Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Book Tour Stops Here: "The Kitchen Daughter" by Jael McHenry with "Rocks" (Cookies) from My Great Grandmother's Cookbook & a Giveaway Too!

Sweet, funny, sad, hopeful, wise, charming and engaging are some of the words that I would use to describe "The Kitchen Daughter" by Jael McHenry. A foodie novel for sure, but the book goes beyond that, blending family drama, loss, love and finding yourself all with a quirky, courageous heroine trying to determine what normal is and find her place in the world. Ginny Selvaggio has been sheltered by her parents all of her life because of her Asperger's syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism that is characterized by serious difficulties interacting with people. At 26, Ginny would love to be "normal" even if she isn't quite sure what normal really means. In fact she keeps a "normal book" of newspaper clippings from various self-help and advice columns about normal behavior and she looks through it to regain control whenever she feels stressed or overwhelmed. Ginny also uses food and cooking to calm herself down, seeking comfort in the kitchen, reading food blogs and visualizing food and the process of cooking it in her mind as a coping behavior.

After Ginny's parents are unexpectedly killed in an accident, her overbearing sister Amanda wants to sell their house and bring Ginny to live with her, her husband and daughters. Ginny retreats to the kitchen to make her grandmother's Ribollita soup and has an unexpected visitor--her grandmother who has been dead for 20 years. Finding that she has the power to call forth the ghost of any deceased person whose recipe she makes, Ginny decides to use the skill to get help in solving some family mysteries.

This book hooked me from the start. Ginny is a fascinating and unique character and autism and Asperger's syndrome have long interested me. Jael McHenry has infused the story with tantalizing descriptions of food and ten original recipes are woven into the story. Each recipe is hand-written to reflect the person who wrote it. McHenry's passion for food and cooking (She's is a pop culture columnist, home cook and food blogger at the Simmer blog), comes through clearly. She writes skillfully so that even the premise that Ginny sees ghosts in her kitchen seems pretty believable. A very enjoyable read and a book I am happy to add to my foodie fiction shelves. (Check out the giveaway at the bottom of this post to get a chance to add it to your bookshelves) ;-)

For more blogger feedback on this book you can check out the other Book Tour Stops for "The Kitchen Daughter" here.


Although many of the ten recipes included in the book sounded wonderful, especially the ribollita, I was inspired by Ginny to make a dish from recipe jotted down in an old family cookbook. Several months ago my aunt asked my mom if she thought I might like to have my great-grandmother's cookbook. (Apparently, I have quite the reputation for being both a cookbook hoarder and a lover of vintage cookbooks.) Of course I said yes and a few weeks later my mom sent a package with "An American Family Receipt Book" by Mrs. Gregory and Friends inside. A heavy tome filled with hundreds of recipes and tips and suggestions for The Home, the Sick and Convalescent, Infants--How and What to Feed Them, Prevalent Disorders and Their Remedies, Toilet Suggestions and Recipes, Nuisances About the House, and Birthday Parties. Some of the advice is is pretty hilarious--but I will save that for another post.

Since there was no publication date in the book, I did a little research and found out that it was published in 1902. My great-grandmother was born in 1883, so she would have been 19 when it came out. There were a couple of old recipes clipped from newspapers and a little jello recipe booklet inside the pages of the cookbook that my mom suspected my grandmother had put there. A few recipes had check marks or stars by them, and on the last page at the back were two handwritten recipes for "Rocks." and "Aunt Frieda's Oatmeal Cookies." My mom wasn't familiar with either recipe so I decided to make the Rocks--a cookie with brown sugar, raisins and nuts. There is no indication of where the recipe came from or anything else about it.

The big challenge was that in the style of the day, the recipes consist mostly of a list of ingredients and not a lot of instruction like recipes today. In fact most of the many recipes in the cookbook are very brief. Most of the baking recipes just say things like "Bake in a moderate oven" or "Bake 10 minutes in a quick oven."


2 C. Brown Sugar
1 C. butter
3 eggs
3 C. flour
1 C, raisins
'1 C. nuts
1 t. soda
3 T. hot water

I used the ingredients for 1/2 batch of the "Rocks" and creamed the sugar and butter, then added the eggs and the baking soda diluted by the hot water. Next I stirred the wet ingredients into the flour and folded in the nuts (I used walnuts) and raisins and then just baked them like bake I many cookies--a scoop from my mini ice cream scoop onto parchment paper and baked in a 350 degree oven for about 10-11 minutes.

Notes/Results: I guess I expected them to be more "rock-like" but they spread out into a soft cookie. There are good but could use some livening up with some spices and maybe even a little chocolate. ;-) My great-grandmother or the "author" of the recipe did not appear in my kitchen while I baked these, which is fine because I didn't know her as she passed away the year I was born. (Plus that would have been just a little too freaky anyway) ;-) But it was a nice way to connect with the past.

***The Kitchen Daughter" Giveaway***

The publisher has graciously offered to ship a copy of this wonderful foodie novel to one of my lucky readers. (You must have a U.S. Shipping address to win--sorry to my Int'l readers)

If you would like to be entered to win, please let me know in your comment and also tell me about a favorite family dish that brings up memories for you.

  • The deadline for this giveaway is Monday, May 2nd.

I will do a random drawing from all eligible comments on Tuesday, May 3rd, so please be sure I have a way of contacting you if you are the lucky winner. Good Luck!

Obligatory Disclosure Statement: Review and giveaway copies of this book were provided by the publisher and TLC Book Tours but I was not compensated for this review or influenced by anyone--as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.

28 Day Vegan Challenge Update: Thanks to all of you for your positive comments and support on the challenge. It's just Day 2 but so far so good. (Obviously the "Rocks" were made before the challenge started.) Breakfasts have been easy, for lunch today I had a big salad with chickpeas, and dinner these past two nights has been a tomato-veggie-no oil sauce over quinoa pasta. I have a couple of recipes from the book that I will be posting about soon.

How is your week going?


  1. what a cool way to connect to your family!

  2. Great review, Deb...and I love the recipe you chose to re-create. Can you just imagine if she had shown up.... ;)

  3. The Kitchen Daughter sound like an interesting read. I like the cover design. Can't wait to hear more about your "new" cookbook.

    I'd like to be included in the giveaway, please. For me, red velvet cake brings back a lot of memories. My grandpa, who is gone now, made this cake for me for my birthday every year for as long as I can remember. Even when I was away at college, he made sure to have one ready when I came home.

  4. Even if your description of the story weren't intriguing, I would have still been captivated by the cover art. How clever!

    The traditional family recipe that means the most to me is probably Swedish rosettes, which my family has been making in this country since they got off the boat in the 1880's. Each year during the holidays, I get a little closer to perfecting a version that's safe for my son's food allergies. Maybe this December...

  5. My mom's cornish hens bring back good childhood memories, thinking she was saying cornachean, because of her southern country accent. So I grew up thinking it was called that. Plus her fried bologna, sausage egg casserole, and lemon cake. Pretty much all things my mama makes bring back childhood memories :) And remind me of the south... like her collard greens, chitlins, cracklin cornbread, and more.

  6. I love the sound of this book! Awesome review! My mom is always trying to figure out where her mother's old recipe books are. I'm pretty sure that for the generations before that, none exist, OR they got lost on the way here from Italy...who knows. I love that you chose to make a recipe from such a vintage cookbook though...a great way to connect with the past! Plus the cookies look delicious! Now...did you bake them in a moderate or a quick oven? :P

  7. sounds like an interesting book.
    my favorite kitchen memory .... no favorite kitchen memories - it was just never a part of "our family". i'm always envious when people do have them since it does seem like a good way for families to connect and stay connected over the years and when seperated by miles.

    jacquieastemborski AT comcast DOT net

  8. My grandmother's foccaccia is a family tradition... and if anyone else tried to make it, it comes out hard as a rock!

  9. That's so cool that you have her cookbook.
    Rice pilaf has special memories for me. It was my favorite dish that my dad made when I was young. He passed away when I was a teenager and whenever I make it I think of him and it warms my heart.

  10. delicious looking cookies and post

  11. What a great story with the Rocks! It's always better when there is some history and a story. Love the hand printed old recipes!

    I have a chicken salad that my mom used to make. It's the only thing that brings me right into the past. The smell just brings me right back. Thanks!

  12. Me gusta las recetas tradicionales ,recetas recreativas llenas de cariño familiar,mi blog es de recetas tradicionales ,recuerdos que tengo de mamá,cariños y abrazos.

  13. Thanks so much for always adding great novels to my list! And that hand written cookbook is amazing. What a cool piece of history.

  14. I love the way you did the family recipe to go along with the review! Fantastic! Thank you so much for being on the tour. The pictures of the rocks made my mouth water!


Mahalo for visiting and for leaving a comment. I love reading them and they mean a lot!

All advertising, spam, inappropriate (or just plain rude) comments will be promptly deleted. I do appreciate your right to free speech and to your opinion but I'm not into mean, rude, or mean snarky (non-mean snarky is just fine!) ;-)