KITCHENS OF THE GREAT MIDWEST, by J. Ryan Stradal, is not like any other novel you’ve read. Boy is it ever going to appeal to foodies! And it’s funny too.
To say Eva Thorvald had a tough upbringing is a gross understatement. Her sommelier mother left her and her chef father when Eva was just a baby. And then Eva’s dad died.
Eva was raised by friends of her dad. And they never had one dime to rub against the other, however, what they did have was a lot of love for little Eva. Then her adopted mom died. And on and on.
Eva’s story is told in chapters. Each chapter showcases a person and a food. It’s kind of like what Elizabeth Stroud did with Olive Kitteridge. Each character is unique and quirky. In the end they all come together. And there’s all this fabulous food. After all, this book is being marketed toward foodies for a reason. The food is the “Star.” Eva was born with a palate that is out of this world. As a child she grew the hottest peppers imaginable under a grow light in her closet. And she ate them when no one else on earth could.
“Stradal brings readers right to the heart of Minnesota, from Lutheran church cake bake sales to opening weekend of deer season, and shares an incredible tale of how the food we eat and the people we meet shape the world around us.”
I found KITCHENS OF THE GREAT MIDWEST both witty and charming. It grew on me. And has been on my mind since I finished it last week.
My husband and I are foodies. My entire family is infatuated with food: preparation, growing of, devouring of… My daughter has a blog dedicated to baking and cooking. My sons are both involved in the restaurant business. And I met my husband years ago when we were both managing restaurants. Food brings us all together.
In a conversation with J.Ryan Stradal, he tells Pamela Dorman Books that his interest in food began when he got his driver’s license, which took three tries. He was a famously terrible driver as a teenager. Growing up in a small town in Minnesota, he had lots of wanderlust and a yearning to see the world, but couldn’t swing international travel on the money he was making as a janitor at the Steamboat Inn. Therefore, he hopped in his mom’s VW Golf, and drove north on Highway 61 with his high school girlfriend Stacy and hit all of the unusual and ethnic restaurants they could find up in the Twin Cities.
Then later he got into wine and went to Napa Valley for one year.
But living in Los Angeles-where he learned to drive really well; that or be killed-he really discovered exceptional and interesting cuisine.
There are recipes in this book as well as menus. And we foodies can’t resist a great recipe or menu.
Word of mouth from the early readers is that they are loving it. My lovely finished copy arrived via Pamela Dorman Books, a division of Viking. I send out lots of thanks.