Books About TV Cooks

I used to love watching cooking shows on TV. Rachael Ray, Yan Can Cook, and Emeril Live, they all fascinated and inspired me with their magical kitchen talents. If, like me, you’ve ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes (who pre-measures those ingredients, or cooks the picture-perfect roast that’s ready to pull out of one oven seconds after the demo roast is put into another oven?) then here are two books I recommend. One is fiction, and one non-fiction.

Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs

This book is a breezy, fun read if you’re in the mood for something not too heavy. It depicts the behind-the-scenes drama of the fictional TV show, Cooking With Gusto! (a phenomenal name for a cooking show in my opinion). The main character, Gus, who hosts the show, is a Martha-Stewart-like figure. Despite her flawless cooking skills, life is not so perfect for her outside the kitchen. Gus must deal with the loss of her husband, rocky relationships with her two grown daughters, and a younger, more attractive cohost who ruffles her feathers.

I enjoyed listening to this story as an audiobook while I did some painting in our living room last summer. It was amusing enough, and the cooking show aspect appealed to me since I love to cook so much. I could have done without the lame love interest, but I suppose romance is a must-have ingredient for this type of women’s fiction. In terms of my reading diet, you might say this book was more of a quick snack than a nutritious meal, but hey, if you’re not overly hungry, sometimes that’s all you need.

Being Martha by Lloyd Allen

What better companion to a story about a fictional character resembling Martha Stewart than a real-life account of the domestic maven herself? Written by a long-time neighbour and friend, this non-fiction narrative portrays the “real” Martha as she is seen, not through a TV camera lens, but through the eyes of those who know and love her.

I was truly inspired by this book (once again, downloaded as audio so I could listen to it on my iPhone). It made me want to be a little Martha Stewart in my own home: cooking delicious meals, keeping things spotless and well-organized, and making my plants and loved ones around me flourish. I suppose I identify with Martha not only because of my love for cooking, gardening, and crafts, but also because I tend to be a driven perfectionist too (although I’m learning to accept that life cannot and does not always have to be perfect).

Even Martha Stewart has made some mistakes in life. The book also talks about the time she spent behind bars following the infamous insider trading scandal. But even in prison, she was making crafts and crab-apple jelly.

I love the way Martha’s daughter Alexis defended her mom:

“No matter what they say about my mom, all she ever does is teach the world good things that will help them in life. So what if she shows you the perfect way to do it? Would you want your professor at school to do anything less in any other subject?”


In praise of audiobooks

Read me a story!

As a child, I was extremely fortunate to have a mother who often read to me at home. At school too, I used to love when the teacher would spend a whole period reading aloud from a chapter book. I suppose that part of me never really grew up.

As an adult, I still enjoy the pleasure of listening to someone else read to me. Audiobooks allow me to drive, or wash dishes, or do laundry, while savouring a good novel or non-fiction book at the same time. I’ve enjoyed many more books this way than I would have had time to sit down and read otherwise.

The latest library gadget: Playaways

Our library has something new to offer to audiobook lovers like me. They’re called Playaways. Each one comes loaded with a prerecorded audiobook. All the user has to do is insert one AAA battery and plug in a pair of earbuds. (The library sells earbuds for $2 to patrons who don’t have their own.)

The player is easy to use—not too many buttons—and small enough to fit in one’s pocket. Playaways can be checked out for 3 weeks, just like books, and patrons can either browse the selection on the shelf or request titles from other branches (again, just like books).

Downloads still win in my books

Personally, my favourite method of listening to audiobooks is still on my iPhone. I’m a big fan of downloadLibrary, through which our library also offers a wide selection of downloadable audiobooks. My phone goes with me everywhere, so whether I’m in the car or doing chores around the house, I can carry my audiobooks with me. Of course, the same holds true for Playaways, which are also very portable.

The advantage of downloaded audiobooks is that I can get them instantly at home, without having to go to the library to check out a physical copy. I never have to worry about overdue fines either, since the files automatically expire after the loan period is over. Hence, I never have to make a mad dash to return them in the bookdrop either.

Books on CD take third place

As for my third favourite kind of audiobook we offer, books on CD were a great invention at first, but the only thing they have going for them now is the fact that we have a lot of them in our collection. To me, they are more inconvenient because I can only play them in my car or on my computer. This is fine when I am driving or sitting at my desk, but it gets a little cumbersome to carry my laptop with me when I am running up and down the stairs to check on a load of laundry.

I think Playaways are great for people like me who like to listen to audiobooks on the go, especially for those who aren’t able to download audiobooks or who don’t own an mp3 player. I, for one, am hoping that our library will continue to expand our collection of these neat little devices.