Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Book Review and special treat: Georgia's Kitchen

By Melissa Amster

“Georgia’s Kitchen” (by Jenny Nelson) was on my “must-read” list this summer. I had only heard good things and lots of hype, so I had to check it out for myself.

In this novel, Georgia has an amazing career ahead of her, banking on a potential good review from a very tough food critic. She’s also engaged to an entertainment lawyer. Anyone would think she had it made. Then the review turns out to be worse than she expected and things go south with her fiancée. With nothing left to lose, she reconnects with her former boss in Italy and gets a summer job at a new restaurant. Although things start off shaky, soon she is able to regain her reputation that was marred by the review and she’s handed another tough career decision.

With “Georgia’s Kitchen,” Jenny Nelson spins a charming tale that, combined with delicious sounding food, is enough to reel in any chick lit or cooking aficionado. I think this story has all the makings of what great chick lit is meant to be and could easily be optioned for a feature-length film. Her use of description really allows the reader to feel like they’re standing right next to Georgia the entire time, seeing everything that she sees. In that respect, I could practically taste the food as she was describing it and it made me want to go out for a nice Italian meal when I was finished. Georgia was very easy to relate to. (For me personally, we're close in age and we both have frizzy hair.) She's down-to-earth and knows what she wants out of life. She doesn't let bad situations become setbacks, nor does she wallow in self-pity (at least not for too long). The other characters were vivid and had some interesting personalities. I enjoyed reading Georgia’s interactions with each of them. Her two best friends were especially funny and sounded like women that I would enjoy getting to know better.

The one thing I feel Ms. Nelson could have done to enhance this novel is to add more spice. Given what the back cover says, we all know that Georgia meets a hot Italian guy during her stay in Florence. At one point, she even claims that she had “incredible sex” with him. All I could tell was that they kissed and he touched her a few times. I was waiting for some hot “romantic” scenes that would leave me blushing and lightheaded in the same way Sue Margolis, Marian Keyes and Jennifer Weiner have written such scenes in their books. I’m hoping that over time, Ms. Nelson won’t hold back on such “spice” in her novels.

Overall, this was a fun and entertaining story and it even had some twists I did not expect. I know it’s challenging to write a novel on concepts that have been used before (woman’s life falls apart and she escapes to another country or town to find herself). However, I feel Ms. Nelson did a nice job portraying this concept and also taking on new angles. If you’re looking for good chick lit, you’ve come to the right place.

And as an extra special treat, Jenny Nelson wanted to share one of her favorite recipes for a nice summer meal:

I’m on a lemon zest kick. Lately I’ve been adding it to all my pasta and grain salads, sprinkling it on fish and chicken, even adding it to soup! This pasta salad is easy and delicious, perfect for dinner on a warm late-summer night. If you love zest as much as I do, feel free to bump it up a notch for even more lemony goodness!

Lemon Pasta Salad with Tomatoes and Feta
7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons whole grain mustard
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

12 ounces penne pasta
2 cups small cherry tomatoes, halved
1 1/2 cups chopped red bell peppers
1 1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese
1 cup chopped green onions

Whisk oil, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, and lemon peel in small bowl to blend. Season dressing with salt and pepper.
Cook penne in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite. Drain. Rinse pasta with cold water to cool quickly and drain again. Transfer pasta to large bowl. Add tomatoes, bell peppers, feta cheese, and green onions. Pour dressing over and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Recipe from Epicurious.com

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