Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Secret Language of Cats" by Susanne Schotz, Served with a Recipe for Baked Salmon (with Coconut-Tomato Sauce & Without)

Getting over that middle of the week hump can be hard for both the human when it is a busy work week and the cat, left at home for long days. I don't usually have challenges interpreting the meaning of my Max's many vocalizations--the plaintive mewling when I walk in the door is both chastisement for leaving him and demand for his dinner, but if you wonder what your cat is trying to communicate, the The Secret Language of Cats by Susanne Schotz is a good primer. I'm happy to be today's TLC Book Tour stop and I am accompanying my review with a recipe for Eric Ripert's Baked Salmon with Coconut-Tomato Sauce, sharing some of the plain salmon with my feline friend as a weeknight treat.

Publisher's Blurb:

Have you ever wondered what your cat is saying?

Cats do not meow randomly, nor do they growl or hiss because they have nothing better to do. Cat sounds have a purpose, and they can carry important messages, whether for us or other cats.

Susanne Schotz is hard at work on breaking the cat code. She is a professor at Lund University in Sweden, where a long-standing research program is proving that cats do actually use vocal communication—with each other and with their human caretakers. 

Understanding the vocal strategies used in human-cat communication will have profound implications for how we communicate with our pets, and has the potential to improve the relationship between animals and humans within several fields, including animal therapy, veterinary medicine and animal sheltering.

In The Secret Language of Cats, Schotz offers a crash course in the phonetic study of cat sounds. She introduces us to the full range of feline vocalizations and explains what they can mean in different situations, and she gives practical tips to help us understand our cats better.

Hardcover: 288 Pages
Publisher: Hanover Square Press; Original edition (November 1, 2018)

My Review:

Susanne Schotz is a definite cat lover and shares her house with her husband and five cats that are her "subjects" for the book and her affection for her furry companions and passion for studying how they communicate is fully evident in The Secret Language of Cats. The book is part science, part psychology and part tribute to her pets and is an interesting and fun read for a cat lover. There are times that the science gets a little dry and I confess that the phonetic descriptions don't do much for me, however going on her website Meowsic was the perfect companion as I could listen to her cats make many of the sounds in the book and that helped me interpret the phonetic transcriptions. My cat Max found the audio to be somewhat disconcerting as he couldn't see the cats making the noises I was listening too, which brought up some questioning mews and meows from him. I also found the sound and body language descriptions in the book to be very helpful in matching Schotz's interpretations of the sounds her cats make with mine of Max's vocalizations. There are charming illustrations of the author's cats in the books as well as pictures and videos on the website which are fun to look at. A quick read with tidbits of cat knowledge that i found to be very help and engaging, I enjoyed this book and plan to share it with a few cat-loving friends.

Food Inspiration:

Not much of a food presence in this book of course so I took my inspiration from the food Max enjoys most, fish, and the need to through a quick dinner on the table. Max is first and foremost a tuna fan--particularly raw ahi and will turn up his nose at raw salmon, but if I cook that salmon so that it is tender and moist, he is very much on board. I thought I could put together this Eric Ripert recipe from frozen wild salmon and cauliflower rice  (replacing the jasmine rice called for) and canned tomato sauce and coconut milk from the pantry. I'd share a little of the plain butter-baked salmon with him, then top it with the creamy coconut-tomato sauce for my own dinner.

Max was perfectly content with his dinner-time salmon treat and although not the most attractive of dishes (due to my "I'm tired, I'll just slap-it-on-a-plate" fault--not Ripert's recipe or plating suggestions) was a tasty weeknight dinner. 

Baked Salmon with Coconut-Tomato Sauce
Adapted from Eric Ripert via the New York Times
(Serves 4)

Coconut-Tomato Sauce:
1 1/2 tsp canola oil
1 Tbsp finely diced garlic
2 Tbsp finely diced onion
1/2 cup canned tomato sauce
1/2 cup coconut milk
Salt and ground black pepper

Jasmine Rice:
2 Tbsp butter
1 cup jasmine rice
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup coconut milk

Baked Salmon:
Salt and ground white pepper
2 Tbsp butter
4 (6-oz) salmon fillets
salt and ground black pepper

Make the coconut-tomato sauce: In a saucepan, heat oil and add garlic and onion. Sauté until soft, about 3 minutes. Add tomato sauce, coconut milk and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer until slightly reduced, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and keep warm.

Make the creamy jasmine rice: In a medium saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups water and the butter. Bring to a boil, add rice, and reduce heat to low. Simmer uncovered for 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat, cover snugly with foil, and allow to sit for another 12 minutes.

Combine milk and coconut milk in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Stir into cooked rice, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

Make the salmon: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place butter in roasting pan large enough to fit salmon fillets, and add 1/4 inch water. Place over medium heat to bring to a boil, then add salmon and cover pan snugly with foil. Place in oven and cook as desired, about 5 minutes for medium-rare. Remove fish from pan and drain on paper towels.

To serve, reheat sauce. Place an equal portion of rice in center of each of four plates. Top each with a fillet, and pour sauce around rice and salmon. Serve hot.

Notes/Results: Again, I didn't plate this the best way--making it look at bit like cat food--apropos for the book I suppose ;-) but the flavor was good with the coconut-tomato sauce rice and creamy and a compliment to the salmon.I used a bottled pasta sauce and liked the flavor and ease of that option. I would make it again and Max agreed that his salmon was tasty.

Linking up the recipe with I Heart Cooking Clubs where it is Potluck week--any recipe from any IHCC chef.

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 Secret Language of Cats" 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.  



  1. Coconut and tomato on salmon is brilliant! I love the looks of this dish. This is one I need to try soon as it's getting too cold to grill fish outdoors. But I still want my fish-fix so this checks all the boxes.

    Cute spoon! I'm glad Max liked his share of the meal.

  2. This sounds great -- and we can't be food stylists all the time. LOL. I may have to pick up a copy of this book, so I can learn everything we missed when we had cats.

  3. Impressive that the author didn't overstate the case and pretend that the cat's vocalizations were "language" -- that's a temptation that too many animal watchers fall into. You are very generous to cook and share your dinner with your cat!

    best... mae at

  4. My vegetarian brother in law calmly cooks up meat for his cats... we have a part time cat - the cat from next door that spends her days with us... Cheers

  5. Love the sound of the sauce. I'll bet it's wonderful on salmon.

  6. The picture of Max licking his lips is making my whole week, Deb! Bella loves salmon more than any other meat and my Mom and I used to laugh so hard because she would wait at the oven door and sniff and sniff. Why would a dog love salmon when she's not even a water dog, but I suppose they all know what's good.

    The ease of the tomato and coconut sauce with salmon sounds right up my alley. Quick, flavorful, and easy while being healthy and satisfying at the same time. My kind of recipe!


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