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Rising Strong - A Book Review

Kitchens of the Great Midwest - a Book Review

I received a copy of Kitchens of the Great Midwest, a debut novel written by J. Ryan Stradal, from NetGalley for the purpose of generating a review. This book came out this summer. The opinions expressed here are my own.




I often get asked the question:

How do you find time to read all those books?


The real answer is I read every free moment I can find. I’ve always been this way. I remember when I first learned how to drive, I didn’t know how to get anywhere. Even though I lived in a small town of about 8,000 people. Growing up, I paid no attention to where we were going because my head was always buried in a book.


Today, not much has changed except I am usually the driver so I don’t do much reading in the car. However, I do read while I wait to get my daughter from school. The breaks I get when dinner is cooking. The in-between-tasks times during the day. A few pages (or chapters) before bedtime. When my daughter watches a movie or show I’m not interested in, which happens often.


It’s true, I read a lot. So, I was a bit skeptical when I read some of the advance praise for Kitchens of the Great Midwest. I asked to review this title because I very much enjoy my own time in the kitchen and I’ve spent my whole life in the “Great Midwest.” But here’s what the president of the book’s publishing company had to say:

We believe that Kitchens of the Great Midwest” is a hit-it-out-of-the-park home run - the kind of novel readers will be devouring in one huge gulp next summer, and recommending it to everyone they know.


I’ve spent most of my life perusing bookshelves and this sounded like a well-written marketing piece to me.


Well, in this case, the advanced praise was right. So right.


The story revolves around Eva Thorvald, daughter of a chef and a wine sommelier. She comes by her obsession with creating pleasure for the palate honestly. This debut novel for J. Ryan Stradal tells the story of Eva’s life, starting with how her father got his start, to the wild success Eva achieves herself.


That’s a good plot line. Here’s the thing though. Every character this book introduces you to matters. They enter into the story again and again. Never forget a name because you’ll come across it later. It was mind-blowing.


For those who desire to read about the Midwest, you won’t be disappointed. Various locations, products, camouflage, it’s all in there.


Should you select this title because of its promise to take you into the kitchen, perhaps you’ll finish the book more pleased than anyone. It includes recipes, food combinations, regional classics, food pairings. A foodie’s delight.


You have to look past a bit of vulgarity and crass language, but please do look past it. Because with everything else this book offers, it’s worth it! I really found the free moments to read this one because I got truly lost in it, reading from cover to cover in two days.


In closing, this book included recipes from a Lutheran Church cookbook. I smiled at this. These cookbooks are treasures because every person who submits a recipe wants to show their kitchen wizardry. Tried and true recipes, often family favorites. I have several of these kinds of cookbooks in my own collection.


Enjoy this recipe from the Midland Reformed Church Family cookbook. A classic from the kitchen of E. Vrieland: 

Parmesan Baked Potatoes

6 T. butter or margarine, melted

3 T. grated Parmesan cheese

8 medium unpeeled red potatoes (about 2 3/4 lbs.)


Pour butter into a 9”x13” baking pan. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over butter. Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise. Place the potatoes with cut side down over cheese. Bake uncovered, at 400 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until tender. 8 servings



Sharing this post over at Literacy Musing Mondays. Lots of great reads to find over there!

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