March Reading Roundup


I’ve been doing a fair bit of reading over the last little while. Much of it revolves around food, but there are books of theology and detective fiction. As I’ve been reading I’m discovering that not everything I’ve read, allows for the longer-form posts that I’m trying to write. So beginning this month, I plan on doing a reading roundup.

March book Bound to the Fire

Another fascinating book on the slave era roots of Southern Cooking and Hospitality.

I still intend on doing some of the longer posts such as finishing of the trilogy of posts that I began with Holy Hungry, and I will in the next week or so be posting my thoughts on Martin Walker’s Bruno, Chief of Policeseries. However, I hope at the end of each month to post some reflections on the various books I’ve completed in that month.

Bound to the Fire: Kelley Fanto Deetz

Bound to the Fire is one of the more recent publications that examines the complicated and tangled roots of Southern cuisine and culture, and the role that slaves played in creating that cuisine and culture. Continue reading

Advertisements

More Crime and Cuisine


I’m taking a bit of a break from the series I just started, to do an addition to another topic that I beg a while ago. A couple of months ago, i wrote a post on some of my favourite fictional detective figures where food plays a significant roles in either the stories or character development.

On a whim, when I tweeted the post I tagged Ian Rankin, creator of Rebus, my favourite detective, lack of food narrative notwithstanding, Surprisingly, he answered back my tweet, and even included a couple of other notes. One was making note of Hamish Macbeth, and Agatha Raisin, by MC Beation, and the other was that there exists a whole sub-genre of, largely American, writers whose mysteries include recipes at the end of each chapter.

MC Beaton

When Ian Rankin recommends a mystery writer, there is no choice but to take the time to check that writer out.

One of the writers that came up in the comments to the last post was Martin Walker, and his Bruno Chief of Police series. I have started reading that series and I will be writing about him, but I intend to give Bruno his own post, which I’m going to connect to the idea of French Cuisine. For now, all I’ll say is, if you can get your hand on the Bruno books make sure you do.

One character I left off the list is Jim Qwilleran, from Lillian Jackson Braun’s The Cat Who series. Although the cats are the main focus of the series, Qwilleran proves himself to be quite adept in the kitchen.

Baking, Catering, and Crime Solving

It was reading Diane Mott Davidson’s Catering to Nobody, that got me started on this crime and cuisine jag. I don’t know if she is the start of the genre, but she is clearly marked out as one of the best in the genre. Joanne Fluke is another author who has achieved a great deal of success in this genre.  Continue reading

Holy Hunger – Margaret Bullitt-Jonas


The next couple of weeks or so, I’m going to be doing a series of three book reviews. There may be some other posts mixed in there, but the three books I’m writing about are: Holy Hunger: A Woman’s Journey from Food Addiction to Spiritual Fulfillment, by Margaret Bullitt-Jonas. Hunger: A Memoir of My Body, by Roxane Gay. The Comfort Food Diaries: My Quest for the Perfect Dish to Mend a Broken Heart, by Emily Nunn.

The last two books listed were both published last year. Holy Hunger was originally published in 1998, but Bullitt-Jonas’s story dovetails nicely with the stories by Gay, and Nunn.

Holy Hunger Cover

Cover from the original hardcover edition of Holy Hunger

All three stories came to my attention as a result of my relatively new found focus on visiting my local library for reading material. I found The Comfort Food Diaries in the new and noted section of the Winnipeg Public Library. Reading it made me think of Hunger, which I had heard a great deal about in the last few months, and while reserving a copy of that book, Holy Hunger popped up in my search feed.  Continue reading

My Favourite Crime-Fighting Foodies


This idea behind this post first started working it’s way into my mind about a year ago. While I was preparing my Lent course, I started to think about food and books, and particularly about food and detective fiction, my favourite type of fiction.

I’ve been reading and watching a lot of detective fiction over the last year. Mainly, I admit, watching as I try and work my way ? through whole series using the Winnipeg Public Library.

I was further encouraged in this direction when I visited Pho Yo a couple of weeks ago. I picked up Diane Mott Davidson’s, Catering to Nobody. I’ve finished this book, and I think I’ll give a few more a try. Although, when the lead character suggested that as far as Szechuan food was concerned, she thought that spicy food was concerned spicy food should be left to the Mexicans, I was tempted to hurl the book against the wall. However, I stuck it out, and can only hope the lead character’s palate improves as the series goes along.

Food figures to varying degrees in detective series. For one thing, it’s a great conveyance for poison. Strong Poison, by Dorothy Sayers, is just one example of such a case. Sayers created Wimsey at a time when she was poor and claimed to have made him incredibly wealthy so that she could indulge in the culinary fantasies she herself couldn’t afford. This is a common thread in many Golden Age detectives. Sayers herself developed into quite a gourmand later in life and enjoyed good food and fine wine for the remainder of her life.

My favourite Brussels Sprouts

Criminally good Brussels Sprouts with bacon. Cooked nigh to perfection. Part of a wonderful Christmas Dinner at my brother and sister-in-laws place.

Continue reading

The Cooking Gene – Michael W Twitty


The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South,  by Michael W. Twitty is another book that I picked up from the Millennium Library’s New and Noted Section. If you can get past all the latest and greatest diet and nutrition fad books, there are generally one or two worthwhile titles to pick up and read. I was particularly interested in this book after having recently read John T. Edge’s the Potlikker papers.

*Before I get into this post, for some unrelated, bonus, Dining with Donald content, here’s a link to an article I wrote on Feasting for The Rupert’s Land News, our Diocesan newspaper.*

I first heard of Twitty when I came across a link to a talk he gave on Culinary Justice. I was unfamiliar with his work, and when I went looking for some background information, that is I Googled him, I discovered that he first came to prominence when he wrote an open letter to Paula Deen. This letter came amid Deen’s firing from the Food Network over her use of racist language.

Twitty was already in the process of laying the groundwork for what would end up as The Cooking Gene. The book is a deep and complex look into Twitty’s family life and history, and how that family life and history is intertwined with the history of The Old South(he explains at the opening of the book his own definition of what The Old South means). Twitty identifies as a Black, Jewish, Gay man, and these three combine to

The Cooking Gene cover

The cover of Michael W Twitty’s The Cooking Gene.

I’m not sure how well qualified I am to review this book. Being a middle-aged, white, Canadian has kept me far removed from the outrages and injustices visited on Twitty, his ancestors, and his modern, black contemporaries. I will however give a few thoughts.
Continue reading

Kitchen Counter Cooking School


The Kitchen Counter Cooking School, by Kathleen Flinn, is one of those books that I picked up from the discount bin, read the first few pages and then promptly forgot about. Then, about a week or so ago, I was looking for something to read while I ate my supper and decided to pick it up again. I’m glad I did.

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices Into Fearless Home Cooks, begins with an encounter between the author and a shopper in a grocery store. The shopper has a cart filled with ultraprocessed foods. Flinn, gives her some guidance on ways to better shop and prepare foods. This encounter also starts the author out on a journey.

Kitchen Counter Cover

Cover shot of Kitchen Counter Cooking School

As a recent graduate from the Cordon Bleu School of cooking in Paris, Flinn still hadn’t found her place in the culinary world. Following this grocery store tutorial, she makes an appearance on a radio show where she talks about the encounter, and this in turn lead her into teaching a group of people how to shop and cook better. Continue reading

Lerman – My Fat Dad


I originally started this review over a year and a half ago. I found myself not able to complete it and therefore coming back to it time and again until I was happy with what I wrote.

Shakespeare wrote “If music be the food of love.” Yet for many people food is the food of love. We express our love for friends and family by eating together, and either cooking with or for each other. Dawn Lerman’s My Fat Dad: A memoir of Food, Love, and Family, with Recipes, takes us on a journey with the author

At the heart of My Fat Dad are two relationships. The first is between Lerman and her dad Al, an exceptionally gifted ad man (insert appropriate Mad Men reference here). The second is between Lerman and her grandmother Beauty.

Al Lerman was one of those larger than life people that your read about from time to time. This largeness was most evident in the way he ate. As brilliant an adman as he was, Lerman’s dad fought a constant battle with his weight.  In part this was caused by his desire to try all the items he was creating ads for. This was a solitary activity that his daughter was left out of.

On the other hand, his weight was a constant issue that needed to be dealt with as he climbed the corporate ladder in the advertising. As a result, he was constantly dieting, an activity which his daughter was forced to participate in.

These diets do provide a measure of the humour to the story. If there is a diet that developed int he United States over the last 50 years or so, chances are Al Lerman has tried it. My favourite being the Duke University Rice Diet, featured in chapter 8. Perhaps that’s how Coack K keeps so skinny after all these years.

One result of this was for food to create a certain distance between father and daughter. Lerman’s mom was no help in this area as her mother was about as disinterested in food as a person could be. In later years, here mother would also be heavily involved in promoting the acting career of Ms. Lerman’s younger sister.

While food created a wedge between father and daughter, it deepened the bond between grandmother and granddaughter, and it was in her grandmother’s kitchen where Lerman learned her greatest lessons about food, cooking and more importantly, love.

Lerman’s story with her father is bittersweet. He and her mother divorce and that removes her somewhat from the sphere of her father’s life. She does eventually get the opportunity to share her love of food, with her dad. Sadly, this sharing comes about only after here dad is diagnosed with the cancer. However the diagnosis means that they now have common ground in the world of food. This gives them good ground to rebuild and strengthen their relationship moving forward.

My Fat Dad Cover

My Fat Dad is an entertaining read, that will also get you thinking about your family relationships.

Each of the chapters has several recipes attached to it. So, if you like a book that is both memoir and cookbook in one, you will really appreciate My Fat Dad One added feature of the book is that Lerman presents the recipes as she learned them. Despite being a nutritionist she doesn’t present her eating history as different from what it actually was. However, she does allow her nutritionist a voice by providing at the back of the book a swap chart that allows readers to attempt healthier versions of the recipes is they so desire.

Baking with Lerman

When I get a book that includes recipes with it’s stories, I like to try at least one of the recipes as I write the review. This week getting ready for the production of Vicar of Dibley that I’m appearing in, I decided to go with the simplest recipe in the book. This is a three ingredient Peanut Butter Cookie:

Easy Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup brown sugar or sugar of choice

1 cup crunchy peanut butter

1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a Baking sheet with parchment paper. Stir all the ingredients together until smooth. Roll into 1-inch balls with your hands. Press down with the back of a fork and then press again from the opposite direction, to form the criss-cross pattern on top. Bake for 12 minutes. Remove cookies from the oven and let cool before removing to a wire rack to finish cooling. (page 234)

My Fat Dad cookies

The peanut butter cookies fresh out of the oven.

I made a triple recipe. That means that there was enough for rehearsal, and there were also a couple of dozen or so leftover, which I have frozen. They will be served at the St. Philip’s Sunday coffee time this week.

My Fat Dad and Dibley

The cookies piled on a tray ready to be served to my Vicar of Dibley class mates.

My Fat Dad, is the kind of book that will have you reflecting on your own family relationships. This may not be the easiest thing to do, but it will allow the reader to reflect on things and hopefully, give the opportunity to work to rebuild relationships. In those cases where the person we wish to rebuild the relationships with is no longer there, it may help us to resolve to put more time and energy into the relationships we do have, particularly when it come to finding time to share food together.