Lit Pairings – The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons

Thirty-something Colquitt and Walter Kennedy live in a charming, peaceful suburb of newly bustling Atlanta, Georgia. Life is made up of enjoyable work, long, lazy weekends, and the company of good neighbors. Then, to their shock, construction starts on the vacant lot next door, a wooded hillside they’d believed would always remain undeveloped. Disappointed by their diminished privacy, Colquitt and Walter soon realize something more is wrong with the house next door. Surely the house can’t be haunted, yet it seems to destroy the goodness of every person who comes to live in it, until the entire heart of this friendly neighborhood threatens to be torn apart.

Let me start by saying I absolutely LOVED this book. I stumbled upon it while obsessively scouring the interwebs for haunted house fiction, you know like one does around Halloween. This gem of a book was written in 1978 and is now one of my top 10 favorite books. But, before you run right out and find a copy of this to read, just know I’m an odd bird and this book isn’t for everyone.

My favorite things about this book besides the obvious scary bits was all the cocktail time Colquitt, Walter and their friends enjoyed! There weren’t cell phones, computers or a bazillion channels to watch so everyone did something almost foreign to us today – they got together and enjoyed each other’s company!! At the start of the book Colquitt invites a neighbor lady over for a pitcher of Bull Shots. Having never heard of this particular drink I immediately googled it and found out that like this book it might not be for everyone, but I plan to bring it back! I could go on and on about all the wonderful cocktails in this story but I should probably include a food one as well. After an abnormal cold spurt hits the south Coquitt makes Split Pea Soup for them both and then curls up on the couch with Walter in the den for a lazy, cozy day. How amazing does that sound?

If you do find a copy of The House Next Door please drop me a line and let me know what you thought.

Lit Pairings – The Lady in the Lake

The Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman

In 1966, Baltimore is a city of secrets that everyone seems to know—everyone, that is, except Madeline “Maddie” Schwartz. Last year, she was a happy, even pampered housewife. This year, she’s bolted from her marriage of almost twenty years, determined to make good on her youthful ambitions to live a passionate, meaningful life.

Maddie wants to matter, to leave her mark on a swiftly changing world. Drawing on her own secrets, she helps Baltimore police find a murdered girl—assistance that leads to a job at the city’s afternoon newspaper, the Star. Working at the newspaper offers Maddie the opportunity to make her name, and she has found just the story to do it: a missing woman whose body was discovered in the fountain of a city park lake.

Cleo Sherwood was a young black woman who liked to have a good time. No one seems to know or care why she was killed except Maddie—and the dead woman herself. Maddie’s going to find the truth about Cleo’s life and death. Cleo’s ghost, privy to Maddie’s poking and prying, wants to be left alone.

Maddie’s investigation brings her into contact with people that used to be on the periphery of her life—a jewelry store clerk, a waitress, a rising star on the Baltimore Orioles, a patrol cop, a hardened female reporter, a lonely man in a movie theater. But for all her ambition and drive, Maddie often fails to see the people right in front of her. Her inability to look beyond her own needs will lead to tragedy and turmoil for all sorts of people—including the man who shares her bed, a black police officer who cares for Maddie more than she knows.

I REALLY enjoyed this book, and I gave it 5 starts on goodreads! A lot of reviews weren’t great saying the story had too many POV’s, but that’s what I ended up liking most about the story. I think the multiple POV’s might make it hard to listen to as an audio so make sure you read this one.

Since The Lake in the Lake takes place in 1966 I thought it would be fun to check out some of the popular and timeless recipes from the 60’s. One of my favorites is Chicken à la King. After looking at this recipe I think I’ll be adding it back into my rotation this fall! Another full on comfort food recipe that would be amazing to make this winter is Beef Bourguignon.This is of course Julia Child’s recipe because that should be the only one you ever use. After you enjoy either of these dinners you have to make this recipe, that won the Pillsbury Bake Off in 1966, Tunnel of Fudge Cake for desert.

I hope you enjoy The Lady in the Lake as much as I did. Hopefully the retro vibe will inspire you to make one of the recipes. If you do, drop me a line and let me know how it went.

Lit Pairings – Vintage 1954

Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain

When Hubert Larnaudie invites some fellow residents of his Parisian apartment building to drink an exceptional bottle of 1954 Beaujolais, he has no idea of its special properties.

The following morning, Hubert finds himself waking up in 1950s Paris, as do antique restorer Magalie, mixologist Julien, and Airbnb tenant Bob from Milwaukee, who’s on his first trip to Europe. After their initial shock, the city of Edith Piaf and An American in Paris begins to work its charm on them. The four delight in getting to know the French capital during this iconic period, whilst also playing with the possibilities that time travel allows.

But, ultimately, they need to work out how to get back to 2017, and time is of the essence.

Every once in a great while I just want a sweet little read to put me in a good mood. When I’m over the thrillers and the horror that usually occupy my reading lists, Antoine Laurain seems to always be there for me. His books are short, sweet and most importantly French!

Of course a book set in 1954 Paris gives me unlimited amounts of food inspiration. If I were to recreate a day from this story I would start out the morning with a Bloody Mary at Harry’s Bar. This recipe includes celery salt which I understand the original from Harry’s didn’t, so you’ll need to make your own judgement call there. Around mid day I’d pack a Traditional French Picnic and head to a cozy spot with a good book. Then after what I’m sure would be a wonderful afternoon of snacking, reading and lazing about I’d stop by the fish market on my way home and pick up a Whole Trout to roast and perhaps a nice bottle of Sauvignon Blanc to go with it.

Unfortunately I can’t travel back in time to Paris in 1954, but I think I can still recreate this food day right here in the present. I’m going to give it a go before fall sets in. Let me know if you do the same!

Lit Pairings – Into the Jungle

Into the Jungle by Erica Ferencik

Lily Bushwold thought she’d found the antidote to endless foster care and group homes: a teaching job in Cochabamba, Bolivia. As soon as she could steal enough cash for the plane, she was on it.

When the gig falls through and Lily stays in Bolivia, she finds bonding with other broke, rudderless girls at the local hostel isn’t the life she wants either. Tired of hustling and already world-weary, crazy love finds her in the form she least expected: Omar, a savvy, handsome local man who’d abandoned his life as a hunter in Ayachero—a remote jungle village—to try his hand at city life.

When Omar learns that a jaguar has killed his four-year-old nephew in Ayachero, he gives Lily a choice: Stay alone in the unforgiving city, or travel to the last in a string of ever-more-isolated river towns in the jungles of Bolivia. Thirty-foot anaconda? Puppy-sized spiders? Vengeful shamans with unspeakable powers? Love-struck Lily is oblivious. She follows Omar to this ruthless new world of lawless poachers, bullheaded missionaries, and desperate indigenous tribes driven to the brink of extinction. To survive, Lily must navigate the jungle–its wonders as well as its terrors—using only her wits and resilience.

Into the Jungle is an atmospheric thriller I couldn’t put down! But be warned this isn’t your ever day run of the mill thriller. This book will definitely take you out of your comfort zone and drop you head first into the horrible reality of the Amazon jungle.

This book poses some challenges as far as recipes are concerned! Although, I do know someone who has roasted a whole pig in their backyard, I don’t think that is something most of us will ever find ourselves doing. Instead how about this delicious recipe for slow roasted pork carnitas. Once you crisp up the pork you can just pretend you spit roasted a whole pig. Another ingredient that plays a key roll in the story is yuca. I don’t know about you but I’ve never made yuca??? After some serious internet searching I think this recipe for Cuban-Style Yuca would be a tasty side dish to serve with the carnitas. All you need to round this meal off is a few cold cervezas. Pile up your plate and head out into this ridiculously muggy Kansas heat and you’ll feel just like you stepped Into the Jungle.

Lit Pairings – Jaws by Peter Benchley

I think you would probably be from a different planet if you said you hadn’t heard of Jaws before so instead of a synopsis I’ll just include this bit of info…

When Peter Benchley wrote Jaws in the early 1970s, he meticulously researched all available data about shark behavior. Over the ensuing decades, Benchley was actively engaged with scientists and filmmakers on expeditions around the world as they expanded their knowledge of sharks. Also during this time, there was an unprecedented upswing in the number of sharks killed to make shark-fin soup, and Benchley worked with governments and nonprofits to sound the alarm for shark conservation. He encouraged each new generation of Jaws fans to enjoy his riveting tale and to channel their excitement into support and protection of these magnificent, prehistoric apex predators.

I’ve always had a weird fascination with sharks. For some reason the adults in my life didn’t see anything wrong with 5 year-old me watching this terrifying movie. But hey, it was the 80’s and I don’t think the parents of that generation or the generations that came before were too concerned with parenting. So little me had a hard time even getting into swimming pools, let alone large bodies of water for several years without being certain I was going to be ate by a shark! With all that being said I’m not sure why I felt it would be a good idea to take this book with me to read while I’m vacationing ON AN ISLAND!!! I’m sure the rest of my summer will be filled with that old terror while I sit poolside certain that if I get in the water it will end with death by shark.

All death scenarios aside the summer food on the east coast is super yummy. If I could only eat one thing for the rest of my life a Lobster Roll would be on top of the list. I can also always get behind a Oyster Po’boy. I think you could finish off either of these delicious sandwiches with some homemade Ice Cream.

Whether you’re going on vacation this summer or maybe just planning a staycation I think you should pick up Jaws and make one or all of these amazing recipes. Happy Summer!

Lit Pairings – NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

Click here to place a hold on NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

Victoria McQueen has a secret gift for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. On her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike, she makes her way to a rickety covered bridge that, within moments, takes her wherever she needs to go, whether it’s across Massachusetts or across the country.

Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. With his old car, he can slip right out of the everyday world, and onto the hidden roads that transport them to an astonishing – and terrifying – playground of amusements he calls “Christmasland.”
 
Then, one day, Vic goes looking for trouble—and finds Manx. That was a lifetime ago. Now Vic, the only kid to ever escape Manx’s unmitigated evil, is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx never stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. He’s on the road again and he’s picked up a new passenger: Vic’s own son.I’ve been in a reading slump for quite awhile now. Do you ever get in those? No matter what genres I picked up nothing could keep my interest! So what made me think a 692-page book would be the right thing to pull me out of my slump??? Well first of all NOS4A2 has been adapted into a TV series on AMC that started on June 2. The previews looked amazing and I hate to watch a movie or TV show that’s been adapted from a book without first reading it. And second the author Joe Hill is Stephen King’s son. I’ve never read Hill before, but he’s been on my list for a long time and I’d heard great things about his writing style. NOS4A2 didn’t disappoint! It was just what I needed to get myself reading again. Now I just have to hope the TV series does the book justice.

I know you’re thinking this is an odd book to pair food with. And you would be 1000% right about that, but I loved the book so dang it I’m going to make it work! Instead of doing the obvious Christmas themed treats I want to focus more on Vic’s summertime at Lake Winnipesaukee. At the diner “Terry’s” she and her parents would have Frappes (you can’t call them milkshakes). This article will explain the difference between the two and give you a great recipe. I don’t think any summer diner experience could be complete without a really good burger. This recipe is great for those yummy thin burgers that are cooked on the griddle and get all kinds of crispy around the edges.

This is one of those books that you can enjoy in summer or around the holidays. I hope you decide to give it a read and maybe get inspired to make one or both of the recipes listed above.

Lit Pairings – The Night Visitors by Carol Goodman


ALICE gets off a bus in the middle of a snowstorm in Delphi, NY. She is fleeing an abusive relationship and desperate to protect…

OREN, ten years old, a major Star Wars fan and wise beyond his years. Though Alice is wary, Oren bonds nearly instantly with…

MATTIE, a social worker in her fifties who lives in an enormous run-down house in the middle of the woods. Mattie lives alone and is always available, and so she is the person the hotline always calls when they need a late-night pickup. And although according to protocol Mattie should take Alice and Oren to a local shelter, instead she brings them home for the night. She has plenty of room, she says. What she doesn’t say is that Oren reminds her of her little brother, who died thirty years ago at the age of ten.

But Mattie isn’t the only one withholding elements of the truth. Alice is keeping her own secrets. And as the snowstorm worsens around them, each woman’s past will prove itself unburied, stirring up threats both within and without.

I first read Carol Goodman years ago when I picked up The Death Orchid after hearing from someone that it would appease my never-ending hunger for all things Gothic. It did, and I loved her writing style. I haven’t read all her books but those I have read never disappoint.

The Night Visitors is very atmospheric, but is lacking a little when it comes to inspiration for a food based blog. So I’m hoping you will forgive my lack of original recipes and just be excited about how fun this book is!

Now on to the food! At one point in the story the characters are preparing for a big winter storm and what goes better with a storm then a nice slow cooker Chili?!?! Then in the morning when you wake up and find yourself snowed in you can make the other great recipe from the book, Pancakes, and I think this recipe is just the ticket!

I know pancakes and chili aren’t new or exciting, but I promise you this book is! If you enjoy the book drop me a line and let me know.

Lit Pairings – Elevation by Stephen King

Although Scott Carey doesn’t look any different, he’s been steadily losing weight. There are a couple of other odd things, too. He weighs the same in his clothes and out of them, no matter how heavy they are. Scott doesn’t want to be poked and prodded. He mostly just wants someone else to know, and he trusts Doctor Bob Ellis.

In the small town of Castle Rock, the setting of many of King’s most iconic stories, Scott is engaged in a low grade—but escalating—battle with the lesbians next door whose dog regularly drops his business on Scott’s lawn. One of the women is friendly; the other, cold as ice. Both are trying to launch a new restaurant, but the people of Castle Rock want no part of a gay married couple, and the place is in trouble. When Scott finally understands the prejudices they face–including his own—he tries to help. Unlikely alliances, the annual foot race, and the mystery of Scott’s affliction bring out the best in people who have indulged the worst in themselves and others.

When a Stephen King book releases you better believe I’m one of the first ones to read it! However, I wasn’t so sure about Elevation. To begin with it’s just a tiny little book??? I mean we all know King’s books are these huge mammoth tombs that you risk being crushed under while trying to read. And this one isn’t horror?!?! But, with all that being said I devoured this book and it was AMAZING! So sweet and touching in all the right ways. Anyone who thinks King isn’t capable of writing anything but horror really needs to give this one a go.

So, on to the food! In Elevation there is a lesbian couple who is trying to make a go of running a Vegetarian Mexican restaurant however, most of the locals refuse to eat there. I say it’s their loss because that sounds super delicious to me! My version of Vegetarian Mexican would start with one of my all time favorite recipes Crunchy Black Bean Tacos. I’d serve them with Avocado Cream, and Fresh Juice Margaritas. Then finish the meal with Cinco Leches Cake.

Let me know if you try one or all of these recipes. Bon Appetit!

Lit Pairings – Popular Diets

 

Welcome friends to the magical month known as January. Or as I like to think of it, Diet Month! I’m sure we’ve all done this little dance with ourselves once, twice or several times. You stuff yourself in the fall (or all year long, am I right?) and then you decided to pull it all back together and jump on the diet train at the beginning of the year.

A few years ago I had amazing success loosing weight and feeling great when I adopted a plant based diet. It was a game changer for me and was unlike anything I had ever tried before. I read Kimberly Snyders’s book,     The Beauty Detox, and jumped in with both feet! When I decide to do a diet or a lifestyle change (as popular media wants you to think of it) I want to lose weight but I also want to do something healthy that’s going to make me feel better. And I did feel better for around 2 years but as with most diets I slowly started letting the junk food creep back into my daily eating and then it all went to crap. I stopped eating well, so I started feeling bad and then I stopped working out!

I let myself just eat whatever I wanted to for awhile to see how I would feel and I’ll tell you I felt horrible! I was always hungry so I was constantly eating. About 6 months ago I decided to try Whole30. This was a great way to cut out the junk and remember to just limit my meals to simple, real food.

After doing Whole30 I started to hear a lot about Keto. Apparently it was the most Googled diet in 2018. So I pick up this book…

Let me start by saying if you are interested in doing Keto, please do your research because there is way more to it than just eating bacon and cheese! I’ve read several books, listened to podcasts and absorbed a lot of good and bad information online. I started my Keto journey and so far my results have been great. I feel good, I don’t have bloating and most importantly I’m not being ruled by constant hunger! How long will I stay on Keto? Who knows, but right now its the right thing for me and I think that’s what this magical month of January is all about – finding what works for you and hopefully helps you feel better in 2019.

 

 

 

Lit Pairings – The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jump-start her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late ’80s and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds – revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love – Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

This book was so readable, and deliciously yummy! Reid has a great talent for writing likable characters, and that makes it impossible to put her book down. I have yet to hear from someone who read this and didn’t really enjoy it. So if you find yourself in one of those horrible reading slump this books will pull you out. And if you aren’t in a reading slump you should still dive into this one. You won’t be sorry!!

Now for the food. This book let me indulge in one of my favorite genres of eating, the old school steak house meal! Did you mouth just water thinking about it, because mine did! First we’re going to start with a Wedge Salad, because that’s just what you do! This one is from Ina (who else?) and it’s of course wonderful. Then I want a big beastly Butter-Basted Rib Eye Steak. This time of year I find myself pan searing steaks more then grilling. So to do this right you absolutely must have a cast iron skillet! If you don’t have one 1. Why not? 2. Go get one ASAP! You can find them anywhere from Walmart to Williams-Sonoma. It will live forever and you can pass it down to your children! Ok, I’m done with my rant. Now we’re going to follow up that steak with a baked potato. I’m not going to give you a recipe for this I’m just going to tell you a life changing way to make baked potatoes. Rub those taters with a little olive oil and then roll them in coarse kosher salt and dried rosemary. Put them on a baking sheet in a 450 oven until you can squeeze them and they feel soft inside 50 mins. to an hour depending on the size of the potato. When these are done they will have a crazy crispy skin that makes me cry tears of joy just thinking about it. Pair this with a nice drinkable Pinot Noir and you’ve got yourself an amazing dinner.

In the words of Julia Child bon appetit!