I have always enjoyed reading books that mention food. One of my first Gazette columns featured the Rex Stout novel “Too Many Cooks,” a Nero Wolfe mystery that takes place at The Kanawha Spa, which is easily recognized as The Greenbrier. Stout, one of America’s great mystery writers, created Nero Wolfe, one of the best fictional detectives of all time.
Food is a recurring theme in Rex Stout novels. Stout was a foodie and wine connoisseur. Nero Wolfe’s daily concerns include the methods detailing how food is prepared, how food is eaten, and how it is regarded.
I recently visited Cicada Books & Coffee in Huntington’s Old Central City. The proprietor told me about the 2020 Book Club, which will feature monthly selections about food. Naturally, I want to participate.
The first book that will be discussed in January will be “Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen,” written by the late Laurie Colwin, a columnist for Gourmet magazine. It is both a memoir and cookbook.
I have finished reading this selection. The book was delightfully funny, but I was not impressed with any of the recipes Colwin shared. While I would have enjoyed the conversation at one of Colwin’s dinner parties, the foods that she offered guests seemed unimaginative. Colwin admitted they were occasionally disasters.
I am now reading book number two, and I am looking forward to the discussion of “Like Water for Chocolate,” which was the inspiration for an award-winning film that swept the Ariel Awards in 1992 and, in 1993, became the biggest grossing foreign film ever released in the United States.
It has been described as an earthy, magical and utterly charming novel. It is part fairy tale, soap opera romance, and Mexican cookbook that is “savory and satisfying.” “Like Water for Chocolate” was inspired by the author’s childhood experiences and her close relationship with the grandmother who taught her to cook.
In addition to reading about food, participants in the book club are encouraged to bring a snack that matches the theme or is mentioned in the month’s book selection. That sounds like a great idea to help readers connect with the book and spice up the discussion.
As I read “Like Water for Chocolate,” I am intrigued by the Mexican foods the author mentions. The book club will provide an interesting way to explore new and unusual foods.
I look forward to a year of reading about food. Everyone with an interest in food-related topics is invited to attend the book club and can join anytime. The club meets at 6:30 p.m. on the first Monday of the month with one exception in September, when the first Monday coincides with Labor Day. The selections for the year are:
- Jan. 6: “Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen,” by Laurie Colwin
- Feb. 3: “Like Water for Chocolate,” by Laura Esquival
- March 2: “Consider the Fork,” by Bee Wilson
- April 6: “Victuals,” by Ronni Lundy
- May 4: “Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Countercultural Cook,” by Alice Waters
- June 1: “Ratio,” by Michael Ruhlman
- July 6: “Buttermilk Graffiti,” by Edward Lee
- Aug. 3: “Julie and Julia,” by Julie Powell
- Sept. 14: “Salt,” by Mark Kuriansky
- Oct. 5: “The School of Essential Ingredients,” by Erica Bauermeister
- Nov. 2: “Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise,” by Ruth Reichl
Cicada Books & Coffee is located at 604 14th St. West, Huntington. Phone 681-378-3463 for more details.