Posts Tagged ‘Food’

Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2014: Melissa O’s Picks

December 26, 2014

I read a wide variety of books of all different genres. Ask me for a suggestion and I most likely have read something that would appeal to you. Here are five books I stumbled upon this year. Some have been out there a long time, others are more recent arrivals, but they are all worth checking out and passing along for more to enjoy!

The Devil's BonesThe Devil’s Bones by Jefferson Bass
Bill Brockton is a forensic anthropologist who founded the Body Farm at the University of Tennessee. There he and his team study of the science of decomposition. He also finds himself drawn into the danger and drama of the murders they are trying to solve. It starts out simply enough, a woman’s charred body in a burned out car. How did she die? Then he receives a package of strange cremated remains. Suddenly he is fighting for his life and trying to solve a crime so hideous you won’t want to believe it. Another reason to love this book is that the author, Jefferson Bass, is actually a pseudonym for Bill Bass, the real-life famous forensic anthropologist and founder of the Body Farm, and cowriter Jon Jefferson. How cool is that!

Pioneer WomanPioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels – a love story by Ree Drummond
I had never read her blog, watched her cooking show, or picked up one of her cookbooks when I stumbled on this autobiography by Ree Drummond. As someone who spent some time feeling lost and unsure about the future, I could relate to her feelings as she struggled with where her next steps should take her. She never thought that future would mean staying in rural Oklahoma. And she certainly didn’t think it would involve a cowboy! I became lost in the words, flowery and syrupy as they sometimes are, as she “accidently” found herself on a cattle ranch and having adventures she never could have pictured in her future. A great read about taking a chance on love and setting out on the path less traveled.

Dangerous PassageDangerous Passage by Lisa Harris
This is a new inspirational series introducing widowed police detective Avery North and medical examiner Jackson Bryant. Harris nicely intertwines a love story into a thrilling murder mystery. Young Asian women are being murdered and the only link between them seems to be a small tattoo of a magnolia blossom. The investigation seems to simply uncover more mysteries and cover ups. Can they solve the case before more women go missing, and will Avery be ready to open her heart to love again?

 

Stand Up That MountainStand Up That Mountain by Jay Erskine Leutze
If you love the outdoors, this book is for you. If you love gut wrenching legal battles, this book is for you. If you love to root for the little guy, well you get the picture. Jay has escaped his life as an attorney and retreated to the North Carolina Mountains. Living quietly as a naturalist and fisherman, he loves the Appalachian Trail. He learns from a family of “mountain people” that a mining company plans to dynamite Belview Mountain, which sits right beside the Trail. They have evidence of their less than ethical behavior and the fight is on. As an avid mountain hiker and lover of nature, this book captured me, especially since it is in our own backyard! It is hard to believe that we almost lost one of the great treasures of our state. Jay Erskine Leutze recounts his story of the ground breaking legal fight to save this tiny Appalachian community in a book that is as engaging as any fiction tale.

SubmergedSubmerged by Dani Pettrey
The old saying “you can never go home again” seemed to hold true for Bailey Craig. Yet home is exactly where she found herself, for better or worse. She left Yancey, Alaska in disgrace, now can she find forgiveness? Bailey returned to bury her beloved aunt her died in a plane crash. Was it an accident or was it murder? Cole McKenna has put his past with Bailey behind him, until she shows up in town again. Soon she is fighting for her own life. Can Cole accept that Bailey has changed and help her solve the murder before she becomes another victim? Dani Pettrey is a new author and anyone who loves Dee Henderson’s novels should check her out. This new inspirational suspense series is fantastic and I can’t wait to continue the journey with her characters.

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Best New Books of 2014: Janet L’s Picks

December 8, 2014

Winter is coming, with its cold days and long nights.  In other words, perfect reading weather.  It’s also the traditional time to look back and choose favorite reads of the past year.  If you are a fan of humor, mystery, travel, or food (not to mention good writing) I can highly recommend the following five books:

A Man Called OveA Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Neighborhood curmudgeon Ove is not amused when a lively young family moves in next door.  Imagine everyone’s surprise, especially Ove’s, when instead of the expected disaster, something wonderful results.  Fredrik Backman’s debut is an amazing mixture of comedy, pathos and social commentary.  Will appeal to almost everyone, especially fans of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce and The No. 1 Ladies Detective series by Alexander McCall Smith.

The Bone OrchardThe Bone Orchard by Paul Doiron
Life would be much easier for Mike Bowditch if he could just keep his mouth shut, but then reading about him wouldn’t be so much fun.  No longer a game warden for the state of Maine, Mike finds himself drawn into a case when good friend and former mentor, Kathy Frost, is gunned down and critically injured.  One of my favorite mystery series; if you haven’t had the pleasure, begin with The Poacher’s Son.  Especially recommended for readers of the Alex McKnight series by Steve Hamilton, the Conway Sax series by Steve Ulfelder and the Anna Pigeon series by Nevada Barr.

Smoke Gets in Your EyesSmoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty
Caitlin Doughty, founder of The Order of the Good Death, is a Los Angeles mortician.  She wrote this book to give people a behind the scenes look at funeral home. Death is a somber and scary subject, but Doughty handles it with humor and compassion. If she hoped this book would demystify death and make it more comfortable to contemplate, she succeeded with this reader.  Recommended for fans of Mary Roach and Sarah Vowell.

The Age of LicenseThe Age of License: A Travelogue by Lucy Knisley
Graphic artist Knisley shares the ups and downs of her book tour to Europe and Scandinavia.   Honest, charming, yet serious, this graphic novel will appeal to fans of travelogues and mouthwatering descriptions of food—and isn’t that almost everyone?

The Black HourThe Black Hour by Lori Rader-Day
Sociology professor Amelia Emmet has made violence the focus of her academic research.  When a student she has never seen before appears outside her office and shoots her, theory becomes all too horribly real.  Back on campus, Amelia attempts to resume her life.  Relying on painkillers, a cane, and her sardonic sense of humor, Amelia struggles to find the answer to the questions that haunts her:  Why?

Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson

June 4, 2014

Eating on the Wild Side

If you’re ready to take a healthy lifestyle to the next step, Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson, needs to be on your reading list. Robinson’s book will show you that a diet of fruit and vegetables is a good start, but it’s just the beginning of getting the most out of your food. Phytonutrients, natural chemicals found in plants, are what consumers should be looking for when they buy produce and grains.

Unfortunately, most of the vitamins, nutrients, protein, fiber, and healthy fats have been bred out of the food you buy at the supermarket. What’s a consumer to do? This is where the ‘meat’ of the book begins and the author instructs the reader on how to purchase the most nutritious vegetables and grains. The example that stands out in my mind is carrots! Baby carrots found on most supermarket shelves today are misshapen mature carrots that have been scraped and trimmed down so they are a uniform size. Scientists now know that shaving off the outer part removes the greatest concentration of nutrients, which are in the skin and tissue right below it. To get the most sustenance out of this vegetable you must cook carrots whole in some type of oil or fat and then cut them.

Each chapter is a food, for example, such as apples, beets, citrus fruits, and lentils. Within each, Robinson gives you a history of its evolution into our diet with helpful do’s and don’ts, ending with a concise review that includes a description and comment.

Since reading this book, I’ve added beets, canned artichoke hearts, and grapes to my diet.  And I now bring this book with me to the grocery store to help me make wise and healthy eating decisions.

Find and reserve this book in the library.

Consider the Fork: How Technology Transforms the Way We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson

January 22, 2014

In the last chapter of Consider the Fork, author Bee Wilson writes, “Our kitchens are filled with ghosts.” It’s a fitting conclusion. As the book progresses, the reader realizes just how true the statement is; each apparatus that we use has a now-outmoded predecessor. Our ovens were predated by pots hanging over open fires; before kitches were equipped with hourglasses or clocks, recipes instructed cooks to “simmer for three Ave Marias.” Wilson’s exhaustively-researched history of food technology, which involved trips to museums and visits to food gurus all over the world, is stuffed with similar tidbits that will make you look at such everyday objects as a balloon whisk and a coffee grinder as nearly magical.

It would be easy for this kind of microhistory to be presented as the sort of anecdotal ephemera that only social historians and potential Jeopardy! contestants should be truly interested and invested in. But Wilson works hard to emphasize that this stuff is important to everyone who has a kitchen. Kitchens have historically been (and still are) the heart of their households, and they aren’t just about food. They are about technology and everything that comes with it, from the initial fear and ridicule of change (refrigeration was once derided as a way for greengrocers to overcharge for rotting vegetables) to its eventual acceptance.

I really loved the way this book was organized – it seemed counterintuitive at first to have a chapter about pots and pans before a chapter about fire. But learning about the nonlinear way that kitchen technology has unfolded is almost as much fun as the social history and facts you’ll chew on (pun intended!) while reading.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2013: Melissa O’s Picks

December 20, 2013

I read a wide variety of books, both fiction and nonfiction. Ask me for a suggestion and I most likely have read something that would appeal to you. But I still enjoy wandering the library stacks. Stumbling across a fabulous book is like finding a gem in a pile of costume jewelry. Costume jewelry is fun and fleeting, but some books are treasures that become friends for life. These are some of the new friends I made this year. Some have been out there a long time, others are more recent arrivals, but they are all worth checking out and passing along for more to enjoy!

When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It’s Time To Go Home by Erma Bombeck
I am a huge fan of Bill Bryson. One day while lamenting I had read and reread all his books the title of this book caught my eye. Intrigued, I picked it up. I am so glad I did! I laughed so hard I was sore the next day. I found out Erma Bombeck had a syndicated newspaper column and was a well known humorist. Somehow she had flown under my radar. But no more! In this collection of humorous writings she describes her travels around the world with her family.  And a word of warning: I had this on audio book and had to pull over because the tears of laughter were blinding me.

Variant by Robison Wells
If you thought surviving high school was hard, then this book takes it to a whole new level. Benson Fisher thought he was escaping an intolerable foster care system when he made it into the elite Maxfield Academy. He arrives excited for his new future, but something just seems not quite right. And then students start to disappear.  At this boarding school breaking the rules can literally kill you and escape is impossible.

Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb
When I think of dragons I imagine powerful creatures to be admired or possibly feared. This is the first of Robin Hobb’s Rain Wild Chronicles, and these dragons are pathetic and sickly. They cannot survive without their human keepers and as sentiment grows against them they are driven out on a perilous journey. But will they reach safety? Or will the enemies surrounding them doom the dragons forever?

High Country Fall by Margaret Maron
Since I was heading into the mountains for a vacation, I thought what better book to take along then one set in the North Carolina Mountains. And I fell in love with Judge Deborah Knott. Not just because the books are well written, or because the setting was so perfectly described I felt I was there, but because she is so ordinary and believable I felt I was her as I was reading. Judge Knott escapes the pressures of a recent engagement by subbing for a fellow judge in Cedar Gap. There she stumbles into a murder mystery and danger, and what about that handsome DA Lucius Burke! This book is the perfect mix of action, mystery, humor, and romance.

Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl
If you thought writing restaurant reviews was easy, just wait until you read this biography!  Ruth Reichl was the New York Times restaurant critic for most of the 1990’s. With humor and wisdom she draws you not only into the restaurant world, but into her world as well. This book is so well written you will feel you can close your eyes and be sitting in a top steakhouse, or a tiny Chinatown sushi bar, eating along with her.

The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball

October 2, 2013

Honest and funny best describe this memoir. Kristin Kimball was living the single urban life in New York City in 2002. She had worked at a literary agency and taught creative writing. Now she was a freelance writer and about to interview a farmer who represented something that was just beginning to burgeon onto the American food scene: local and organic fruits, vegetables, and meats. She drove six hours for their first meeting in Pennsylvania, and was whirled into the vortex of his world that very day. They did not do the interview; instead, she helped him slaughter a pig.

The memoir proceeds at a breakneck pace, full of the wonderful details of the urban hipster falling for the “wingnut” (Kristin’s word!) farmer Mark and vice versa. They courted over bicycle rides, farm implements, setting traps for rats, and the amazing meals that Mark prepared for both of them from the fields. The course of their true love is strewn with the usual difficulties of learning each other’s foibles, follies, and facts of life. Kristin and Mark have the added twists of choosing land on which to start their own farm, finding their places in their new community, purchasing equipment and animals, and quickly becoming business partners. Mark has lived outside of “the American dream”- state, relying on the earth in ways Kristin (or most of us) have not encountered or attempted. Kristin has never farmed, and must to come to grips with the sheer physicality and sometimes heartbreak of the stunning change in her life’s path.

The writing is clear, warm, and personal. You don’t want the book to stop at the end of their first year on Essex Farm. You want to know more about the horses, neighbors, crops and babies. You want to sit right down and write a check for a share in their full-diet CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) farm and move to New York state to help them weed and harvest. Let’s sit down together and share a meal!

Find and reserve this book in the catalog.

Best New Books of 2012: Emil S.’s Picks

December 7, 2012

Sometimes readers seek books out. Sometimes it’s the other way around. These books ended up in my hands thanks to my position at the library. They are also some of my favorite books of 2012. — Emil S.

Evolution of the Word: Reading the New testament in the Order it Was Written by Marcus J. Borg
Jesus grew up poor in an era that was politically oppressive and economically exploitative, as the ruling classes used violence against their own populations to maintain control, and engaged in war to expand their wealth and power. Jesus’ teachings are exceptionally radical, and he was not on earth to start a new religion – his calling was to restore faith, tear down religion and its ceremonies, and to make way for the kingdom of God: “He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble” (Luke 1:52). Jesus challenged the system to show its true face, and its response was to force a crown of thorns on his head and to hammer nails through his flesh and bones. Here Borg arranges the texts of the New Testament in chronological order (as opposed to traditional canonical order), and by doing so, he shows how the radical teachings of Jesus – the Way – eventually became a movement concerned with “maintaining power and control.”

An Economist Gets Lunch: New Rules for Everyday Foodies by Tyler Cowen
When Tyler Cowen’s An Economist Gets Lunch was published, it received some well-founded negative criticism in the New York Times, and the reviewer, Dwight Garner, wrote, “Bitterness and gloom bespeak seriousness of purpose.” True enough. But Cowen’s book is nevertheless worthwhile reading, and being a professor of economics he’s bringing an intriguing perspective to the food debate. Cowen shows how economic circumstances affect both the quality and the price of a restaurant, and how all kinds of quirky culture – including food culture – nowadays, due to financial circumstances, tend to be found on the peripheries of major cities. The book is filled with analysis and well-meant advice, and perhaps Cowen’s eating-out philosophy can be summed up like this: If you want good, cheap food, try the streets before the avenues.

Did Jesus Exist? the Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth Bart D. Ehrman
There are those who say that Jesus is a myth, created by the early church, but the vast majority of scholars of antiquity and Bible studies agree that, yes, Jesus did exist. Bart D. Ehrman is a historian and a professor of religious studies at UNC, Chapel Hill, and to him evidence matters. People may be opposed to Ehrman’s claims, but no one should doubt his integrity. The professor’s book – Did Jesus Exist? – reads like a detective story and the tools used to unearth a probable truth are mainly contextual credibility, multiple attestation, and the criterion of dissimilarity The close readings of available sources are simply breathtaking and as Ehrman discusses the different texts, he brings the reader almost within arm’s length of Jesus from Nazareth.

Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt by Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco
Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco’s Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt is a furious and fearless attack on what they refer to as “unfettered capitalism” in America. In a way, it is prophecy in the traditional sense, as the creators of the book show the reader what is going on in the country today. But it is also a warning of things to come, as the pair claim that the development of a permanent and large American underclass may be under way. Not all readers will agree with the duo’s gloomy warnings and their call to arms, but the portrayal of poverty in America is powerful, important, and upsetting.

The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour
Colby and Beverly have been best friends since forever, and after high school they are supposed to share a year in Europe. Then Beverly reveals that she’s won’t join Colby – instead, she will attend college in autumn. Colby is stunned and a seed of doubt has been planted: how well does he know his friend, himself, and the world? And now they’re supposed to travel together as Colby is the roadie for Bev’s band – The Disenchantments – that will tour small towns of the American Pacific. Colby has to adjust to the new situation in this novel about an ever-changing world that can be a dead end and an open road, and Colby says: “Just when I thought we had figured everything out, here it is: something else.”

Not Love but Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy by Fumi Yoshinaga

June 13, 2012

A female gay porn artist enjoys fine food. It’s a strangely appropriate set up for a manga that, at its core, is itself porn. Already you have decided that this selection is too trashy for you and probably beneath the dignity of this otherwise respectable blog. But I happen to know it’s not beneath your dignity. I know what you do on the internet: pulling up photos of Golden Braised Artichokes with Garlic and Mint – drooling over that recipe for Blueberry Soup. Stop acting like it’s beneath you when it’s not. You love food porn. Admit it.

That’s what this is – a manga filled with graphic depictions of food. Our under achieving protagonist drags her quirky acquaintances out to various real-life Tokyo restaurants where they, and we, take part in detailed gastronomical orgies highlighting the unique delights offered by the particular ethnic style of the cuisine as seen through Japanese eyes. The fun comes from the descriptions of our guests as they sample the foods. Some are fellow “foodies” while others are pushed outside their comfort zones to try various gourmet tidbits. Relationships are sort of explored over the meals, but part of the charm of this one-shot is that the relationships center more around the food itself. Sometimes there’s almost something more, but the characters always revert back into their quirky dysfunctions which are only bridged by the food they share.

If reading about a group of gourmands not quite connecting over servings of delicious victuals sounds like a good time, then grab this book. I wouldn’t want it to be any longer than it is, but for a literary equivalent to a Food Channel soap opera, it serves quite well. And if you really enjoy it, you can visit the actual restaurants and order the same meals. The author provides a map with the nearest subway stop and even offers advice on how much money to bring. It’s the perfect dish for food voyeurs.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

French Lessons: Adventures with Knife, Fork and Corkscrew by Peter Mayle

June 5, 2012

This week we’re featuring some of our favorite Audio Books, just in time for planning your summer road trips. You can also click the Audio tag at the bottom of this post or at the top of the tag cloud on the right hand side of our blog’s home page for more great audio book suggestions!

Eat your way across France and then write about it? That’s right. Peter Mayle took the challenge and ran with it, and the result is a literary delight that will leave you laughing at the wonder (and at times horror) of the French culinary world. From frog leg festivals to the blessing of the sublime truffle, Mayle’s
year-long journey will captivate you.

This book is especially engaging as an audio edition — narrated by Simon Jones — as you can truly appreciate the French pronunciation of their foodstuffs (something they take very seriously as evidenced by the amount of time and money the French are willing to spend in pursuit of gastronomic enjoyment). In addition, narrator Simon Jones’ droll humor truly brings to life Mayle’s descriptions of life in France.

And never fear, Mayle does not simply drag you along from food item to food item. There are also delightful forays into kitchens, restaurants, and local festivals all interspersed with informative, and yet often hilarious, historical background on the subject.

For anyone who has yet to give nonfiction a try, this is your book. Put it in your car, listen as you clean or organize your closets, or just get inspired to try some of those French recipes you have gathering dust in the corner of your kitchen. You’ll feel as if you have spent a year in France!

If you enjoy this audio book, try Mayle’s first book A Year In Provence on audio, or try any of his wonderful nonfiction writings (my personal favorites) or his novels.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

October 11, 2011

“What’s for dinner?” Probably the hardest question facing Americans every day. As omnivores we have endless choices and today’s supermarkets have miles of aisles of food to satisfy our needs, but maybe too many choices are not such a good thing.

My Book Club recently read and discussed this thought provoking look at the state of food and dining in America. By far one of our most lively and heated discussions we have ever had. Nothing brings people together like food and at the same time divides us as well. The author begins the book by discussing what is the American Paradox vs. let’s say the French Paradox. The French Paradox is that as a country they consume more fat and calories than most nations, but are one of the healthiest. The American Paradox is that although we aspire to healthy eating, we are one of the least healthy industrialized nations in the world. The author attributes this to several factors with one common denominator, corn.

Corn has become the basis of most of the food consumed by Americans. In fact, we consume so much corn it has actually altered the human genome. Take a look at some typical McDonald’s menu offerings and the percentage of corn and corn byproducts they contain:

Soda: 100% Milk Shake: 78% Salad Dressing: 65% Chicken Nuggets: 56% Cheeseburger: 52% French Fries: 23%

Corn, in the wrong hands, can be used for some terrible things, among them high fructose corn syrup (a major player in the obesity epidemic) and as feed for cows (who get sick when they eat it, requiring anti-biotics!) chickens and now even farm raised fish are forced to eat corn.  The governments continued subsidizing of the corn industry has made us find even more ways to use corn, i.e. ethanol which requires more energy to produce than it provides.

Omnivore’s Dilemma may not be for the faint of heart but it is a great look at where food comes from, how it’s processed and how agricultural production differs from large scale to small.  Michael Pollan took the time to answer a question that we all ask frequently….”what’s for dinner?” I highly recommend his book for its educational approach and warm writing style.

Visit Pollan’s website for more information.

Search for this title in our catalog.


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