From the bestselling author of The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir comes an unforgettable novel of a BBC-sponsored wartime cooking competition and the four women who enter for a chance to better their lives.
Two years into World War II, Britain is feeling her losses: The Nazis have won battles, the Blitz has destroyed cities, and U-boats have cut off the supply of food. In an effort to help housewives with food rationing, a BBC radio program called The Kitchen Front is holding a cooking contest—and the grand prize is a job as the program’s first-ever female co-host. For four very different women, winning the competition would present a crucial chance to change their lives.
For a young widow, it’s a chance to pay off her husband’s debts and keep a roof over her children’s heads. For a kitchen maid, it’s a chance to leave servitude and find freedom. For a lady of the manor, it’s a chance to escape her wealthy husband’s increasingly hostile behavior. And for a trained chef, it’s a chance to challenge the men at the top of her profession.
These four women are giving the competition their all—even if that sometimes means bending the rules. But with so much at stake, will the contest that aims to bring the community together only serve to break it apart?
Any book about cooking is one I’m probably going to pick up and in The Kitchen Front I found a delightful examination of the relationships of 4 women in a small English village during World War II. There are the usual colorful village characters but it’s the four women – sisters Audrey & Gwendoline, Nell, and Zelda – who are the beating heart of this story.
Ryan does an exceptional job of untangling and renewing the relationships between the women but also of dissecting the patriarchal culture of mid-century Britain where an accomplished female chef is given no respect, an ambitious woman is cast as a bitch because she has a logical mind, a woman who chose a chaotic family life is looked at with derision, and a woman having a child out of wedlock worries her entire life is ruined. Ryan explores the fear and frustration each woman experiences, but also dips into the joy and sisterhood they find through the Kitchen Front contest.
Fans of Ryan’s earlier work and of Tracy Chevalier and Mary Ann Shaffer will enjoy this.
From the Publisher: Long before the advent of conventional farming methods–which have focused on constant growth, human intervention, and genetic homogeneity–the apple had already grown to become the ubiquitous all-American symbol it is today. Known for their hardiness, ability to adapt to new environments, natural diversity, and plentiful bounty, wildly grown apples were once known as ”America’s fruit” throughout the trading world. Yet those apple trees–known as pippins–have nearly vanished from the American agricultural landscape, and so, too, have the complexities and nuances of wild apples and their cider. Andy Brennan, founder of Aaron Burr Cidery in upstate New York, has been making a case for their return.
In Uncultivated, Brennan’s hero is the tenacious wild apple and the superior cider it produces. In candid and at times philosophical prose, he shares his decades-long experience working with naturalized trees–from discovering new tastes and textures to understanding how the wild apple tree guided him toward a successful, environmentally conscious business. At the heart of his story is Brennan’s faith in nature, and its unfailing ability to deliver us from our own mistakes.
Andy Brennan is the owner of Aaron Burr Cidery, a small homestead farm located in New York State’s Catskill region that supplies cider to some of Manhattan’s most popular restaurants, including 11 Madison Park and the Gramercy Tavern. He has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning and in the New York Times, Wine Enthusiast magazine, and numerous other publications.
Brennan writes eloquently about the industry that feeds his occupation – cider-making – and focuses intently on heirloom or lost strains of apple trees. Having grown up in the Apple Country of western NY, I know a little bit about apple trees and orchards. Brennan does an excellent job of sharing information about the cultivation of apple trees, and what it means to entrepreneurs like himself. I am so happy to see attention being paid to those lost varieties of apples, and make an effort to support farms that are attempting to bring them back. (I’m looking at you, Hurd Orchards!) Before I read this, I didn’t know much about cider-making and how the variety of apple has such an effect on the end product. Fascinating stuff. Recommended for apple enthusiasts and anyone interested in the cider industry.
Publication Date: June 12, 2019
Published By: Chelsea Green Publishing
Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy