Back in September I wrote this post on curating the perfect beach house library.
Well, another month, another season and another friend’s renovation project (my friends are big into tearing down walls!) has just wrapped up. This was a special project in that it’s a house I practically grew up in, owned by a woman who had a huge role in shaping the person I am today. The house is completely changed – all for the better – and this friend, too, is planning to dedicate an entire room to books. While a beach house is obviously a place for summer reading – the lake house has always made me think of Fall and changing leaves and the romance (though not the practicalities!) of a wood burning stove.
This is definitely the library for large, heavy hardcover door-stopper novels. And knowing the tastes of the people who’ll be using it, it’s also a place where I imagine edge worn sci-fi paperbacks by Jack Vance & Fritz Leiber side-by-side with contemporary examples of narrative non-fiction. A whole row of cookbooks and a stack of…. enough. Let’s do this right.
- A subscription to The New York Review of Books – perfect for Saturday morning reading between sips of coffee.
- Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall & Bring Up the Bodies for all the obvious reasons.
- The Complete Annotated Short Stories of Sherlock Holmes (W.W. Norton) – They’re huge, unwieldy and don’t make for the most comfortable reading, but I’m partial to the annotated volumes in this boxed set.
- Jack Vance, Fritz Leiber, Douglas Adams and that guy who wrote the Conan the Barbarian series – classic American sci-fi and fantasy. I always feel nostalgic in the Fall.
- Murakami – not 1Q84 so much, though I don’t rule it out of hand. I’m thinking of his earlier books with their themes of isolation and loss.
- I know Cloud Atlas is EVERYWHERE at the moment so I won’t insult you by recommending it. A novel by David Mitchell is perfect for this (or really any) time of year. I wonder if they were written while the leaves changed color? The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet or Black Swan Green… reader’s choice.
- The Hangman’s Daughter mystery series from Germany – decidedly middle-brow, but well done and a lot of fun for all that
- I still haven’t discovered cookbooks I like better than The Canal House Cookbook series. New books come out twice a year. An added (and, admittedly, obvious) benefit is that you can read them while cooking up a fabulously delicious meal.
- Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume One should have a permanent spot on the table next to your favorite reading chair. Just waiting for you to dip into on a long, cold night. A cat and a snifter of brandy is recommended but completely optional.
- Any book from the collection of authors born out of the imagination of the French author Antoine Volodine. I’ll be reviewing We Monks & Soldiers by Lutz Bassmann later this week. Atmospheric and strange and more than a little bit creepy.
Do you have a favorite book for this time of year? Something you recommend for when the nights begin to turn cold?
It has been months… and the tomatoes are all gone. Thank goodness the ladies over at Canal House have released the newest volume of their Canal House Cookbook No. 2: Fall & Holiday (all decked out in gold). Volume No. 2 is the perfect holiday gift, but don’t wait until Christmas to begin giving out copies. These dishes look delicious and we recommend sharing them with family and friends in the upcoming weeks.
We loved the simplicity of the ingredients and the easy preparation we found in the Summer volume’s recipes. Volume No. 2, though, is an entirely different animal. Fall & Holiday are for entertaining in a big way – and Hamilton & Hirsheimer provide everything you need to know to host an unforgettable Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Year’s celebration. The dishes are bit more complicated and labor intensive than those in the previous volume… we spotted several French recipes – coq au vin (made with rooster), etc.- which might intimidate the casual cook. But the authors do a wonderful job of holding the reader’s hand and walking him/her through the steps gently. They’ve also included familiar favorites like sweet potato pie, turkey and homemade cranberry sauce. All the traditional staples of the season are represented – and a generous assortment of baked goods and mixed drink recipes that your guests will appreciate.
Normally, we’re not big cookbook fans. So we’re not sure what it is about the Canal House Cookbooks that’s grabbed us. It could be the beautiful photographs and illustrations, the yummy recipes or the warm and friendly way they are written. It could be how this particular volume has somehow captured that sense of coziness associated with cooking at home – don’t ask us how. Or the way the recipes feel so traditional, yet modern at the same time – again, don’t ask us how. Whatever it is, we recommend you experience it for yourselves. Here’s a link to Canal House Cooking Vol. No. 2 – Fall & Holiday. The authors have provided some sample recipes from the book, including Roast Duck & Potatoes and a Chocolate Gingerbread. Mmmmm…. sounds like Sunday dinner.
We can’t all have Stewart & Ray for last names – and in today’s world who has the time to put together one of their recipes? (30 minutes my a$#!) Or the money to keep the pantry stocked with all the ingredients and the gizmos they seem to need for one lousy dinner party? (a butane torch!?) Slaving for hours in the kitchen definitely falls into the category of NOT BookSexy – our time is better spent reading the re-edited version of Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast.
Enter Canal House Cooking. C0-authors Christopher Hirsheimer (she‘s a founder & former Executive Editor of Saveur magazine) & Melissa Hamilton (her resume includes former restaurant owner & food stylist) have impeccable credentials, but its the simplicity of their recipes that has us so excited. The ingredients never get more complicated than staples like tomatoes, parsley, canned sardines and garlic. Items that are all available at your local A&P, but with results that look like you shopped at Whole Foods. We’re particularly crazy about jars of lemons preserved in kosher salt, a recipe they say originated in Morocco and which is currently curing in our fridge.
The book, itself, is as delicious as the recipes. Volume 1 is full of luscious photographs and illustrations, a bright orange cover and pages with deckle edges. Hamilton & Hirsheimer ‘s plan is to publish 3 volumes a year (there’s still Fall & Holiday and Winter & Spring to look forward to). Once you’ve collected a few volumes they’ll look fabulous lined up on your kitchen shelf. And don’t forget to order extras to give out as gifts. We slipped a card between the pages of the copy we recently sent to a friend: “When life give you lemons…. make Preserved Lemons! (page 120). And if that fails – add some rum to the Melon Water (page 10). Lemonade is for sissies!” Words to live by.
Orders are being taken at thecanalhouse.com.