A book cover that shows an older kitchen with older appliances, a checkerboard floor, and a shelf near the ceiling that holds dishes and pots.

Stories from the Kitchen is part of the Everyman’s Pocket Classics collections of stories. I found this book in a thrift store. Each story in this book centers itself around food. A few of them contain recipes. The stories are written by authors whose names you might recognize.

My copy of the book had an inscription on the inside cover, which was written in 2017. It was written to someone named Jason from “Dad & Leah”. The short message read: “Take time to enjoy XO”. As I read my way through the stories in this book, I realized that some are focused on families and how they interact.

“Best Quality”, by Amy Tam, could be viewed as a story about a Chinese-American family celebrating Chinese New Year. A daughter (who is an adult) helps her mother find the best quality crabs in Chinatown. They start picking out crabs, when a second crab grabs onto the one they selected. The second one was not good quality, but ended up in their bags anyway.

But, there’s more to it than that. The story also includes traditions about the Chinese New Year dinner; the daughter’s memory about the first time she watched her mother throw a live crab into a pot of boiling water; and ideas about who – exactly – counts as family. Old arguments resurface.

“Potatoes and Love”, by Nora Ephron, focuses almost entirely on her love of potatoes. She notes that there are certain times when a specific type of potato dish should be made. Miss that window, and it isn’t the same. There are some recipes included in the story that a reader could easily use to make the potato dishes that she describes.

The story is also about the stages of a romance. She recommend that you must make crisp potatoes at the beginning is that “if you don’t make them in the beginning, you never will.” There is a lot of work involved in the two crisp potato dishes she discusses.

The middle is when you go to the potato drawer in your kitchen to find that the potatoes have gone bad. One has a terrible odor and is leaking, and the others are sprouting. You throw them out and settle for pasta. Also in the middle, is when your lover decides to go low-carb, preventing you from serving potatoes.

The end is when the relationship is over, and you wish there was someone around who could make you mashed potatoes. Alas, it is too late for that.

“Sorry Fugu”, by T.C. Boyle, is the story of Albert, the restaurant owner (and chef) who hopes to please a caustic food critic named Willa Frank. She visits restaurants, tastes the food, and leaves. Then, she writes a scathing review that puts both the restaurant – and the food – in a very unpalatable light.

One day, Willa Frank arrives at Albert’s restaurant. The story is about the efforts made by himself and his staff to please the cantankerous food critic.

Not every story in the book is delightful. “Short Friday”, written by Isaac Bashevis Singer, is the story of Schmul-Leibele (a tailor) and his wife Shoshe. They are devoutly Jewish, and want to make a feast to celebrate Short Friday. Shoshe made a lot of food the night before the holy day. Her husband eats some of it that night, but there is plenty of food.

To me, it gives the feeling of a fairy-tale by the Brother’s Grimm. There was something the couple forgot to do before falling asleep, and this brings about their demise.

I highly recommend this collection of short stories about food. None of them take very long to read, and each are separate from the rest. Those who enjoy cooking could attempt to reproduce the recipes that are provided in detail in some of the stories.

As for me, the best part of this collection is that it enables me to “experience” foods that I cannot safely eat. Those who know me well are aware of my multitude of food allergies. In real life, my choices about what to eat are very limited. Stories like these offer an escape from my food-related limitations.

#Blaugust2021

Stories From The Kitchen – Various Authors is a post written by Jen Thorpe on Book of Jen and is not allowed to be copied to other sites.

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