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Kitchens of the Great Midwest: A Novel Paperback – 7 June 2016
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“A sweet and savory treat.” —People
“An impressive feat of narrative jujitsu . . . that keeps readers turning the pages too fast to realize just how ingenious they are.”—The New York Times Book Review, Editor’s Pick
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Lager Queen of Minnesota, Kitchens of the Great Midwest is a novel about a young woman with a once-in-a-generation palate who becomes the iconic chef behind the country’s most coveted dinner reservation.
When Lars Thorvald’s wife, Cynthia, falls in love with wine—and a dashing sommelier—he’s left to raise their baby, Eva, on his own. He’s determined to pass on his love of food to his daughter—starting with puréed pork shoulder. As Eva grows, she finds her solace and salvation in the flavors of her native Minnesota. From Scandinavian lutefisk to hydroponic chocolate habaneros, each ingredient represents one part of Eva’s journey as she becomes the star chef behind a legendary and secretive pop-up supper club, culminating in an opulent and emotional feast that’s a testament to her spirit and resilience.
Each chapter in J. Ryan Stradal’s startlingly original debut tells the story of a single dish and character, at once capturing the zeitgeist of the Midwest, the rise of foodie culture, and delving into the ways food creates community and a sense of identity. By turns quirky, hilarious, and vividly sensory, Kitchens of the Great Midwest is an unexpected mother-daughter story about the bittersweet nature of life—its missed opportunities and its joyful surprises. It marks the entry of a brilliant new talent.
Praise for Kitchens of the Great Midwest:
“I read J. Ryan Stradal’s Kitchens of the Great Midwest on a flight. I buckled my seatbelt, opened the book and when I looked up again, the flight attendant was asking if I needed assistance getting off the plane. I didn’t, but now you know the spell this author can cast. He does it again with The Lager Queen of Minnesota.” —Elisabeth Egan for The New York Times
"An impressive feat of narrative jujitsu. . . that keeps readers turning the pages too fast to realize just how ingenious they are."—The New York Times Book Review, Editor's Pick
"This is a book that made me want to have a more full and colorful life, a life with cookbooks and a well-used kitchen, and to delight at all the goodness that can be put in front of us.”—Los Angeles Review of Books
“A sweet and savory treat.” —People
“The author's gentle skewering of foodie snobs (from county fair doyennes to the vegan/gluten-free/soy-free police) is spot on, and the blend of humor, warmth, and longing that he uses to portray family relationships make the book insightful and endearing. Savor it page by page.”—Oprah.com
“Kitchens of the Great Midwest is a terrific reminder of what can be wrested from suffering and struggle – not only success, but also considerable irony, a fair amount of wisdom and a decent meal.”—Jane Smiley, The Guardian
"Warning: this will make you hungry. . . . You won’t be able to put it down. And it will up your kitchen game."—The Skimm
"Garrison Keillor’s got nothing on [J. Ryan Stradal]!"—'Here and Now', NPR
“A tender coming-of-age story with a mix of finely rendered pathos and humor.”—Washington Post
“Stradal’s debut novel tackles foodie culture with all the finesse of a pastry chef…Reading Kitchens is all pleasure.” —LA Magazine
"[A] captivating debut novel. . . as surprising and satisfying as a great meal."—Tampa Bay Times
“Foodies and those who love contemporary literature will devour this novel that is being compared to Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge. A standout.” —Library Journal (starred review)
“[Kitchens of the Great Midwest is] the first novel about the emergence and current state of foodie culture… Fundamentally, [it’s] about what happens when opposing personalities coexist: those who bake with real butter versus those who don’t, those who obsess over heirloom tomatoes alongside those who don’t even know what they are. It uses these categories as a way to look at one of the most confusing, liberating truths there is, which is that often the people we think we’re the least like are the ones we end up needing the most.” –Book Forum
“[A] delicious debut from Stradal.. . Food and family intertwine in this promising debut that features triumph, heartbreak, and even recipes.”—Kirkus
“Stradal’s first novel is a refreshing and brisk read, with a sophisticated sense of such glories of foodie culture as open-pollinated heirloom corn, pan-seared Walleye and Caesar Cardini’s original Caesar Salad.”—BBC.com
“Stradal’s debut is charming, rife with hardy, self-deprecating humor, but in Kitchens of the Great Midwest [Stradal] really proves his mettle as a novelist to look out for.”—Bustle.com
“Tender, funny, and moving, J. Ryan Stradal's debut novel made me crave my mother's magic cookie bars...and every good tomato I've ever had the privilege of eating. Kitchens of the Great Midwest manages to be at once sincere yet sharply observed, thoughtful yet swiftly paced, and the lives of its fallible, realistic, and complicated characters mattered to me deeply. It's a fantastic book.”— Edan Lepucki, bestselling author of California
“In Kitchens of the Great Midwest, a charming, fast-moving round robin tale of food, sensuality and Midwestern culture, Mr. Stradal has delivered one extremely tasty, well-seasoned debut in what is sure to be a long and savory career.”—Janet Fitch, author White Oleander
“From the quite literally burning passions of a lonely eleven-year-old girl with an exceptional palate, to the ethical dilemmas behind a batch of Blue Ribbon Peanut Butter Bars, J. Ryan Stradal writes with a special kind of meticulous tenderness—missing nothing and accepting everything. A superbly gratifying debut.”—Meg Howrey, author of The Crane’s Dance
"An impossible-to-put-down, one-of-a-kind novel. The prose is beautiful, the characters memorable, and the plot is surprising at every turn. I have never read a book quite like this—and neither, I'll bet, have you. This stunning debut announces J. Ryan Stradal as a first-rate voice in American fiction. This is a wildly creative, stunningly original, and very moving novel. I can't wait to see what Stradal does next."— Rob Roberge, author of The Cost of Living
"A Great American Novel in the fullest sense of the term. Everything you want a book to be."—Ben Loory, author of Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day
About the Author
- Publisher : Penguin Books; Reprint edition (7 June 2016)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 336 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0143109413
- ISBN-13 : 978-0143109419
- Item Weight : 181 g
- Dimensions : 1.37 x 12.7 x 19.56 cm
- Country of Origin : USA
- Best Sellers Rank: #59,766 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from other countries
I gave his other book 5 stars (which I rarely do). Not so with this one.
However, towards the end of the book some of the characters are brought back into the story and I found it quite difficult to remember who they all were and how they were connected to Eva. The ending of the book felt unsatisfactory and without wanting to give away any spoilers I was left wandering if the gathering was a coincidence or whether it had been planned by Eva.
As a character, Eva seemed too perfect. She seemed to glide through life getting what she wanted and the other characters seemed to hold her in some god like reverence. I didn’t particularly find myself caring about her or rooting for her.
Through the book and the different characters stories there were a lot of cliffhangers and these never got resolved. In some cases you could fill in the gaps with your own imagination of what happened but in others I really would have liked to have known what happened to the character.
It was an interesting snippet into multiple lives centred in and around the Minnesota area but unfortunately the snippets were not quite long enough to leave me satisfied at the end of the book.