real effort on my part. But I think you should read I Feel Bad About My Neck first. She wrote this book when she was 62 I think, and time has passed and she’s now 69. Read them in chronological order to get a real feel for the woman and her take on aging. We need more women like her who are willing to tell it like it is. Cheers Nora!!
This is a really powerful book. My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor (published by Penguin Books) is an amazing story. Jill Taylor wakes one morning in 1996 and discovers that she’s having a stroke. She’s 37 years old and is a Harvard trained brain scientist. Within hours she couldn’t walk, talk, read, write or remember any of her life. This is her story. The amazing part is that she fully recovers (but it takes many painful years), and she says the stroke was a blessing and a revelation to her. Not many people would think this, but she tells how she discovered feelings of well-being that she never experienced before. There is a very interesting chapter called “Finding Your Deep Inner Peace”… it well worth studying. She underwent brain surgery, and had to relearn everything. I can’t begin to tell you the obstacles this woman faced… talk about courage and determination! This is also a great book to read if you know someone who has had a stroke. She lists 40 things she needed the most after she had the stroke that everyone should pay attention to, such as “come close, speak slowly, and enunciate clearly”. The book isn’t large (under 200 pages) and it certainly is well worth reading.
This book is amazing. C’mon Papa: Dispatches from a Dad in the Dark by Ryan Knighton (published by Random House) is a really fascinating read. Knighton discovered at age 18 that he suffered from a condition called retinitis pigmentosa. This meant that slowly, very slowly, he would go blind. This book is about him and his newborn daughter Tess. How he coped, or didn’t, and how he learned to bond with his daughter without being able to see her. In otherwords, how he learned to be a Dad. There was a huge amount of trial and error, and a huge dose of creativity too. Imagine trying to put a diaper on a baby when you don’t know what’s where and most importantly, what you’re going to find where! Imagine trying to stick a soother into a wailing baby’s mouth without sticking it in her eye. Try crossing the street with her in the baby carrier strapped to your chest with just your white cane. It’s a story full of humour, love, courage, exasperation, and frustration. The best line in the book for me was when Ryan went to a convention for stay-at-home Dads and some guy asked him if he had a picture of his daughter with him and he thought to himself that he barely had one in his mind, let alone in his wallet. He said “Sorry, blind guy thing. I forgot.” This book isn’t meant to be a pity-party. Knighton is a wonderful writer. His one-liners are fantastic (he teaches English at Capilano University). If you’re looking for something different to read this summer, this is a good choice.
Anyone interested in the whole local food movement or the 100 mile diet philosophy should add Sarah Elton’s new book Locavore From Farmers Fields to Rooftop Gardenshow Canadians Are Changing the Way We Eat (published by Harper Collins) to their reading list. It’s a really good read, full of interesting info about the food industry in Canada today. I was especially intrigued by the story of the giant Toronto Food Terminal and how management from Los Angeles, New York and Chicago’s food terminals (which are significantly larger than Toronto’s) come north to learn about Toronto’s operation. It produces a mere 10 million kilograms of waste a year (a mere!!) thanks to it’s fantastic recycling program. Amazing when you think of the size of the city and the amount of food the terminal sees on a daily basis. I loved the chapter on local cheese in Quebec (yum), and what’s happening with wheat in Saskatchewan and how farmers, growers, and even ordinary citizens all across the country are trying to create a more sustainable food system. If you’re a “Foodie” this is definitely a book you’ll want to read. And if you’re not, read it anyway… we really need to get moving and changing the whole food industry in Canada for the better and this is a “feel good” book about what’s happening all across the country.
Have you heard about this book? It’s not new… nearly three years on the New York Tmes Bestseller list…a New York Times Notable Book… winner of multiple awards…the “Number One Book Sense Reading Group Pick”. The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls (published by Scribner) is a definite winner. But somehow I’ve missed the buzz because up to a few weeks ago I’d never heard of it… something is wrong here folks!! I am losing my grip. Anyway, this book is a memoir that elevates the phrase “disfunctional family” to an entirely new level. It is so shocking and so full of extraordinary moments that I just couldn’t put it down. And I couldn’t stop laughing… something that might shock some of you because usually disfunctional relates to abuse and neglect and alcohol and, yes it’s all there, but somehow when Walls relates events, they are so unbelievable that you just have to laugh… like living in an old railway depot and not having any furniture but her mother deciding that they really need a piano, and how getting it into the house doesn’t exactly work as planned. Bizarre, strange, shocking, unbelievable, and sad are all words I’d use to describe this book. Guaranteed it will captivate you and you won’t be able to put it down. I discovered others found it just as funny as I did so be prepared to laugh inspite of all the hardship Walls and her siblings endured. And it’s fantastic material for any book club.
Walls’ second book, Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel, is now on the shelf at your local bookstore. It tells the story of her grandmother Lily who we meet in the first book. If it’s anything like her first book, it will be captivating. I haven’t read it yet, but certainly intend to.
I really like author Michael Pollan. His previous books, The Omnivores Dilemma and In Defence of Food, rank right up there on my list of must reads. His new book, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual (published by Penguin Books) is chock-a-block full of good advice that’s written in plain English and easy to digest (more than you can say about some processed foods eh). It’s a quirky little book, about the size of a small pocket book, just 140 pages in total, and there are lots of pages that just have a single paragraph on it with info like … “avoid food products that make health claims” and “if it came from a plant, eat it, if was made in a plant don’t”. Not a whole lot of words, but a whole lot to think about in relation to what we eat. Once again he doesn’t disappoint with his advice. Remember, he’s a journalist, not a nutritionist, but his recommendations are food for thought for everyone confused by all the info out there just now when trying to decide what to eat. This book is flying off the shelves out there right now in local bookstores. Pick up a copy, it’s not expensive.