Friday, August 22, 2014

Guest Post with Elizabeth Eckhart: Cooking With Books

Cooking with Literature

Great food and enticing literature are a draw to many for their leisure time. So, it’s no surprise that there is some great literature about food. Below, we’ve gone through six books (many adapted into movies in recent years) that discuss friendship, life, and the healing power of the kitchen.
Julie Powell is nearing 30 and in a dead end career. Trying to break the monotony of her every day life, Julie gives herself a challenge: cook every recipe in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year. Testing both her perseverance and her husband's patience, Julie and Julia is truly a witty tale of one woman rediscovering herself through food. The film is a good rendition, made better by the excellent Meryl Streep starring as Julia Child.

Hassan Haji was an unlikely talent. Raised in his grandfather's restaurant in Mumbai, India, Hassan was born with cooking in his blood. When tragedy forces the Haji family to leave India, they try to recreate the world they knew in the world they've found. They open a small Indian restaurant in their new town of Lumière, France, introducing the locals to the recipes and spices of their native land. Unfortunately, this challenges Madame Mallory, the famous chef who runs the esteemed French relais across from their small restaurant. The hundred foot distance between the kitchens of the Hiji family and that of Madame Mallory seems to be an uncrossable expanse, until the bond of food and a blending of cultural tastes creates an unlikely friendship. The novel has just been recently adapted into film, and arrives in theaters August 8th, starring the incredible Helen Mirren as Madame Mallory.

Vianne Roche and her daughter, Anouk, arrive in the French city of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes at the beginning of Lent. Vianne, a chocolate confectioner, bewitches the small town by opening a new chocolate shop, called La Céleste Praline. Unfortunately for Vianne, she finds herself at odds with the local parish. Not only is her shop directly across the street from the church, but the clergy takes exception to the decadence she represents during a holiday of fasting and self-denial. Roche, however, manages to spread chocolate and teach the joy of small indulgences despite the priest’s protests. The novel was adapted into a film starring Johnny Depp and Carrie-Anne Moss in 2000, and is now viewable online through Amazon or DirecTV (click here for more info).

This 2006 bestseller is a memoir that follows author Elizabeth Gilbert as she rediscovers herself following a difficult divorce. Determined to find herself again, Elizabeth spends a year after her divorce traveling. She journeys to Italy where she discovers the joys of good, homemade food and a forgiveness for her own waistline, to India where she investigates her spirituality and in Bali, where she finds love. In this novel food is largely equated with a zest for life, a notion that came across well but was somewhat lost in the film version. Viewers felt that the gaunt Julia Roberts declaring she had “gained a muffin top” wasn’t entirely accurate (the film is also available on Amazon).

Following the death of her mother, Olivia Tschetter's family expected her to return to graduate school along with her siblings. But the heartbroken youngest child found herself somewhere else, in her mother's kitchen, consoling herself among the cookbooks. Drowning her grief in their shared love of cooking, Olivia volunteers for a local Meals on Wheels, where, through others, she discovers a side of her mother she had not previously known. As her family dynamics shift, Olivia discovers her true self and her voice through cooking.

For every stage of her life, Gabrielle Hamilton has had a kitchen that has made an impact on her. In her childhood, it was the rural kitchen of her parents, with her mother standing over the stove, making her feel cared for and safe. As an adult, the kitchen of her Italian mother-in-law recreated that feeling. In between, kitchens in France, Greece and Turkey taught Gabrielle lessons about life, some easier and more nourishing than others. The result of lessons learned in these kitchens is Gabrielle's ability to run her own kitchen in the New York restaurant, Prune, where she has championed the art of wholesome cooking with a gourmet touch. Rumor has it that Gwyneth Paltrow will be starring in a film version sometime in the future.


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