[review + giveaway] The Little Library Cookbook by Kate Young

“Imagine, if you can, what the rest of the evening was like. How they crouched by the fire which blazed and leaped and made so much of itself in the little grate. How they removed the covers of the dishes, and found rich, hot, savory soup, which was a meal in itself, and sandwiches and toast and muffins enough for both of them.” ~ A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Reading Kate Young’s new cookbook is like sitting in the kitchen with a good friend and chatting endlessly about cherished stories while noshing on all manner of sweet and savory homemade treats.

Fancy a Room with a View iced coffee and meringue, a stack of Pippi Longstocking Swedish Pancakes, a slice of Moominland Pear and Lemon Birthday Cake, or a Franny and Zooey Chicken Sandwich?

If you’re a fan of her literary food blog, The Little Library Café, or read her Novel Recipes column in The Guardian, you know Kate is Australia-born, but now lives in London, where she works as a private cook and food writer who caters weddings and hosts regular supper clubs. With her lifelong passion for food in literature, she’s been able to strike a delicious chord with accessible, doable recipes and captivating personal stories.

The Little Library Cookbook: 100 Recipes from Your Favorite Books (Sterling Epicure, 2018), might be the most comprehensive literary cookbook I’ve come across in ten years of blogging, since it includes classic and contemporary works of fiction for both children and adults. It was just as much fun reading about old favorites as it was learning about new-to-me titles, which I’m anxious to read now that I know about all the food they contain. I certainly look forward to some stimulating bookish travel: what about Paris for tea (The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford), Holland for warm cinnamon rolls (The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt), or Naples for pizza (My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante)?

Recipes are presented in the following categories:

  • before noon
  • around noon
  • after noon (tea)
  • the dinner table
  • midnight feasts
  • parties and celebrations
  • christmas

This pretty much satisfies all the cravings any hungry bookworm might have at any time, day or night, throughout the year. Let’s face it, 100 recipes is a lot of recipes. Oh, have you tried the roast pheasant, yet? 🙂

 

Treacle Tart and Rosemary Ice Cream (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone)

 

Kate introduces each recipe with a book excerpt as well as her personal musings and remembrances — mostly about when and where she first read the book, what food(s) stood out, and a bit about recipe origin, adaptation, and serving ideas. I couldn’t help thinking about my own first encounters while reading Kate’s. It’s uncanny how many of the books she included define my own life:

Childhood

The Secret Garden (Porridge)
The Railway Children (Cold Apple Pie)
Little House in the Big Woods (Baked Beans)
Winnie-the-Pooh (Hunny & Rosemary Cakes)
Little Women (Buckwheat Pancakes)

Teens

To Kill a Mockingbird (Lane Cake)
The Bell Jar (Crab & Avocado Salad)
Rebecca (Crumpets)
The Hobbit (Seed Cake)
A Christmas Carol (Stuffed Roast Goose)

College

Ulysses (Queen Ann’s Pudding)
The Great Gatsby (Mint Julep)
Moby Dick (Clam Chowder)
Dubliners (Figs & Custard)
Anna Karenina (Turbot in Lemon Sauce)

Adulthood

Kitchen (Ramen)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Treacle Tart & Rosemary Ice Cream)
Like Water for Chocolate (Three Kings’ Day Bread)
Bridget Jones’s Diary (New Year’s Day Turkey Curry)
A Bear Called Paddington (Marmalade)

 

Crab and Avocado Salad (The Bell Jar)

 

Recipes are clearly written, easy to follow, and appropriate for all skill levels. They range from simple soft boiled eggs to more complicated breads and layer cakes. Ingredients are listed in the right or left margins alongside the directions à la Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and there are color photographs of many of the finished recipes as well as step-by-step instructional photos of a few (Christmas Pudding, Stuffed Eggplant, Three Kings’ Day Bread).

 

Green Eggs and Ham

 

This is a cookbook for people who like to cook, and are willing to invest the time it takes for a satisfying result. As Kate writes, these are “real” recipes, rather than “make believe” ones (think Roald Dahl’s lickable wallpaper or three-course dinner chewing gum). Fans of ethnic cuisine will be happy to see curries, samosas, Chinese dumplings, ramen, spanakopita, and halwa alongside the typically British sausage rolls, scones, toad-in-the-hole, crumpets, fish & chips, and trifle. Kate also salutes her Aussie heritage with lamingtons, Anzac biscuits, and pumpkin scones — all inspired by Mem Fox’s Possum Magic.

Don’t like to cook? No problem — as long as you’re a book lover you’ll still find lots to love because of Kate’s delightful recipe backstories. She shares anecdotes from her childhood through college years and beyond, and her love of reading and rereading, in many different genres, is inspiring and impressive.

 

Toad-in-the-Hole (The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Age 13-3/4)

 

I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about Kate’s granny, who made black food dinners on Friday the 13th (a memory sparked by the black ice cream in The Hundred and One Dalamations); or her favorite primary school teacher Mr. Moynihan, who read Sherlock Holmes aloud in class, rewarding them with a pizza party if they solved the mystery; or about the plain chicken sandwiches Kate’s mum made when she stayed home sick from school — something she remembered when reading Salinger’s Fanny and Zooey.

 

Vanilla Layer Cake (Anne of Green Gables)

 

Reading about Becky Sharp’s first time eating curry in Vanity Fair brought Kate’s memories of working in an Indian restaurant into sharper focus, and homemade crumpets will always remind her of when she and her mother visited Cornwall and Kate read about Mrs. Danvers’s tea spreads in Rebecca.

 

Hunny and Rosemary Cakes (Winnie-the-Pooh)

 

In The Little Library Cookbook, Kate does a brilliant job of showing how fictional food provides a portal to the past, as beloved books remain an ongoing source of comfort, inspiration, and illumination about our lives on and off the page. Her friendly, reassuring voice, whether describing cooking technique or story details, will make you feel like you’ve found a kindred spirit. Only one problem: read or eat first? 🙂

Chocolatl (The Golden Compass)

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Enjoy these videos with Kate demonstrating several of the recipes from the cookbook (be sure not to miss the ending of the chocolate cake one).  🙂

FYI, the videos show the UK edition of the cookbook published last Fall by Zeus Head. The U.S. edition published by Sterling Epicure last month includes ingredient measurements in US/Imperial as well as metrics.

 

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THE LITTLE LIBRARY COOKBOOK: 100 Recipes from Your Favorite Books (U.S. Edition)
written by Kate Young
photos by Lean Timms
published by Sterling Epicure, April 2018
Literary Cookbook, 320 pp.

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🍒 SPECIAL BOOK GIVEAWAY! 🍕

Thanks to a very kind fairy godsister, I have an extra copy of this cookbook to give away to one lucky Alphabet Soup reader. If you’re especially ravenous for books and food, please leave a comment at this post telling us about your favorite food scene from a book for either kids or adults, no later than Friday, May 25, 2018. You may also enter by sending an email with LIBRARY COOKBOOK in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only, please. Good Luck!

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“Back home, I told the cook girl to boil enough pots of water and to chop enough pork and vegetables to make a thousand dumplings, both steamed and boiled, with plenty of fresh ginger, good soy sauce, and sweet vinegar for dipping.” ~ The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan

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This post is being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food-related posts. Put on your best aprons and bibs, and come join the fun!


* This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. When you purchase something using a link on this site, Jama’s Alphabet Soup receives a small referral fee (at no extra cost to you). Thanks for your support!

** Copyright © 2018 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

61 thoughts on “[review + giveaway] The Little Library Cookbook by Kate Young

  1. Oh, Jama, I did love this post! When I taught school, I used to tell my students that we need to eat what we read — I cooked them grits for TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, had feta and olives for ULYSSES, pasties for MACBETH, and on and on! Thank you for sharing this! Mahalo and aloha!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. It sounds like a marvelous book (and gift) for cooks and food lovers and readers, too! I liked the videos, oh that chocolate cake! Some of my favorite scenes are from the Tolkien books, especially the beginning of The Hobbit when Bilbo has unexpected guests and scurries around gathering their food, which I think later is called “elevenses”, like chicken salad, jam, seed cakes, and whatever he can produce from his many pantries. All of the books, despite the serious quest, include food in some form. Thanks, Jama and Kate!

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    1. I think I’m probably a hobbit because I love elevenses and eating at least five times a day. I don’t have hairy feet, though. 😀 I like all the food Tolkien included in his books.

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  3. What a unique book. Brilliant idea. Reminds me of how much I enjoyed the recipes in Laura Esquivel’s “Like Water For Chocolate.” I remember reading that a restaurant in Manhattan was recreating recipes from the book including the quail in rose petal sauce that Tita makes while thinking of Pedro.

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    1. Samantha, I went to a Like Water for Chocolate dinner at a restaurant in Los Angeles back when the book came out. All I remember is that they used Cornish game hens instead of quail, but that there was indeed rose petal sauce!

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    2. I love that movie — so magical! What a great idea to recreate the recipes at a restaurant. I bet they had a great turnout.

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  4. More amazing food, Jama! I just reread the first Harry Potter with my niece, and while the welcome dinner was amazing, I’m touched by Hagrid bringing Harry his first birthday cake ever and cooking sausages on the fire for him (all supplies and food brought in Hagrid’s voluminous pockets, slightly squished).

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    1. Yes, the HP books have lots of wonderful food. The great dining hall laden with amazing dishes! It’s been ages since I read the first HP book. Good old Hagrid.

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    1. There are quite a few literary cookbooks out there now. They seem very popular and for good reason. Eat the books!!

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  5. Yummy blog! I enjoyed the recipe from Bella Fortuna by Rosanna Chifalo. Actually I like two of the recipes. The first is Palline di Limone or Glazed lemon cookies and Lemon Wedges in oil and vinegar. As you can see I love lemon, and I love Rosanna’s books! Viva Italia!

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  6. What a fabulous collection for literary cooks! A great assortment of sources, from Paddington to Ulysses and recipes for all occasions. Ranging from hunny and rosemary cakes to spaghetti and meatballs, this includes a wide range of literature and palates.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m reading Rachel Joyce’s newest book, The Music Shop, which I’m enjoying immensely. Some of my favorite scenes take place in a cafe, after hours. The main character, and the women he loves, meet for lessons in music appreciation. Although subtle, the food aspect is interesting. At their first lesson they have tea and orange squash. At the second lesson, the waitress serves them eggs, and then, like the relationship, the foods get more interesting! It’s a great book for discussion groups, too!

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    1. Oh, the book sounds good. I’ll have to add it to my wish list/look for it at the library. Thanks for mentioning it, Diane.

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  8. This is wonderful — I love that someone went through the trouble to make specific recipes from mentions of things in books — and I can imagine that this would be so much fun to pair with teaching an English class!

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  9. My favorite food scene is in Where the Wild Things Are, when he comes home to food, “and it was still hot.” so loving. I also like all the bacon sandwiches in books from or about England…

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    1. Yes, the “and it was still hot” is so classic — a perfect ending. Bacon sandwiches are quite a thing over there — my husband used to buy one for lunch every day. He still raves about them now — the thick sliced freshly baked bread and the English bacon. . .

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  10. oh what a fun sounding book! I haven’t thought of Pipi Longstocking in years and Kate’s grandmother sounds like a real hoot w/ black dinners of Friday the 13th. would love to win the book both to cook from it as well as just read and enjoy it.

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  11. Oh, I love when the dwarves descend on Bilbo’s larder in “The Hobbit”. I have been looking for a good seed cake recipe, inspired by Bilbo.

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  12. I would agree it’s hard to beat the scene of Pippi’s pancakes in Pippi Longstocking. But also Tea Cakes for Tosh by Kelly Starling has a good recipe for tea cakes. Then there’s that Blackberry Fool in A Fine Dessert. This book sounds wonderful!

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  13. Oh! I love reading cookbooks… read them as if they were a novel 🙂 (posted about one last week)! This one sounds wonderful! I’ve already followed your links to Kate’s blog and will be going back. Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful review.

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  14. Oh, this looks like such a wonderful experience of a book! I can think of at least two people who would adore this, and isn’t it a perfect gift for a fellow book club member? I want one for me, too! Thanks so much for this delicious post and the introduction to this amazing cookbook and author. I’m off to check out her link now! Oh–and how to choose my favorite food-related scene from a book?!? Well, from childhood, given my enormous sweet tooth, probably something from the fanciful confectionary world of Charlie and the Chocolate factory. Whimsical and delicious!

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  15. The raspberry shrub tea from Anne of Green Gables! OR making snow candy from Little House in the Big Woods. What a great book. If I don’t win, I’m definitely buying a copy. I love cookbooks that bring my favorite books to the table.

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    1. I’ve just checked out her blog. OMG, where has she been all my life? Thanks so much for introducing me to a new site. I have so much to explore.

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  16. Fantastic Post! I echo Beth Fish Reads, how have I missed Kate Young and her blog and column?!? This book sounds right up my alley–finding the food in books is one of my greatest joys. Definitely all of the food scenes in Farmer Boy–the foodiest of the Little House books, the dinner (at least ‘two courses’) that Mrs. Bennet finally gets to serve to Mr. Bingley and Darcy of course, and recently I was looking through my old Trixie Belden books, my favorite childhood detective series, and realizing how much food Trixie and the Bob-Whites ate. Adding this book to my #TBR–thanks for sharing!

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  17. Jama,
    Your always review the most wonderful books that I would have never heard of otherwise. So many of the books have made perfect gifts for my grand kids who love to read and love to cook.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Wonderful post, as always! Favorite food scenes that come to mind: Turkish Delight in Chronicles of Narnia, Chocolate Cake in A Baby Sister for Frances, Marilla’s Raspberry Cordial in Anne of Green Gables, and Blueberries for Sal.

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  19. My favorite food scenes would be any depicting Thanksgiving or Christmas feasts like The Grinch Who feast, and anything with images or descriptions of that make you want the food!!!^_^

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  20. Oh! This is so lovely!! There are so many food scenes in books to love… but it’s easy for me to choose my very favorite.
    The last page of “Bread and Jam for Frances”:
    The next day when the bell rang for lunch, Albert said, “What do you have today?”

    “Well,” said Frances, laying a paper doily on her desk and setting a tiny vase of violets in the middle of it, “let me see.”
    She arranged her lunch on the doily.
    “I have a Thermos bottle with cream-of-tomato soup,” she said. “And a lobster-salad sandwich on thin slices of white bread.
    I have a celery, carrot sticks, and black olives, and a little cardboard shaker of salt for the celery.
    And two plums and a tiny basket of cherries.
    And vanilla pudding with chocolate sprinkles and a spoon to eat it with.”

    “That’s a good lunch,” said Albert.
    “I think it’s nice that there are all different kinds of lunches and breakfasts and dinners and snacks. I think eating is nice.”

    “So do I,” said Frances,
    and she made the lobster-salad sandwich, the celery, the carrot sticks, and the olives come out even.

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    1. Oh, and I’d be hard-pressed to choose a FAVORITE food scene, but I did like reading the cake-baking scene in Little Women. They made do, and though they wanted for much, they made everything sound tasty.

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