Synopses & Reviews
With its corn by the acre, beef on the hoof, Quaker Oats, and Kraft Mac nand#8217; Cheese, the Midwest eats pretty well and feeds the nation on the side. But thereand#8217;s more to the midwestern kitchen and palate than the farm food and sizable portions the region is best known for beyond its borders. It is to these heartland specialties, from the heartwarming to the downright weird, that Fried Walleye and Cherry Pie
invites the reader.and#160;
The volume brings to the table an illustrious gathering of thirty midwestern writers with something to say about the gustatory pleasures and peculiarities of the region. In a meditation on comfort food, Elizabeth Berg recalls her auntand#8217;s meatloaf. Stuart Dybek takes us on a school field trip to a slaughtering house, while Peter Sagal grapples with the ethics of patand#233;. Parsing Cincinnati five-way chili, Robert Olmstead digresses into questions of Aztec culture. Harry Mark Petrakis reflects on owning a South Side Chicago lunchroom, while Bonnie Jo Campbell nurses a sweet tooth through a fudge recipe in the Joy of Cooking and Lorna Landvik nibbles her way through the Minnesota State Fair. These are just a sampling of what makes Fried Walleye and Cherry Pieand#8212;with its generous helpings of laughter, culinary confession, and informationand#8212;an irresistible literary feast.
andquot;Heartland natives will embrace the recipes, if not the remembrances of State Fair corn dogs and Lake Michigan fish boils, German kuchen and tamales eaten on Chicagoandrsquo;s Maxwell Street, a.k.a. andquot;the Ellis Island of the Midwest.andquot;andquot;andmdash;Jenny Rosenstrach, New York Times
"A brilliant collection of Heartland food stories."and#8212;Publishers Weekly
"This anthology of essays on the Midwest's best and most unpretentious foods should go a long way toward regaining the respect the heartland's cuisine ought to enjoy."and#8212;Mark Knoblauch, Booklist
andquot;A delectable read, sprinkled with recipes and generous helpings of fun and plenty of food for thought.andquot;andmdash;Graciela Monday, Library Journal
"Thoughtful, addicting."and#8212;Christopher Borrelli, Chicago Tribune
andquot;A nostalgic trip through Middle America.andquot;andmdash;Shelf Awareness
andquot;Fried Walleye and Cherry Pie reads like a feast and roundtrip combined taking in Iowa . . . and skirting the andquot;tan landscapeandquot; of the andquot;Corn Beltandquot;. The books ends in a selection of desserts, allowing Peggy Woolf to reminisce about pie, stuffed with fruits of Wisconsin . . . plucked from the tops of sunbathed trees.andquot;andmdash;Times Literary Supplement
“Hot sex, looking good, scoring journalistic triumphs . . . nothing made Alyssa love herself enough until she learned to cook. There's a racy plot and a surprising moral in this intimate and delicious book.”
--Gael Greene, creator of Insatiable-Critic.com and author of Insatiable: Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess
Apron Anxiety is the hilarious and heartfelt memoir of quintessential city girl Alyssa Shelasky and her crazy, complicated love affair with...the kitchen.
Three months into a relationship with her TV-chef crush, celebrity journalist Alyssa Shelasky left her highly social life in New York City to live with him in D.C. But what followed was no fairy tale: Chef hours are tough on a relationship. Surrounded by foodies yet unable to make a cup of tea, she was displaced and discouraged. Motivated at first by self-preservation rather than culinary passion, Shelasky embarked on a journey to master the kitchen, and she created the blog Apron Anxiety (ApronAnxiety.com) to share her stories.
This is a memoir (with recipes) about learning to cook, the ups and downs of love, and entering the world of food full throttle. Readers will delight in her infectious voice as she dishes on everything from the sexy chef scene to the unexpected inner calm of tying on an apron.
About the Author
ALYSSA SHELASKY is the New York editor of Grub Street at New York magazine, as well as the creator of the blog Apron Anxiety (ApronAnxiety.com). She has written for numerous publications including People, Us Weekly, Hamptons Style, Gotham, Self, Blackbook, TV Guide, The New York Post, New York magazine, CBS's Watch magazine, and Glamour magazine.
Reading Group Guide
1. Apron Anxiety
opens with the following from celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain: “I would be displeased and scared shitless if my little girl started talking about wanting to be a chef. I guess it could be worse. She could talk about wanting to go OUT with a chef.” When you first read this quote, what did you think Apron Anxiety
was going to be like? Having read it, what do you think of Bourdain’s thoughts?
2. In Chapter One, Alyssa recounts her family’s eating habits and how these early years shaped her adult tastes. What are your first memories of food? How did your own attitude toward food develop?
3. Talk about the prevalence of food culture these days. What does the word “foodie” mean to you? Does Alyssa consider herself a foodie?
4. Do you know anyone who’s worked in the restaurant business? What are your impressions of it, having read Apron Anxiety? If you were able to date a chef, would you? Conversely, if you were a chef would you date a “civilian?”
5. When Alyssa first begins cook on her own, she’s surprised at how much delight Chef takes in her attempts to share what she thought was his passion alone. Do you think that relationships work best when they are centered on a mutual interest, or when each partner has his/her own “thing?”
6. In Apron Anxiety, cooking for Alyssa is often therapeutic. Think of your own relationship with food and cooking. Are there particular meals that bring up memories or elicit strong emotions?
7. Alyssa describes the singular experiences that changed the way she thought about food: “the Pasta” of her teenage years, her first tastes of Indian cuisine, exploring the Greek cooking of her boyfriend’s heritage, the many special dishes Chef made for her. What is your most memorable food experience? What made it special?
8. “Every morning of my life, my mother has eaten a packaged Devil Dog for breakfast.” Talk about how eating and food play an important part of a person’s routine. Do you have a daily food ritual?
9. At the book’s end, Alyssa writes that, contrary to what one may tell his- or herself, “Happiness is yours to find.” Do you agree with this sentiment? Why did it take Alyssa so long to realize this about herself?
10. Think about what it might be like to write your own memoir. Could you be as candid as Alyssa is in Apron Anxiety? Would you be concerned about the reactions of your family and friends once they read your book?
11. “Just because you’re an extraordinary person who deserves extraordinary love, it can’t come at the expense of everything else that makes you whole.” Consider this quote of Alyssa’s as you think about how she’s detailed her romantic life in Apron Anxiety. In her relationship with Chef, what was Alyssa missing in her own life?
12. How do you think Alyssa would arrange the following words, in order of importance: friends, family, work, food, love? How would you order them?
13. Famed restaurant and food critic Gael Greene says of Apron Anxiety: “There’s a racy plot and a surprising moral in this intimate and delicious book.” Do you agree? If you could offer a blurb about this book, what would it say?