This witty and tender novel follows two women in 1960s America as they discover that food really does connect us all and that friendship and laughter are the best medicine.
It’s the sixties in America. Joan Bergstrom is just twenty-seven. She lives in Los Angeles with her mother and is writing for the newspaper. Imogen lives outside of Seattle and has a small cabin on Camano Island as well. She writes a monthly column for a magazine. Joan and her mother are big fans so one day Joan writes her a letter and encloses some saffron.
And just like that their lives are changed. Enriched by a love food. While Imogen is much older than Joan, the language of good food and exotic spices know no age limits. They begin a fast friendship through letters that take them through many sad times and even unexpected events in their own personal lives.
Soon Imogen’s husband is caught up in the food experience. The saffron has unlocked a memory and from there he is invigorated and excited about life again. Joan introduces them to the multi-cultural food found in Los Angeles as well as a secret about her own love for a man of Mexican descent.
The food made my mouth water, the women made me laugh and cry. This was just what I needed at this moment. Human connections. This is one of the most beautiful stories I have ever read.
NetGalley/February 8th, 2022 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons
The story of two real-life women who together create a cookbook at a time when women were not expected to even venture into the kitchens. Eliza Acton and Ann Kirby become unlikely friends and brought forth the first cookery book for private homes. They were the first to list ingredients as well as cooking times. Later their work would be ‘borrowed’ for Mrs. Beeton’s cookbook.
The year is 1837 and Eliza Acton has no desire to be anyone’s wife. She is a poet. A very determined poet. But when her book of poems is rebuffed by her publisher, she is crushed. Especially when he suggests she write a cookery book. Eliza is furious. But then things go awry in her family with her father losing everything and fleeing the country. Leaving his wife to depend on Eliza alone to restore the family’s wealth.
As her mother leases a boarding house, Eliza needs to learn to cook. As she collects recipes she finds that she loves cooking. The flavors blending like poetry itself. But she needs help.
17 -year- old Ann Kirby has lived in poverty and uncertainty her entire life. Her mother is supposedly mad and is put in an insane asylum without her knowledge. Her father is a drunk as well as crippled. It’s a dark life and a hungry one.
When Eliza hires her to help her she knows nothing about cooking. However, she can read and write and her palate is spot on and her descriptions of the flavors are poetry itself. They take ten years to perfect their book. In that time they become more than employer/employee. They become friends. They make each other bolder, stronger, and better.
I enjoyed the back and forth viewpoints. No time hopping, just their own perspectives and thoughts. The descriptions of everything they create are much like poetry and I could smell the herbs and taste the tart lemon on my tongue.
After reading this I googled Eliza and Ann and their book. They introduced spaghetti! And Brussel Sprouts.
Very well written!
NetGalley/October 26th, 2021 by William Morrow Paperbacks
The entire time I was reading this book I wanted coconut cake. Or any of the other delicious foods that Lou is serving up.
Lou opened a French theme restaurant in Milwaukee, Wisconsin at her fiancee’s urging. He would rather her stay home and tend to him and his needs, but when Lou pops in unannounced she finds he’s having his dessert with his intern.
Needless to say Lou is having a bad day. And it’s only going to get worse when a food critic slams her food the same night.
With her restaurant sinking fast, and a new love interest she just may lose both if she isn’t careful and following her heart.
I loved the Milwaukee food scene. I was hungry the entire book, which is usually the case with Reichert’s books!