Book Review ~ The Recipe Club by Andrea Israel & Nancy Garfinkel

From ~ Loyalty, loss, and the ties that bind. These are the ingredients of The Recipe Club, a “novel cookbook” that combines an authentic story of friendship with more than 80 delicious recipes.  Lilly and Val are lifelong friends, united as much by their differences as by their similarities. Lilly, dramatic and confident, lives in the shadow of her beautiful, wayward mother and craves the attention of her distant, disapproving father. Val, shy and idealistic—and surprisingly ambitious— struggles with her desire to break free from her demanding housebound mother and a father whose dreams never seem to come true.  In childhood, “LillyPad” and “ValPal” form an exclusive two-person club, writing intimate letters in which they share hopes, fears, deepest secrets—and recipes, from Lilly’s “Lovelorn Lasagna” to Valerie’s “Forgiveness Tapenade.” Readers can cook along as the friends travel through time facing the challenges of independence, the joys and heartbreaks of first love, and the emotional complexities of family relationships, identity, mortality, and goals deferred.  The Recipe Club sustains Lilly and Val’s bond through the decades, regardless of what different paths they take or what misunderstandings threaten to break them apart . . . until the fateful day when an act of kindness becomes an unforgivable betrayal.  Now, years later, while trying to recapture the trust they’ve lost, Lilly and Val reunite once more—only to uncover a shocking secret. Will it destroy their friendship, or bring them ever closer?

The Recipe Club A Tale of Food and Friendship: A Novel by Andrea Israel & Nancy Garfinkel is a unique book.  I had first heard about this book either on NPR or in The Washington Post, and though I can’t remember exactly where, I knew I had to own this book (in book form and not on the Kindle) and that I had to have it NOW.  So, thanks to one of my birthday presents from my in-laws (a Barnes & Noble gift card), I bought it last week and finished it last night.  I haven’t had time to make any of the recipes but I promise I will and I will post pics here on Planet Books and tell you how the dishes turn out. 

The Recipe Club is a story about two women, the girls they were and the friendship that helped to make them who they are.  Valerie and Lilly are completely different personalities with very different interests and ways of living their lives but they have one thing in common for sure.  FOOD!  The Recipe Club is a constant part of their childhood written correspondence and though they both live in close vicinity to each other, in New York City/Brooklyn, they do keep up with the letters.  

The book starts with Val and Lilly as adults.  They have reconnected after a devestating fight has kept them apart for many years and e-mail is the new form of letter writing.  Then we get the back story.  Starting in 1963 when the girls are ten, we meet young Val and Lilly.  They have already started The Recipe Club, a two person club just for them.  The first recipe is Chocolate Icebox Cake.  The recipes throughout this book do look great but because there are more than eighty recipes that take up every other page in a good part of the book it moves very quickly.  The story is told through letters but you don’t miss anything because of that.  The flow of the story is quick but detailed and the character development is very good.  I did have a favorite girl, Val, but that is probably because I related to her more than Lilly.  Their parents are prominent characters who help to develop the story even more and give the girls many reasons for grief, even in adulthood. 

There are some great twists in this story and I definitely had a hard time putting it down.  Not only is the story pretty good and the recipes look tasty but the book itself (only available in hardcover now) is beautiful.  The artwork on the recipe pages throughout the book  is cool, retro and colorful and the cover with the egg is such a soothing shade of blue/grey I just loved to hold it.  If you had a childhood friend who has continued to be there in adulthood and knows you better than most, and if you like to cook and/or read recipes, than The Recipe Club is the book for you (and that friend).  If you can wing it, I highly recommend picking up the hardcover edition and when you’re done reading it keeping it with your cookbooks.  There is a nice index of all the recipes in the back of the book for easy reference.

{Rating ~ 4 out of 5}

My Addiction

I have many things that I love to do during the week.  Going on Facebook, reading, watching Food Network and HGTV, talking on the phone, playing with the dog and hanging out with Hubby and driving in Lucy (my Ford Escape) but there is one thing I love to do that has become a bit of an addiction.  I call it an addiction because it isn’t always a good thing.  We live in Northern Virginia, in a wonderful community and neighborhood.  We chose to build our house here because of those two things and are very pleased with it all for the most part.  One of the things that is in our community is Wegmans Grocery Store.  That has become my addiction! 

After living in Okinawa from May 2005 till May 2009 and having to rely on the base commissary or the alien yet cool Japanese grocery stores out in town for food and supplies, Wegmans is just heaven and it’s only two miles from home.  I get tempted to go almost daily and buy (that’s the problem, you have to buy things to get them out of the store!) fresh bread, soups, pasta sauces, anything from the Market Place (prepared meals), fruit, olives from the extensive olive bar and many other beautifully displayed items for our new kitchen.  I can’t even get into the HUGE wine section that takes up a quarter of the store!

Friends of mine in Okinawa would cry about missing stores like Target and Walmart.  Bookstores and shoe stores.  I found that shopping online from these types of stores really eased the need for shopping in person while living in Oki but I always missed nice grocery stores.  In 2006 I visited my relatives in Kirkland/Redmond Washington and one of my aunts took me to the flagship store for Whole Foods.  Well we walked in the double sliding doors and I just about cried.  Actually, my eyes did well up!  The store was gorgeous and the selection was so extensive that I got depressed thinking about the small amount of pasta sauce choices (I know I can always make my own) that was waiting for me back at the commissary in Okinawa.  The produce section seemed to glow and the prepared foods and deli departments were calling to me.  Aunt Jamie asked me to select some dishes for dinner that evening and I remember having the largest, most delicious couscous that day. 

I think Wegmans is the average checkbook holders Whole Foods really.  Their store name products are awesome and fill my pantry.  I am eating their arrabiata sauce on angel hair pasta for lunch right now and enjoying every spicy bite.  Dinner tonight will be a beef stew from Martha Stewart’s website and, oh darn, I have to (yes, MUST) go to Wegmans when I’m done eating lunch and typing this post to get some fresh chibatta bread to dredge through the stew tonight. 

What are you making for dinner tonight?