“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
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Lager Queen of Minnesota, 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.
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. 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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Time flew by when we sat down with Kitchens of the Great Midwest, a charming and unusual first novel by American writer J. Ryan Stradal. An unruly cast of characters skitters through this story, which revolves around the strapping Eva Thorvald, who evolves from a wide-eyed toddler with a thing for heirloom tomatoes into one of the most fabled chefs in the world. We were blown away by Stradal’s flair for depicting messy emotions and mixed-up families, and delighted by his insightful and funny reflections on foodie culture and class dynamics.
Stradal's debut novel centers on Eva Thorvald, the daughter of a chef and an aspiring sommelier, who has food in her DNA a fact that remains irrefutable even after her mother abandons her and her father dies when she is an infant. Raised by relatives in Wisconsin and Iowa, Eva grows into a tall, awkward girl obsessed with restaurant kitchens, chili peppers, and local cuisine, which she folds into extremely popular and sought-after fine-dining experiences. Eva's story unfolds more like a short story collection than a novel as each vignette, told from the point of view of a different character, reveals another facet of her personality. The unifying (though slightly trite) conceit is that each character introduces an ingredient that lands on Eva's tasting menu in the final act. Stradal's neither a food snob nor exclusively a comfort-food advocate: he lovingly skewers Lutheran church-basement cuisine and locavore foodies alike as he tracks Eva's path to success. Certain bits of information occasionally feel deliberately withheld for dramatic effect (though they are eventually revealed), and Eva's superstar status at the end of the story feels like a little bit of a stretch, but Eva herself is a compelling, deliciously flawed character.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Love this book!
When I came across this book, I wasn't sure it was for me, but something about it spoke to me and I'm so happy I listened. It's a great read with interesting and likable characters. The story came together in a way I haven't seen before. Read it, you won't be disappointed!
Foodies will love this book.
I couldn't get enough of this book. From the characters to the recipes to the plot. I was hooked from the very beginning. An excellent and worthy read!
I loved this book. I loved how the stories jumped between different characters who were all connected through one person, Eva, and also by food. Every character's story was so interesting, an entire book could be written about each of them. I finished the book wanting to know more. This book gives you perspective about the lives and feelings of others. Even the most insignificant interactions with strangers can have a huge impact on their lives. You just never know. Every person has a story.
I am very much looking forward to the next book from this author.