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I read a lot of food related cozy mysteries, but I like mine savory. No cupcakes. No understanding husbands. No cute pets.Until recently, there didn't seem to to be the same interest in food themed non genre novels. Then last year we had the very good Bread and Butter, the amusing Delicious!, and now the even better Kitchens of the Great Midwest. There is a doting father and a not so doting mother, who between them spawn the food prodigy Eva Thordal. From the joys of lutefisk (not) and ghost peppers (super not) to church lady bake sales, dining clubs, and pop up dinners, I loved everything about this book--funny, warm-hearted, and a definite tribute to my native Midwest.— From Carla's Picks
Can you know a person, or a place, simply by looking at the foods they make and eat? Stradal’s soul-warming dish of a debut answers this question with a resounding yes! At the center of this spiraling exploration into the ways we reveal ourselves through our stomachs is the indomitable Eva Thorvald. From her first brush with an heirloom Moonglow tomato as a toothless infant at a farmer’s market to her eventual explosion onto the culinary scene as the owner of the most exclusive supper club in the country, we follow Eva, as well as an expanding network of family members, friends, and competitors, as her talents and tastebuds grow. This book is a sensory wonderland, a love letter to the Midwest, and an unforgettable ode to all the ways we feed and are fed.— From Lillian
“In the story of Midwestern chef savant Eva Thorvald and the people -- and foods -- that touch her life, Stradal has created a picture of the American foodie revolution of the past 25 years and of its intersections with class, economics, family, and culture. Along with irresistible characters and stories, this is a novel about the potential that food and cooking offer for joy and empowerment, for snobbery and shame, and for identity and reinvention. Beautifully structured and affectionately and hilariously written, this is a novel that -- like Thorvald's exclusive pop-up supper club -- everyone is going to be talking about!”
— Jessica Stockton Bagnulo (M), Greenlight Bookstore, Brooklyn, NY
“A sweet and savory treat.” —People
“An impressive feat of narrative jujitsu . . . that keeps readers turning the pages too fast to realize just how ingenious they are.”—The New York Times Book Review, Editor’s Pick
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Lager Queen of Minnesota, Kitchens of the Great Midwest is a novel about a young woman with a once-in-a-generation palate who becomes the iconic chef behind the country’s most coveted dinner reservation.
When Lars Thorvald’s wife, Cynthia, falls in love with wine—and a dashing sommelier—he’s left to raise their baby, Eva, on his own. He’s determined to pass on his love of food to his daughter—starting with puréed pork shoulder. As Eva grows, she finds her solace and salvation in the flavors of her native Minnesota. From Scandinavian lutefisk to hydroponic chocolate habaneros, each ingredient represents one part of Eva’s journey as she becomes the star chef behind a legendary and secretive pop-up supper club, culminating in an opulent and emotional feast that’s a testament to her spirit and resilience.
Each chapter in J. Ryan Stradal’s startlingly original debut tells the story of a single dish and character, at once capturing the zeitgeist of the Midwest, the rise of foodie culture, and delving into the ways food creates community and a sense of identity. By turns quirky, hilarious, and vividly sensory, Kitchens of the Great Midwest is an unexpected mother-daughter story about the bittersweet nature of life—its missed opportunities and its joyful surprises. It marks the entry of a brilliant new talent.
Praise for Kitchens of the Great Midwest:
“I read J. Ryan Stradal’s Kitchens of the Great Midwest on a flight. I buckled my seatbelt, opened the book and when I looked up again, the flight attendant was asking if I needed assistance getting off the plane. I didn’t, but now you know the spell this author can cast. He does it again with The Lager Queen of Minnesota.” —Elisabeth Egan for The New York Times
"An impressive feat of narrative jujitsu. . . that keeps readers turning the pages too fast to realize just how ingenious they are."—The New York Times Book Review, Editor's Pick
"This is a book that made me want to have a more full and colorful life, a life with cookbooks and a well-used kitchen, and to delight at all the goodness that can be put in front of us.”—Los Angeles Review of Books
“A sweet and savory treat.” —People
“The author's gentle skewering of foodie snobs (from county fair doyennes to the vegan/gluten-free/soy-free police) is spot on, and the blend of humor, warmth, and longing that he uses to portray family relationships make the book insightful and endearing. Savor it page by page.”—Oprah.com
“Kitchens of the Great Midwest is a terrific reminder of what can be wrested from suffering and struggle – not only success, but also considerable irony, a fair amount of wisdom and a decent meal.”—Jane Smiley, The Guardian
"Warning: this will make you hungry. . . . You won’t be able to put it down. And it will up your kitchen game."—The Skimm
"Garrison Keillor’s got nothing on [J. Ryan Stradal]!"—'Here and Now', NPR
“A tender coming-of-age story with a mix of finely rendered pathos and humor.”—Washington Post
“Stradal’s debut novel tackles foodie culture with all the finesse of a pastry chef…Reading Kitchens is all pleasure.” —LA Magazine
"[A] captivating debut novel. . . as surprising and satisfying as a great meal."—Tampa Bay Times
“Foodies and those who love contemporary literature will devour this novel that is being compared to Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge. A standout.” —Library Journal (starred review)
“[Kitchens of the Great Midwest is] the first novel about the emergence and current state of foodie culture… Fundamentally, [it’s] about what happens when opposing personalities coexist: those who bake with real butter versus those who don’t, those who obsess over heirloom tomatoes alongside those who don’t even know what they are. It uses these categories as a way to look at one of the most confusing, liberating truths there is, which is that often the people we think we’re the least like are the ones we end up needing the most.” –Book Forum
“[A] delicious debut from Stradal.. . Food and family intertwine in this promising debut that features triumph, heartbreak, and even recipes.”—Kirkus
“Stradal’s first novel is a refreshing and brisk read, with a sophisticated sense of such glories of foodie culture as open-pollinated heirloom corn, pan-seared Walleye and Caesar Cardini’s original Caesar Salad.”—BBC.com
“Stradal’s debut is charming, rife with hardy, self-deprecating humor, but in Kitchens of the Great Midwest [Stradal] really proves his mettle as a novelist to look out for.”—Bustle.com
“Tender, funny, and moving, J. Ryan Stradal's debut novel made me crave my mother's magic cookie bars...and every good tomato I've ever had the privilege of eating. Kitchens of the Great Midwest manages to be at once sincere yet sharply observed, thoughtful yet swiftly paced, and the lives of its fallible, realistic, and complicated characters mattered to me deeply. It's a fantastic book.”— Edan Lepucki, bestselling author of California