15 January 2022

Weekend Cooking: Good Reading, Good Food--4 Books

I doubt I’m the only one among us who enjoys reading cookbooks almost as much as I like cooking from them. Today’s post is about two cookbooks that fit this description and two novels that I picked up because they have a food element in the plot. Some worked better for me than others, and I hope at least one will be a good match for you.

Book cover of Gastro Obscura by Cecily Wong and Dylan ThurasFirst up is Gastro Obscura: A Food Adventurer’s Guide by Cecily Wong and Dylan Thuras (Workman). Like our Weekend Cooking host, Marg, I was gifted a copy of this for Christmas. I haven’t had time to really get into it, but I thought I’d share my initial thoughts. I know Marg will be talking about this book too.

The best way to describe Gastro Obscura is to quote the introduction:

This book is more than a menu of food worth tasting—it’s a collection of forgotten histories and endangered traditions, obscure experiences, culinary ingenuity, and edible wonders.
The entries cover the entire globe, allowing us to virtually visit more than 120 countries and to learn about all kinds of obscure, traditional, trendy, and famous food traditions and dishes. For example, one entry takes us into the ancient Persian ice houses in Yakhchals, Iran. Another is all about how to try an Australian Tim Tam Slam (a subject Marg wrote about a while back).

The book is well illustrated with drawings, maps, and photos and includes quite a number of recipes. Gastro Obscura is a book to dip into when the mood hits or as you’re planning your next travel adventure.

Book Cover for Field Notes for Food Adventures by Brad LeoneI received Field Notes for Food Adventure by Brad Leone from Voracious Books as part of their Ambassador Program. The subtitle is “Recipes and Stories from the Woods to the Ocean.” Leone takes us along on a year of outdoor and food adventures set mostly in the U.S. Northeast woods and along the waterways and coast.

The thirteen chapters are arranged by principal ingredient and largely follow the seasons, starting in late winter and spring with maple and wild ramps; moving into the summer with a pool party, shellfish, and trout; and heading back into the cooler months with mushrooms, venison, and hearty meat-forward dinners. Vegetarians should note that most of the recipes and chapters are centered on seafood or meat.

The book is illustrated with family photos, and each section includes a personal story and each recipe is accompanied by Leone’s notes and tips. Many of the fish and seafood recipes aren’t quite doable for me, because of where I live, but the meat and vegetable dishes look really good, like maple pork tenderloin and tomato and bean salad.

I haven’t cooked out of Field Notes for Food Adventure yet, but I have a handful of recipes marked to try. Leone also has me dreaming of our next shore vacation.

Book cover of Much Ado About a Latte by Kathleen FullerI picked up Kathleen Fuller’s Much Ado About a Latte, which I received from the publisher (Thomas Nelson), based on the title. I’m not much of a romance reader but a good foodie story makes for great escape reading. This is a clean, fun story about Anita and Tanner who have been attracted to each other since high school, although they each think their feelings are not returned.

Tanner is the cook at the local diner, and Anita is a waitress. They are on friendly terms, but besides not sharing their deeper feelings, neither has revealed their long-term ambitions. So Tanner is surprised and shocked to find out Anita is planning to open a coffee shop next door to the diner he just secretly bought! Will being business rivals put an end to any romantic dreams?

Of course the plot is completely predictable, but the food references and the deeper themes of loyalty, friendship, family, and overcoming adversity make for an enjoyable read. Although this is the second entry in the Maple Falls series, Much Ado About a Latte reads like a standalone. No recipes are included in the book.

Book cover of Up to No Gouda by Linda ReillyI’ve often written about culinary cozy mysteries, and my latest read is Up to No Gouda by Linda Reilly, which I received from the publisher (Poisoned Pen Press). I’m not quite finished (a couple of chapters to go as of this writing), but I’ve really enjoyed this first in a new series.

Carly uses her late-husband’s life insurance money to open her dream restaurant in her small, quaint Vermont hometown. Open from lunch through dinner, the Grilled Cheese Eatery serves down-home and fancy variations of the iconic grilled cheese sandwich. The day after Carly learns her lease won’t be renewed, a dead body is discovered in the alley behind the restaurant.

Though Carly herself is not really considered to be a suspect, several people she knows, including one of her employees, are tagged by the local police. Of course, Carly gets involved in the investigation and doesn’t give up, even when she may be putting herself in danger.

This book has all the good elements of fun cozy series: quirky town characters, a well-plotted mystery, a likeable main character, a cute dog, and a budding romance. The book ends with several grilled cheese recipes and tips. By the time this post goes live, I will have learned if I was able to ID the killer before Carly did. If you’re into cozy culinary mysteries, give Up to No Gouda a try.

Shared with Weekend Cooking, hosted by Marg at The Intrepid Reader (and Baker)

11 comments:

rhapsodyinbooks 1/15/22, 6:54 AM  

Well, any book about a grilled cheese eatery automatically goes on to my to-get list!

Mae Travels 1/15/22, 7:37 AM  

Gastro Obscura, the book you discuss, comes from the website Atlas Obscura, a travel guide and booking website that's been around for a while. If the website is any indicator, the book sounds even better than you imply! They have a variety of great little articles on obscure food topics -- this week there's a wonderful article on Brown Windsor Soup. (Hint: it didn't exist in the 19th century because it's a joke, and this article isn't the first to reveal that it originated as a hoax). Sounds like someone gave you a good Christmas present.

best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Harvee 1/15/22, 8:56 AM  

Culinary cozies...I've read a few of those and loved them!

Jackie McGuinness 1/15/22, 12:18 PM  

Found Gastro at the library and put myself on the waitlist. Also found Atlas.
Not a romance fan.

Vicki 1/15/22, 3:57 PM  

I have Gastro Obscura on hold at the library, I'm #3 on the list.

I may be adding Up To No Gouda to my list.

Have a great week!

Carole 1/15/22, 5:09 PM  

Now ordered Gastro from the library - looking forward to it. Cheers

Marg 1/16/22, 3:10 AM  

I definitely am intending to write about this book at some point. Maybe I will repost my Tim Tam Slam post as a vintage post.

Melynda@Scratch Made Food! 1/16/22, 10:28 AM  

They all sound like great books! Especially the first one, I love books that are more stories than recipes for a relaxing read.

Sara Strand 1/16/22, 6:30 PM  

These all sound so fun! Thank you for being on the tour for Much Ado About A Latte! Sara @ TLC Book Tours

Sherry's Pickings 1/20/22, 1:25 AM  

i love cookbooks and i love reading them like novels! so comforting ...

Claudia 1/20/22, 6:27 PM  

Im on our library wait list (#38) for Gastro Obscura. It sounds intriguing. though Bob would say I cook enough obscure stuff. Will also check out their website, thanks Mae.

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