My Kitchen Year

reichl jacketMy Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes that Saved My Life by Ruth Reichl

In October, 2009, Ruth, the editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine, was shocked to learn that the publisher was ceasing publication of Gourmet, which debuted in 1941. Even though the December issue was at the printers, and three more issues were planned, no more magazines would be published. Amidst this turmoil, she still has to launch “Adventures with Ruth”, a 10-episode travel and food television show, and go on tour for the brand new Gourmet Today cookbook, which she had edited. In the year that followed, Ruth wrote copy for the Gourmet Cookie Book, and tried to reinvent herself; not easy at 61. With her husband Michael, she spent a very cold and snowy winter at their country house, and decided to sublet their NYC apartment. Used to dining out on an expense account as a food critic, Ruth now has the leisure to visit farmers’ markets and to cook seasonally. Photographs of upstate New York and many recipes add to the appeal of this gorgeous book. Laid up part of the year recovering from an injury, Ruth also begins her first novel, Delicious!, which the Tuesday evening book group is discussing on January 26 at 7:00 p.m. Next I plan to read Garlic and Sapphires, about her life as a food critic, often in disguise.

Wishing you an adventurous year of reading!


If you’re looking for more memoirs, check out our book display called “A Year in the Life: Yearlong Projects, Adventures, and Travels”. Here is the accompanying booklist:

A Year in the Life: Yearlong Projects, Adventures, and Travels

028.8 San Sankovitch, Nina. Tolstoy and the Purple Chair. 2011
028.9 Mil Miller, Andy. The Year of Reading Dangerously. 2014
158 Rub Rubin, Gretchen. The Happiness Project. 2009
158.1 Kir Kirshenbaum, Mira. The Gift of a Year. 2000
158.1 Kra Kravitz, Lee. Unfinished Business. 2015
277.3 She Shea, Suzanne Strempek. Sundays in America. 2008
278.95 Ros Roscher, Ellie. How Coffee Saved My Life. 2009
303.483 Bre Brende, Eric. Better Off. 2004
306.3 Bru Bruno, Dave. The 100 Thing Challenge. 2010
330.973 And Anderson, Maggie. Our Black Year. 2012
331.702 Aik Aiken, Sean. The One-Week Job Project. 2010
332.4 Wol Wolman, David. The End of Money. 2012
338.476 Cle Clemens, Paul. Punching Out. 2011
362.18 Kar Karam, J.A. Into the Breach. 2002
362.21 Vin Vincent, Norah. Voluntary Madness. 2008
365.43 Ker Kerman, Piper. Orange is the New Black. 2011
365.6 Smi Smith, Jeff. Mr. Smith Goes to Prison. 2015
371.1 Bro Brown, Dan. The Great Expectations School. 2007
371.1 Dan Danza, Tony. I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had. 2012
371.1 Foo Foote, Donna. Relentless Pursuit. 2008
382.60951 Bon Bongiorni, Sara. A Year Without “Made in China.” 2007
577.56 Hol Holmes, Hannah. Suburban Safari. 2005
595.78 Pyl Pyle, Robert Michael. Mariposa Road. 2010
598 Kau Kaufman, Kenn. Kingbird Highway. 1997
598.07 Obm Obmascik, Mark. The Big Year. 2004
598.159 Kro Kroodsma, Donald. Birdsong by the Seasons. 2009
599.773 Tha Thayer, Helen. Three Among the Wolves. 2004
610.92 Mcc McCarthy, Matt. The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly. 2015
613.2 Jac Jacobs, A.J. Drop Dead Healthy. 2012
613.2 Law Lawson, Tracey. A Year in the Village of Eternity. 2011
616.83 Spe Spencer-Wendel, Susan. Until I Say Good-Bye. 2013
616.8526 Kuf Kuffel, Frances. Angry Fat Girls. 2010
616.8589 Ell Ellison, Katherine. Buzz: A Year of Paying Attention. 2010
630.092 Kim Kimball, Kristin. The Dirty Life. 2010
630.584 Cha Chaskey, Scott. This Common Ground. 2005
635 Lap Lapp, Laura. An Amish Garden. 2013
635.0484 Bro Brockman, Terra. The Seasons of Henry’s Farm. 2009
636.7 Kat Katz, Jon. A Dog Year. 2002
636.7 Mil Miles, Kathryn. Adventures with Ari. 2009
636.7527 Abr Abramson, Jill. The Puppy Diaries. 2011
640.73 Lev Levine, Judith. Not Buying It. 2006
641.013 Maj Majumdar, Simon. Eat My Globe. 2009
641.3 Gre Greenslate, Christopher. On a Dollar a Day. 2010
641.3 Kin Kingsolver, Barbara. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. 2007
641.5 Erw Erway, Cathy. The Art of Eating In. 2010
641.5 Smi Smith, Alisa. Plenty. 2007
641.552 Mat Mather, Robin. The Feast Nearby. 2011
641.564 Rei Reichl, Ruth. My Kitchen Year. 2015
641.815 Ale Alexander, William. 52 Loaves. 2010
649.1 Wym Wyma, Kay Wills. Cleaning House: A Mom’s 12-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement. 2012
664.132 Why Whynott, Douglas. The Sugar Season. 2014
746.432 Mar Martini, Adrienne. Sweater Quest. 2010
788.9 Ree Rees, Jasper. A Devil to Play. 2008
791.43 Rub Rabin, Nathan. My Year of Flops. 2010
795.412 Hol Holden, Anthony. Bigger Deal. 2007
796.352 Fei Feinstein, John. Moment of Glory. 2010
796.357 Sha Shaugnessy, Dan. Senior Year. 2007
796.72 Bec Bechtel, Mark. He Crashed Me, So I Crashed Him Back. 2010
798.2 Hus Husher, Helen. Conversations With a Prince. 2003
798.4 Cho Chong, Kevin. My Year of the Racehorse. 2012
798.4 Smi Smiley, Jane. A Year at the Races. 2004
809 Beh Beha, Christopher. The Whole Five Feet. 2009
818.6 Lan Lancaster, Jen. The Tao of Martha. 2013
910.4 Gil Gilbert, Elizabeth. Eat, Pray, Love. 2006
956.70443 Ste Stewart, Rory. The Prince of the Marshes. 2006
974.7 Roa Roach, Margaret. And I Shall Have Some Peace There. 2011
BIO Han Hancock, Noelle. My Year with Eleanor. 2011
BIO Hel Heller, Peter. Kook. 2010
BIO Loh Loh, Sandra Tsing. The Madwoman in the Volvo. 2014
BIO Mah Mah, Ann. Mastering the Art of French Eating. 2013
BIO Okr Okrant, Robin. Living Oprah. 2008
BIO Oxe Oxenhandler, Noelle. The Wishing Year. 2008
BIO Per Perry, Michael. Coop. 2009
BIO Rhi Rhimes, Shonda. Year of Yes. 2015
BIO Wal Wallace, Danny. Friends Like These. 2009




Double Fudge Brownie Murder

Double Fudge Brownie Murder by Joanne Flukedouble fudge jacket

Hannah is worried about her upcoming trial, but the judge’s sudden death starts Hannah, and everyone who visits The Cookie Jar, Hannah’s and Lisa’s cookie and coffee shop, started on a new investigation. Even better, a trip to Las Vegas with her sisters for their mother’s surprise wedding helps Hannah finally make up her mind about which of her two longtime boyfriends, a dentist and a police detective, she should marry. A mysterious subplot involving Hannah’s kleptomaniac cat Moishe adds humor, and the included recipes add sweetness. This cozy mystery series set in Lake Eden, Minnesota, had been getting too predictable, but not anymore. I listened to the audiobook, so I’ll have to look at the print book to try some of the recipes. If you want to start at the beginning of the series, read Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, or look for the movie version on television next month.


First Frost

first frost jacketFirst Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

First Frost is a pleasant, mostly gentle read that may make you hungry. I didn’t realize at first that it’s a sequel to the author’s first book, Garden Spells, set ten years later in Bascom, North Carolina. Claire is living in the house she inherited from her Waverley grandmother, but now makes candy with edible flowers instead of catering. Her niece Bay enjoys helping out, but Claire is increasingly tense. The Waverley women all have minor magical talents. Elderly cousin Evanelle gives people unusual gifts they may need later, such as a spatula. Claire’s affinity is for flowers and cooking, while her sister Sydney is a wonderful hair stylist. But Claire’s young daughter seems quite ordinary. Bay knows where some people and things belong, making her a great organizer, but when she gives Josh a note telling him that he belongs in her life, he doesn’t know how to respond. When a stranger in town tries to convince Claire that she’s not really a Waverley, it takes the magic of first frost, when their apple tree blooms, to set things to rights. It’s nice to visit with the Waverleys again, and Bay is an appealing narrator, but I wanted more back story to remind me what happened in the first book. Actually, I’d really like a book set earlier than First Frost. Complaints aside, this was a very enjoyable book to read, and I will probably re-read Garden Spells.

Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking

soviet cookingMastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing, by Anya von Bremzen

Anya von Bremzen describes life and food in 20th century Russia, the Soviet Union, and former Soviet republics. Born in Moscow in 1963, Anya and her mother Larisa moved to Philadelphia in 1974. By telling the stories of her grandparents and parents, Anya describes each decade of the 20th century, along with the food popular then. Her Jewish grandmother Liza was from Odessa on the Black Sea, her grandmother Alla was an orphan born in Turkestan and raised by a Bolshevik feminist in Uzbekistan. Her grandfather Naum was an intelligence officer, and her father Sergei helped preserve Lenin’s body through science. Through visits to family with her mother and later travels in the former republics with her boyfriend, Anya immerses the reader in the food and culture of each place and time. Trained as a pianist at Julliard, she became a James Beard award-winning food writer. We learn that standing in lines in Moscow could be a social event, as was the case when her parents met in a line for ballet tickets. The alternating availability and scarcity of various foods, such as bread and corn, could make anyone obsess over food, especially if forced to use a communal kitchen or eat caviar in kindergarten. While I don’t know if I’ll be trying any of the recipes at the end of the book, Anya’s memoir really kept my interest.


Big Fall Cookbooks

Here is a varied list of some of the best cookbooks published this fall. Enjoy! -Brenda

The Baking Bible. Rose Levy Berenbaum

A collection of recipes from simple to elaborate from an author known for her foolproof recipes, with plenty of baking advice and gorgeous photos.

Baking Chez Moi. Dorie Greenspanbaking chez moi jacket

Impressive but not too fussy recipes for a variety of French desserts from a well-known cookbook author who lives part-time in Paris.

Holiday Cookies. Chicago Tribune staff

Three decades of award-winning cookies created by Chicago Tribune readers.

How to Cook Everything Fast. Mark Bittman

Clear, step-by-step recipes with variations make efficient use of a cook’s time, but some of these delicious recipes are not what I’d consider fast.

The Kitchn Cookbook. Sara Kate Gillingham and Faith Durand

Part cookbook and part friendly advice on stocking, organizing, cleaning, and designing kitchens, from the editors of a popular food blog.

Make it Ahead. Ina Garten

75 recipes you can make ahead of time, including a Thanksgiving feast. holiday cookies jacket

One Pot. Editors of Martha Stewart Living

120 recipes for weekday dinners, including desserts, using skillets, slow cookers, large pots, roasting pans, and more.

Plenty More. Yotam Ottolenghi

New recipes from a London chef known for his very creative Mediterranean and Middle Eastern-inspired vegetable dishes.

Prune. Gabrielle Hamilton

Unconventional, minimalist recipes with hand-written notes from a New York chef.

Twelve Recipes. Cal Peternell

Originally written for his son in college, these detailed recipes (actually several dozen) may inspire a love of food and cooking.



delancey jacketDelancey: A Man, A Woman, A Restaurant, a Marriage by Molly Wizenberg

Molly, a food writer, marries Brandon, a graduate student in music composition. Brandon has lots of interests and ideas, but Molly is surprised and somewhat dismayed when his dream of owning a pizzeria becomes reality. They both love wood-fired pizza, but Molly prefers to cook at home for friends and family. This engaging, honest memoir gives the reader a close look at the challenges and accomplishments of finding, renovating, and opening a pizzeria in Seattle. Molly starts out as the salad and dessert cook, but finds the pace overwhelming. Cooks come and go, servers become friends, and Molly and Brandon learn to be true partners in Delancey, their restaurant. Molly writes a very popular blog, Orangette.

The Tao of Martha

tao of martha jacketThe Tao of Martha, by Jen Lancaster

Jen, a Chicago area writer, closes out a very bad year by deciding to tackle her house, garden, and life with tips from Martha Stewart. She figures that if Martha can bounce back from adversity, the practical advice in her books and magazines should help Jen. For his New Year’s resolution, her laid-back husband Fletch resolves to grow a beard. Jen is funny, tends to take on more than she can handle, swears a lot, and is devoted to her dogs, especially Maisy, who has major health issues. Guests arriving for a party are likely to be handed a recipe card and directed to the kitchen. Thinking like Martha helps Jen clear out her kitchen’s “Drawer of Shame”, organize and decorate her house, learn about gardening, throw some great parties, become an obsessive disaster prepper, and get her priorities straight when life throws her a curve, such as forgetting that Thanksgiving was just around the corner. Jen finds that while learning new crafts can be rewarding, if you’re not having fun, it’s not for you. For example, pumpkin carving is tough and messy, but decorating pumpkins and gourds with glitter is a breeze. And if you’re going to stop wasting food and cook more, you might as well learn to make comfort foods that are expensive to buy, such as cheesecake. I enjoyed this entertaining and insightful memoir of the year Jen chose organization and happiness.