Thursday, April 21, 2016

Julie's Review: Kitchens of the Great Midwest

Author: J. Ryan Stradal
Series: None
Publication Date: July 28, 2015
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Pages: 320
Obtained: on loan from a friend
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Food-Lit
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: An interesting look at food, culture and family
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: Kitchens of the Great Midwest, about a young woman with a once-in-a-generation palate who becomes the iconic chef behind the country's most coveted dinner reservation, is the summer's most hotly-anticipated debut and already a New York Times bestseller. When Lars Thorvald's wife, Cynthia, falls in love with wine--and a dashing sommelier--he's left to raise their baby, Eva, on his own. He's determined to pass on his love of food to his daughter--starting with puréed pork shoulder. As Eva grows, she finds her solace and salvation in the flavors of her native Minnesota. From Scandinavian lutefisk to hydroponic chocolate habaneros, each ingredient represents one part of Eva's journey as she becomes the star chef behind a legendary and secretive pop-up supper club, culminating in an opulent and emotional feast that's a testament to her spirit and resilience. Each chapter in J. Ryan Stradal's startlingly original debut tells the story of a single dish and character, at once capturing the zeitgeist of the Midwest, the rise of foodie culture, and delving into the ways food creates community and a sense of identity. By turns quirky, hilarious, and vividly sensory, Kitchens of the Great Midwest is an unexpected mother-daughter story about the bittersweet nature of life--its missed opportunities and its joyful surprises. It marks the entry of a brilliant new talent.  

Review: Kitchens of the Great Midwest is the type of novel not to read when you are hungry, especially towards the end. It is also the story of how our culture revolves around food and the evolution of "foodies". How people will pay for an experience just to say that they have experienced the trendy new idea or concept. It is also about how some people find great joy in the creation of a meal and of creating that experience for others. It is about finding your passion and creating your life around that passion.

Eva Thorvald hasn't had the easiest life but she's always had a passion for food, starting when she was 11 and growing habaneros in her closet. Her gift and passion continues to grow until  She has a true love for food and for giving people a once in a lifetime experience. She might not have known where she belonged with her peers but she always felt comfortable in the kitchen.

Eva's story is told by various people that she encounters throughout her life, starting with her father Lars and ending with her mother, Cynthia. In that way, the novel comes full circle. Which is great because for a moment I thought I had lost Eva's story in the beginning of the novel because it is her whom the reader becomes instantly invested in.

By seeing Eva through different people's eyes you get a more well-rounded version of who she is, although without her full perspective, it is truly hard to really know her. We get her view of her life sprinkled throughout the novel but never get her adult story through her eyes.

It is told in a variety of short stories but they are all tied together. Just when you think that Mr. Stradal is going to leave you hanging with a character, he brings them in later. I felt the ending of the book was the only one that could happen, otherwise it would have just been wrapped up too neat.

For anyone who loves food, who loves food when it's tied to a certain region and wine, then you won't want to miss Kitchens of the Great Midwest.



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