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!

 

Lit Pairings – Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

 

Kirsten Raymonde will never forget the night Arthur Leander, the famous Hollywood actor, had a heart attack on stage during a production of King Lear. That was the night when a devastating flu pandemic arrived in the city, and within weeks, civilization as we know it came to an end.

Twenty years later, Kirsten moves between the settlements of the altered world with a small troupe of actors and musicians. They call themselves The Traveling Symphony, and they have dedicated themselves to keeping the remnants of art and humanity alive. But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who will threaten the tiny band’s existence. And as the story takes off, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, the strange twist of fate that connects them all will be revealed.

If you didn’t already know Station Eleven is this year’s Wichita Big Read. There are lots of great events going on now through November 15 in Wichita, at our library and at other surrounding libraries. You can find our events here https://derbylibrary.com/events/programs.

So without spoilers for those who haven’t read the book it’s a post apocalyptic novel that stemmes from a world wide pandemic. In a recent library podcast, Novel Idea the Library Podcast  we were asked what our final meal would be before the collapse of modern civilization. Give this podcast a listen to find out what mine is. You won’t be disappointment!

 

Lit Pairings – The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. But the games ended the night Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin into the darkness. The last she–or anyone–saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.

Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings–massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. When the paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale, she implores Emma to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor. Seeing an opportunity to find out what really happened to her friends all those years ago, Emma agrees.

Familiar faces, unchanged cabins, and the same dark lake haunt Nightingale, even though the camp is opening its doors for the first time since the disappearances. Emma is even assigned to the same cabin she slept in as a teenager, but soon discovers a security camera–the only one on the property–pointed directly at its door. Then cryptic clues that Vivian left behind about the camp’s twisted origins begin surfacing. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing mysterious threats in the present. And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale and what really happened to those girls, the more she realizes that closure could come at a deadly price.

This was the perfect summer read! You could feel the heat and the camp atmosphere because here in Kansas we were living it! Now as we slowly edge out of summer maybe we can remissness by making some of our favorite camp food at home.

To start out your day you might want French Toast Sticks. Instead of reaching for those sad but tasty frozen ones, why not make a delicious and easy Overnight French Toast Bake that could feed a crowd? One of my favorite sleep away camp meals is Sloppy Joe’s, and this slow cooker version will sever you well no matter what the season is. Then, to finish up your camp themed day why not make Easy S’mores Bars? You may or may not decide to eat them while singing Kumbaya in front of your fireplace, and I won’t judge you for it!

What were your favorite foods at camp? Drop me a line and let me know!

Lit Pairings – The Dying of the Light by Robert Goolrick

Diana Cooke was “born with the century” and came of age just after World War I. The daughter of Virginia gentry, she knew early that her parents had only one asset, besides her famous beauty: their stately house, Saratoga, the largest in the commonwealth, which has hosted the crème of society and Hollywood royalty. Though they are land-rich, the Cookes do not have the means to sustain the estate. Without a wealthy husband, Diana will lose the mansion that has been the heart and soul of her family for five generations.

The mysterious Captain Copperton is an outsider with no bloodline but plenty of cash. Seeing the ravishing nineteen-year-old Diana for the first time, he’s determined to have her. Diana knows that marrying him would make the Cookes solvent and ensure that Saratoga will always be theirs. Yet Copperton is cruel as well as vulgar; while she admires his money, she cannot abide him. Carrying the weight of Saratoga and generations of Cookes on her shoulders, she ultimately succumbs to duty, sacrificing everything, including love.

Luckily for Diana, fate intervenes. Her union with Copperton is brief and gives her a son she adores. But when her handsome, charming Ashton, now grown, returns to Saratoga with his college roommate, the real scandal and tragedy begins.

Let me start by saying I’ve read and loved all of Goolrick’s books. He has a way of writing human nature and tragedy like no one else. While reading I become consumed and often find myself flipping to the authors picture in the back of the book and wondering how such a kind faced man came up with such heartbreaking stories.

As you can image a book set in Virginia must have some amazing food. Every scene that included a meal had be drooling and running for my kitchen to try to find something, anything that would sate my appetite. There were traditional southern favorites like Paper Bag Fried Chicken  and Ham Biscuits but there were also unknown (at least to me) mentions of Sally Lunn  , a bread that’s similar to brioche and Sugar Toads, a type of puffer fish that is apparently crazy tasty.

If you make any of these recipes or especially if you find Sugar Toads, drop me a note and let me know how delicious it all was!

Lit Pairings – The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg

For the past six months, Arthur Moses’s days have looked the same: He tends to his rose garden and to Gordon, his cat, then rides the bus to the cemetery to visit his beloved late wife for lunch. The last thing Arthur would imagine is for one unlikely encounter to utterly transform his life.

Eighteen-year-old Maddy Harris is an introspective girl who visits the cemetery to escape the other kids at school. One afternoon she joins Arthur—a gesture that begins a surprising friendship between two lonely souls. Moved by Arthur’s kindness and devotion, Maddy gives him the nickname “Truluv.” As Arthur’s neighbor Lucille moves into their orbit, the unlikely trio band together and, through heartache and hardships, help one another rediscover their own potential to start anew.

This is one of those beautifully heart warming stories that really makes you believe everything can work out in the end. If you find yourself down in the dumps or maybe lately you’ve just been reading books that are way too serious, you need this story in your life! Like right this minute! FOR REAL!

And the food. Oh the food! I think food, or perhaps meals are a major character in this book. When Arthur is on his own he keeps it pretty simple. He takes a sandwich to the cemetery everyday for his lunch. Though they tend to be simple I think the fact that he rotates his filling choices shows he still cares a little bit about his noon meal. At dinner Arthur seems to feel more alone and that is reflected in his cooking or lack there of. But I will say I love the way he threw together his beans! I think beans can be one of the most simple and comforting meals. This isn’t Arthur’s recipe but it’s one of my favorite ways to enjoy beans Shrimp with White Beans on Toast. 

Another character, Arthur’s neighbor Lucille, is one heck of a baker and chef. She likes to show her love through food, and she woos Arthur with wonderful confections like her Orange Blossom Cookies  which he thinks about often. When Lucille decides to start teaching a cooking class she agonizes over what her first recipe should be. She settles on her Pistachio Party Cake. I’m not sure what her exact recipe is but I knew she would be appalled if I included one that used a box cake mix! At Thanksgiving Lucille is in full crazy holiday cooking mode! She decides to make 14 things but assures Arthur and Maddy it’s really not that big of a deal since two of the 14 are cranberry sauces. When she finds out there will be a last minute guest she decides she really needs to make Pumpkin Tea Bread, because you can’t entertain without it. Lucille is a lady after my own heart!

The Story of Arthur Truluv truly shows what “Food is Love” really means. I think cooking for and sharing food with those you love is one of the greatest experiences humans can enjoy. Let me know if you make any of the recipes from the book or just enjoy reading it.

 

Lit Pairings – The Last Suppers by Mandy Mikulencak

Many children have grown up in the shadow of Louisiana’s Greenmount State Penitentiary. Most of them—sons and daughters of corrections officers and staff—left the place as soon as they could. Yet Ginny Polk chose to come back to work as a prison cook. She knows the harsh reality of life within those walls—the cries of men being beaten, the lines of shuffling inmates chained together. Yet she has never seen them as monsters, not even the ones sentenced to execution. That’s why, among her duties, Ginny has taken on a special responsibility: preparing their last meals.

I found this book to be beautiful is so many ways. The relationships between the characters, the shifting of perspective, the atmosphere and most importantly the FOOD! Even something as simple as making biscuits seemed calming and magical the way Mikulenacak describes it.  The detail I enjoyed most about this book was finding all of the recipes listed throughout the story in the back of the book. None of them of anything fancy, just southern comfort food but that’s what makes them even more irresistible! I never thought I’d want to make something call Pork Neck Stew so bad in my life! However, if you read this book and still aren’t enticed to make the stew rest assured there are several other recipes I’m sure you will enjoy.

Also, I found this article/interview with Mikulenacak I think you might want to take a peek at.

If you make any of the recipes in the book let me know how they turn out!!

Lit Pairings – The Hunger by Alma Katsu

This post won’t have anything to do with it, but Happy Mother’s Day!

Evil is invisible, and it is everywhere.

That is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the wagon train known as the Donner Party. Depleted rations, bitter quarrels, and the mysterious death of a little boy have driven the isolated travelers to the brink of madness. Though they dream of what awaits them in the West, long-buried secrets begin to emerge, and dissent among them escalates to the point of murder and chaos. They cannot seem to escape tragedy…or the feelings that someone–or something–is stalking them. Whether it’s a curse from the beautiful Tamsen Donner (who some think might be a witch), their ill-advised choice of route through uncharted terrain, or just plain bad luck, the ninety men, women, and children of the Donner Party are heading into one of one of the deadliest and most disastrous Western adventures in American history.

As members of the group begin to disappear, the survivors start to wonder if there really is something disturbing, and hungry, waiting for them in the mountains…and whether the evil that has unfolded around them may have in fact been growing within them all along.

I think a lot of people continue to be interested in the Donner Party. It’s just one of those terrible train wreaks in history you can’t look away from. Katsu puts a completely believable (at least to me) paranormal spin on it that makes you really wonder what happened to those poor people???

Right about now you may be thinking “Where in the world is she going to take us with the food portion of this post”? Well I bet if you think about it for a second you can guess…… RIBS! Yup, I think we need to go there!

I don’t have an Instant Pot, but someone told me they made them and they’re wonderdful, so if you do have an Instant Pot you should definitely make these Instant Pot Country Style Ribs.  What sides you do like with ribs? I polled my co-workers and they all said coleslaw so I would try this fun Dill Pickle Slaw.  Then finish it off with a nice cornbread and you’ve got some good eats!

Now run right to your kitchen and make all of these recipes and let me know what you think!