Yes of course I want to see my kids on Mother’s Day — I’d like to see them playing outside while I curl up inside with a book. Who’s with me? Uh huh. I see a few nods out there. Any one of these four would suit me just fine, and a tea if you’re making it, maybe a couple of tarts too. (*brushes pastry crumbs off leggings* How many days have I been wearing these?) Spring brings a bounty of new releases in every genre, and today I’ve got a look at a selection in stores just in time for Mother’s Day — two for those who love to cook and bake and entertain (alone or with kids helping alongside), one for fashionistas and another for the reluctant traveller. Because every one knows a mom who just wants time to think and read, and one of these books might make the perfect companion. (My thanks to Hachette Book Group Canada, who sent me all four to review.)
Dinner Chez Moi: 50 French Secrets to Joyful Eating and Entertaining by Elizabeth Bard is the American ex-pat’s third book about her life in Provence, this one a light and lively guide to the essential ingredients and tools in French cooking with easy (and mostly healthy) recipes for everyday and special occasions — everything from the hearty and comforting Lentil and Sausage Stew, requested by Elizabeth’s friends year-round, to the simple After-School Madeleines, which declined so quickly in number the first two afternoons I made them that it’s a wonder there were any left to eat come 3:30. The book is divided into three parts: Ingredients (what you will and won’t find in French kitchens), Equipment (six of Elizabeth’s must-haves) and Rituals, i.e. “How the French Eat Bread and Cheese, Drink Wine, and Enjoy Dessert, and Still Look the Way They Do.” (Hands up if you’ll read that last section first.) What some might find preachy I take as matter of fact; take what you like from the book, leave what you don’t. Gift it with a bottle of wine, a bouquet of fresh herbs, or a small jar of exotic sea salt and a wooden saltcellar. And share this: “If coarse sea salt seems like an unnecessary extravagance, think again. The French would tell you that little things make a big difference. And why buy something that is more refined than necessary? Highly processed table salts with iodine and anti-caking agents fulfill a function but have no taste. Sea-salt crystals have a very specific terroir, as individual as the mineral content of the body of water they come from. They are also beautiful — like topping your food with a scattering of tiny diamonds.” Note: there are no photographs in the book, just whimsical illustrations.
Stirring Up Fun With Food: Over 115 Simple, Delicious Ways to the Creative in the Kitchen by Sarah Michelle Gellar (yes Buffy!) and Gia Russo would make such a great gift for moms (and dads, uncles, aunts, grandparents and friends) who want to foster a love of cooking in their kids and at the same time, encourage them to be more adventurous with their food. So basically everyone, ha ha. ‘Tho I still don’t want my almost-10-year-old getting near the stove (but I know I have to get over it). The 100+ family-friendly recipes are organized by month, with all kinds of creative ideas for entertaining and presentation. Put mini waffles on a stick to dip, make mini pies in mason jar lids (and see how easily they pop out!), bread green beans with panko and turn them into fries. Yes you can play with your food (Sarah and Gia call it food-crafting.) I’m just as excited about this cookbook as my kids!
Fictionally Fabulous: The Characters Who Creative The Looks We Love by Anne Kennan Higgins is a beautifully illustrated history of fashion seen through the style icons of film and television we’ve come to know and love. They’re all here: Lisa Fremont from Rear Window, Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Ginger from Gilligan’s Island, Cher from Clueless, Olivia Pope from Scandal and everyone in between. In addition to her illustrations, the author sketches out each character’s signature style and impact on the fashion at the time. “The moment we see her with her bright red lips, cropped black pants, and cuff links fastened to the French cuffs of her classic fitted white shirt, we know she’s really the toughest character in the male-dominated world of Pulp Fiction,” Anne says of Uma Thurman’s Mia Wallace. “Mia’s nail polish, Chanel ‘Vamp’, became one of the best-selling colors in the world. With her Louise-Brooks-reminiscent black bobbed hair and Chanel gold slippers, she was the female ‘reservoir dog’.”
All Over The Place: Adventures in Travel, True Love and Petty Theft by Geraldine DeRuiter is a sometimes hilarious, sometimes tender memoir by thirty-something Geraldine DeRuiter of the much-lauded travel blog, The Everywhereist. It’s about the six years she spent travelling around the world with her husband after losing her job, and also about getting lost, confronting your fears and finding yourself when you are saddled with chronic anxiety, motion sickness, zero sense of direction and a mother who once brought a grenade to Easter dinner table because she thought it looked like an egg. (Festive!) I have two dozen passages marked off to share with anyone who will listen, paragraphs that made me laugh out loud and tear up. Here’s one of the funnier ones: “My parents are not opposites. Their radical differences do not fall in line in a diametric, corresponding way. We aren’t dealing with black and white, with left and right. We are dealing with black and the theory of relativity, with left and a hazy memory of your fifth birthday party. My father is organized and regimented. He has zero tolerance for nonsense or the unexplained. He likes reading nonfiction, usually about history or war, and he spends a lot of time meticulously constructing highly accurate, fully functional model airplanes. My mother reads book chapters out of order (“I like to skip around!”) and starts decorating for Halloween in August. Dad’s closet is full of several iterations of the exact same shirt, neatly pressed. There is a decent chance my mother is harboring a fugitive in hers.” Ha ha ha. I’m a homebody (saddled with a fair amount of anxiety myself) and Geraldine’s adventures make travelling seem a little less scary and a lot more worthwhile.
For a chance to win Dinner Chez Moi: 50 French Secrets to Joyful Eating and Entertaining, tell me one of your favourite French dishes (one you’ve made or tried) or one you’d like to learn to make in the comments below. This entry is mandatory.
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#Win “Dinner Chez Moi: 50 French Secrets to Joyful Eating and Entertaining” from @trysmallthings CAN 5/24 http://bit.ly/windinnerchezmoi
The giveaway is open to Canadian residents 18+ and ends at 11:59 p.m. EST on May 24, 2017. The potential winner (chosen at random) must respond to prize notification within 48 hours and provide the correct answer to a skill-testing question, otherwise another will be selected.
Update May 25, 2017: Congratulations Jennifer M!
Hachette Book Group Canada sent me all four of the books in this post in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.