1/11/2019

Hawaiian Food for Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers

Our latest selection for Cook the Books Club is Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers, by Sara Ackerman, hosted by fellow Hawaii blogger, Deb from Kahakai Kitchen. Especially interesting to me as a resident on the island where this all takes place - The Big Island!  And so fascinating to visit a familiar locale at this time in the past. I don't believe I've ever read a book dealing with WWII and its impact on Hawaii, particularly The Big Island.

Other than the pies, there wasn't a whole lot of food mentions. Not that I noticed anyway. However, given the ambiance, we can use our imaginations. From the Publishers:

"Hawaii, 1944. The Pacific battles of World War II continue to threaten American soil, and on the home front, the bonds of friendship and the strength of love are tested.

Violet Iverson and her young daughter, Ella, are piecing their lives together one year after the disappearance of her husband. As rumors swirl and questions about his loyalties surface, Violet believes Ella knows something. But Ella is stubbornly silent. Something—or someone—has scared her. And with the island overrun by troops training for a secret mission, tension and suspicion between neighbors is rising.

Violet bands together with her close friends to get through the difficult days. To support themselves, they open a pie stand near the military base, offering the soldiers a little homemade comfort. Try as she might, Violet can’t ignore her attraction to the brash marine who comes to her aid when the women are accused of spying. Desperate to discover the truth behind what happened to her husband, while keeping her friends and daughter safe, Violet is torn by guilt, fear and longing as she faces losing everything. Again."


I had family over and prepared them a Hawaiian themed dinner. Kalua pork, Lomi Lomi Salmon, Macaroni Salad (local style) and Coconut cake. The Kalua pork was a first for me, and made in the pressure cooker. Traditionally, a whole pig would be slow cooked, overnight in an imu (a large rock and banana leaf lined pit in the ground, as they did in the book for their Christmas party). Much easier to start with some locally sourced, free range pork shoulder roast, a few banana leaves and some liquid smoke.  Oh yes!  It totally worked.

1/03/2019

Cajun Cooking for Letters from Paris

If you've read The Paris Key, by Juliet Blackwell, here is another of her stunning, romantic novels, definitely not to be missed.  There is a love story, a bit of mystery to resolve and a fascinating new job.  Letters from Paris, tells the story of an orphan girl in Cajun country, Louisiana, who finally escapes small town life, then makes her way back home, finally ending up in Paris, tracing the origins of a funeral mask.  I especially enjoyed Claire's search for the woman behind the mask, the fascinating details of mask making, and all the delicious food mentions, from her home in the South to the wonderful food she encounters in France.  And, from the Publishers:

"After surviving the accident that took her mother’s life, Claire Broussard has worked hard to escape her small Louisiana hometown. But these days she feels something is lacking. Abruptly leaving her lucrative job in Chicago, Claire returns home to care for her ailing grandmother. There, she unearths a beautiful piece of artwork that her great-grandfather sent home from Paris after World War II.

At her grandmother’s urging, Claire travels to Paris to track down the century-old mask-making atelier where the object, known only as “L’Inconnue”—or The Unknown Woman—was created. Under the watchful eye of a surly mask-maker, Claire discovers a cache of letters that offers insight into the life of the Belle Epoque woman immortalized in the work of art. As Claire explores the unknown woman’s tragic fate, she begins to unravel deeply buried secrets in her own life."

12/27/2018

Lomi Lomi Salmon on The Last Cruise

I truly enjoyed my vicarious trip aboard the 1950s vintage ocean liner, Queen Isabella, on  The Last Cruise, by Kate Christensen.  Before heading to a scrapyard, the dowager vessel is making her last run, a final voyage to Hawaii and back, with all the bells and whistles, highlighting an era of luxury cruising.  The novel gives us a terrific peek into life behind the scenes with various passengers, an owner, the kitchen crew, and  relationships within a Jewish String Quartet, also facing the end of their careers.

From the Publishers:
"For the guests on board, among them Christine Thorne, a former journalist turned Maine farmer, it's a chance to experience the bygone mid-20th century era of decadent luxury cruising, complete with fine dining, classic highballs, string quartets, and sophisticated jazz. Smoking is allowed but not cell phones--or children, for that matter. 
But this is the second decade of an uncertain new millennium, not the sunny, heedless fifties, and certain disquieting signs of strife and malfunction above and below decks intrude on the festivities. Down in the main galley, Mick Szabo, a battle-weary Hungarian executive sous-chef, watches escalating tensions among the crew. Meanwhile, Miriam Koslow, an elderly Israeli violinist with the Sabra Quartet, becomes increasingly aware of the age-related vulnerabilities of the ship herself and the cynical corners cut by the cruise ship company, Cabaret.  When a time of crisis begins, Christine, Mick, and Miriam find themselves facing the unknown together in an unexpected and startling test of their characters."

12/13/2018

Jump Down The Alley Way for Lemon Crunch Cake and Oxtail Soup

There is a little restaurant, in a bowling alley in Aiea, on Oahu, called The Alley.  This place is what you might call a hole in the wall, or a hidden gem.  Most local people do know about the place, but it took Marg the Intrepid, in Australia to clue me in.  She wanted to come to Hawaii to see the Arizona Memorial and partly for the Alley's Lemon Crunch Cake.  Now we don't hop over to Oahu all that often, and when we do go, it is not to Aiea.  However, Bob had his Kaiser eye surgery not too far away.  And we were taking advantage of Uber, so no worries about finding it. Our driver was an older Filipino gentleman who asked us how we knew about The Alley:)

11/27/2018

Collard Greens and Ribs for The Cooking Gene

Our latest Cook the Books Club selection, The Cooking Gene, by Michael W. Twitty, was quite a ride, "A journey through African Culinary History in the Old South," as the sub-title states. Though it is much more than that, being also personal history, a memoir of the author and his family, from the time of their arrival as slaves to the present day.  From the Publishers:

"A renowned culinary historian offers a fresh perspective on our most divisive cultural issue, race, in this illuminating memoir of Southern cuisine and food culture that traces his ancestry—both black and white—through food, from Africa to America and slavery to freedom....
From the tobacco and rice farms of colonial times to plantation kitchens and backbreaking cotton fields, Twitty tells his family story through the foods that enabled his ancestors’ survival across three centuries. He sifts through stories, recipes, genetic tests, and historical documents, and travels from Civil War battlefields in Virginia to synagogues in Alabama to Black-owned organic farms in Georgia."

11/22/2018

Thanksgiving Drink to Cure the Shudders

This debut novel by Ellen Byron, Plantation Shudders, refers to the sense of deja vu or impending doom, either one or the other, which may attack a person of sensitive spirits.  Apparently this is common in the South (and in Celtic countries). I can't speak from experience.  Several characters were getting those shudders at the beginning of the book, so we had a definite feeling that something gruesome would be occurring shortly.  Well, it's a "Cajun Country Mystery", so what you would expect. Murder and mayhem. More from the Publishers:

"Check in for some Southern hospitality in Plantation Shudders, the Cajun Country series debut from Ellen Byron.
It's the end of the summer and Prodigal Daughter Maggie Crozat has returned home to her family's plantation-turned-bed-and-breakfast in Louisiana. The Crozats have an inn full of guests for the local food festival--elderly honeymooners, the Cajun Cuties, a mysterious stranger from Texas, a couple of hipster lovebirds, and a trio of Georgia frat boys. But when the elderly couple keels over dead within minutes of each other--one from very unnatural causes-- Maggie and the others suddenly become suspects in a murder.

11/08/2018

Pear, Pistachio and Rose Cake At My Table

Some one of you out there mentioned this cookbook, At My Table, by Nigella Lawson.  Who can be blamed??  I checked it out of the library, then was forced to buy my own copy.  Me, who had earlier determined that there was a surfeit of cookbooks around here. It was just kismet I suppose.  The too lovely photographs and too delicious sounding meals.  Wonderful concoctions I needed to try for myself.  One of which was this Pear, Pistachio and Rose cake.  And another, her Indian-Spiced Chicken and Potato Traybake.  Both turned out so scrumptious.

Now I have all the rest of Nigella's book to have fun experimenting with.  Because, of course, as must be admitted, and along with many of you, I actually get inspiration more than anything else from a good cookbook; it's a take-off point.

10/19/2018

The Algerian Couscous Connection

Don't you love finding terrific new authors?  Often I'll read the review for a brand new book, not even out yet, (which can be frustrating), but will go find what other books that author has written, read those reviews and perhaps check  one out.  Here's an enjoyable read by Juliet Blackwell, The Paris Key. first of a new series.   I noticed she had other books in series that didn't appeal (witches, ghosts and paranormal fiction), but this one definitely did, and I've already reserved her follow up to it.

A young American woman, Genevieve, with family ties to France, and even to Algeria, returns to Paris after the breakup of her marriage.  The city was where she spent some happy time as a troubled adolescent, with her loving aunt and uncle.  When he dies, she returns to find solace there once more, wearing around her neck an unusual key she inherited from her mother.  I loved all the connections, between family lost and found, secrets kept and finally revealed, past and present.  From the publishers:

"As a girl, Genevieve Martin spent the happiest summer of her life in Paris, learning the delicate art of locksmithing at her uncle’s side. But since then, living back in the States, she has become more private, more subdued. She has been an observer of life rather than an active participant, holding herself back from those around her, including her soon-to-be-ex-husband.

10/10/2018

Panellets de Pinyons for Dia de los Muertos


For this month's round of our Eat the World Recipe Challenge we are visiting Spain.  At least I am.  Actually, the theme is meant to be Halloween in a country of our choice.  And I picked Spain, partly due to a nephew recently moved there and another, his brother, visiting at the moment.  Instead of the American traditional  Halloween, Spain celebrates with a three day holiday honoring deceased relatives.  It is a time when family members come home to pay their respects to the dead, decorate tombstones with flowers, prepare meals together and attend church.  The festivities kick off on October 31st with Dia de las Brujas (Day of the Witches), continues with Dia de Todas los Santos (All Saints Day) on November 1st, and finishes off with Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) on Nov. 2nd.  To discover what all is happening for the holiday in Spain, go to Halloween in Spain for a ton of celebrations and attractions.