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January 10, 2012 / tyandolivia

Vicariously Cooking with Melissa Senate

I like reading about cooking more than actually cooking. Some of my favorites are The Food of Love by Anthony Capella, Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard and most recently The Love Goddess’ Cooking School by Melissa Senate.

It should be noted that Melissa Senate is the author of See Jane Date and therefore, one of the founding mothers of Chik Lit, my preferred book genre. This is the first book I have read by her. I know, I can’t believe it either. This is such a great book! I can’t stop thinking about homemade pasta, vodka sauce (which I’ve never even heard of) and Italy. I’m usually a little wary about books that introduce more than three characters on the back cover, but Melissa did a great job showing growth in all of her characters without changing perspectives – excluding the diary references from her grandmother – but I’m getting ahead of myself.

In Melissa’s words: Holly Maguire’s grandmother was the Love Goddess of Blue Crab Island, Maine–a Milanese fortune teller who could predict the right man for you, and whose Italian cooking was rumored to save marriages. Holly has been waiting years for her unlikely fortune: her true love will like sa cordula, an unappetizing old-world delicacy. But Holly can’t make a decent marinara sauce, let alone sa cordula. Maybe that’s why the man she hopes to marry breaks her heart. So when Holly inherits Camilla’s Cucinotta, she’s determined to forget about fortunes and love and become an Italian cooking teacher worthy of her grandmother’s legacy.

But Holly’s four students are seeking much more than how to make Camilla’s chicken alla Milanese. Simon, a single father, hopes to cook his way back into his daughter’s heart. Juliet, Holly’s childhood friend, hides a painful secret. Tamara, a serial dater, can’t find the love she longs for. And twelve-year-old Mia thinks learning to cook will stop her dad from marrying his phony lasagna-queen girlfriend.
As the class gathers each week, adding Camilla’s essential ingredients of wishes and memories into every pot and pan, unexpected friendships and romances are formed–and tested. Especially when Holly falls hard for Liam . . . and learns a thing or two about finding her own recipe for happiness.

Back to me: I love reading about women who take a chance and try something new. A new city, a new job, a new recipe. I’m always way too impressed with myself when I try a new recipe and it turns out good. I can’t remember the last time I burned anything to a crisp, but it’s usually just ok. When I make something that’s genuinely delicious I can’t help preening around our house for at least a week. It’s only a little embarrassing.

Reading about Holly work her way through her grandmother’s recipes and making her own way through it all to her own music (literally) was so much fun. I especially loved how many times Holly made pasta from scratch. Who does that these days? I’ve made pasta twice and it was amazing both times. Not necessarily in taste (although, it was good) but more just magical in how eggs and flour come together to become something completely different.

This book gave me a vision of myself in the kitchen with flour everywhere making homemade ravioli with eggplant and some kind of cheese. I’ve never made ravioli and we hardly ever eat pasta. But I’m hoping I can bring the same kind of magic Holly’s grandmother carried with her into my own kitchen. The hardest part is just working up the courage to try.


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