This project idea involves three things that I love: books, cooking, and photography. A perfect combination to push your creativity. Holly Berfield was looking for a new photo project to work on. She resolved to read more, cook more, and look for more beauty in the everyday to shoot. For each book she read this year she is cooking something inspired by the story and documenting it with her camera.
The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate
First, this lovely family story about a sweet gorilla named Ivan. Don’t miss this book: it’s like Charlotte’s Web with circus animals. Based on an actual gorilla who was abducted from the jungle and brought to live in a shopping mall, it’s filled with characters whose compassion made me weep, and tenderness I won’t soon forget.
I thought I’d make some banana bread in Ivan’s honor – with lots of chocolate chips in honor of the little readers in my home who enjoyed this story over many bedtimes.
Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese
My experience with this beautiful book was a little like making this mesir wot. We had a few false starts. I wasn’t sure at first how we’d get along. And then the rich texture, and the sense of traveling to the other side of the world, won me over completely. Plus, it’s about brothers. Sold. I was sorry to see it end. But at least my kitchen still smells like coriander and ginger.
All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
There’s nothing I could possibly add that hasn’t been said already about this magnificent WWII novel, the most beautiful story I’ve read in ages. What to cook? There’s scarcely any food mentioned, only longing for food.
Canned peaches, shared. A simple galette. Here’s mine, homemade with peaches and plums. I’m hoping the sea salt is from somewhere near Saint-Malo.
The Girl on the Train, by Paul Hawkins
I didn’t want to like this book. Psychological thrillers are not my genre. I’ve only ever read two – also with Girl in the title – one Dragon Tattooed and one Gone. But there’s something to be said for a page-turner you can read in two days flat. And there’s definitely nothing wrong with some dark suspense when you’re snowed in.
Here’s a little blackout cake in honor of our boozy heroine – those who have read it will know why.
El Deafo, by Cece Bell
Kidlit edition of this project.
This wonderful graphic novel and memoir features a hearing impaired girl, portrayed as a bunny, reimagined as a superhero. A unique take on this spunky child’s path to acceptance (hint one: got to love yourself first) and friendship (hint two: see hint one). For this book, I made our superhero a superfood smoothie.
Full disclosure: my own kiddos devoured the book but not the veggies. Something tells me little Cece would approve.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin
Sometimes the right book comes along at the right time, as this charming story did for me. It’s about a cantankerous but very endearing bookstore owner who finds a circuitous route to happiness via a mysterious parcel left at his shop. While it’s not light, exactly, it felt less dense than my last succession of novels.
And it’s a true book-lover’s book, with plenty of fiction in-jokes and author references. I made some simple cinnamon mini-donuts, as they seemed the kind of thing the bookshop might sell if it had a café. These were promptly frosted, sprinkled and devoured by my children after being photographed. A. J. Fikry himself would be appalled!
The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion
I think my favorite thing about this sweet book is how hard the main character worked to learn empathy. Because it’s that something we all could do better? Homemade lemon squares with this book, because Don knew just what to do when life gave him lemons. (OK: it’s because they look cute with the cover.)
Everything I Never Told you, by Celeste Ng
This book broke my heart a bit for this fractured family. Disconnect, loss and redemption in this beautiful portrayal of what unfolds in the absence of communication among loved ones. It’s a sad but so lovely read.
Lots of food themes in this book, mainly as a symbol of domestic duty, rarely for joy or comfort. Hard boiled eggs are featured often, so here are my simple deviled eggs. My mom’s secret ingredient is a little curry with the yolks. No cookbook needed.
Tell the Wolves I’m Home, by Carol Rifka Brunt
This novel felt like it was about someone I could have known as a suburban teen in the 80s, living not far from the setting of this story. The characters were well developed and felt real – but I disagreed with some of their choices, and reading this story as a parent I felt both frustrated and moved by them. It’s a beautiful story and I’m glad to have read it. I even think it could be classified as YA fiction, for the right YA who can handle some of the heavier themes. For this book, I made black and white cookies, since this dessert creates a special bond between two friends-to-be who have yet to meet. As a New Yorker I am a purist about black and white cookies, and these are not classic form. But something tells me the almost-YA audience in my house won’t mind.
Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
While making these, I thought a lot about this unforgettable book, one of my favorites. This story takes place before and after a flu pandemic that eliminates 99% of the world’s population, and civilization as we know it.
Sounds grim, but this post-apocalyptic novel is really about finding love, friendship, hope, spirituality, connection and purpose in the wake of the unthinkable. Also about appreciating the technology and modern conveniences we often this isolate us, but in many ways bring us closer. Most of all it’s about humanity, and the ways it changes a lot, but not really so much, when everything around it collapses. Late in the story, one survivor asks another, “Do you remember chocolate-chip cookies?” And his friend responds, “I dream of chocolate-chip cookies. Don’t torture me.” Here are mine. What would you miss? Go have some today.
The below recipe is my favorite as I continue with this project. I’ve made it often during the summer, sometimes varying it with different fruit. I even used my new galette skills as an excuse to buy all manner of adorable vintage rolling pins. I still think my first one tasted the best, though, because I was so surprised at how easy, delicious and gorgeous it was. And after preparing it for this project, the galette will always remind me of the beautiful All the Light We Cannot See, the best novel I’ve read this year by far.
Peach and Plum Galette
(adapted from The New York Times )
- 1 1/3 cups flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 large egg
- Heavy cream as indicated in directions
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 3 cups combined peaches and plums, sliced thin
- ½ cup sugar, or less if desired
- 4 tablespoons cornstarch
- 4-6 tablespoons good quality, thick apricot jam
- In a large bowl, mix together with your hands flour, sugar and salt. In a measuring cup, lightly beat the egg then add only enough cream to reach 1/3 cup. Lightly whisk the egg and cream in the measuring cup.
- Add butter to the flour mixture and using your fingers, break up the butter into very small chunks. Drizzle only ¼ cup of the egg/cream mixture over the dough and combine until the entire contents forms large crumbs. Mix in lemon juice and zest.
- Place dough on lightly floured surface and push it together to make one large mass. Flatten to about 1 ½ inch and wrap in plastic. Chill for 2 hours or up to 3 days. If in a hurry, place for a brief time in freezer until cool but not cold.
- Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Roll dough to about 12 inches diameter. Place on rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Keep in cool dry location while filling is made.
- Toss together fruit, all but one tablespoon of sugar, salt, and cornstarch. Spread a very thin layer of apricot jam on the cool dough before adding fruit, leaving a 1 ½ inch border. Then pile the fruit on the jam, or arrange the slices in a neat circular pattern, leaving the border dry. There will likely be plenty of fruit left over in your bowl. Only use as much fruit as you need on the dough – snack on the rest or toss it. Don’t use too much fruit.
- Carefully fold about 1 ½ inches of the pastry border over the fruit. If it breaks at the crease, pinch dough together as needed to avoid leaking. Brush pastry generously with leftover egg and cream mixture. Sprinkle last tablespoon of sugar on the crust.
- Bake for 35-45 minutes, until filling is bubbly and crust is golden. Cool for 20 minutes on wire rack. Serve warm or room temperature.
I love how the books photographed look well read and loved. Thank you Holly, you have inspired me and added several books to my reading list!