Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Family Tree" by Susan Wiggs, Served with a Recipe for Salted Maple Popcorn

Happy Tuesday! On today's TLC Book Tour stop, the book, combined with the humid weather has me in a wistful, autumn state of mind. Even though the storytelling spans several seasons, something about the setting of a maple farm in Vermont makes Family Tree by Susan Wiggs the perfect book for Fall, or when you are wishing for Fall weather at least. Along with my review of this fabulous new foodie novel, I am pairing it with for the perfect snack for reading, Salted Maple Popcorn, inspired by the book.

Publisher's Blurb:

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author comes a powerful, emotionally complex story of love, loss, the pain of the past—and the promise of the future.

Sometimes the greatest dream starts with the smallest element. A single cell, joining with another. And then dividing. And just like that, the world changes. Annie Rush knows how lucky she is. The producer of a popular television cooking show, she loves her handsome husband and the beautiful Los Angeles home they share. And now, she’s pregnant with their first child. But in an instant, her life is shattered. And when Annie awakes from a yearlong coma, she discovers that time isn’t the only thing she’s lost.

Grieving and wounded, Annie retreats to her old family home in Switchback, Vermont, a maple farm generations old. There, surrounded by her free-spirited brother, their divorced mother, and four young nieces and nephews, Annie slowly emerges into a world she left behind years ago: the town where she grew up, the people she knew before, the high-school boyfriend turned judge. And with the discovery of a cookbook her grandmother wrote in the distant past, Annie unearths an age-old mystery that might prove the salvation of the family farm.

Family Tree is the story of one woman’s triumph over betrayal, and how she eventually comes to terms with her past. It is the story of joys unrealized and opportunities regained. Complex, clear-eyed and big-hearted, funny, sad, and wise, it is a novel to cherish and to remember.

Hardcover: 368 pages  
Publisher: William Morrow (August 9, 2016)

My Review:

I love a good foodie novel, where the food is a part of the story--fully present and enticing, but not taking away from the the rest of the book. Family Tree is that kind of novel, the food is part of the supporting cast--adding to the pleasure of the story but, not overwhelming the other themes. This is my first Susan Wiggs book (surprising since she has 50+ of them) but I don't think it will be my last. Family Tree is about Annie, who seems to be living her dream life until an accident takes it all away. After waking from a year-long coma, Annie is initially missing many of her memories and needs to rebuild her mind, her body, her spirit and her life, so she recuperates back at her family's home and maple syrup farm in Vermont. Annie's story is told in alternating present day and flashbacks, covering her relationships with her family, her husband, and especially her first love Fletcher Wyndham. My favorite parts were of Annie in the kitchen and her memories with her grandmother. 

I don't know if the author's other books involve food but Wiggs writes it well--many of her descriptions of the food made my mouth water and the behind the scenes look at the cooking show and at the maple farm were interesting and drew me in. Family Tree is sweet, but not cloyingly so, a nice mix of romantic and family love, characters getting a second chance, growth, and finding yourself and what you want in life. It is a romance and although there are a few twists, there are no huge surprises in the way things work out, but it is a lovely journey along the way. Foodie book fans, romance lovers, and anyone who enjoys a good family drama will enjoy it. 


Author Notes:  Susan Wiggs is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than fifty novels, including the beloved Lakeshore Chronicles series. Her books have been translated into two dozen languages. A Harvard graduate, Susan lives with her husband on an island in Puget Sound.
Find out more about Susan at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.


Food Inspiration:

With the lead character a cook from an early age that grew up on a maple farm and also is the producer of an award-winning television cooking show, you can bet that Family Tree is full of delicious food references. Just some of them include: maple creme brûlée, Margarita pizza, scrambled eggs, pancakes with maple syrup, sandwiches of Cabot cheese grated with spring onions and radishes with mayonnaise on thick bread, applesauce, Lady Baltimore cupcakes, pan-fried brook trout, sweet corn off the stalk, chicken roasted with lemon and rosemary, apple pie, rhubarb crumple, free range turkey roasted in sage butter, homemade sweet potato hush puppies with sriracha ketchup, dressing with wild mushrooms and walnuts, garlic mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry compote, pumpkin pie in a maple pecan shell, a duck confit sandwich with choice of Stilton or smoked cheddar, served in a brioche bun with caramelized red onions, grilled goat cheese, sweet rocket, crunchy duck scratchings, Dijon and truffle honey, Orangina soda, a rye Old-Fashioned, hen-of-the-woods mushrooms in olive oil and served over hummus, tomato tart with caramelized onions and shaved fennel, pear-and-apple compote drizzled in butterscotch sauce made with coconut milk, grappa, smoothies of chocolate and malt and maple syrup and nutmeg, iced maple bars, homemade chocolate truffles, blueberry muffins, barbecued pulled pork sliders, pasta with fresh eggs and lasagna with bechamel sauce, bread with a rosemary and salt crust, tarte tatin, drinks with homemade syrups and berry extracts, scones, chiffon cake, risotto, saffron cauliflower with fresh parsley, raspberry-almond butterhorns, jam tarts, Old-Fashioned with maple-whiskey, boxed mac-n-cheese doctored up with white wine, cherry tomatoes and basil, maple-walnut ice cream, mint martinis, tomato tart with Cabot cheese, buttery lady peas with charred onions, huckleberries drowning in Crème fraîche with Frangelico liqueur, watermelon and corn on the cob, chutney, blackberry crisp with ice cream, Ema Datshi (a Bhutanese dish of hot peppers and yak's milk cheese over red rice), iced raisin bars, homemade ricotta, and pumpkin soup with fried sage butter. Whew! I am hungry once again!

So many dishes to choose from! The book even came with a card with recipes for Frosted Maple Cookies and Cheddar Bear Soup mentioned in the book. Ultimately I went with a simple mention of Annie making a batch of salted maple popcorn both because maple syrup featured so heavily in the book and that reading about salted maple popcorn made me crave it like crazy. Normally I am a salty popcorn person, not really loving kettle corn or caramel corn all that much. But, I do adore a sweet and salty combination in just about anything and it just sounded so darn good. 

I looked on line and found several different recipes but the one from This Homemade Life seemed closest to what I was craving. Since it used butter, I replaced it with vegan butter as it was handy, making it a vegan treat. I used a pink and flaky Murray River Salt to garnish and drug out my air popper for the popcorn. 

Salted Maple Popcorn
Slightly adapted from Alison at This Homemade Life 
(Makes 5 to 6 Cups

5-6 cups popped popcorn (air-popped or stove top)
1 Tbsp vegan butter (like Earth Balance) or regular butter if desired
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla 
your favorite flaky or coarse salt (I used this pink one)

Pop your corn using your favorite method. I use my air popper. Prepare a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a small saucepan melt butter over medium heat, then add maple syrup. Stir to combine, them let syrup heat until it is heated through and becomes very bubbly. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  

Pour warm popcorn into a large bowl. Drizzle maple syrup mixture over popcorn, quickly stirring and tossing to coat. Pour popcorn onto your prepared parchment-lined baking pan and lightly sprinkle with salt. 

Allow popcorn to cool before serving. Keep stored in an airtight container--if there is any leftover!

Notes/Results: This is my new favorite--such a nice balance of buttery-sweet-salty-crunchy goodness. It is pretty darn addicting and hard to stop eating once you start. It is super easy to make too--not as much effort and not as heavy as caramel sauce--a bonus in my book. I probably could have done a better job in my pouring and stirring but honestly, I liked that there were some maple-syrup saturated pieces mixed in with the drier crunchier pieces, it made for more texture contrast. Not that salted maple popcorn is seasonal but it definitely put me in an autumn frame of mind and would pair nicely with hot apple cider or hard cider for a movie night treat. I will definitely make it again!

I'm linking up this review and recipe to 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.

Family Tree is my twelfth foodie book entry for the Foodies Read 2016 event. You can check out the August Foodies Read linkup, hosted by Heather at Based on a True Story, to see what everyone is reading this month. 

Note: A review copy of "Family Tree" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. 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 Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.



  1. Deb, the book and the recipe look fabulous. Can't wait to try both. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I love books like this. Can't wait to order up a copy. Thanks Deb.

  3. I love reading your reviews, looking at your gorgeous photos, and reading how you come up with each theme's recipe-always an interesting read with a tempting recipe!

  4. I just finished this book last night and LOVED it! I thought about making Salted Maple Popcorn to go with my review, but decided on something else.

  5. I love your description of food as the "supporting cast" of this book. What a great way to think about it!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

  6. I've really enjoyed Susan Wiggs' books in the past and The Family Tree looks good. Somehow I didn't realize the main character was connected to a Food TV show. That makes me even more interested in this one! And that popcorn! I want a big bowl of it right now.

  7. ARGHHHHH my two weaknesses in one single dish: Popcorn + Maple. Sob. I'm trying to stay away from sweets but, but, but I think I have to make this.

  8. Well, you absolutely know I love a foodie-novel too.

  9. We don't really have a popcorn tradition. Have a great week. Cheers from Carole's Chatter

  10. So many people have been talking about this book and each review intrigues me so, guess it goes in the list! Great choice, popcorn and oh my, the addition of maple is brilliant. What a great combination. I could use something completely different genre-wise after The Passage series.
    I need to get this book. ......off to the library again!

  11. That sounds so good. I'll definitely try it out.


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