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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

This is a fun novel, not too serious, but with enough substance to feel that you are reading something good and worthwhile.  The book is set in Minnesota and the background focus is the burgeoning food culture that has been gaining momentum in the Midwest.  The foreground is a story about a somewhat dysfunctional family.  Lars Thorvald had a working childhood that prevented him from developing in many ways.  He and his brother were in charge of drying fish for lutefisk at a very young age.  The stench alone kept people in general and women in particular away from him.  He was lucky to find a wife who loved him and they married and had a daughter.

Things did not go smoothly.  Lars loved being a father to Eva.  He had become a chef of modest renown by the time she was born, and he fed her his very best dishes, developing her palate at an early age.  Her mother, however, failed to bond properly with her and felt constrained by parenthood, and left  the family when Eva was still quite young.  Shortly thereafter, Lars had an accident and died, and Eva was raised by her aunt and uncle who truthfully just did not get her.  No matter.  Eva was a force unto herself, a woman with an instinct for cooking and food, and the rest of the book tells the tales of her meteoric rise to the top of chefdom.  Fun read, even if you have no Midwestern roots.

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