Where Shall We Travel for A Taste of Adventure with Anik See?

28 12 2009

I hope everyone is enjoying a lovely holiday season full of good times with friends and family and festive food and drink, peppered with quieter times for relaxation and reading.  If you haven’t found out already, my CTB co-hostess in Athens, Greece welcomed a miniature Food Junkie into the world a few weeks ago.  You can find out the details about   Johanna’s new baby girl and I know we all wish mother, father and family much happiness with their sweet little one.

Our armchair travels with our featured author, Anik See, in her book “A Taste for Adventure” take us to many parts of the globe, and we travel along with her at a leisurely pace by bicycle.  This perambulation allows for an immersion in the local environment and interaction with residents that are immediate and intense.  I love the chapter on Georgia, where Anik and cycling mate Doug are flagged down by two men who had passed them in their truck earlier in the day and had shot ahead to set up a six hour impromptu feast for their new friends that evening.  The next day, this avalanche of hospitality is reproduced at the home of a farmer the two merely hail for information about where to camp overnight and again and again during the “knee-aching climbs” through the Georgian landscape, our traveling pair is loaded with produce, food gifts, overnight stays, impromptu feasts and wine, wine and more wine.

Thank you to the Graphics Fairy for this image.

I am still savoring this book, wondering which part of the world as described so vividly in See’s book, will inspire my Cook the Books post and yours.  Will it be Georgia?  Or Malaysia?  Patagonia or Armenia? Or Turkey, Iran, Mexico, Canada, Singapore, Indonesia, Argentina or Thailand?  Or perhaps I will be inspired to hop on my own bike and navigate the snowy crusts of upstate New York to find an adventure of my own?

Looking forward to your thoughts on the book and your posts……

A History of the Cook the Books Club

14 12 2009

Hi everyone:

Our little virtual book club is now over one year old, so I thought I would add a page,  “CTB Archives”,  at the top of our blog to give everyone an overview of what we’ve read and blogged about.  Newcomers to our book club can check out what we thought of the various book titles, who our guest judges were, and who the winning posters were.

I’ll try to remember to keep this page updated as we pick new selections and post new roundups.  Hope everyone is finding some quiet and restful times to read during this busy holiday season!

December/January Book Selection: A Taste for Adventure

3 12 2009

Hi everyone!  I am Rachel, the Crispy Cook, and I am happy to be the current host of Cook the Books, the foodie book club started last year by me and my two blogger friends, Deb of Kahakai Kitchen and Jo of Food Junkie, Not Junk Food. Our current book selection is Anik See’s book “A Taste for Adventure: A Culinary Odyssey Around the World” (NY: Seal Press, 2002). See traveled by bicycle through Malaysia, Singapore, Patagonia, Thailand, Georgia, Turkey, Armenia, Indonesia, Argentina, Iran, Mexico and Canada, and her observations about this intimate tour of these lands and the people she met in transit is absorbing reading.   This book was also published in Canada under the title “A Fork in the Road”.

I am also delighted to announce that our author, Anik See, has graciously agreed to serve as our guest judge.   See previously worked as a researcher for the Canadian television cooking show “The Urban Peasant” and now lives in The Netherlands, where she continues to write, as well designing and repairing books (be still my bibliophilic heart!).  You can see examples of her bookbinding and book arts at her website.

To join us at Cook the Books, all you have to do is read the book, blog about it and something you cook up that is inspired by your reading. The deadline for doing so is Friday, January 22, 2010. I will post a roundup of blog posts afterward and then our guest judge, Anik See, will read them and  pick a winning post. The winner receives a badge for their blog, addition to the Cook the Books blog roll and all the accolades one can put up with. Sound fun? Please do join us, we love reading everyone’s thoughts about our book picks and seeing the creative entries from kitchens around the world.

WE HAVE A WINNER!!!Announcing the “French Lessons Winner” for Cook the Books

22 11 2009

Hello again!

Sorry to have kept you waiting.  Beth, our guest judge from Beth Fish Reads, has chosen a winner, so please read below. I have included her whole email:

Thanks so much for contacting me about being the judge for
the Cook the Books experience with Peter Mayle’s French Lessons. I was
so flattered to be picked. Once I got over that, however, I realized
that is an incredibly hard job. I have a new found respect for all your
previous judges.

First let me say how impressed I am with each entry. Wow, you are all
so ambitious and did such a great job with your dishes whether you
loved French Lessons or not. I now also understand why every judge
mentions how hard it is to pick a winner. The quality is amazing, and
I could clearly see the thought and effort and research that go in to
creating or finding a dish that fits with the selected book. Everyone
gets my admiration and applause.

I reviewed French Lessons on my blog last January, and although I
liked A Year in Provence better, I enjoyed following Peter around
France and virtually sharing in some good meals and festivals.

Okay, enough about me and let’s get on to the judging. Well, one more
thing about me: I’ve added several recipes to my must-try-really-soon
list. Thanks!

The runner-up is Beth of Seventh Level of boredom with her Poulet a la
There was more than one entry that used this fabulous dish;
each was different and each looked wonderful. But I loved Beth’s write
up, and I could totally relate to her surprise of how amazingly easy
it is to make chicken this way. Too bad, as she says, we can’t eat
this every day. I love the idea of serving the sauce in a dipping
bowl. I would have never thought of that, but it expands the
possibilities of making a pretty presentation on the table.

The winner is Claudia of Honey from Rock with her Omelette aux
Truffes. I admire her search for the perfect (or, well,
not-so-perfect) truffle and her willingness to expose the emperor’s
nakedness. Thanks to her, I know a lot more about truffles and what to
buy if I ever decide to try them myself. Besides that, I loved the
omelet recipe and the pairing with the asparagus — so lovely on the
plate and a nice foil for the richness of the eggs.

Thanks so much for letting me be a judge for your great
cooking/reading event. I’ve been a follower of the Cook the Books blog
for a while and I just love the whole idea of it. One day I’ll find
the time and energy to enter one your cook-offs! In the meantime, I’ll
be watching, reading, cooking, and eating!

So, CONGRATULATIONS Claudia! You did it again! As you will all know, Claudia was also our previous Cook the Books winner (Last Chinese Chef), so she does have a Winner badge already and her special place on the HALL OF FAME blogroll! And of course congratulations to you Beth!

See you all on a couple of months


French Lessons: the roundup

14 11 2009

Hello everyone!

I am Jo from Food Junkie, this term’s host of Cook the Books, and it is time for all of you to meet our contestants, who read and cooked from Peter Mayle’s French Lessons.

I was sure that the book would inspire some mouth watering dishes with an inclination towards cream and cheese, and I was very excited to see the results. I was also intrigued by the fact that the book was not so popular with all of the contestants, some found it mediocre while others completely uninteresting, but I admired their frankness and I think that this is more important than keeping everyone happy all the time. After all we all have very different tastes in food, so why not in literature too?

Ok, so here is a list of all participants with a small description of their dish. Our judge  will be Beth from Beth Fish Reads, who maintains a very thorough literature blog and is a passionate foodie too!

Crepes aux Epinards et Fromage

Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies was inspired by the chapter on the “Thigh Tasters of Vittel” and especially the early morning wine pairings that Mayle describes in the book. So she made Crepes aux Epinards et Fromage (Spinach and Cheese crepes) for breakfast and had them with some red wine. A very decadent way to start the day for sure!

Honey from rock

Claudia of Honey from Rock moderately liked the book, but was inspired enough by the three-Michelin Star restaurant descriptions of the last chapter when Mayele enjoys a spa and gastronomic weekend at Eugenie-les bains spa. So she set out to make Omelette aux Truffes, a rather extravagant dish because of the use of the expensive fungus, but admittedly one of the best ways to showcase the aroma and texture of good truffle. Unfortunately she couldn’t find any fresh ones and the preserved one she used didn’t have a very strong taste. However, this plump omelette surely looks inviting enough!

Macaroni and Cheese with Gruyere and Mushrooms

Joanne of Eats well with others also didn’t like the book that much, but she did enjoy the chapter on the Marathon du Medoc. I actually agree with her that it was one of the best chapters in the book. Being a runner herself she was amazed by the heavy meal the runners had the day before the race, but since she wasn’t going to run any time soon, she made Macaronis et Fromage Avec Des Champignons (Macaroni and Cheese with Gruyere and Mushrooms) a “play on the macaroni and cheese we all know and love. I don’t know about you, but I think this is perfect comfort food!

Seventh level

Beth of Seventh Level of boredom really enjoyed the book, despite the fact that at first it struck her “as an arrogant account of one man’s travels through France on a no-holds-barred mission to eat and get drunk, with a seemingly limitless line of credit”.  She actually found the meal that Mayle had in Bresse very inspiring, so she cooked the kind of dish I always associate with French bistro cooking,  Poulet a la creme (chicken with cream). She suggests you eat this the minute you make it and I couldn’t agree more!

Chicken with creme and mushrooms

Maria of Organically Cooked liked the book and found that the French have many similarities with the Greeks living in Crete. She notices that “they both love smoking and find it frigging hard to obey the recently introduced smoking bans in their countries. Then they both love their long extended lunches and siestas. They both also take pride in their institutions, which may sound a little old-fashioned in some ways, as if they have not moved on with the times, but hey, that’s the Greeks (or the French) for you”. I would also add that they both take great pride in their cuisine. Anyway, Maria left her Mediterranean diet aside for a while and made Chicken with creme and mushrooms, also inspired by Mayle’s meal in Bresse. She tried to get hold of an excellent quality chicken and to make do with ingredients that were available in her part of the world and from what I see the results were excellent!


Simona from Briciole , an Italian-English blog, was inspired by the chapter dedicated to the wine auction in Burgundy. Although she doesn’t like wine that much, she was intrigued by the puff pastry nuggets Mayle tried together there, so she made Gougères a la Gouda. And guess what, the Gouda she used she made herself too! Now HOW COOL IS THAT!?

Gratin Savoyarde

Porc a la Normandie

Judy of Judy’s Gross Eats liked the book and particularly the chapter on the Marathon du Medoc. So she cooked up not one but two dishes: a gratin Savoyarde and Porc a la Normandie. Unfortunately she doesn’t give us any of these recipes!


Alicia of Foodycat didn’t like the book that much and wasn’t moved to either taste any of the food described in there or visit any of the food festivals. Inspiration for cooking up something French-related only came while watching Eating in the Sun on BBC television and their visit to Alain Ducasse’s restaurant La Bastide de Moustiers.  So she cooked up a squash and truffle spelt risotto which would tie in nicely with the whole chapter on truffles that Mayle had in the book. The final result was not as good as expected truffle-wise, because, like Claudia (of Honey from Rock) she didn’t use any fresh truffles, only jarred ones (I have now decided never to buy anything but the real thing). Other than that, however, it was a yummy dish and I certainly believe her!

Coq au riesling

Deb of Kahakai Kitchen, co-founder of Cook the Books Club, liked the book and since she had a hard time finding something entirely related to the book to cook she decided to stick to something French instead, so she made Coq au Riesling. This is a traditional an Alsatian variation of the more well-known Coq au vin, where the red Burgundian wine is substituted by the white fruity Riesling wine which is abundant in the area. She actually prefers it to Coq auVin and I couldn’t agree more!

Pastry Wrapped Brie

Last but not least the Rachel of The Crispy Cook, also a Cook the Books co-founder, really loved the book and  was inspired to visit some food festivals in her area (Bennington’s Garlic Festival and the Washington County Cheese Tour)! Rachel loves cheese so she decided to make a pastry wrapped Brie, which sounds like an easy thing to do but isn’t if you are making it gluten free (her blog specializes in wheat and gluten free recipes).


Finally,  my own entry for Cook the Books, which, compared to all the lovely food presented above is going to be very boring indeed, was a wedge of Livarot cheese inspired of course by the chapter “Love at first sniff” which describes Mayle’s visit to the village of Livarot for a cheese festival. I was actually so surprised and excited to be able to find this cheese in Greece, that I didn’t think twice about cooking up anything. Plus, since I am the host, I am not being judged!


That was it folks! I hope we will see all of you for our next November-January Cook the Books event where Rachel, The Crispy Cook will be hosting. She will take us on an adventure around the globe with her pick the foodie/travel memoir, A Taste for Adventure: A Culinary Odyssey Around the World by Anik See.

Till then au revoir!

Submissions for “French Lessons” closing today

8 11 2009

Hello everyone,

Today is the last day to post your recipe for French lessons. If you have and forgot to email me, please do so at:  jdimopoulos AT gmail.com in the next couple of days, so that I will be able to post the roundup and send your submissions to the judge!



Announcing Our Next 3 Cook the Books Titles!

16 09 2009

Due to all the positive feedback on announcing our Cook the Books selections in advance so you all have time to locate the book, here are the next three picks that will follow our current selection, Peter Mayle’s “French Lessons: Adventures with Knife, Fork and Corkscrew” being hosted by Jo at Food Junkie Not Junk Food. (Remember the deadline on French Lessons has been extended to November 8th).

Once again we tried to come up with great books, a little variety, and books that you can find in paperback, used or at your local library.

Cook the Books Selection: November – January

Rachel, The Crispy Cook will be hosting this round and decided to take us on an adventure around the globe with her pick the foodie/travel memoir, A Taste for Adventure: A Culinary Odyssey Around the World by Anik See. (NY: Seal Press, 2002).  (Originally published in Canada by Macmillan under the title “A Fork in the Road”). The author is a Canadian currently living in the Netherlands, writing and working as a bookbinder and letterpress printer.  She interspersed her years as a food researcher for the Canadian television show “The Urban Peasant” with many cycling trips around the world and showcases these travels in this collection of essays, with many recipes and photos sprinkled throughout.  See travels to Malaysia, Singapore, Patagonia, Thailand, Georgia, Turkey, Armenia, Indonesia, Northern Argentina, Iran, Mexico and British Columbia, so there will be a smorgasbord of culinary cultures to ruminate on in our blog posts.


Since this book hits around holiday time, we are taking an extra few weeks and extending the deadline into January. You should have this selection read and your dish posted by Friday, January 22nd.

Cook the Books Selection: February-March

For me, Deb at Kahakai Kitchen, finding a new book to love is fun, but I also like to revisit a favorite book that I haven’t read in a while. For my pick, I am taking us back to a classic and a novel I love, “Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies”  by  Laura Esquivel. Many of you may have read it or seen the movie (also wonderful), but for those who have not, “Like Water for Chocolate” is set in turn-of -the-century Mexico, and tells the story of Tita, the youngest daughter of a well-born rancher. As youngest daughter, her destiny is to remain single and care for her aging widowed mother but she falls in love with Pedro anyway. Her mother quickly takes care of that by making her sister marry Pedro. Tita pours all of her emotions into cooking and the results make for a fun, fanciful and often poignant story of love, life and of course FOOD! A recipe starts each chapter of this classic book and since this is a good excuse to delve into some traditional Mexican cooking, get out any Rick Bayless and Diana Kennedy cookbooks you have lying around.


Our deadline for reading this selection and posting your dish is Friday, March 26.

Cook the Books Selection: April-May

Jo from Food Junkie Not Junk Food is back as host for this round and is jetting off with us to Britain to find out from a favorite chef and food/cookbook writer just what those Brits eat!  Eating for England: The Delights & Eccentricities of the British at Table, is Nigel Slater’s personal portrait of the British and their food. With his witty, warm and nostalgic tone Slater addresses favourite British cuisine staples (high tea, scones, black pudding, Sunday roast etc.) and products (biscuits, chocolates etc) sometimes with love and others with apprehension. He is both entertaining and informative, often focusing on the sociological aspect of foods, painting a vivid portrait of nation whose relationship to food “is unlike any other“.  If you have never read any of Nigel Slater’s books or cooked his recipes you are in for a treat, the man is amazing! We can’t wait to see what dishes everyone comes up with for this one.


The deadline for reading and posting your dish for this selection is Friday, May 21st.

And there you have it–our next three selections! We hope that you can join us as we travel the globe these next few months, reading great books, cooking and eating wonderful food and sharing it all with good friends.

Now collect your knife, fork and corkscrew and get back to your “French Lessons“!

Your hosts,

Deb, Rachel & Jo

Note: If you are new to Cook the Books, welcome! We are a bi-monthly virtual book club, reading great food-related books and cooking and posting dishes inspired by them. Anyone is welcome to join our group. If you have any questions, you can find the details here, or leave a comment and we’ll get back to you.