Social Distancing Journals: Laureen Bonin

The world looks very different today from when spring break started at the end of February. Instead of students returning to campus this week, faculty and staff are working to develop online curricula in the face of this rapidly changing global pandemic. Everyone is also adapting to this new normal of staying home and social distancing to help stop the spread of Covid-19.  We asked a number of our faculty for their recommendations for reading, watching, and doing to make the best of their free time, and we will be sharing these over our spring term of distance learning.

Laureen Bonin teaches English and is a moderator of the Culinary Club. She offers some great suggestions here for home activities as we all stay close to home. 

As Culinary Club moderator, I went with food-themed books, movies, and shows. With everyone at home, no doubt food—shopping for it, eating it, baking it, cooking it, thinking about it, and enjoying it—is bringing some comfort to the enforced quarantines. (with the exception the book Fireborne, by Rosaria Munda (Portsmouth Abbey Class of 2010) that I put at the end for everyone who did not get a copy; it’s the perfect kind of fun read for your free time!) So indulge in more of it through the arts:

Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table by Ruth Reichl NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER  -  “An absolute delight to read . . . How lucky we are that [Ruth Reichl] had the courage to follow her appetite.”—Newsday At an early age, Ruth Reichl discovered that “food could be a way of making sense of the world. If you watched people as they ate, you could find out who they were.” Her deliciously crafted memoir Tender at the Bone is the story of a life defined, determined, and enhanced in equal measure by a passion for food, by unforgettable people, and by the love of tales well told. Beginning with her mother, the notorious food-poisoner known as the Queen of Mold, Reichl introduces us to the fascinating characters who shaped her world and tastes, from the gourmand Monsieur du Croix, who served Reichl her first foie gras, to those at her politically correct table in Berkeley who championed the organic food revolution in the 1970s. Spiced with Reichl’s infectious humor and sprinkled with her favorite recipes, Tender at the Bone is a witty and compelling chronicle of a culinary sensualist’s coming-of-age.

Kitchen Yarns by Ann Hood  - In this warm collection of personal essays and recipes, best-selling author Ann Hood nourishes both our bodies and our souls. From her Italian-American childhood through singlehood, raising and feeding a growing family, divorce, and a new marriage to food writer Michael Ruhlman, Ann Hood has long appreciated the power of a good meal. Growing up, she tasted love in her grandmother’s tomato sauce and dreamed of her mother’s special-occasion Fancy Lady Sandwiches. Later, the kitchen became the heart of Hood’s own home. She cooked pork roast to warm her first apartment, used two cups of dried basil for her first attempt at making pesto, taught her children how to make their favorite potatoes, found hope in her daughter’s omelet after a divorce, and fell in love again—with both her husband and his foolproof chicken stock. Hood tracks her lifelong journey in the kitchen with twenty-seven heartfelt essays, each accompanied by a recipe (or a few). In “Carbonara Quest,” searching for the perfect spaghetti helped her cope with lonely nights as a flight attendant. In the award-winning essay “The Golden Silver Palate,” she recounts the history of her fail-safe dinner party recipe for Chicken Marbella—and how it did fail her when she was falling in love. Hood’s simple, comforting recipes also include her mother’s famous meatballs, hearty Italian Beef Stew, classic Indiana Fried Chicken, the perfect grilled cheese, and a deliciously summery peach pie. With Hood’s signature humor and tenderness, Kitchen Yarns spills tales of loss and starting from scratch, family love and feasts with friends, and how the perfect meal is one that tastes like home.

You and I Eat the Same by Chris Ying was named one of the Best Food Books of the Year by The New Yorker, Smithsonian, The Boston Globe, The Guardian, and more. Good food is the common ground shared by all of us, and immigration is fundamental to good food. In nineteen thoughtful and engaging essays and stories, You and I Eat the Same explores the ways in which cooking and eating connect us across cultural and political borders, making the case that we should think about cuisine as a collective human effort in which we all benefit from the movement of people, ingredients, and ideas. An awful lot of attention is paid to the differences and distinctions between us, especially when it comes to food. But the truth is that food is that rare thing that connects all people, slipping past real and imaginary barriers to unify humanity through deliciousness. Don’t believe it? Read on to discover more about the subtle (and not so subtle) bonds created by the ways we eat. Some examples of what you will find inside: Everybody Wraps Meat in Flatbread: From tacos to dosas to pancakes, bundling meat in an edible wrapper is a global practice. Much Depends on How You Hold Your Fork: A visit with cultural historian Margaret Visser reveals that there are more similarities between cannibalism and haute cuisine than you might think.

Notes from a Young Black Chef: A Memoir by Kwame Onwuachi  - “Kwame Onwuachi’s story shines a light on food and culture not just in American restaurants or African American communities but around the world.” —Questlove By the time he was twenty-seven years old, Kwame Onwuachi (winner of the 2019 James Beard Foundation Award for Rising Star Chef of the Year) had opened—and closed—one of the most talked-about restaurants in America. He had launched his own catering company with twenty thousand dollars that he made from selling candy on the subway, yet he’d been told he would never make it on television because his cooking wasn’t “Southern” enough. In this inspiring memoir about the intersection of race, fame, and food, he shares the remarkable story of his culinary coming-of-age. Growing up in the Bronx, as a boy Onwuachi was sent to rural Nigeria by his mother to “learn respect.” However, the hard-won knowledge gained in Africa was not enough to keep him from the temptation and easy money of the streets when he returned home. But through food, he broke out of a dangerous downward spiral, embarking on a new beginning at the bottom of the culinary food chain as a chef on board a Deepwater Horizon cleanup ship, before going on to train in the kitchens of some of the most acclaimed restaurants in the country and appearing as a contestant on Top Chef. Onwuachi’s love of food and cooking remained a constant throughout, even when he found the road to success riddled with potholes. As a young chef, he was forced to grapple with just how unwelcoming the world of fine dining can be for people of color, and his first restaurant, the culmination of years of planning, shuttered just months after opening. A powerful, heartfelt, and shockingly honest story of chasing your dreams—even when they don’t turn out as you expected—Notes from a Young Black Chef is one man’s pursuit of his passions, despite the odds.

Blood, Bones, and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton - For food-obsessed visitors to New York, Prune in the East Village has long been on The List, most likely for brunch. Chef Gabrielle Hamilton built a menu based on no particular cuisine, although influenced by stints working in Brittany and Turkey, of things that were a joy to eat. Despite Prune’s success, she has never expanded, and still works in the kitchen. Her memoir reveals her to be similarly uncompromising, driven by desire and appetite. An early high-school graduate and juvenile delinquent from a chaotic family, Hamilton dreams of being a writer, but finds herself in restaurants, drawn first by the convenient money – she learns early that if she pays her own way, she gets to go her own way. She puts no glossy spin on working in a kitchen: high-class catering is grim, being the boss is a drudge and being a celeb chef is weird. Yet through all this, and a loveless marriage, there is always food, and Hamilton writes in a way few other chefs can about the emotions it can evoke.

And food movies to go along with the books! They can be streamed from any number of websites; they just have to look. Their local library probably has them, too if they are only on DVD.

Babette’s Feast -  "Directed by Gabriel Axel and adapted from a story by Isak Dinesen, this is the layered tale of a French housekeeper with a mysterious past who brings quiet revolution in the form of one exquisite meal to a circle of starkly pious villagers in late nineteenth-century Denmark. Babette's Feast combines earthiness and reverence in an indescribably moving depiction of pleasure that goes to your head like fine champagne.”-Amazon Julie and Julia "A culinary legend provides a frustrated office worker with a new recipe for life; these are the stories of how Julia child’s life and cookbook inspired fledgling writer Julia Powell to whip up 524 recipes in 365 days.”—Amazon Chef "A hilarious all-star cast leads this inspiring comedy about a gifted chef who teas up with his ex-wife, best friend, and son to launch a food truck business."--Amazon

The Hundred Foot Journey  -  "This movie is about how the hundred-foot distance between a new Indian kitchen and a traditional French one can represent the gulf between different cultures and desires."

Big Night  -  "Old World idealism clashes with American pop culture in this bittersweet comedy. BIG NIGHT is the story of two brothers whose Italian restaurant is on the brink of bankruptcy. Their only chance for success is to risk everything they own on an extravagant feast for bandleader Louis Prima. But their big night is complicated by a lovers' triangle, a sneaky restaurant rival, and the hilarious perfection of chef Primo. A treat for food lovers and movie lovers everywhere.”—Amazon

Jiro Dreams of Sushi  - "A thoughtful and elegant meditation and documentary on work, family and the art of perfection, chronicling Jiro Ono’s life as both an unparalleled success in the culinary world and a loving yet complicated father.”—Amazon

City of Gold  - "Pulitzer prize-winning food critic Jonathon Gold introduces a Los Angeles where ethnic cooking is a kaleidoscopic portal to the mysteries of an unwieldy city and the soul of America."—Amazon

And series about food to watch (or binge watch) on Netflix; there are a lot, but these are my favorites. Easier to watch previews to get a sense of the show.

  • Ugly Delicious
  • Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations
  • Chef’s Table
  • Chef Street
  • Food Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat
  • Taco Chronicles
  • The Great British Baking Show
  • Cooked

Fireborne by Rosaria Munda ’10 (the second in the series, Firefall), will arrive in bookstores in 2021  - "Fireborne is everything I want in fantasy."--Rachel Hartman, New York Times bestselling author of Seraphina Game of Thrones meets Red Rising in a debut young adult fantasy that's full of rivalry, romance . . . and dragons. Annie and Lee were just children when a brutal revolution changed their world, giving everyone--even the lowborn--a chance to test into the governing class of dragonriders. Now they are both rising stars in the new regime, despite backgrounds that couldn't be more different. Annie's lowborn family was executed by dragonfire, while Lee's aristocratic family was murdered by revolutionaries. Growing up in the same orphanage forged their friendship, and seven years of training have made them rivals for the top position in the dragonriding fleet. But everything changes when survivors from the old regime surface, bent on reclaiming the city. With war on the horizon and his relationship with Annie changing fast, Lee must choose to kill the only family he has left or to betray everything he's come to believe in. And Annie must decide whether to protect the boy she loves . . . or step up to be the champion her city needs. From debut author Rosaria Munda comes a gripping adventure that calls into question which matters most: the family you were born into, or the one you've chosen.