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Kitchens of the Great Midwest (Hardcover)
August 2015 Indie Next List
“In the story of Midwestern chef savant Eva Thorvald and the people -- and foods -- that touch her life, Stradal has created a picture of the American foodie revolution of the past 25 years and of its intersections with class, economics, family, and culture. Along with irresistible characters and stories, this is a novel about the potential that food and cooking offer for joy and empowerment, for snobbery and shame, and for identity and reinvention. Beautifully structured and affectionately and hilariously written, this is a novel that -- like Thorvald's exclusive pop-up supper club -- everyone is going to be talking about!”
— Jessica Stockton Bagnulo (M), Greenlight Bookstore, Brooklyn, NY
I loved how it was written, telling people's individual stories but then intertwining them all together at the same time. There are some stories about peoples' lives that are just that and they're dull and blah, but this one was really brought to life in the characters. It was different and refreshing and I absolutely loved it. -Madison— From Madison's Current Favorites
"A sweet and savory treat." --People"An impressive feat of narrative jujitsu . . . that keeps readers turning the pages too fast to realize just how ingenious they are."--The New York Times Book Review, Editor's Pick
Kitchens of the Great Midwest is a novel about a young woman with a once-in-a-generation palate who becomes the iconic chef behind the country's most coveted dinner reservation. It was selected as a best book of the year by Amazon, BookPage, LibraryReads, and NPR. 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 pureed 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. 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.