Sunday, September 18, 2011
I love, love, loved Allegra Goodman's The Cookbook Collector. I picked the book because I thought with the title it was about food, but not so much. While a very rare old cookbook collection does feature in the book, it has a pretty broad range of topics - it's about family, about sisters, about the dot com bubble, about politics, about trees, about religion, about friendship, about business, about aging, about growing up, about finding oneself, about rare books, about Berkeley and about Cambridge, and in its best parts, it is about falling in love. The love story that is the center of the book (but as my list in the preceding sentence makes clear, there is a lot going on here with lots of characters though one central story line) finally gets off the ground as the result of a perfect juicy peach. Jess, one of the two sisters that are the main characters of the book, is a student at Berkley, studying philosophy. She also works at an rare book store, which is run by George, a wealthy middle aged man. George made his millions working for Microsoft, quit, moved to San Francisco and opened the book store. Where Jess is a free spirit, George is uptight and particular - he has the best things - an architecturally significant home, filled with art and rare treasures, he is obsessed with special wines and eats only exquisite food, skillfully prepared. Jess is scatterbrained, a vegan, and lives in a "Tree House" a group house run by a political group that fights against deforestation. Through the first half or so of the book it is clear these two have a connection, but it is a gorgeous peach, procured at the farmers market, that brings them together. This peach tart is a recipe from the classic place that represents the snooty, foodie Northern California scene - Chez Panisse, and it is made from peaches procured in the other main setting of the book Cambridge, Mass - where I live! More after the break.
Posted by Wendy at 7:39 PM
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann is the same style of book as The Imperfectionists and A Visit From the Goon Squad which seems to be so popular these days – the book is broken up into the stories of seeminingly unrelated characters that as the book goes on, the reader discovers are connected. The book takes place in 1974 in New York, and the unifying thread (pun intended!) is a man's miraculous tightrope walk between the World Trade Center Towers. A frenchman, Phillippe Petit, really did walk across the Twin Tours on a tightrope in 1974. The novel is told from the perspective of several disparate New Yorkers and what was going on in those individuals' lives the day of the tight rope walk and how it effected them. In addition, McCann weaves in a few chapters told from the perspective of the tight rope walker himself, but doesn't identify him as Petit. Despite a really interesting concept, I did not enjoy this book and much of it felt like a bit of a chore to get through. Parts of it were moving and it is certainly well written, but there is a dour pall over the book that made it difficult for me to get through - the mood is so dark. This is not surprising giving the time and place the book is set in - New York during the bad old days of the 70's when crime was high, the economy was bad, and it was the end of the Vietnam War. New Yorkers were disillusioned and struggling - and this is depicted in the characters McCann creates. I wanted to go with a quintessential NYC food for the book, and was not up for making hot dogs from scratch! Maybe someday! While the book was a bit of a struggle to get through, making these pretzels was a breeze...