Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal
Eva Thorvald’s mother is convinced she would be a horrible mother and her baby would be better off without her, so she leaves her husband and infant daughter to pursue her dreams of being a sommelier in California. Eva is left behind in Minnesota to be raised by her epicurean father who begins feeding her puréed braised pork shoulder as soon as he sees fit. Eva’s love of food as a result starts VERY early and her love of fresh foods, gardening and planting is the defining factor of her life.
If you are a fan of eating local and fancy dinners you will love reading about the evolution of the chef with the most sought after dinner reservations around. After a lifetime of hard knocks Eva becomes a culinary sensation running dinners in interesting locales. Reservations are booked online, sometimes years in advance, and if you are “called” you have a week to change whatever plans you may already have and get to the location of your $5,000 a plate dinner. Yes, it’s completely over the top, but seeing this young woman succeed so well is a joy.
The construction of the book is unique. Each chapter is a short story revolving around an ingredient, one that shows up on the plate of the final dinner of the book. The stories all feature Eva, but not necessarily as the main character. In fact, in at least one of the stories I didn’t know why exactly it was included until I got to the end of the book. I enjoyed the book, but it wasn’t the cozy lighthearted book I expected based on reviews and the cute cover. This is a story of a life and the lives that life touches in all sorts of ways.