I love to read about food in fiction. Apparently so do other people, and some people even try to cook the food that they read about: witness the successful blog Inn at the Crossroads that recreates recipes from the George R. R. Martin fantasy series a Song of Ice and Fire, and whose bloggers are now published cookbook authors with the release of A Feast of Ice and Fire, coming out in April from Random House.
Most readers don’t want to take it as far as all that, so for them The Book Club Cookbook should do just fine. Gelman and Krupp came up with a list of about 100 books that are popular with book clubs. For each book they provide a few recipes. In some cases the recipes are for dishes that are central to the plot of the book itself, such as a recipe for potato peel pie* from The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. In other cases they are for dishes that are not specifically mentioned in the book, but which might typically be eaten by the characters, such as the recipe for Irish brown soda bread that goes with the chapter about Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. For some popular titles the book’s author provides a recipe for a food that he or she ate while writing the book, such as Rebecca Skloot’s recipe for chicken diablo. The cookbook includes over one hundred books and close to 300 recipes. I used the revised 2nd edition which is recently out, and which has been updated to include some books that are newly popular with book clubs (and which was kindly sent to me as a free review copy).
I thought it would be good to sample a few of the recipes before writing this blog post. I chose recipes from books that I had read and enjoyed. Yesterday I made Greek rice pudding, inspired by Desdemona’s rice pudding from Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides. Desdemona’s recipe uses short grain rice and the pudding is cooked on the stove top like a custard sauce. It was really delicious but much runnier than my usual rice pudding, which starts with cooked rice and is baked in the oven. Tonight’s dinner was Sister Mary Joseph Praise’s Cari de Dal from Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. This is a curry of yellow split peas, spices, and vegetables, based on a traditional dish from Djibouti. It was also delicious but beware, the recipe makes enough to feed every patient at Missing Hospital in Addis Ababa.
*In fact, the cookbook includes two recipes for potato peel pie. The first one is authentic to the book and is something the starving protagonists would have eaten during the war—it contains potatoes and beets and not much else, and tastes, according to Annie Barrows, really awful. There is also a second potato peel pie recipe featuring lots of butter, cream, and cheese along with the potatoes, and which sounds wonderful. I might make that next.
(Book 8, 2012)