14 May 2016

Weekend Cooking: Pen & Palate by Lucy Madison and Tram Nguyen

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

Review: Pen & Palate by Tram Nguyen and Lucy MadisonLucy Madison and Tram Nguyen have been friends since high school. Although on some levels they couldn't be more different, they have maintained a strong bond into their thirties, despite living halfway across the country from each other.

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
ISBN-13: 9781455535057
Source: Review: audiobook (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Mae Travels 5/14/16, 6:08 AM  

You don't seem very enthusiastic about this food memoir. I'm a big fan of food memoirs, but you didn't make me want to read it. I appreciate your having reviewed it!

best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Tina 5/14/16, 7:16 AM  

Good review and I am likely to take your advice, grab it from the library instead of parting with money. I usually check the library first anyway. I am not a Millennial either, I'm a so.id baby boomer!
The art work does look stunning.

rhapsodyinbooks 5/14/16, 8:21 AM  

I think cookbook art is some of the best! It's usually lighter and more whimsical than other art, for some reason.

nishitak 5/14/16, 8:29 AM  

Don't know about their food, but their blog sure looks pretty, the watercolors are fantastic!

jama 5/14/16, 8:33 AM  

Thanks for featuring this one. Love food essays paired with art. Will check it out. :)

Katherine P 5/14/16, 9:42 AM  

This does sound interesting though I can see why it wouldn't be worth the shelf space. I definitely want to check out the book though. I'll have to see if my library has it. In the mean time I'll check out the blog. Great review!

Stacie 5/14/16, 10:06 AM  

I usually like memoirs around food. This one does sound interesting but probably won't make my list anytime soon.

Deb in Hawaii 5/14/16, 11:26 AM  

Food memoirs are some of my favorite reads--especially one with recipes woven in. The art does look gorgeous--I'll check this one out. Thanks for sharing. ;-)

Claudia 5/14/16, 11:44 AM  

Thanks for the review Beth. It sounds like a fun book, which I'll see if our library system carries.

Jackie McGuinness 5/14/16, 12:15 PM  

I just popped over to their blog and quite enjoyed reading a post or two so I am adding the book to my library TBR.

Margot 5/14/16, 1:36 PM  

I love really good food writing. It sounds like Pen & Palate has a bonus with good water color art. I'm off to check this out.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz 5/15/16, 9:18 AM  

It has been forever since I've participated in Weekend Cooking. Or, to be completely honest, even cooked much of anything. I must get back to that happy place.


(Diane) bookchickdi 5/15/16, 1:06 PM  

The artwork looks beautiful, I'm going to check out their website.

Mae Travels 5/15/16, 9:25 PM  

I cooked again, couldn't resist another link to my dinner.

best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Vicki 5/17/16, 4:28 PM  

I love food memoirs. This sounds like one for my list.

Laurie C 5/21/16, 10:53 AM  

I don't care that much about art, unfortunately, but the Laurie Colwin mention piqued my interest!

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