‘Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat’ by Bee Wilson

“The food we cook is not only an assemblage of ingredients. It is the product of technologies, past and present.”

Food writer Bee Wilson does a really great job of looking at the history of how we cook and eat; it’s a look at kitchen utensils and cooking methods that we now take for granted. The modern kitchen and its contents evolved over time around the cooking practices of their day and were dependent on a number of factors that we are most likely unaware of. With artful sketches by Annabel Lee gracing each chapter, Wilson looks into things like pots and pans, knives, fire, measurement, refrigeration, and things as simple as the humble wooden spoon, the indispensable chopping knife, and the clever vegetable peeler. The history is fascinating and Wilson’s writing style is engaging. She has done her homework and relays the information in an entertaining manner.

This is a great book for anyone who enjoys cooking and is interested in how we as humans have evolved in our domesticity (also makes me think of Bill Bryson’s book At Home). Even though it contains not a single recipe, it does provide inspiration and a new respect for being in the kitchen and cooking even a simple meal.

‘The Walk’ by Richard Paul Evans

Wow. Loved this book. Gobbled it up on the weekend and am heading for the library to pick up the next episodes in the season,….oops, I mean books in the series; there are five all together, this is the first, but they are quick reads. This is not hugely literary fiction, but very relaxing reading…like watching a TV series on Netflix. My plan is to “binge read” through the upcoming camping trip!

I love unsentimental pilgrimage adventures. It’s such a brilliantly simple premise for a novel and always so full of promise. If you liked Rachel Joyce’s Harold Fry or Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, or anything by Bill Bryson, you’ll love this one.

Alan Christoffersen has just lost the love of his life, his wife McKale. As if that weren’t enough, he also has lost his ad agency, his business partner, his house, his cars…everything really. On a whim (and as an alternative to swallowing two bottles of his wife’s left over pills) he decides the thing to do is to walk to Key West, Florida which is the furthest possible point from where he lives in Seattle, Washington. He packs up and sets off. This book has short snappy chapters. It is inspirational, humorous, and uplifting, despite the serious reasons for the journey. Feel free to walk along!

Series Book List

‘Requiem’ by Frances Itani

 21,000 Japanese-Canadians  were rounded up and placed in internment camps during World War 2. This work of historical fiction reads like a memoir. Themes of loss and grief in one man are woven together seamlessly with stories of those who suffered unjustly at the hands of government forces. I remember reading about similar American history in Snow Falling on Cedars, and was myself unaware that this had happened in Canada as well. Probably the most famous novel about this history was written by Joy Kagawa in a novel called Obasan.

This is a quiet novel, evocative, lyrical and beautifully written. Though there is not much plot, there is movement as Bin Okuma, after losing his wife and struggling with his art work, travels across the country with his beloved dog Basil, hunting down ghosts of his childhood. He travels to meet his First Father to uncover some mysteries of the past. The book is a historical account of the tremendous injustices of this shameful racism, but it is not without redemptive themes of love and art and hope. It is a story well told and very readable. Although I found it a bit plodding and slow at times, I also found parts of it fascinating and I am glad that I stuck with it. It will be a book that is not easily forgotten and is a good choice for book clubs.

Just as I finished this novel I ran into a quote okintsugi.jpgn Facebook which couldn’t have been more well timed and appropriate. The topic of the quote refers to an ancient Japanese practice called kintsugi. “When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful.” (Billie Mobayed) There is a crack in everything. As Leonard Cohen says, that’s how the light gets in. Shattered pieces can learn to mend; brokenness creates a unique history that can become beautiful when it becomes strong again.

There are a lot of music references in this novel. For your convenience, here is a handy playlist.

Itani’s novel is this year’s choice for One Book, One Mississauga. It’s a city-wide library program where residents are encouraged to read one book over the summer, and then participate in events in the fall where the book will be discussed in more detail. It will be the biggest book club in the city!

Note: Itani’s husband lived the history in this novel. Here is an article about him.

‘Oh She Glows Every Day: Quick and Simple Satisfying Plant-based Recipes’ by Angela Liddon


When Oh She Glows came onto my kitchen table, I was thrilled to have a cookbook which I could feel confident using if I had vegan guests coming over, but I could also use these simple and wholesome recipes everyday, as is, or by adding a bit of meat, cheese, or milk. I loved this cookbook immediately and have gotten quite clever about locating things in my grocery store like almond flour and sorghum and nutritional yeast. Grocery stores have caught on and are making Bob’s Red Mill products widely available and offer handy ‘health food sections’ where the ingredients can be found. I didn’t know how much I would use this cookbook when I got it, but it has become my ‘go-to’ right alongside Looneyspoons!

I was excited to learn that Angela Liddon has another cookbook out with an ‘everyday’ focus, and thanks to my children and Mother’s Day, I have been able to start enjoying this book as well, though I find everyday things in both of these books. It’s just more of her recipes and there are some really good ones in it. Love the salads, the Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies recipe, interesting things for breakfast like Apple Pie Overnight Oats and a vast selection of smoothies. There is a large section featuring ‘Homemade Staples’ like 9-Spice Mix and Lemon Tahini Dressing that might be handy to keep on hand. Healthy eating couldn’t be easier!

If you are a fan of Angela Liddon you probably already subscribe to her blog, but did you know she has an iPad and iPhone app? Cook from Oh She Glows using your favourite device! Check your meal ideas on the train on the way home before you stop off at the store!!  Special search options and features of the app include the same elegant photography as in the books, listing capabilities, an anti-lock feature keeping your screen from going dark while cooking, and the ability to cross off ingredients from the list as you include them in the recipe!!

‘The Lotterys Plus One’ by Emma Donoghue

(Age 8-12)
“Once upon a time, a man from Delhi and a man from Yukon fell in love, and so did a woman from Jamaica and a Mohawk woman. The two couples became best friends and had a baby together. When they won the lottery, they gave up their jobs and found a big old house where their family could learn and grow…and grow some more. 

Now Sumac Lottery (age nine) is the fifth of seven kids, all named after trees. With their four parents and five pets, they fit perfectly in the Toronto home they call Camelottery. 
But one thing in life that never changes…is that sooner or later things change.”

Emma Donoghue has written her first book for children. It is a quirky, romp of a story about diversity and family, with non-preachy life lessons about inclusiveness and unconditional love. This modern-day hippy, environmental, cooperative family home-schools, volunteers, has several ‘rescue-pets’ and gets creative about just about everything. But how accommodating can this otherwise amazingly flexible family be when their grandfather moves in? He’s the one from the Yukon who they’ve never met and seems so grumpy. Sumac, the narrator of the story, is horrified to learn that he’ll be taking her room on the first floor and he has something called dementia.

Every family has “inside jokes” in the form of silly words or nicknames, and Donoghue goes all out with that kind of wordplay in this book. The Dads are PapaDum and PopCorn, the Moms are CardaMum and MaxiMum, family meeting are ‘Fleetings’…you get the picture. There are WAY too many wordplays which at times interrupted the flow and made me stumble in the reading. I feel really conflicted about this book because I love the idea of it but found it hard to read.

Undoubtedly there is an amazing message to young readers…people and families come in all shapes and sizes and colours and types and this definitely is something to be celebrated and normalized, but the author packed in WAY too much which really bogged the story down. In contrast, her portrayal of a five year old boy in Room was so much more simply authentic and well fleshed out–these characters just felt like silly caricatures, which then kinda defeats the purpose. I think unfortunately, she had more fun writing it than anyone will have reading it–a book with a great premise but a lost opportunity in the end.

Note: Royalties from this project go to Room to Read, a nonprofit working in literacy and girls’ education across communities in Asia and Africa.

‘The Quality of Silence’ by Rosamund Lupton


Yasmin and her deaf daughter Ruby arrive in Alaska and are met at the airport by a policeman instead of her husband. The police are convinced that Matt has died in a tragic fire but Yasmin refuses to believe this. Within hours she and her young daughter are driving across the frozen wilderness where nothing grows, and tears can freeze in an instant. In round the clock dark they search for Ruby’s father and as they travel ever deeper over a silent land and into an approaching storm they become aware that they are being followed.

This stylish and unique literary thriller has it all: not only is it beautifully written and gives the reader a meaningful glimpse into what it is to be deaf, it has edge-of-your seat suspense, memorable characters, current and relevant issues, multiple twists in the plot, and some glorious and terrifying descriptions of the Arctic landscape in all its beauty and deadly darkness. It contains not only an exploration of an extraordinary Arctic land, but also the interior landscape of a profoundly deaf child.

The author makes you experience the biting cold, the sting of grief, the drive to survive, the weight of responsibility, the love of family, the mustering of courage, the agony of defeat, and the triumph of overcoming. Atmospheric and gripping, this is the kind of gem I look for where literary excellence and commercial readability meet.

Author Feature: Lauren Winner

Lauren Winner is an American historian, author and lecturer. Her interests are in Christian practice and Jewish-Christian relations. She was born and raised Jewish and then later converted and became an Episcopal priest. She is presently Assistant Professor at Duke Divinity School.

Winner’s writing, which I have encountered in various books and publications, is academic and approachable at the same time. She is honest about difficult issues in her own life while she speaks of relationship with God. Life and faith are messy, and our journeys are not perfect. Spirituality can suffer slumps and desolation and Winner offers unique insights into how to reconnect with God in ordinary everyday ways.

Here are the books, most of which I have read:

Girl Meets God is about Winner’s journey from Judaism to Christianity. The child of a Jewish father and a lapsed Southern Baptist mother, Winner chose to become an Orthodox Jew. But even as she was observing Sabbath rituals and studying Jewish law, Lauren was drawn to Christianity.  The twists and turns of Winner’s journey make her the perfect guide to exploring faith in today’s complicated world.

Still: Notes on a Mid-faith Crisis is a second memoir where she talks about the period following the breakup of her marriage and her mother’s death, during which she experienced doubt and despair. Elegantly written and profound, Still offers reflections on how murky and gray the spiritual life can be while, at the same time, shows us how to see the light we do encounter more clearly.

Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity will be especially valuable to unmarried Christians struggling with the sexual mania of today’s culture. In a culture of  “everybody’s doing it,” Winner speaks candidly, with honesty and wit, about the difficulty and importance of sexual chastity outside of a committed relationship. She confronts cultural lies about sex and challenges how we talk (or don’t talk) about sex in church.

Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God is about little known (or used) metaphors for God. Is God more like a cardigan sweater or a fire that burns but does not consume? Going through overlooked images of God, she offers a unique sensory exploration of relationship with God that is new and refreshing.

Mudhouse Sabbath is an invitation to spiritual discipline. In this slim volume she highlights how Jewish practices can inform Christian discipline and outlines eleven spiritual lessons that Judaism taught her. Winner feels that Christian practices would be enriched, would be thicker and more vibrant, if some lessons were taken from Judaism. Spiritual disciplines do not save us, but they are as important as piano etudes are to a concert pianist or muscle strengthening to the athlete.