The Book Nook {May}

When Jessica (a.k.a. Life as MOM a.k.a. FishMama) contacted me late last year and asked if I had any book recommendations for the 2012 Booking It program (program - that makes it sound official, doesn't it?), I was somewhat stumped. Actually, I did suggest several books that had been on my "to read" list for a while, but none of them were selected for Booking It.

(P.S. Since reading some of my suggested books, I glad that they didn't make the cut)

Thankfully, Anne (a.k.a. Modern Mrs. Darcy) was also included in the discussion, and she came up with some delightful suggestions, including this month's pick ...

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson

I had never heard of this book before Anne talked about it, and only recently discovered that it had been made into a movie not that long ago (did you know that, Anne/Jessica?). I thought the premise sounded interesting (the whole story taking place in just one day), but other than that, my expectations were low. I wasn't about to have another Dirty Life experience, thankyouverymuch

I needn't have worried because Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day was delightful. I finished it in two days and found it difficult to set aside so that I could do other things - like eat. However, because of the varying backgrounds of people who read these book reviews, I do feel the need to add a caveat at this time ... 

**Much like my 2010 favorite, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, this book espouses some lifestyle and language choices that I don't agree with. However, I found it to be an "easy" read, and laughed out loud several times. You have been warned.**

There were several times when I found myself identifying with the changes that Miss Pettigrew experiences. That's not to say that I was ready to grab a bottle of gin and start guzzling, but I completely understood the growing desire to break out of the box, the dawning recognition that I can be and do anything. Miss Pettigrew found herself by being thrust into a situation that was 100% outside of her comfort zone, and I know exactly how she felt. It's scary and liberating at the same time.

*   *   *

Book #2 is a title that didn't come up for the list, but I have to blame THANK FishMama for it anyway. Easily my favorite book so far this year, Kathleen Flinn's delightful real-life story and cookbook, The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks, has inspired me to cook again.

Flinn takes nine women from nine very different income levels, cultures, stages of life, and cooking styles, and she shows them that cooking good food does not, in fact, have to be scary or complicated. About half-way through the book, I found myself preparing bone-in chicken breasts and stuffing soft goat cheese and basil leaves (freshly picked from the garden) between the raw meat and the flaps of skin. After drizzling some olive oil over them and grinding a sea salt and pepper mixture over top, I happily stuck it in the oven and started working on a side dish of roasted Brussels sprouts.

I swear, it was like it wasn't me. And even better? Dinner was fantastic! After cleaning his plate and disposing of the chicken bones, Peter paused at the dinner table and said, "I'm so glad you've taken an interest in cooking." I would have agreed with him, but I was too busy sopping up the last bits of sea salt with my chicken. None of which tells you anything about the book - or maybe it does.

Because of Flinn's way of de-mystifying complicated-sounding recipes, she makes the reader (and her cooking school students) feel as if anything is possible. One of my favorite sections of the book is when Flinn decides to start doing taste-tests at the beginning of each class. Until I read her book, I, like her students, had never put any thought into the difference between the store brand of iodized salt and, well, any other kind of salt. Oh my, what I was missing out on!

It was because of the comments in the book that I found myself wandering around our local Fresh Market grocery store, trying to work up the nerve to pay the same amount for one container of salt that I would for 8-9 cans of iodized salt. I ended up buying a sea salt/peppercorn mixture (that I used on the chicken), as well as a jar of plain Mediterranean sea salt, and a Pink salt from the highland lakes of Peru. Each one had a different flavor and taste and it gave a whole new meaning to that verse from the Beatitudes in Matthew:

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men."
 ~ Matthew 5:13 {NIV}

If you decide to give Kitchen Counter Cooking School a try, buy a copy (you can find it used on Amazon), don't borrow it from the library. Why? Because you might want to mark in it or dog ear pages (who would do that?!), and you certainly won't want to give it back. Trust me, it's worth the $5 to buy your own book.

What are YOU reading?

Sharing at the Life as MOM Booking It Link Up (on 5/12)


  1. I'm glad you loved it! I just re-read my copy in two days :)

    I love food books, but I've never heard of The Kitchen Counter Cooking School. (Well, not until you mentioned it on fb or twitter the other day.) Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. Ahem, "Book #2 is a title that didn't come up for the list, but I have to thank FishMama for it anyway."

    Can't wait to dig into it myself. ;)

  3. The title of that second book just about lost me but I'm totally intrigued after reading your review! I think seeing "Julie & Julia" stirred up my interest in cooking a couple years ago, but I still find myself intimidated by most recipes that call for something I don't know how to do. Sounds like this book might be able to coax me out of my cooking shell. =)

  4. FishMama - it has been UPDATED. :-)


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