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One of the threads that tie the two together is their love of food: eating it, cooking it, writing about it, painting it. In Pen & Palate, a collection of essays illustrated by lovely watercolors, the friends share their thoughts on childhood, family, and friendship and most particularly navigating their twenties. They write about being broke, dating, bad apartments, living with roommates, and finding their place in the world. Throughout it all is their connection to food and cooking.
The essays alternate between Madison and Nguyen, and each one is accompanied by two or three recipes that fit the story. For example, a piece about a bungled attempt at deep-fat frying offers two recipes for fried chicken plus a delicious-sounding ice cream dessert. Two chapters on Thanksgiving offer recipes for tamales and tea-smoked duck (you'll have to read the essays to understand the connections).
Both Madison and Nguyen are good writers and their stories about entering adulthood and their enduring friendship are entertaining. The women are funny, smart, and easy to relate to, especially if you're a Millennial. I'm a little older than the target audience, but I still liked getting to know the two women.
The recipes range from trail mix and mushroom soup to vegetarian pho and fancy crab cakes. While the recipes add to the atmosphere of the personal stories, I don't imagine that I'll turn to Pen & Palate when it comes time to make dinner.
My favorite part of the book by far is Nguyen's art. I am in love with her charming watercolors (see scan). You should pick a copy just for them alone.
So what's my verdict? Check this one out of the library. Lucy Madison and Tram Nguyen's Pen & Palate is definitely worth reading, but I'm not sure it's worth shelf space. Although the book has been compared to Laurie Colwin's work, I'm not getting the same vibe, but that's likely because I'm not Millennial.
To get a better idea of what to expect, check out Madison and Nguyen's award-winning blog of the same name: Pen & Palate, where you can see Nguyen's paintings and get a feel for their recipes.
Note on the scan: The scan is used in the context of this review. All rights remain with the original copyright holder: Tram Nguyen.
Published by Grand Central Publishing, 2016
Source: Review: audiobook (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)