While April was a ridiculously unproductive month for me in regards to the Foodie Reads 2016 Challenge, I have carved out full afternoons to read this month. I had started The Restaurant Critic's Wife by Elizabeth LaBan* earlier this week. But, this afternoon, I curled up under a blanket - while Jake worked on the 8th grade graduation video and the boys did homework - and read the rest of it. I love losing myself in the pages of an entertaining read.
On the Page...
I had initially thought this novel would be a breezy read about a series of restaurant reviews. It was much more than that.
Lila is the restaurant critic's wife and they have recently relocated from New Orleans to Philadelphia. Sam, her restaurant critic husband, is obsessed with anonymity and wants her to stay out of the public's eye. That means he doesn't want he to socialize with her friend from college who has recently opened a restaurant; he doesn't even want her to get to know their new neighbors; and he definitely doesn't want her to befriend a local waiter at one of the city's most swanky spots.
Lila, pre-Sam and pre-kids, was a dynamite crisis manager for a chain of hotels. She was like a public relations wizard. Now, she is often covered in spit-up and spends her days alone with her two young children, Hazel and Henry.
As I wrote: this book is about much more than eating at different restaurants though there is plenty of food mentioned. This book is about balancing a family. It's about forging a new identity as a wife and a mother. For those of us that are or have balanced being a mother and a professional, this book exposes those feelings that are constantly in flux. And LaBan nails the roller coaster of emotions that comes with reevaluating your life and getting comfortable in your skin.
A brief exchange with her father-in-law stuck with me.
"Thanks for making Sam an incredible family," he whispers in my ear just before he heads out the door. It is the first time anyone has said anything like that to me. ...Have I made an incredible family? I never would have thought myself capable of that.
"Thanks for making Sam," I whisper back.
In My Glass...
As you can imagine, there is a lot of food on these pages. Spaghetti and meatballs is Lila's comfort meal and one that her mom makes whenever she comes to visit. I considered the cranberry pancakes from the diner where she meet her ex-boyfriend for breakfast and realizes that leaving him was not a mistake after all. I even thought to make macaroni and cheese, inspired by the 'Macaroni and Cheese Test' that Sam conducts when they are vacationing at the Jersey Shore.
But I opted to share a recipe for New Orleans' signature cocktail because it is one of my favorites and it was the drink Lila calls Sam to help her make to calm down a nervous chef.
"What can you do for me?" [Chef Landry] asks, and I can hear the Cajun in his words.
"I can get you better crawfish, for one thing, " I say.
"What else?" he asks.
"Better beans," I say.
"Anything else?" he asks, cheering up a tiny bit, I think.
"I'll make you a Sazerac," I say.
"I'll be down in about fifteen minutes," he says.
Ingredients makes 2
- 1 ounce absinthe
- 4 ounces bourbon
- 1/2 ounce maple syrup
- 8 dashes bitters (I used my homemade Meyer Lemon Bitters)
- Meyer lemon twists for garnish
Pour absinthe, bourbon, and maple syrup into an ice-filled shaker. Shake and strain cocktail into two glasses. Add bitters to the glasses. Rub the rims with a lemon twist and drop twist into the glass. Cheers.
*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.
Here's what everyone else read in May 2016: here.