Kitchens of the Great Midwest

Kitchens of the Great Midwest

Book - 2015
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When Lars Thorvald's wife, Cynthia, falls in love with wine--and a dashing sommelier--he's left to raise their baby, Eva, on his own. He's determined to pass on his love of food to his daughter--starting with puréed pork shoulder. As Eva grows, she finds her solace and salvation in the flavors of her native Minnesota. From Scandinavian lutefisk to hydroponic chocolate habaneros, each ingredient represents one part of Eva's journey as she becomes the star chef behind a legendary and secretive pop-up supper club, culminating in an opulent and emotional feast that's a testament to her spirit and resilience. Each chapter in J. Ryan Stradal's startlingly original debut tells the story of a single dish and character, at once capturing the zeitgeist of the Midwest, the rise of foodie culture, and delving into the ways food creates community and a sense of identity.
Publisher: New York, New York : Pamela Dorman Books, Viking, [2015]
Copyright Date: ©2015
ISBN: 9780525429142
Branch Call Number: F STRADAL
Characteristics: 312 pages ; 24 cm


From Library Staff

This novel is quirky and colorful. The story revolves around chef Eva Thorvald and the people who influence her life and her cooking. With well-drawn characters and mouthwatering descriptions of meals, Kitchens of the Great Midwest will appeal to readers who like vivid storytelling. Foodies will ... Read More »

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Jul 14, 2019

When I began reading, I was sure I was reading what would end up being a 4- or 5-starred book for me. This novel is the story of a famed, mysterious, and otherwordly chef, Eva Thorvald, who plies her craft in Iowa and Minnesota. Each chapter is told from a different character's point of view, and we learn about Eva and her life story through them, never Eva herself. I really loved the first chapters about Eva's father and her birth, and then the absolutely brilliant chapter about Eva's cousin Braque. And the Des Moines and Minneapolis settings and references (eating Schwan's ice cream, church kitchen ladies, etc.) were wonderful. However, as the novel went on I found it more and more pretentious and, frankly, boring. The final chapter felt so false and over-the-top that reading became a chore and I was just waiting to be done.

Jan 13, 2019

I agree with mitchellered. Crass language spoiled it for me.

Jun 03, 2018

Eva Thorvald is a woman with an incredible sense of taste who gravitates into the upscale restaurant and catering business in the Twin Cities in Minnesota where every ingredient is fresh and locally sourced.

Book is both a homage to Midwestern food specialties and a satire on current foodie trends married to a coming-of-age story. Each chapter, titled with an ingredient, tells a story that sometimes leaves you wondering how this will all fit together. It does. Have to admit I’ve stopped or almost stopped at the ‘Chocolate Habanero’ chapter twice, but stuck with it this time to read with a friend. Mixed review. Probably better for a younger audience who would recognize all the music references throughout this book. I’m retirement age; worked with food trends in the food business.

Aug 07, 2017

A lighter read, but one with complex overtones and a strong aftertaste. "Kitchens of the Great Midwest" takes a person through an extraordinary life interacting with great food and wine. The characters are drawn simply, but with a lot of wit; each chapter offers a vignette of food and American foodie/ locovore culture, including great recipes!

Mar 12, 2017

Perfect book club choice. Sweet and interesting story lines about a young girl in MN who fulfills her destiny to becomes a fantastic chef. All you need to know about lutefisk. Recipes included.

Mar 08, 2017

Although I'm not generally a big novel fan, I read this one because of the foodie aspect. Interesting--good, not great, but not bad.

Jul 13, 2016

Nailed it.

Feb 29, 2016

Although I haven't read the book in it's entirety yet, it's fun to be able to relate to the MN locations mentioned throughout. There are also recipes in there that I might be curious enough to try when I get further along! Definitely recommend this read if you have any Scandinavian heritage in your background--you'll be able to relate and find yourself chuckling or nodding your head at times without even realizing it. A good fiction book to choose if you're looking to get out of a "reading rut."

Feb 25, 2016

I felt like I had a different book than everyone else. Was this supposed to be a young adult novel? The plot is so messy and sudden. One page you meet a character, and the next page the character is violently killed and completely forgotten. Just silly plot turns too, for instance, one character smokes pot once and suddenly her whole life is destroyed. Not to mention all of the characters are so unlikable and stereo-typically trashy. This novel makes everyone from the Midwest seem like a drunken, bitter, hillbilly- which is NOT the case. The only insight we get on the main character Eva and how she thinks is from one chapter when she was 11 years old. Past that, it's difficult to tell what her story REALLY is all about. The language is just crass for no reason. Rather than using his words, the author uses expletives. Several characters are just so dumbly described as "cool" or "mean" so the development just goes nowhere. As a food fan, I was excited to pick up this book (the cover is adorable) but I had a lot of trouble finishing this. It's unfortunate because it had a lot of prospect but the book just did not come together.

Jan 10, 2016

A little dubious as I read it, but the last chapter, wow.

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Aug 23, 2016

Each chapter in J. Ryan Stradal's startlingly original debut tells the story of a single dish and character, at once capturing the zeitgeist of the Midwest, the rise of foodie culture, and delving into the ways food creates community and a sense of identity. By turns quirky, hilarious, and vividly sensory, Kitchens of the Great Midwest is an unexpected mother-daughter story about the bittersweet nature of life--its missed opportunities and its joyful surprises. It marks the entry of a brilliant new talent.


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