Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Woman in the Lake" by Nicola Cornick, Served with an Avocado Caprese Salad

Happy Thursday and the last day of February. It's hard to believe that tomorrow, March begins. Easing my way into the month, I am happy to be a stop on the TLC Book Tour for The Woman in the Lake by Nicola Cornick. Accompanying today's book review is a tasty Avocado Caprese Salad, inspired by the book.


Publisher's Blurb:

London, 1765

Lady Isabella Gerard, a respectable member of Georgian society, orders her maid to take her new golden gown and destroy it, its shimmering beauty tainted by the actions of her brutal husband the night before.
 
Three months later, Lord Gerard stands at the shoreline of the lake, looking down at a woman wearing the golden gown. As the body slowly rolls over to reveal her face, it’s clear this was not his intended victim…
 
250 Years Later…

When a gown she stole from a historic home as a child is mysteriously returned to Fenella Brightwell, it begins to possess her in exactly the same way that it did as a girl. Soon the fragile new life Fen has created for herself away from her abusive ex-husband is threatened at its foundations by the gown’s power over her until she can’t tell what is real and what is imaginary.
 
As Fen uncovers more about the gown and Isabella’s story, she begins to see the parallels with her own life. When each piece of history is revealed, the gown—and its past—seems to possess her more and more, culminating in a dramatic revelation set to destroy her sanity.

Paperback: 320 Pages
Publisher: Graydon House; Original edition (March 1, 2019)

My Review:

This is my first novel from Nicola Cornick and I enjoyed it. I am a fan of dual stories and time periods and the the intriguing story of the malevolent yellow gown, that seems to bring out the worst in people--whether in 1765 or 2015. The Gothic feel and supernatural-horror vibe were a great combination with the historical aspects. I did feel like I wanted a deeper dive into some of the history with the house, the smuggler, the dress, etc. In  having the two eras with three different perspectives--Lady Isabella and her maid Constance in the past, and Fenella in the present, it's hard to get all of the detail in 320 pages. I did like the pacing and the twists and turns the story took. Cornick does a good job of vivid descriptions and setting a creepy tone that made for a few shivers on the windy and rainy evenings we have been having. I like that Lady Isabella was inspired by a real-life Lady Diana Spencer, an artist born in 1734, and that she had me Googling to learn more about her. If you like British history, mystery, supernatural elements and a quick, atmospheric and ultimately satisfying read, give The Woman in the Lake a try.
 
-----

Author Notes: USA Today bestselling author Nicola Cornick has written over 40 historical romances and now writes Gothic time slip for HQ and Graydon House.
Nicola’s writing is inspired by her love of history and was fostered by a wonderful history teacher and by her grandmother, whose collection of historical romantic fiction fed Nicola’s addiction from an early age. She studied in London and Oxford and works as a guide and historian in a 17th century house as well as acting as a historical adviser for TV and radio. Publisher’s Weekly have described her as a rising star and her books have been nominated for the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award and for the Romance Writers of America RITA Awards.

Nicola lives near Oxford with her husband and dog. When she isn’t writing she enjoys long walks in the countryside, singing in a choir and volunteering as a puppy walker for Guide Dogs. 

You can connect with her on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

-----

 Food Inspiration:

Although not a prominent part of either time period, there was food and drink mentioned throughout the book that included sweet sherry, a spaniel named "Scampi" (made me think of shrimp scampi), canned baked beans, shepherd's pie, tea and toast, champagne, crepes and croissants, bread, cheese, chicken pie, apples and pears, biscuits, coffee (including a flat white), lemonade, BLT and cream cheese and smoked salmon sandwiches, orange juice, rosé wine, brandy, hot chocolate, apple juice, French onion soup, guacamole, sour cream dip and cucumber sandwiches, and marmalade and a breakfast roll.


I ended up taking my recipe inspiration from a salad Fen made before meeting work friends for drinks, early in the story, before she opens the package from her sister containing the golden gown. I love a good caprese salad of mozzarella, tomato and basil and like to add an avocado sometimes too. It also sounded like a perfect weeknight dinner and luckily good cherry and grape tomatoes and fresh basil are plentiful year-round here, so I didn't have to wait for summer.

"As she tossed some basil, mozzarella, sliced tomatoes and avocado into a bowl and sloshed in some olive oil, Fen caught sight of the parcel, still sitting on the table, waiting."


I don't know that you really need a recipe for this salad, but this is what I did. I will say that I am not a big balsamic fan so I tend to use my bottle of champagne vinegar or rice vinegar for salads like this. Use what you prefer, cut things the size you like--you really can't go wrong here.

Avocado Caprese Salad
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 2 or more as a side)

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
8 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into chunks
2 medium avocados cut into 3/4 chunks
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp good quality extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp champagne or rice vinegar
sea salt flakes and fresh ground black pepper to taste 

Gently toss tomatoes, mozzarella, avocado, basil, oil, and vinegar together in a bowl, Season to taste with flaked sea salt and black pepper. Divide into serving bowls and serve immediately. 


Notes/Results: Just a few simple ingredients but when they are fresh, you don't need much more. My avocados were a tad over-ripe but I think it works in their favor as they melt a little into the olive oil and vinegar, making a a creamy and delicious dressing.Bread would be excellent with this salad, or like me--you can eat it from the serving bowl, on the couch, and enjoy a bit of #metime with a good book. (Thank you to TLC Book Tours for the cool bookmark in the first picture!) ;-)


Linking this salad up at this week's Souper Sundays, here at Kahakai Kitchen, where anyone can share a soup, salad, or sandwich creation.


I'm also sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.


Note: A review copy of "The Woman in the Lake" was provided to me by the author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.  
 
You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.
 

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Cream of Watercress Soup and Hot Pepper Toasts: Retro Gourmet Magazine Recipes for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

I've posted before about my love for vintage cookbooks and retro recipes and I love that Ruth Reichl likes them two and sometimes posts them on her blog. That's where I found these two recipes; Cold Cream of Water Cress Soup from a July 1958 Gourmet Magazine and the accompanying Hot Pepper Toasts from the June 1984 issue.


I made a few changes to update them--serving my soup (at least the first bowl) hot and making it vegan with coconut milk and updating the prep from two separate sievings to using my blender, once, at the end (something Ruth said she would do as well as "times change.") The hot pepper toasts were actually paired with a Cold Lettuce Soup, but I was feeling the watercress and potato more. 


 
Cream of Watercress Soup
Slightly Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, July 1958 via RuthReichl.com
(Serves 6)

Deb's Changes:  I cooked the potato and onion for 20 minutes in a light veggie broth, then added the watercress and cooked it another 15 minutes before pureeing it in my blender in two batches. I stirred in one can of coconut milk to the soup and heated it through, seasoned to taste and served it warm with the toasts.


Hot Pepper Toasts
From Gourmet Magazine, June 1984 via RuthReichl.com
(Serves 4) 

Deb's Changes: I used a leftover Ciabatta roll, each half sliced into thirds and used a combination of Tabasco and Sriracha (I used 1 tsp total of the hot sauces.) 
 


Notes/Results: I'm very happy with both of these retro dishes--the creamy, comforting soup and the crunchy toasts with their zippy heat. They made an excellent pairing with the toasts acting as an excellent dipper for the soup. I will likely try the soup cold as intended at some point this week, but I do love a warm potato soup even more and the watercress gives this one good flavor. I liked my updates and changes to the recipes and would happily make both recipes again.


Linking these recipes up to I Heart Cooking Clubs where this week's theme is Retro Recipes inspired by Ruth Reichl.


And for Souper Sundays...


Debra of Eliot's Eats made Grilled Vegetable and Goat Cheese Wraps inspired by a recent book review and a similar sandwich she enjoyed, saying "My inspiration came from Yosemite National Park and our trip there in 2016. ... I remember a fantastic lunch and a goat cheese and roasted vegetable wrap at Big Tree Lodge. ...  I thought these were delicious and just as good as what I remember from Big Tree Lodge. I asked The Hubs what would make them better. 'Bacon.'"



Tina of Squirrel Head Manor shared Seven-Hour Lamb Stew with White Beans and said, "It's good to get back to posting about food after a short break. Next year I will be getting a flu shot; this bout knocked me for a loop. While it was wonderful to get back to eating something that required a knife and fork, I would like to highlight this Seven Hour Lamb stew this week. We only need a spoon for it, that's how tender it was. All the credit goes to my husband as he is the master of the Instant Pot. It's very cool to have dinner cooking by the time I arrive home from work. Yet another benefit of him retiring first 😃"


Here at Kahakai Kitchen I snuck some small mid-week sandwiches in with these Tuna Melt Sliders inspired by a recent book tour review. Although normally I prefer my tuna salad cold, the mix of ingredients and textures on the sweet King's Hawaii Rolls worked well and made these tasty little sammies almost addicting.


Thanks to Debra and Tina for joining in this week!  

About Souper Sundays:

Souper Sundays (going since 2008) now has a format of a picture link each week where anyone interested can post their soups, salads, or sandwiches at any time during the week and I post a recap of the entries the following week.

(If you aren't familiar with Souper Sundays, you can read about of the origins of it here.
 
If you would like to join in Souper (Soup, Salad, and Sammie) Sundays, I would love to have you! Here's how...


To join in this week's Souper Sunday's linkup with your soup, salad or sandwich:
  • Link up your soup (stew, chili, soupy curries, etc. are fine), salad, or sandwich dish, (preferably one from the current week or month--but we'll take older posts too) on the picture link below and leave a comment on this post so I am sure not to miss you. Also please see below for what to do on your blog post that you link up to Souper Sundays in order to be included in the weekly round-up.
and 

On your entry post (on your blog):
  • Mention Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen and link back to this post. (Not to be a pain but it's polite and only fair to link back to events you link up at--so if you link a post up here without linking back to it on your post, it will be removed.)
  • You are welcome to add the Souper Sundays logo to your post and/or blog (completely optional).

Inlinkz Link Party

(Attention: If you are having challenges linking up this week, I'm trying to test the new Inlinkz out because they will stop supporting the old one soon. If it doesn't let you link up, let me know (comment or email) and I'll get you linked up.  --Deb)

Have a happy. healthy week!
 

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Hiding Place" by C.J.Tudor, Served with a Recipe for Tuna Melt Sliders {and a Book Giveway!}

I was in the mood for a good thriller this week and so I'm excited to be a TLC Book Tour stop for The Hiding Place by C. J. Tudor, with plenty of thrills and chills. Accompanying my review is a tasty little snack, Tuna Melt Sliders, inspired by my reading and a chance for a Kahakai Kitchen reader to win a copy of the book.


Publisher's Blurb:

The thrilling second novel from the author of The Chalk Man, about a teacher with a hidden agenda who returns to settle scores at a school he once attended, only to uncover a darker secret than he could have imagined.

Joe never wanted to come back to Arnhill. After the way things ended with his old gang–the betrayal, the suicide, the murder–and after what happened when his sister went missing, the last thing he wanted to do was return to his hometown. But Joe doesn’t have a choice. Because judging by what was done to that poor Morton kid, what happened all those years ago to Joe’s sister is happening again. And only Joe knows who is really at fault.

Lying his way into a teaching job at his former high school is the easy part. Facing off with former friends who are none too happy to have him back in town–while avoiding the enemies he’s made in the years since–is tougher. But the hardest part of all will be returning to that abandoned mine where it all went wrong and his life changed forever, and finally confronting the shocking, horrifying truth about Arnhill, his sister, and himself. Because for Joe, the worst moment of his life wasn’t the day his sister went missing.

It was the day she came back.

With the same virtuosic command of character and pacing she displayed in The Chalk Man, C. J. Tudor has once again crafted an extraordinary novel that brilliantly blends harrowing psychological suspense, a devilishly puzzling mystery, and enough shocks and thrills to satisfy even the most seasoned reader.

Hardcover: 288 Pages
Publisher: Crown (February 5, 2019)

My Review:

I love a good psychological thriller and when you through in some elements of horror, it's even better, so The Hiding Place is right up my alley. It's dark, creepy, and has a definite Stephen King vibe (the tagline channels one of my favorite King novels, "The worst day of his life wasn't when his sister went missing...it was the day she came back") but it has its own flavor and originality, and at 288 pages, a much lesser page count so if you aren't a King fan, you should still give it a try. For the most part the tighter plot works well with the pacing, and building of suspense--although it moved a bit slowly at first and I would have liked a deeper exploration of the town of Arnhill and its residents and some of the "whys" of what happened there. Joe, an anti-hero especially in the beginning, is an interesting character, I started out disliking him but he grew on me. I think the mix of thriller with just enough horror was a good one and will be good for those who don't consider themselves horror fans. The book does get graphic at times, but I found it more spooky and chilling than outright scary. I did read it alone at night without any fear or mental trauma ;-) and it had me turning the pages to reach the end to see if my guesses were right (some were, some were not). 

Overall, I really enjoyed The Hiding Place and if you like thrills and atmospheric chills, you likely will too. (You can enter to win at copy of your own at the bottom of this post.) The Hiding Place is C. J. Tudor's second book.When her first, The Chalk Man, came out I heard good things and checked it out from the library, but never found the time to read it. Now, I am going to go back and try again.

-----

Author Notes: C. J. TUDOR is the author of The Chalk Man, and lives in Nottingham, England, with her partner and three-year-old daughter. Over the years she has worked as a copywriter, television presenter, voice-over, and dog walker. She is now thrilled to be able to write full-time, and doesn’t miss chasing wet dogs through muddy fields all that much.

Connect with C.J. Tudor on Facebook or Twitter.

-----

Food Inspiration:

There is not a lot of good food mentioned in this book and definitely the sometimes graphic scenes don't lend themselves to thinking about food. There was mostly cafeteria food and pub food and a lot of alcohol. Mentions included: bad curry, McDonald's, fish-and-chips, penny candy, Wham bars (there were several mentions of this nostalgic UK candy),  juice, coffee, tea, Red Bull, Coke, bourbon, margaritas, pizza, frozen dinners, steak-and-kidney pie, Diet coke, cheese and ham baps (a sandwich of sorts made on a round, sweet roll), pork pie, chips, chocolate ices, Guinness, whiskey, chicken sandwich, pasta, potato broth, toast, Diamond White (a brand of cider), frozen fish fingers, grapes, and crisps.


I liked the description of the school cafeteria going from burgers and fried onions when Joe was there to chicken and rice, vegetable pasta and salad, and that he said that he "blamed Jamie Oliver" for the changes. I finally decided to combine a cafeteria tuna sandwich with the melted cheese bap (a regional British or Scottish bread roll or bun or sandwich made from a soft bun--see this recipe for a sausage bap) and make tuna melts for my book-inspired dish. For the bap roll itself, a small hamburger bun would possibly be the most accurate size-wise, but the sweet and soft part made me think of the local favorite--King's Hawaiian rolls.


I will confess that I never really saw any appeal in tuna melts growing up, much preferring my tuna sandwich cold. Then, several years ago, a friend of mine made them open-faced for work meetings at his house and his were really tasty. I hadn't had one in years and decided to make my version slider-style, with the King's Hawaiian rolls. 

Tuna Melt Sliders
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 8 Sliders)

1 can good tuna (I use an Italian oil-packed), drained
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 small stalk celery, finely chopped
1 Tbsp dill pickle relish
1 Tbsp capers, drained
1 tsp English or stone-ground mustard
sea salt and black pepper to taste
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp (i used roasted) garlic powder
8  slider buns/rolls of choice (I used King's Hawaiian Rolls)
8 small slices cheddar cheese (cut to fit roll)

Preheat oven or toaster oven broiler. Line a baking sheet with foil and set aside.

Combine tuna, mayo, celery, relish, capers, and mustard together in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and black pepper and evenly mixed.

Melt butter in microwave and stir in garlic powder.

Separate rolls into 8 bottoms and tops place on baking sheet, brushing the cut side of each with the garlic butter. Place a small scoop of tuna on each roll bottom and top tuna mixture with a slice of cheese. 

Place the baking sheet under the broiler and broil until the cheese is melted, the bun tops are toasted and the tuna is warmed. 

Combine the tops and bottoms of the rolls and serve immediately. Enjoy!


Notes/Results: OK, these were pretty darn good--the combination of the tuna with the tangy relish, salty and briny capers, sharp cheddar, garlic butter, and sweet rolls worked well together. The little sandwiches went together really quickly and easily. I just made four and ate them with fruit for a quick dinner. I plan to make the other four with my remaining ingredients tonight. Although they are not the prettiest of sandwiches, they are tasty and I will make them again.


Linking this open-faced sandwich up at this week's Souper Sundays, here at Kahakai Kitchen, where anyone can share a soup, salad, or sandwich creation. 


I'm sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.


***Giveaway!***

The publisher has generously allowed me to give a copy of The Hiding Place to one lucky U.S. reader! 

To enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway below, leave a comment please (Because I like to read them!) ;-) telling me what your favorite cafeteria food was growing up and/or why you want to win a copy of The Hiding Place.

There are a couple of other optional ways to get more entries to win: Tweet about this giveaway or follow me on Twitter (@DebinHawaii), and/or author C.J. Tudor (@cjtudor),  on Twitter
(Note: You can still get the extra entries even if you already follow me or C.J. Tudor on Twitter.)

Deadline for entry is Friday, March 1st. 


a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good Luck!!

Note: A review copy of "The Hiding Place" was provided to me by the author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.  

You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.

 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Tomato & Garlic (aka Pizza Margherita) Soup with Pizza Toasts for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays + Three More Pizza-Inspired Recipes

I decided to go a bit out of the box for this month's Monthly Dish/Ingredient Challenge at I Heart Cooking Clubs. Featuring pizza or pizza-flavored recipes. I decided to take Mark Bittman's Tomato and Garlic Soup from Kitchen Matrix and make it into a fun and tasty Pizza Margherita Soup.


Since Pizza Margherita is basically tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, garlic and olive oil, Mark Bittman's recipe just needed a few additions and something pizza-like to dunk into it. I made Pizza Toasts with ciabatta bread, garlic butter, Parmesan, mozzarella, black olives, and chopped basil. 


Pizza Margherita Soup
Adapted from Tomato and Garlic Soup from Mark Bittman''s Kitchen Matrix Cookbook
(Serves 4)

Sauté 1 chopped medium onion, 1 chopped carrot, and two tablespoons minced garlic in 2 tablespoons olive oil for 5 minutes. Add one teaspoon each of dried basil and dried oregano, 1 large pinch of chili pepper flakes, one jar pizza sauce, and two cans chopped tomatoes (I used fire-roasted) and 3 cups vegetable broth. Bring to a boil and cook for 15 to 20 minutes until veggies are soft. Using a blender or immersion blender, puree soup until smooth.

Serve sup hot, in warmed bowls and topped with fresh mozzarella cubes or small balls, shaved Parmesan cheese, black pepper and torn basil leaves. Serve with bread, garlic bread, or pizza toasts. Enjoy!

For the pizza toasts: I divided a ciabatta roll into four pieces and spread it with olive oil heated and mixed with roasted garlic powder, and a pinch each of dried basil, oregano and chili pepper. I baked it in my toaster over at 400 degrees F. for about 5 minutes, then pulled it out and topped with shaved Parmesan, black olives, mozzarella slices and chopped basil and baked it again for about 5 minutes, then turned on the broiler and toasted it for about 1 minutes. Serve hot.


Notes/Results: Thick, rich, flavorful and fun with a definite pizza flavor. I really liked dipping the cheesy toasts into the tomato soup and scooping up the melting mozzarella balls. Just cheesy pizza goodness. If you eat meat, adding sausage or pepperoni and/or any of your favorite pizza toppings would also be delicious. Quick to make and tasty, I would happily make it again.


Here are three of my favorite pizza-inspired recipes from our IHCC chefs:

I still make a version of Jacques PĂ©pin's tasty and easy Smoked Salmon Pizza on Naan Bread.

Giada's Pizza Popcorn is pretty addictive.


Finally, ages ago (back when I still ate meat) ;-) I made Ina Garten's Grilled California Pizzas. My favorite was the one where I topped it with avocado, bacon, and ranch among other things. Excuse the bad picture--early blogging days.


Linking up these pizza treats to I Heart Cooking Clubs where it is our Monthly Dish/Ingredient Challenge. This month it's "Pizza" My Heart--recipes from any of our IHCC chefs for pizza or pizza-flavored dishes. 

 

And for Souper Sunday...

About Souper Sundays:

Souper Sundays (going since 2008) now has a format of a picture link each week where anyone interested can post their soups, salads, or sandwiches at any time during the week and I post a recap of the entries the following week.

(If you aren't familiar with Souper Sundays, you can read about of the origins of it here.
 
If you would like to join in Souper (Soup, Salad, and Sammie) Sundays, I would love to have you! Here's how...


To join in this week's Souper Sunday's linkup with your soup, salad or sandwich:
  • Link up your soup (stew, chili, soupy curries, etc. are fine), salad, or sandwich dish, (preferably one from the current week or month--but we'll take older posts too) on the picture link below and leave a comment on this post so I am sure not to miss you. Also please see below for what to do on your blog post that you link up to Souper Sundays in order to be included in the weekly round-up.
and 

On your entry post (on your blog):
  • Mention Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen and link back to this post. (Not to be a pain but it's polite and only fair to link back to events you link up at--so if you link a post up here without linking back to it on your post, it will be removed.)
  • You are welcome to add the Souper Sundays logo to your post and/or blog (completely optional).


Have a happy, healthy week!
 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Golden Child" by Claire Adam, Served with a Recipe for Trinidad Macaroni Pie

It's only Wednesday and it's been a long week already, so in order to ease over the hump and into a hopefully better end of the week, I'm reviewing an interesting debut novel, Golden Child by Claire Adam. Accompanying my review a comfort food dish that hails from another country, but would be appropriate for carb lover's anywhere, Trinidad Macaroni Pie.


Publisher's Blurb:

A new novel from Sarah Jessica Parker’s imprint, SJP for Hogarth: a deeply affecting debut novel set in Trinidad, following the lives of a family as they navigate impossible choices about scarcity, loyalty, and love.

Rural Trinidad: a brick house on stilts surrounded by bush; a family, quietly surviving, just trying to live a decent life. Clyde, the father, works long, exhausting shifts at the petroleum plant in southern Trinidad; Joy, his wife, looks after the home. Their two sons, thirteen years old, wake early every morning to travel to the capital, Port of Spain, for school. They are twins but nothing alike: Paul has always been considered odd, while Peter is widely believed to be a genius, destined for greatness.
 
When Paul goes walking in the bush one afternoon and doesn’t come home, Clyde is forced to go looking for him, this child who has caused him endless trouble already, and who he has never really understood. And as the hours turn to days, and Clyde begins to understand Paul’s fate, his world shatters—leaving him faced with a decision no parent should ever have to make.
 
Like the Trinidadian landscape itself, GOLDEN CHILD is both beautiful and unsettling; a resoundingly human story of aspiration, betrayal, and love.

Hardcover: 288 Pages
Publisher: SJP for Hogarth (January 29, 2019)

My Review:

I signed up for this tour because I enjoyed A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza, Sarah Jessica Parker's first imprint SJP for Hogarth (my review is here) and liked that once again SJP selected a novel that gave me a glimpse of a different culture. Golden Child is set in Trinidad and I think it might be the first book I have read that is set there, and it's a country I know little about. I found myself caught up in the author's vivid descriptions of the country and its people particularly, the Deyalsingh family, who this novel is centered around. Clyde is the father, a man who works hard and does not like to take charity or ask favors from others. Joy, the mother, stays at home and has a large family who (with the exception of her mother and uncle), mostly irritate Clyde by coming about so often. We meet the family when one of their two thirteen-year-old twin sons does not come home. The boys may look alike but are very different with Peter being very intelligent and Paul, who was a difficult birth and lost oxygen, being slower to develop and different. How much of that difference is nurture versus nature is unclear as from the beginning, Clyde and Joy are told he is "retarded" and treat him quite differently from the revered Peter. Paul grows up hearing that he is slow and mentally challenged and that Peter needs to look out for him, and it is too often mentioned directly to him or about him within the family and their community. The story is set mostly in the eighties and moves back and forth from the time Paul goes missing, to the twins birth and childhood, and the aftermath of Paul's disappearance and is told from the viewpoints of several characters, primarily Clyde and Paul. 

It is the writing that makes this novel engrossing, as there is not a lot of action. We find what happens to Paul and how Clyde, Joy, and Peter react to it, especially the choices that Clyde makes. I don't want to go into detail as to what happens and the devastating decision that is made so as not to give spoilers, but I will say that life in Trinidad, for this family is dangerous and difficult and Golden Child is not an easy read. Like A Place For Us, it made me melancholy (I'm wondering if SJP is becoming the new Oprah of somewhat sad and depressing  book club picks?), but it also made me think and I am still thinking about it. It's a book that is and will continue to get mixed reviews and provoke plenty of discussions at book clubs. It's a hard one to predict who will like it and who won't, but I'm glad I read it. I found Golden Child to be an excellent debut novel from a talented author and new voice that I look forward to reading more from.

-----

Author Notes: Claire Adam was born and raised in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. She lives with her husband and two children in London, England. GOLDEN CHILD is her first novel.

Connect with Claire on Twitter.






-----

Food Inspiration:

There was quite a lot of emphasis on food in Golden Child, much of it Trinidadian dishes that along with the smaller neighboring island of Tabago, takes its roots and inspiration from Indian and South Asian, African, European, Chinese, Creole and Caribbean, and Latin American dishes and ingredients. (Here's a good wiki article on the cuisine.) Set in the eighties, and for the most part in a economically challenged community, the food is fairly basic with a lot of packaged food used and purchased by the characters in the story, or simple family dishes made at home.  

The diverse food mentions included roti, melongene (eggplant), curry, choka (stew), cucumber salad, lamb gyros, frozen yogurt, arepas (white corn cakes),fish, pink cotton candy, sweet-cake with grains of brown sugar on top, curries of shrimp and chicken, rice, pie, green salad, yams, watermelon, chicken feet, cheese, eggs, macaroni, Carib beer, Solo Orange and Red Solo drinks, Flavorite ice cream (vanilla and rum 'n' raisin), roast beef, pork, Kentucky Fried Chicken, chadon beni (a pungenet cilantro-like herb), scotch bonnet peppers, peanuts, sugarcane, pelau (a chicken, pigeon peas and rice dish), buss-up-shut (a type of paratha roti flat bread), corn-soup, callaloo (a taro-leaf like greens dish), roast corn, soursop juice, jams and chutneys, chennets (a Caribbean fruit), "doubles" (a spicy curried chickpea and flat bread street-food snack), tuna salad sandwiches, a chicken and chow-mein dinner, coleslaw, bread fruit and pepper mango.


Seeing several mentions of macaroni pie in the book, I looked it up and found that it is considered classic Caribbean comfort food and that it is similar to a baked macaroni and cheese. When I realized I had everything I needed to make it with a couple of minor adjustments (ditalini pasta instead of elbow macaroni and powdered milk instead of evaporated), I knew it was going to be my book-inspired dish. There are plenty of recipes online, I riffed on Genius Kitchen's Macaroni Pie from Trinidad. My changes are in red below.


Trinidad Macaroni Pie
Slightly Adapted from Oolala via Genius Kitchen
(Serves 4)

8 oz elbow macaroni (I used ditalini)
2 eggs
1/2 tsp mustard powder
2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
1 1/2 cups evaporated milk (I used reconstituted powdered milk, same amount)
1 tsp salt or to taste
1/4 tsp white pepper or to taste (I used black pepper)

Cook pasta according to package instructions. Meanwhile, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a baking dish (I used an 8" x 8")

Beat eggs until fluffy and combine them with mustard powder, then combine the macaroni, eggs, cheese, milk, and salt and pepper to taste.   

Pour into the greased baking dish and bake until firm, about 30 minutes. (At about 5 minutes before it was done I sprinkled more cheddar cheese on the top and turned the broiler element on and broiled it for about 5 minutes until golden brown.)


Notes/Results: Honestly, I have always been more of a stove top macaroni and cheese fan, liking the creamy consistency, but it turns out that I really like macaroni pie. The big difference is the fact that you don't have to melt down cheese and make a sauce, you just toss it all in a bowl and pour it into the pan. Super quick and easy. I liked the pop of flavor the added mustard power gave, along with the extra-sharp cheddar. I'd happily make it again.



I'm sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.


Note: A review copy of "Golden Child" was provided to me by the author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.  

You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.