Thursday, December 23

The Quilter's Kitchen - Jennifer Chiaverini

Perhaps it's because, in the lead-up to a year without library books, I've glutted on the Elm Creek Quilts series, but I have become decreasingly enchanted by the novels, none more so than The Quilter's Kitchen. I knew going in that it was "an Elm Creek Quilters novel with recipes" because it says that right on the cover. I didn't expect, though, that it would be an account of new member Anna Del Maso's fledgling foray into life on the Bergstrom estate thinly layered between pages of recipes.
I've read several books that include recipes in the narrative, of which perhaps the best are Greenwood's
Corinna Chapman novels, and have yet to cook a single dish from one. In Greenwood's version the recipes are few, packaged at the end of a section and easily skimmed over before returning to the narrative. In Chiaverini's version the recipes are the narrative, while the story serves the purpose of light flavouring. Each recipe is related to the text and to the characters, though I almost always had the sense that this was a slight stretch rather than an organic sequel to events. Although food plays a part in the rest of the series, there's a dwelling on it here that's laboured.
This isn't to say I didn't find sections of the Quilter's Kitchen interesting, though predominantly for reasons other than those I suspect Chiaverini intended. I noted, for example, the insistence in almost every recipe on kosher salt, something that I don't remember coming across in any of my wide collection of recipes, garnered from books, online and through friends and family. I had to Google it to discover what makes this kind of salt so special, and must confess that, despite reading a couple of descriptions (like
this one), I don't really get how it's different from sea salt or Victoria's Murray River salt. Most of the things that caught my eye were contrasts with Australia cuisine, like canned pumpkin (unknown here outside specialist grocers, in contrast with what my Colorado-based sister tells me is a dearth of edible pumpkins in the US)

The Elm Creek Quilt series:
1. The Quilter's Apprentice
2. Round Robin
3. The Cross-Country Quilters
The Runaway Quilt
5. The Quilter's Legacy
The Master Quilter
7. The Sugar Camp Quilt
8. The Christmas Quilt
9. Circle of Quilters
10. The Quilter's Homecoming
11. The New Year's Quilt
12. The Winding Ways Quilt
13. The Quilter's Kitchen

14. The Lost Quilter
15. A Quilter's Holiday
16. The Aloha Quilt

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