BaltimOregon to Maine

Locavore Cooking with Southern Efficiency and Northern Charm

Posts Tagged ‘books

Summer Reading: Food (and Cycling) is Hot

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Elegant book review illustrations by Chris Silas Neal

It’s a rare delight to feel the theme of a magazine’s issue or newspaper section was selected with you just in mind. That’s how the New York Times Book Review made me feel today. I wanted to read everything all at once: the sections on cookbooks, foodoirs, gardening, a David Byrne-penned review of an Oregonian reporter’s book on the Pedaling Revolution, the backpage essay on the previously unpublished culinary tidbits from the Federal Writers’ Project, or the “Food Bloggers of 1940.” What would I give to be a part of such an endeavor, that attracted the likes of everyone from Zora Neale Hurston to Eudora Welty, among a mass of mostly unestablished writers, “lots of chaff.” If only President Obama would resurrect the writer’s project for our own trying times.

The “Heartburn” review of three food memoirs-with-recipes reminded this food blogger to cling to her journalistic chops, to guard against cloying sentimentalism in her tales of food. I’m most eager to read Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life, as I follow her Orangette blog and Bon Appetit columns. But Wizenberg’s whimsical tone and fairy tale days do seem out of touch at times.

She goes to Paris for a few weeks, then returns to her apartment in Seattle and does . . . what? It isn’t clear how she spends her days beyond making sentimental meatballs or French-style yogurt cake with lemon and writing about them in her fine-tuned, flowery prose…

While she’s mastered the short-­attention-span form, Wizenberg can be wincingly twee, writing in a confidential style that flips into blog mode and addresses the reader directly: “I learned that kissing a man while leaning against a warm dishwasher is a lovely, lovely experience. (Go ahead! Try it! I’ll wait.)” Compared with many other bloggers, though, she’s Alice Munro. Besides, you’re not looking for literature in the cookbook section, are you?

Goodies abounded in the Cookbooks section. I’m most excited to sink into Rustic Fruit Desserts: Crumbles, Buckles, Cobblers, Pandowdies, and More, co-authored by Oregon’s own Cory Schreiber, founding chef of Portland’s Wildwood restaurant who now works with the Oregon Department of Agriculture to get more local produce into public schools. We have to have him on the radio show!

Written by baltimoregon

June 1, 2009 at 1:16 am

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Finding Intellectual Center at Powell’s Books

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From the Philip Gourevitch reading at Powell's

From the Philip Gourevitch reading at Powell's

I’m still in cultural shock living here away from the thriving pulse of an urban center. So everytime I’m in Portland, I find an excuse to go to Powell’s Books. I’ve ordered obscure used books from them online since college, but only since moving here did I enter the temple to all things literary on West Burnside.

Even my parents, who were like why are we wasting a precious Portland day in a bookstore, were enthralled once inside.

Powell’s schedule of nightly author readings is perhaps what most tempts me from here in Corvallis. I did get to hear Philip Gourevitch, editor of the Paris Review, recently read from the quarterly’s new collection of interviews. His harrowing account of the Rwandan genocide is one of the best non-fiction books I’ve read.

In these times of journalistic distopia, it was heartening to hear Gourevitch’s defense of reportage. “Mainstream American fiction underwhelms in it’s ability to dramatize the same level of human experience,” Gourevitch said.

But amid economic collapse, fiction is still a seductive escape. I’m anxious to read Marilynne Robinson’s Home after her interview in this Paris Review.

The author interview is an under-appreciated art. As an English major alienated by lit criticism, an interview with author Can Xue in China set me on a path, for better or worse, towards journalism.

Written by baltimoregon

December 18, 2008 at 1:09 am

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The kindness of in-laws

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Despite the election excitement, my spirits have sunk a bit since the dreary grey days have commenced here. So I was especially cheered to receive packages today from both my sister-in-law and in-laws (those terms still don’t quite roll off the tongue).

Julia in New York sent us an NYPD shirt (her unlikely new employer) and a sweetly crafted Brooklyn bag perfect for farmer’s market shopping. The gifts really capture the two worlds she’s living in there.

And Dan’s parents kindly sent another book from Powell’s. I’ll finally visit this great booksellers in the flesh when in Portland for the Wordstock festival this weekend. The book is What Should I Read Next? by Jessica Feldman, their University of Virginia English professor friend who coincidentally grew up here in Corvallis. Feldman is also on the board of the acclaimed Virginia Quarterly Review. Her new anthology compiles recommended readings in literature, history, politics, math, science and religion, etc. from 70 UVA professors.

Written by baltimoregon

November 5, 2008 at 6:50 pm

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