Elayna Trucker, Your November in Books: Let’s get cooking! – Napa Valley Register

With supply chains severely stressed and that sudden shift into cooler weather we experienced recently, it feels like we’ve jumped headlong into the holiday season, and it’s not even November yet!
I have a couple of lovely novels to tell you about, and then I’m going to focus on some gorgeous cookbooks coming out next month. It’s hard to go wrong giving a cookbook for the holidays; there are so many genres and price points to choose from, and they’re all gorgeous. I hope you find a perfect fit here, but if not, please reach out and I can recommend something else.
“Small Things Like These” by Claire Keegan (Nov. 30) is a sweet little novella about a really tough topic.
Magdalen laundries, sweatshops run by Catholic nuns in Ireland that took advantage of an estimated 30,000 young, pregnant women, didn’t come to an official end until 1996. Keegan’s story takes place in 1985 in a small Irish town and follows Bill Furlong, a local coal merchant, and father to five daughters, as he prepares his business and family for Christmas.
One of his customers is the local convent, where he stumbles upon a young girl locked in the coal shed. His wife admonishes him that it’s none of his concern, but Furlong is troubled, and makes a rash, yet heartfelt decision. It’s rare that a book on such a dark subject can also feel so lovely and light and touching. Small Things Like These is proof yet again that powerful things can come in small packages.
Readers looking for a taste of the millennial psyche but are perhaps intimidated by the hype around Sally Rooney (and the length of her latest, “Beautiful World, Where Are you”) will want to check out “Win Me Something” by debut novelist Kyle Lucia Wu.
Simply and briefly told, this tale of Willa, a young biracial woman, will resonate with a lot of younger people. The only child of a failed marriage whose parents both remarried and had other children, Willa has never felt like she belongs. Home used to be with her flighty, white mother and their crowded, effulgent garden, but the birth of her half-brother left Willa feeling like a stranger there. She hoped to find a connection with her Chinese father, but he is wrapped up in his new family. Willa is desperately lonely.
An opportunity to nanny for a 9-year-old girl and live in her family’s expensive apartment in Tribeca make Willa feel some forward motion in her life, but she’s also envious of her charge’s close family relationships and constantly on edge that she will say something wrong and lose her job and cushy new home.
She never knows what to say, or how to say it, and wonders how conversation and relationships seem so easy for everyone else but not for her. This is a common stew of emotions for millennials – social media makes it seem like everyone else’s lives are perfect while we feel like a hot mess. The reality, of course, is no one’s life is perfect, and most of us feel a little bit lost a lot of the time, and uncertainty is okay, and it is never too late to repair a relationship. “Win Me Something” is a quiet, unassuming read that leaves you thinking about Willa and its themes long after.
On to the cookbooks! Baking is always a hugely popular cookbook seller this time of year, even more so since its resurgence during the shelter-at-home period of the pandemic. A new season on Netflix will have fans excited about “The Great British Baking Show: A Bake for All Seasons” (Nov. 30). This cookbook includes recipes from Paul, Prue, and 2021 contestants.
Bakers looking to specialize can delve into the latest Silver Spoon Kitchen cookbook, “The Italian Bakery” (Nov. 3). Step-by-step photography and a core series of 50 recipes bring new bakers into the fold, then another 100 recipes build upon those skills as you learn to make traditional and contemporary Italian sweets.
Most bakers would recognize King Arthur flours, and now this trusted baking resource has a revised and updated version of “The King Arthur Baking Company Essential Cookie Companion” (Nov. 23). More than 400 recipes at all skill levels are packed into this volume, along with step-by-step instructions, plenty of illustrations, and information about gluten-free baking and topping recipes.
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But if that isn’t even enough, Cider Mill Press has “The Encyclopedia of Cookies” (Nov. 9) with more than 500 recipes! The cookies include tried and true recipes as well as gluten-free and vegan options.
Home chefs looking to expand their world kitchen will find plenty of fantastic offerings this season. Anyone who dearly misses Miminashi in downtown Napa will want to pick up Tim Anderson’s “Your Home Izakaya” (Nov. 9). Anderson has a series of well-received Japanese cookbooks for chefs new to the cuisine — I can personally vouch for his cooking, which is indeed easy (and extremely delicious).
Bay Area author Amisha Dodhia Gurbani puts her own twist on Indian cookery in “Mumbai Modern: Vegetarian Recipes Inspired by Indian Roots and California Cuisine” (Nov. 2). Amisha will be joined by local photographer and food stylist Emma K. Morris for an event with Napa Bookmine on Nov. 17.
Phaidon’s cookbooks are always stunning, and encyclopedic. “The Latin American Cookbook” (Nov. 24) is no exception, with more than 600 recipes from this incredibly diverse continent and information about each region’s specialties and influences.
“New Native Kitchen” by Navajo chef Freddie Bitsoie showcases modern Indigenous cuisine from across the country.
Another Bay Area author, Faith Kramer, who worked for 18 years at Food & Wine, brings us “52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen.” Recipes are accompanied by short essays about the foodways of the Jewish diaspora. Just remember that Hanukkah comes early this year! The first night is Sunday, Nov. 28. Happy cooking!
Reading a book can be a great way to mark the end of the workday and help you unwind.
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Elayna Trucker
Elayna Trucker is buyer at Napa Bookmine. Contact her at [email protected]
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