RECIPE FOR EGGS OVER EVIE
1 girl, age thirteen
2 parents, divorced
1 dog, big and friendly
1 cranky old neighbor
1 stepmom expecting twins
1 cute cooking partner
Lots of eggs
Pinch of salt
Combine all ingredients without crowding the pan. And don’t forget to sprinkle in a quirky teacher, a missing cat, and a few snob dinners with Chef Dad. Stir gently!
As soon as I finished reading Alison Jackson’s Eggs Over Evie, I just had to try one of the many recipes included in the book. It was the perfect way to extend my enjoyment of this sweet and savory story about budding chef Evie Carson, who lives with her Mom.
Cooking helps Evie cope with some of the changes and adjustments that come with being the child of divorced parents. She’s always shared a special bond with her Dad, a celebrity chef and cookbook author who married his young editor (now expecting twins). When he moves to a condo on the other side of the lake, he takes their dog and all traces of their family life with him. Making soufflés, pies, pizzas, cookies and brownies helps Evie stay connected to her father. Challenges such as learning how to get along with her new stepmom, reaching out to a grumpy neighbor who’s lost her cat, making a new friend at cooking class, and accepting her mom’s new dating status, all provide unique opportunities for character development.
Evie bakes a Red Velvet Cake for her neighbor, whose cat’s gone missing.
Evie’s voice is authentic and engaging, and I like how the story focuses on her personal relationships without glossing over the difficulties of divorce. Her vulnerability and true-to-life reactions endear her to the reader, and the minor characters are well drawn for such a short novel. Of course I especially appreciated how the food theme was extended throughout with quotes from famous chefs and a recipe and cooking tip for each chapter.
I also liked how the carefully chosen recipes reflect a mood, hint at a motive, enhance the plot, or illuminate character. For example, the first of the 16 recipes presented is Evie’s Mount Vesuvius Omelet Soufflé. The situation is tenuous as the story begins one summer, with Evie spending a lot of time “making a mess in the kitchen.” She’s moping around, “bored and hot, nearly as deflated as last week’s soufflé disaster,” but she’s determined to make a successful soufflé this time around — wouldn’t her dad be proud?
She takes it out of the oven — fat and puffy, but before she and her mom get to eat it, their neighbor Mrs. Hamilton calls, and the crackless, almost perfect soufflé falls: “Turning, I caught sight of my mother’s expression. Deflated now, sort of like the newly sunken mess on the table in front of her.” A good set-up for a series of ups and downs as Evie tries to blend the people in her life into a new family.
The recipes in the book all sound very doable, mostly comfort foods that tweens might like to try: beef lasagna, hot apple pie, blueberry muffins with granola topping, biscuits, and Evie’s specialty, chewy chocolate chip cookies with pecans and coconut. Mmmmmmmmm.
I decided to make Evie’s Nearly Perfect Pineapple Upside-Down Cake, since I hadn’t eaten any in ages and I like a happy ending. It’s the final recipe in the book, part of a “snob dinner” Evie prepares for her Dad and stepmom Angie. Evie and her dad had enjoyed many snob dinners together — special outings where they critique the dishes they share in selected restaurants (cool tradition). As Evie serves her quiche, red bean salad and pineapple upside-down cake, she anxiously waits for her father’s approval. Nice way to celebrate newfound acceptance and understanding.
The cake was easy to prepare, very moist. It calls for one 8-oz can of pineapple slices (4 slices). If you like enough pineapple to adequately cover the surface, you may wish to get two cans and cut some of the slices to fit. Len loved this cake! See, happy endings. ☺
EVIE’S NEARLY PERFECT PINEAPPLE UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE
6 T butter, softened
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1 (8 oz) can pineapple slices, drained
4 maraschino cherries, halved
1-1/3 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
2/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a 9 x 1-1/2 inch round baking pan. Stir in brown sugar and water. Arrange pineapple and cherries in rows, in the bottom of the pan. Set pan aside.
In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the flour, granulated sugar, and baking powder. Add milk, the 1/4 cup butter or margarine, egg and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed till combined. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Spoon batter into the prepared pan, being careful not to disturb the fruit arrangement.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes. Loosen sides; turn cake upside down onto a plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.
EGGS OVER EVIE
by Alison Jackson
published by Henry Holt, November 2010
Fiction for ages 8-12, 224 pp.
*starred review*, School Library Journal
Cool themes: Divorce, blended families, cooking, pets, mourning, stepfamilies.
Read an excerpt here.
Bon Appétit and Happy Reading!
*Red Velvet Cake by rox sm/flickr.
Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.