Literary Feasts – Perfect On Paper by Janet Goss

Literary Feast Banquet Image @ Linus's Blanket

In Janet Goss’s Perfect on Paper, Dana Mayo is a woman finally getting back into dating after realizing that she has carried the torch for an inappropriate man for far too long. She meets two men, both of whom may  be inappropriate for their own reasons, but that doesn’t stop her from diving right in to try to figure out which one she should be with.

Look at the food choices that happen when she meets one of them for a date at the famed Katz’s Deli in NYC.

Ah. But I could  order a knish. A nice, bland, relatively compact knish. We approached the counter where Billy caught the eye of a server.

“I’ll have a knish,” he said.

Great, I thought. I wasn’t about to order the same thing. What else on the menu was smallish?

“I’ll take a hot dog.”

What the hell had I ordered that for? There was no genteel way for a woman to eat a hot dog. Now I was about to sit directly across from Billy Moody and go down on a six-inch length of meat.

Hot Dog, pictured above.  Photo source: Burning Love (checkout their post on how to grill the perfect hot dog.

I agree. I t’s pretty hard to be genteel with a hot dog.

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Literary Feasts – The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

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Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child takes place in 1920’s Alaska. The main characters, Jack and Mabel, are having a difficult time in their marriage, and an even harder time taming the Alaskan wilderness to create a successful homestead. Most times they have to turn to nature to supplement their diet.

Thankfully, though, they had rhubarb pie.

When the weather was fine and the bugs were miraculously scarce , they ate outdoors. Jack and George would build an alder fire in a pit early in the morning and then roast a hunk of meat from a black bear Garrett had shot in the spring. Esther would bring potato and beet salad; Mabel would make a fresh rhubarb pie and spread a white tablecloth. The two women would walk together arm in arm and pick fireweeds and bluebells. In the background they would hear the men talking and laughing as the flames in the pit sputtered and flared with the bear fat drippings.

Check out the video of the making of Strawberry Rhubarb Pie from the  The Joy of Baking.

I have only been lucky enough to have had any type of rhubarb pie once, and this was a couple of years ago. It just doesn’t sound that appetizing, rhubarb. Strawberry seems to be a popular pairing for it, though I saw a few recipes for blueberry as well.


Photo credit:


This recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Pie is from Bon Appetit (1997) appeared on


For crust

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 10 tablespoons (about) ice water

For filling

  • 3 1/2 cups 1/2-inch-thick slices trimmed rhubarb (1 1/2 pounds untrimmed)
  • 1 16-ounce container strawberries, hulled, halved (about 3 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg yolk beaten to blend with 1 teaspoon water (for glaze)

Make crust:
Combine flour, sugar and salt in processor. Using on/off turns, cut in shortening and butter until coarse meal forms. Blend in enough ice water 2 tablespoons at a time to form moist clumps. Gather dough into ball; cut in half. Flatten each half into disk. Wrap separately in plastic; refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled. Let dough soften slightly at room temperature before rolling.)

Make filling:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine first 7 ingredients in large bowl. Toss gently to blend.

Roll out 1 dough disk on floured work surface to 13-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter flass pie dish. Trim excess dough, leaving 3/4-inch overhang.

Roll out second dough disk on lightly floured surface to 13-inch round. Cut into fourteen 1/2-inch-wide strips. Spoon filling into crust. Arrange 7 dough strips atop filling, spacing evenly. Form lattice by placing remaining dough strips in opposite direction atop filling. Trim ends of dough strips even with overhang of bottom crust. Fold strip ends and overhang under, pressing to seal. Crimp edges decoratively.

Brush glaze over crust. transfer pie to baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Bake pie until golden and filling thickens, about 1 hour 25 minutes. Transfer pie to rack and cool completely.

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Literary Feasts – Running the Rift, by Naomi Benaron

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Naomi Benaron’s Running the Rift takes place in Rwanda and a  lot of the staple foods were unfamiliar to me, with the exception of a few vegetables. All of the food sounded delicious, and I took to the internet to look some of it up. Isombe is a stew made of cassava leaves, fresh vegetables, peanuts and peanut butter, and ugali seems closest to a grain like polenta or grits, albeit cooked and served in coarser texture.

The table was set up in the front room, covered wit the tablecloth resrved for holidays. There were plates of ugali and stews with bits of meat and fish to dip it in, bowls of isombe, green bananas and red beans, fried plaintains, boiled sweet potatoes and cassava. There were peas and haricots verts sauteed with tomatoes, bottles of Primus beer and Uncle Emmanuel’s home-brewed urwagwa. Angelique had not stopped cooking, bringing mam tea, wiping everyone’s eyes. The power was off. Candles flickered; lanterns tossed shadows at the wall. Jean-Patrick and Roger sat on the floor with Jacqueline, feeding Clemence bits of stew wrapped in sticky balls of ugali.


Ugali, pictured above, and below with beef and sauce.  Photo source: Elimu Strive’s Blog  & Wikimedia Commons.

 Ugali is supposed to be an acquired taste for the American palate. Like I said, the closest equivalent I can think of would be grits, which can also be vey plain if not flavored with butter and salt, and eaten with (usually) eggs, bacon, sausage or fish. Shrimp and grits is also a favorite.

Here is a quick recipe that I found for ugali:

In a 2-quart saucepan:

Boil rapidly 1 quart water or chicken broth

Add 1 tsp. salt and 1 cup any fine white cereal.

Swirl the cereal into the boiling water and cook according to package directions to a thick heavy mush.

Keep warm over hot water (in a double boiler) until ready to serve.

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Literary Feasts – The Beginners, by Rebecca Wolff/ Lamb Chops With Green Peas and Mashed Potatoes

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Food in books usually serves a purpose greater than just the delight of my food loving heart. What people eat and how they react to it gives insight into their socio-economic status, tastes and preferences and character. In The Beginner, by Rebecca Wolff, Ginger’s mother has a view of food the informs the way you see her and her relationship to her daughter…

I heard my mother’s call from downstairs. We had lamb chops that night, and so I know we also had small green peas and mashed potatoes and mint jelly. Frozen peas, reconstituted potatoes from a box, jelly from a vacuum sealed jar; these are the ends by which we come by our means. What more can we ask? My mother hated to cook-“didn’t care about food”; “would just as soon have gone without”-though she never said this out loud, only muttered it under her breath as she she stripped the yellow fat from raw chicken breasts, or sliced a bitter cucumber expertly against her pink thumbs in the salad bowl. I am grateful that she saw the necessity of feeding her growing daughter as long as she did.

There are more yummy posts about food, cookbooks, recipes and novels featuring food over at Weekend Cooking, hosted by Beth Fish Reads. Check it out!

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Photo Credit: Flickr: Lamb Chops with Green Peas and Potatoes – dajobe
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Literary Feasts: The First Husband, by Laura Dave/ Lobster Scrambled Eggs

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I always feel like I have hit the jackpot when a character in a book is a chef. Yummy things are usually in store, and that is definitely the case in The First Husband by Laura Dave, due out next week. The novel is a delightful read, all about trying to figure life out in the aftermath of a breakup that is completely unexpected. Trying to put her life back together, Annie Adams meets a sexy chef who makes her lobster eggs in the middle of the night as she is trying out life as a newly single. Here is what Annie had to say about those eggs…

They were totally and completely delicious. The single most delicious thing I had ever tasted. I’d tasted all sorts of things that had competed for that ranking – a mustard coated prime rib in Salzburg, Germany; blowfish in Kyoto; chocolate covered crickets in Nova Scotia- but nothing like these eggs. How do you describe something that good? They tasted like cotton candy, but the egg version. They were creamy and rich and they melted as soon as they touched my tongue, as soon as I tasted the sea-salty edge of them.

I’m disappointed that it’s so hard to see the lobster! Also, not sure about the chocolate covered crickets!

Laura and I chatted about me liking her book and those eggs, and she graciously shared her recipe for lobster eggs on Twitter with me.

[blackbirdpie url=”!/NicoleBo/status/63255850126544896″]

[blackbirdpie url=”!/lauradave/status/63258616584617985″]

[blackbirdpie url=”!/lauradave/status/63258928686968832″]

We were all hungry after that!

There are more yummy posts about food, cookbooks, recipes and novels featuring food over at Weekend Cooking, hosted by Beth Fish Reads. Check it out!

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Photo Credit: Flickr: Scrambled Eggs and Lobster – Sklathill
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Literary Feasts: Enclave, by Ann Aguirre/ Or Why There Are No Feasts In a Dystopian Society

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Food in books is not always plentiful or yummy, especially when you live in a dystopian society where the goal of food may be primarily for sustenance and nutrition, and not personal taste or pleasure. In Enclave by Ann Aguirre food is such a function of survival that it isn’t even named. It’s exactly what it is, meat. In the enclave where Deuce lives they basically have about three dishes. Portion size and and the order of eating among the community groups are used to distinguish rank and assign prestige. It’s one of the reasons Deuce is so psyched to be a huntress. I guess in that society, and with her choices, I would be too.

As I approached the kitchen area, the smoke stung my eyes. Copper was roasting something on a spit, and the grease hissed as it dropped into the fire. She got out the dagger and cut me a hunk of meat. It burned my fingers as I took it and gobbled it down. I’d never eaten breakfast first; only Hunters did that. Pride blazed in me.

Remember how I said they only had three dishes? This is one of them.

I opened my bag and pulled out a hunk of dried meat. We didn’t have a lot of variety even in the enclave: fresh meat, dried meat and mushrooms. Occasionally, someone found a tin and once we pried it open, the contents smelled fine and enticing, but that was the exception, not the rule.

That’s dried yak meat, by the way.

The enclave doesn’t seem to be a place that encourages pets. Look at what they do with “four-legged furry creatures.” My cats just got up and hid.

By comparison the rest of our patrol passed with relative ease. Half the traps yielded meat. A number of animals lived here with us; four-legged furry creatures we called food. I killed a wounded one, where the snare hadn’t broken its neck clean, and that bothered me more than killing the freak. I held its warm body in my hands and bowed my head over it. Wordless, Fade took it from me and dropped it in the sack with the others. We had brats to feed.

(Not pictured.)

So, I lied. There is indeed a fourth dish.

“Sounds good,” he said. “I’ll see what there is to eat.”

“Let me guess. Meat and mushrooms.”

“Might be fish.”

Yeah, they did cook fish every now and then to keep us from getting sick . The elders put a lot of thought into what we ate and how much. Without their careful planning our enclave would have died out long ago.

Every now and again they would all celebrate. Three of the four dishes were served and they could actually have more food if they wanted it. They know how to party.

“Let the celebration start.”

An answering roar went through the crowd. Pipes and drums echoed through the enclave. The torches smoked; people whirred and stomped while brats ran around underfoot. Roasting meat and mushrooms smelled unbelievably good, and there was fish too. For once, they didn’t limit us and I took seconds of each dish. Brats immediately snatched my plate, running off to lick it clean and then wash it up so someone else, someone less honored, could use it.

So my advice for a good meal…stay out of dystopian societies. The food is terrible.

There are more yummy posts about food, cookbooks, recipes and novels featuring food over at Weekend Cooking, hosted by Beth Fish Reads. Check it out!

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Photo Credits: Flickr: Meat- jigglemequick | Dried Meat – lastmodified | Fish – .mushi_king | Beef & Mushrooms – Ned Rag
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Literary Feasts: Dark Mirror, by M.J. Putney

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Lately, as I have considered food in book I have looked at the way that the food discussed contributes to the mood and shores up what is being communicated in the story. In Dark Mirror: A Novel by M.J. Putney the main character, Victoria starts off in an uncomfortable situation and far from home and the food that she encounters reflects her discontent.  As the story progresses and she become more comfortable and meets people she likes, who introduce her to new food, her experiences are much better.

Personally I would have been okay with oxtail soup, but Tory has other ideas.

As Elspeth had said, the food wasn’t dreadful, but the oxtail soup, boiled beef, and potatoes were a far cry from Fairmount Hall.



However, I can see how she would be won over by hanging out with Ms. Wheton at the tea shop.

Smiling they continued down the hill, Miss Wheton describing different kinds of magical ability. The teashop was very pleasant, with excellent sausage rolls and iced cakes. Tory was pleased when they were seated by a window with a view of the small harbor.  She was happier than at any time since she woke up floating over her bed.

But it gets even better…

The chippy had a walk-up order window, a sign over the top that said THE CODFATHER, and a half-dozen hopeful cats lounging about in front. Mrs. Rainford ordered four portions, which were served almost immediately. The fried cod and potatoes were wrapped in the cones of newsprint, and tangy malt vinegar was sprinkled over them.

“Do you have fish and chips where you live?” Polly passed a cone to Tory.

“No. This smells lovely though.” Tory it into a piece of the crispy deep-fried fish. “Wonderful!” She tried one of the golden wedges of potato and sighed blissfully. No wonder Nick hoped fish and chips wouldn’t be rationed.

And at last something a little bit on the healthy side.

Polly efficiently prepared breakfast the next morning. Tory envied her the competence she’d acquired because both her parents worked and the three children had all had to do chores. Today’s breakfast was a steaming pot of oatmeal porridge liberally laced with dried currants and the golden raisins called sultanas.  With milk and a bit of honey, it was delicious.

(Not pictured. As yummy as it sounds, oatmeal does not photograph well.)

There are more yummy posts about food, cookbooks, recipes and novels featuring food over to Weekend Cooking, hosted by Beth Fish Reads. Check it out!

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Photo Credits: Flickr: Oxtails – Mangiloa30/Sausage Rolls – adactio/Iced Cakes – Mags/Fish and Chips – Ben Ward
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Literary Feasts: Dracula In Love, by Karen Essex – White Fish w. Wine & Capers

Literary Feast Banquet Image @ Linus's BlanketPicky eater that I was growing up, it took me years to figure out that I liked sauces and I that I actually liked them over food instead of meticulously separated out and consigned to Siberia on my plate.  The chances of me ordering something these days goes up immensely is it comes with a sauce or gravy.  I knew immediately why Mina gravitated toward the fish.

It always amazes me when I read books about the variety of the courses that were offered at meal time among the wealthy.  I usually like lamb, but am not crazy about mint sauce.

I relished in the aromas of the white fish with wine and capers, the lamb with mint sauce, and the carrots, but rejected the turnips, which I had eaten so many years at Miss Hadley’s that I had come to abhor them.  My repulsion made him laugh, and he signaled for a waiter to take the bowl away.  He finished serving the food and sat in his chair with an empty plate in front of him.  “Bon appétit,” he said to me. — from Dracula In Love

Striped Bass with Lemons, White Wine and Capers (from Good Housekeeping)


  • 1 Large Lemon
  • 1 whole(s) (about 3 pounds) striped bass or sea bass, cleaned
  • 1/4 cup of dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup of dry white win
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon(s) capers, drained
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon(s) dried or 1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves plus additional for garnish
  • Ground Black Pepper

What to do:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Cut lemon in half; cut 1 half into 4 slices. Set aside remaining half. Rinse fish inside and out with cold running water; pat dry with paper towels. Make 3 diagonal slashes on each side of fish, cutting almost to bone.

Cut 2 sheets of foil, each 8 inches longer than length of fish. Place 1 sheet of foil in 15 1/2″ by 10 1/2″ jelly-roll pan, allowingends to extend over sides of pan. Place fish lengthwise in center of foil in pan. Place lemon and garlic slices in fish cavity. Squeeze remaining lemon over fish.

In small bowl, whisk wine, olive oil, capers, Dijon, tarragon, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper until blended. Drizzle half of wine mixture into fish cavity; drizzle remaining wine mixture over fish, rubbing mixture into skin and slashes.

Place second sheet of foil on top of fish. Crimp edges all around to seal completely. Bake fish 25 to 30 minutes.

Before serving, with kitchen shears, cut opening in packet to let steam escape, then carefully pull back foil. With 2 wide spatulas, transfer fish to platter. Pour juices in foil over fish. Garnish with fresh tarragon.

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Literary Feasts – Stranger Here Below, by Joyce Hinnefeld: Spoon Bread

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Literary Feast Banquet Image @ Linus's BlanketThough mentioned only briefly in Stranger Here Below, by Joyce Hinnefeld, spoon bread is mentioned a few times and it caught my attention as possibly being either southern in origin (from the sound of the name), or maybe a dish native to Kentucky.  As it turns out, it is both Southern and a point of pride with those from Kentucky.

According to Wikipedia, and as I suspected, spoon bread is a type of sweet and moist corn bread that is spooned out of the pan into a dish and served hot with butter.  Yum!  Sometimes it is made with corn kernels!  I cannot explain to you just how much I love corn bread, and butter, and corn bread with butter.  A quick internet search revealed myriad types of recipes for spoon bread – Sour Cream Corn Spoon Bread, Southern Spoon Bread, Corn Spoon Bread, Kentucky Spoon Bread…- and indeed it is a dish that has been the object of many a cooking contest.

In the kitchen she cooked greens and spoon bread and endless platters of fried chicken and catfish; there was nothing new about any of this except for her using more pepper than she was accustomed to.  For Vista, most of it was just special occasion Sunday-dinner cooking, but here in Harrodsburg, apparently, or at least the Beau Rive Hotel, food like that was part of the place’s “Southern charm and hospitality”, and people ate it every day. It was tiring work, but Vista was fast and neat, and more than once overheard one of the cooks or waitresses say something about how she just wasn’t what you’d expect of a mountain girl.

A plain spoon bread:

Jalapeno spoon bread:

I liked this recipe for Buttermilk Spoon Bread.  I have never liked to drink buttermilk, but somehow they make some dishes, especially bread, better.

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Literary Feasts: Dracula, My Love, by Syrie James

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Literary Feast Banquet Image @ Linus's BlanketI love tarts.  Love them.  I think they were probably the first “sophisticated” dessert that I developed a taste for, which tells you something about my eating habits as a child.  I was a very finicky eater.  My mom often had to cook two versions of a dish so that I would have something to eat.  Beans without tomato sauce or okra, soup without carrots, meat not smothered in gravy, only chocolate milk, pb&j without crusts…you get the picture.

Before I ventured into tarts, I think it was pretty much cake, cookies, doughnuts and apple pie. Very plain stuff.  My how things have changed.  There is very little that I won’t eat nowadays.  But that is another story for another post.

While I was reading Dracula, My Love, by Syrie James I came across this passage where I discover that Mina is a fellow tart lover.  Her favorite is plum, which I don’t think I have ever had before.  I have had the ones with assorted fruits and I have made blackberry and raspberry tarts for dinner guests.

After luncheon, we strolled down the main street of the village in a light-hearted mood.  When Jonathan saw that the baker’s shop was selling miniature plum tarts (my life-long favorite), he insisted on purchasing some.  We consumed the delicious treats on a bench in a little park overlooking the river , where we tossed morsels of crust to the ducks and geese gathered at our feet on the grassy bank.

For a dinner party that I hosted earlier this year, I made a very easy tart and it turned out to be quite yummy.  The one that I made was very simplified but I came across this more elaborate one from Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa, on the Food Network.

Plum Tart Recipe


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), diced
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 pounds firm, ripe Italian prune plums, pitted and quartered lengthwise


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine the flour, walnuts, and sugar in a large bowl. Add the butter and the egg yolk. Mix, either by hand or with an electric mixer, until crumbly.

Press 1 1/2 cups of the crumb mixture in an even layer into the bottom of a 9 1/2-inch springform or tart pan. Arrange the plums in the pan, skin side down, to form a flower pattern; begin at the outside and work your way in.

Sprinkle the rest of the crumb mixture evenly over the plums. Bake the tart for 40 to 50 minutes, or until it’s lightly browned and the plum juices are bubbling. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and transfer the tart to a flat plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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This post will be included in the Weekend Cooking feature over at Beth Fish Reads.  You should check that out.  It’s yummy!

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