Category Archives: Cookbooks

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

I remember first hearing about this story a long time ago watching the Simpsons. I then came across the film, and I remember watching it and thinking, huh. This seems like perhaps it’s a lesbian romance. Turns out I was on the money, so I decided to actually go and read the book. I’m not quite sure where I got my copy of this book from. Somehow it just manifested itself on my bookshelf. There’s no pricetag on it so maybe it was a donation? Either way, it turned out that my bestie and I were reading the same book at the same time, so we thought we’d make it an extravaganza and watch the film together as well.

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“Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe” is a novel by Fannie Flagg that spans from the 1920s to the 1980s in Alabama, USA. Jumping back and forth through time, and told through little vignettes and articles, the novel is a sweeping story of a small town and the people in it through the Depression and World War II. In the 1980s is Evelyn, a woman who is losing her identity, her sense of purpose and even potentially her marriage now her children have moved out of home. When she meets the reminiscing Mrs Threadgoode at the same retirement home as her mother-in-law, Evelyn is revitalised by her stories. In particular is the story of incorrigible tomboy Idgie, how she came to meet the beautiful and kind Ruth and the life they built together at a little cafe.

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Flagg is a natural storyteller and this is the perfect book to pick up and read a couple of the short chapters at a time, then come back to again later. It’s a great balance of diverse and interesting characters against charming little stories. Reading this book, you can’t ignore that it was published in 1987. In some ways it absolutely broke ground, especially with respect to disability, women’s rights, homelessness and legitimising LGBTIQ relationships. I loved the character of Stump and how his community and his family rallied around him to help him thrive after his accident. I loved how accepting everyone was of Idgie’s gender identity and of her relationship with Ruth. I loved how much humanity Flagg injects into this novel, especially using the character of Smokey to explore homelessness, alcoholism and a transient lifestyle. In other ways this book has aged a bit, especially regarding the racial commentary. At time it’s hard to separate Mrs Threadgoode’s well-meaning yet archaic comments about African American people, and Flagg’s own views.

I can’t talk about this book without mentioning my favourite part. If you follow this blog, you know how I feel about books with recipes in the back. This book has SO many recipes in the back. Food is such an important part of the story, both in the present and in the past, and really give the book a sense of place. Having the opportunity to cook some of those recipes, including the titular fried green tomatoes which my bestie nailed, really added to the whole experience.

A fun, lighthearted story with some more serious aspects at time, I enjoyed the book a lot and enjoyed cooking the recipes even more.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Cookbooks, General Fiction, Historical Fiction

The Fun of Baking Bread

I received a copy of this cookbook as an eBook courtesy of the author. I’ve only reviewed one other cookbook on this blog, but I really enjoy cooking and trying new things. Regretfully, I’m not much of a baker, so I was keen to see if maybe this author had what it took to educate me.

The Fun of Breaking Bread

“The Fun of Baking Bread” by Andrea Schmidt is a instructive cookbook on the fundamentals of how to make your own bread.

Schmidt is a graphic designer as well as cookbook author, so I think it is critical to note that unless you have a colour eReader (which I do not), it would be best to get the paperback version so you can really appreciate the beautiful design and colour photographs. Also I’m always a bit nervous about spilling ingredients on my electronic devices. I was a bit apprehensive to give this book a go, because I know that baking is not my strength. However, Schmidt covers the fundamentals in a clear yet enthusiastic way that even I could follow. I decided to try my hand at baguettes, and while my shaping probably leaves a bit to be desired, I think they turned out rather well!

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A lovely little book that would be a great gift or a great starting point if you, like me, are intimidated by baking.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Cookbooks, eBooks

The River Cottage Australia Cookbook

Something a little different today. I am a person of many obsessions, and one of my obsessions is the Australian TV series River Cottage Australia. A cooking show about sustainability and growing your own food, hosted by the effervescent Paul West and set in one of my favourite places in the world, the south coast of New South Wales, River Cottage Australia is fantastic television. I love this show so much that my best friend bought me “The River Cottage Australia Cookbook” for my birthday.

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So, you can imagine my excitement when I saw that Paul West would be hosting the opening dinner for the inaugural Canberra Writers Festival. I watched the website for weeks and the second I saw the tickets go on sale, I pounced. When the night arrived, I was so excited that within about ten minutes of my arrival, I ambushed Paul West who was sitting unsuspecting at his table. He obligingly signed my cookbook for me, and we had a grand old chat, and it was an all-round amazing night.

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“The River Cottage Australia Cookbook” by Paul West is not the first book I’ve reviewed on this blog where I have tried to cook one of its recipes. However, it does have the honour of being the first cookbook. I really enjoy cooking, especially when it comes to trying new things. I’m not too bad at the basics, but I’m always looking for a new thing to try and new skills to develop and “The River Cottage Australia Cookbook” is perfect for that. The enthusiasm that Paul radiates on screen is palpable on the pages of this cookbook and he patiently but thoroughly steps the reader through vegetables & salads, fish, meat, bread, dairy and sweet things. Cookbooks aren’t like novels: one doesn’t simply read the entire thing cover to cover. Rather, you tend to flip through the book and see what takes your fancy.

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The first recipe to take my fancy was a pumpkin risotto served inside the shell of a roasted pumpkin. I’m not sure why, but I love the idea of food being used as a bowl for other food. Not being too shabby at risotto, I thought this one would be a good one to start off with. The people at the farmers markets I go to were very interested to know what I was doing with a whole pumpkin (golden nuggets not being available, I decided to take a pumpkin-as-tureen approach). The large pumpkin took a bit longer to cook, and I decided to green it up a bit with some baby spinach as well, but it turned out great and impressed my partner’s parents.

This is a gorgeous cookbook that brings to life the recipes and lifestyle that Paul West is such a proponent of on River Cottage Australia. The photography is stunning with gorgeous illustrated overlays and the recipes are simple enough that anyone could have a go, but unique and interesting enough that they’re not run of the mill. This book has its own distinct flavour, and I’m looking forward to giving some more of these dishes a crack.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Cookbooks