Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck & Fortune by Roselle Lim
At the news of her mother’s death, Natalie Tan returns home. The two women hadn’t spoken since Natalie left in anger seven years ago, when her mother refused to support her chosen career as a chef. Natalie is shocked to discover the vibrant neighborhood of San Francisco’s Chinatown that she remembers from her childhood is fading, with businesses failing and families moving out. She’s even more surprised to learn she has inherited her grandmother’s restaurant.
The neighborhood seer reads the restaurant’s fortune in the leaves: Natalie must cook three recipes from her grandmother’s cookbook to aid her struggling neighbors before the restaurant will succeed. Unfortunately, Natalie has no desire to help them try to turn things around–she resents the local shopkeepers for leaving her alone to take care of her agoraphobic mother when she was growing up. But with the support of a surprising new friend and a budding romance, Natalie starts to realize that maybe her neighbors really have been there for her all along.
First review of the year, even though I read this last year (this is so weird to write), and breaking away from the usual puzzle background because Vixy was being a good model.
Natalie has been working on learning new foods and growing her repertoire of food and has been chasing her dream away from home as she didn’t see eye to eye with her mum. And as such she also didn’t see eye to eye with her neighbours.
However, after her mother dies, she returns and decides that maybe she’ll open the restaurant she inherited and fulfill her dream. And as she does this, she also starts seeing her neighbours differently, tries to help them and cooks lots of delicious food.
The main thing was that this book made me SO hungry! Do not read while hungry or with any hint of hunger because you’ll be craving the food so bad. I kept drooling over the recipes, loving the simple and interesting magic in the “dishes” and just that hint at a slight bend between magic and reality as we see it.
The writing flowed, I felt for Natalie and her neighbours and I just wanted them all to be happy and succeed. And to make food. So bad. It was interesting to see her mother’s agoraphobia define her childhood and then to slowly find out why it got so bad and why her mother was so against Natalie’s dreams.
Another thing that I found interesting is how sometimes we think we know what is best for someone else and what the fix is, but it isn’t always what is best and meddling has consequences. Natalie has a good heart even if it is a bit broken, patched and mended, and she has a fear of commitment so it was interesting to see her grow through the story and find that confidence in herself, and to learn more about her family history, her grandmother and the neighbourhood in general.
Worth the read, keep snacks available while reading. I ended up being lucky that I was reading at a Thai restaurant while waiting for my food, so my cravings were relatively quickly satisfied but at other times, it was tricky not to want to immediately get delicious food.
Hungry Hearts: 13 Tales of Food & Love edited by Elsie Chapman & Caroline Tung Richmond
From some of your favorite bestselling and critically acclaimed authors—including Sandhya Menon, Anna-Marie McLemore, and Rin Chupeco—comes a collection of interconnected short stories that explore the intersection of family, culture, and food in the lives of thirteen teens.
A shy teenager attempts to express how she really feels through the confections she makes at her family’s pasteleria. A tourist from Montenegro desperately seeks a magic soup dumpling that could cure his fear of death. An aspiring chef realizes that butter and soul are the key ingredients to win a cooking competition that could win him the money to save his mother’s life.
Welcome to Hungry Hearts Row, where the answers to most of life’s hard questions are kneaded, rolled, baked. Where a typical greeting is, “Have you had anything to eat?” Where magic and food and love are sometimes one and the same.
Told in interconnected short stories, Hungry Hearts explores the many meanings food can take on beyond mere nourishment. It can symbolize love and despair, family and culture, belonging and home.
Elsie Chapman grew up in Prince George, Canada, and has a degree in English literature from the University of British Columbia. She is the author of the YA novels Dualed, Divided, Along the Indigo, and Caster as well as the MG novel All the Ways Home, and co-editor of A Thousand Beginnings and Endings and Hungry Hearts. She currently lives in Tokyo, Japan, with her family.
Caroline Tung Richmond is an award-winning young adult author, whose historical novels include The Only Thing to Fear, The Darkest Hour, and Live In Infamy. She’s also the co-editor of the anthology Hungry Hearts, which features stories about food and will come out in June 2019 from Simon Pulse. Her work is represented by Jim McCarthy of Dystel & Goderich.
Caroline is also the Program Director of We Need Diverse Books, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that advocates for diversity in children’s publishing.
After growing up in the Washington, D.C. area Caroline now lives in Virginia with her family.
Welcome to my stop in this delicious Hungry Hearts Food Crawl! Today we’re going to talk about Adi Alsaid’s story, Moments to Return.
Adi Alsaid was born and raised in Mexico City, where he now lives, writes, and spills hot sauce on things. He’s the author of several YA novels including LET’S GET LOST, NEVER ALWAYS SOMETIMES, and NORTH OF HAPPY.
Moments to Return is about a tourist from Montenegro desperately seeking a magic soup dumpling to help cure his fear of death. And it starts with him inside the restaurant trying to decide what he would like to eat because he’s made the choice to try to cure his fear with food. The story made me extremely hungry and to crave delicious soup dumplings (the ones that have the soup inside them, if you’ve never had them, you should, it’s worth it!). The first time I had them, I also didn’t know the trick our narrator is told, which is to bite the top off to let it cool down a tiny bit and well, of course I burnt my mouth. Woops!
However, the reason he’s having this magical food is to cure his fear of death and as I read this story I couldn’t help but keep thinking of how differnet the perspective on death is and how tied to food it is even in my own culture (Mexican).
I now live in the UK, but Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos) is one of my favourite parts of our culture. Now, I didn’t really know other countries were drastically different in treating death, for me it was something that happens and inevitable but we do our best to celebrate what has been rather than regret and be sad about it (it doesn’t mean we don’t do grief).
Anyway, once I moved to the UK, I realised how different the perspective on death was and how much of a taboo subject it was, so I decided to host my own Day of the Dead celebration explaining the culture, sharing food and bringing people together because at the end of the day, the magic of food is how it connects us and bring us together.
Being Mexican means I love preparing too much food and making people smile with food. And Day of the Dead is about making the favourite foods of those that passed away, going to visit our dead and talking to them, but also, sharing that food with others to rejoice in the life that was lived. It is a celebration of life, full of colour, with many skulls everywhere (I couldn’t get my hands on the classic sugar candy skulls we make, but those are a treat).
However, I made Pan de Muerto, which has a “brioche” base, a slight orange blossom flavour and it is rich and buttery, and the top has a cross of “bones”. Some say it is to represent the way the Dead have to go and to guide them home and back to the Land fo the Dead, others say it comes from Aztec knowledge of gods. To me it has always been a representation of our dead and to share with others.
Of course, the party was a success, making people a little bit less shy about death and more open to talk about their loved ones that have gone ahead of us/them. It was a moment of sharing a meal, talking and opening up. Maybe there wasn’t the magic to cure fear of death, but it definitely makes you a little bit less afraid, a little more human and glad to have others there to share with.
In the end, food has magic, and all the stories in Hungry Hearts let you experience some of that magic. Because making food is a kind of magic but eating it is also magic.
It delights you, fills you, and provides nourishment, what else do you need?
Come join the rest of us in our delightful food crawl (and probably go find some awesome places to eat delicious food, because you will be hungry after reading each of the short stories in it!).
Hungry Hearts Food Crawl Schedule:
June 10th – Introduction Vicky (Welcome + Interview)
I love food, I have been craving teacakes for the whole previous week due to a book I read (review will come, promise). So food in fiction definitely has an effect on me, what about you guys?
The fanmail box was full of nice things and I was very pleased with it. Let’s go around clockwise starting on the theme card:
Eat, Drink and Be Merry theme card, it includes shows and activities to see/do/eat.
Fandom Foods book, which has a series of possible foods to cook, from a couple of food nerds which I absolutely love and want to cook from.
A sampler Menu from The Book of Dust, it is all fancy fancy.
Mushu engraved chopsticks, they are metallic and beautiful and the cute engraving is at the top of the chopsticks and they came in a handy sleeve to hold them. Probably my favourite item in the box because I really find Mushu fun.
Three Broomsticks lunch bag(box?), it is insulated which is awesome because it is and I am happy for this since I only have a japanese lunch “bag” and now I have this one too!
Pop’s pot holders, made me very happy because we needed some new ones and it was just awesome!
All in all I was very happy with the box and definitely recommend it if you like fandom things that are thought well.