When I first picked up this book, “Kitchens of the Great Midwest,” I thought it was going to be heavy on midwestern food culture, but it delicately introduced some of the well-known foods of that region. Without noticing I learned about Walleye fish, Hot Peppers, Sweet Corn and some fun foods, such as the “Resurrection Rolls.” Author, J. Ryan Stradal, vividly describes not only the visual experience of enticing dishes, but also the thoughts and emotions expressed when creating and tasting these plates. All of this is done throughout this beautifully written story of life’s unexpected turns and the masterfulness of resiliency. Even though, I found myself wanting to read more about the food, like a craving for a sweet dessert after a nice dinner out, I did notice that with each chapter I became more and more engaged.
We get to go through the lives of different characters who have been stirred by the heroine, Eva Thorvald. Eva, has a tragic back story that she overcomes and has you and everyone around her admiring her for her strengthen, ambition, confidence and general giftedness. By the time I finished reading this novel, I wanted to be a character in one of the chapters in her life. Although everyone has struggles and makes poor decisions a one time or another in life, we get a glimpse of humanity wrapped up in forgiveness as we go from having a putrid taste for a special person in Eva’s life, to finding sweet sorrow for this character in the end. When a novel can wheedle your emotions from one end of the spectrum to the other, you know that it is a piece of work to be esteemed.
I would recommend this novel, because even though these are fictional characters, there are recognizable truths throughout the book. One of my favorite lines in the book is, a statement from one of the ladies that comes off as mean, judgmental, and jealous, but shows her true kindness when responding to the person who she envies.
She says, “Well, you can’t control other people, but you can control how you react to them.”
This is something I share with my own daughters and remind myself of on those difficult days. With lines like these, the book just becomes relatable, because we have all been there through heartbreak and disappointment. This book is a reminder of how we can overcome hardships and do great things in life! Of course, being from Sonoma County (Wine County), I will most definitely have to try the wines mentioned from my region (2009 Littorai Mays Canyon Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, CA and 2005 Marcassin Blue-Slide Ridge Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, CA).