Review: Real Food for Dogs: 50 Vet-Approved Recipes to Please the Canine Gastronome ~ Arden Moore, Anne Davis

DogsLots of people enjoy making or buying treats for their pets, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to cook a real meal for the four-legged member of the household? Quirky yet practical, these cookbooks provide recipes that are nutritionally balanced and veterinarian-approved. They even include sections on “tandem” recipes – recipes for humans that, with slight modifications, can also be served to pets.


4 Thumbs-UpI know this is not the kind of book I would normally review, but after being asked many times if I have any recipes for dog treats, and what do I feed our very old dogs, I decided to review this book of recipes.

Since it was recommended by our vet, who is very much aware of what ‘rubbish’ they put into the generic store bought dog foods; and once I received the seal of approval from her to use it with a couple of tweaks for our dogs, it is a book that it used on an almost daily basis in our house.

Having older dogs, and being aware that as they age even more their taste buds tend to deteriorate, this is an ideal book full of recipes for people who are worried about their dog not eating or enjoying their food as much as they used to.  It is chock full of tasty recipes that can be cooked ahead and frozen, plus a section on recipes that can be made for both human and canine (with some tweaks) consumption.  Some of the recipes do call for a large amount of garlic and as too much of this is not good for our furry friends, I either ramp back the amount I use, or omit it all together from the recipe.  This doesn’t seem to affect the enjoyment the dogs get out of this food, and since I have been cooking for them they have lost a lot of that ‘middle age spread’ so many breeds (especially labs) seem to suffer from.  Not giving them processed foods has also resulted in a decline in that nasty gas dogs are able to conjure up at a moment’s notice, and has put a spring in their step.

One of my complaints about this book is that the Author, both vets themselves, seem to be under the impression that the reader has bottomless pockets with which to buy the ingredients; I find that there are some very well priced substitutes for some of the items listed in the ingredients that will not break any pet owners budget.  On the plus side of this review are the recipes for dog treats; the favourite on for my dogs is the peanut butter dog treats which only involves 4 ingredients, and makes enough treats to last a couple of weeks.  Another good thing about this book is that is caters to dogs of all sizes, so there is no scaling up of amounts for large dog breeds or reduction for their smaller counterparts.

I would recommend this book to all dog owners who are looking to remove processed foods from their animal’s diets; however, please make sure to check any and all new recipes or food items with your vet before feeding them to your pet. And, for the cat lovers out there, there is also a cat recipe version of this book.


Review: Bread and Bullets; The Story of Sacrifice in American Homes to Feed the Troops in World War II ~ Kent Whitaker

Bread and BulletsThe U.S. a collection of cities serviced by outlying farms and producers is amazingly transformed into a nation serviced, by a national food production industry to meet the needs of fighting a world war. The armed services, 350,000 strong at the war’s start, quickly grew to 11,000,000 men and women who had to be fed along with the millions more on the home front. This is the story of the transformation to meet those needs and the interesting stories about the people, prominent and not-so prominent, of the era and the food they liked to eat and more frequently, what they had to eat. Many stories from the troops on the front are included and so too, many recipes suitable for today’s dining.

3 Thumbs-UpThis book is a great piece of writing and research, and hit 3 areas that I particularly enjoy reading and learning about.  As I read this book it brought to mind another covering WWII recipes published by the Imperial War Museum in England, but ‘Bread and Bullets’ has a wider scope than the IWM book.

The book itself is divided into 3 sections; history, memoirs and recipes that I tried, some of which with excellent results.  The first section of the book covers all things related to the history of war-time food including famous people and food companies of that era.  The reader is educated in the ways of the military cooks and bakers that fed the armed forces in a time of combat.  Despite their often being ridiculed by those that had to eat their offerings, we learn that they did the best they could with the ingredients on hand and, often under some very stressful situations; trying to make sure that the fighting forces never went without a meal was no mean task, and the work that went into this adds new meaning to the phrase ‘an Army fights on its stomach’.  The numbers that had to be catered for were absolutely mind-boggling and, until reading this I did not realise how much of defining factor food actually played in the war effort.  Especially interesting from a historical point of view is the comparison between Allied and Axis food.

Memoirs from both military personnel and their families back home, add a human aspect to this book some of which make the reader chuckle and others which are quite poignant.  Through their words, and the skill of the Author, the reader learns about victory gardening and the impact of rationing on the daily lives of real people.  Reading these experiences makes one wonder why, in our times of plentiful food are we not more conscious of what we use, and aim to cut down our food wastage and even grow more of our own vegetables. The recipes, and yes the Author admits some of the ingredients are spelled wrong, are included for historical purposes only, but using modern hygiene standards and ingredients they are easily adaptable for any reader, like myself, who wants to try them out.  After all how many readers of this book would have access to a WWII helmet to cook in?  Also, as the reader who tries them out is not likely to be cooking for 100+ people, any scaling down of ingredients needs to be double checked before trying out to avoid disastrous results.

As much as I enjoyed reading this book, and putting my cooking skills and recipe adaptations to the test, there were a lot of proofreading errors that should have been picked by the Editor before this book went to print.  The result of this was it really pulled from my overall enjoyment of the book, and I felt that the Author had maybe used a generic spell-check program when going through their work as some words just did not make any sense in context.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoy WWII history, be it from a military or home front perspective; also readers who enjoy books that include recipes that they would like to challenge themselves with would be well advised to give this book a look.


Review: Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris ~ Ann Mah

Mastering the art

When journalist Ann Mah’s diplomat husband is given a three-year assignment in Paris, Ann is overjoyed. A lifelong foodie and Francophile, she immediately begins plotting gastronomic adventures à deux. Then her husband is called away to Iraq on a year-long post—alone. Suddenly, Ann’s vision of a romantic sojourn in the City of Light is turned upside down.

So, not unlike another diplomatic wife, Julia Child, Ann must find a life for herself in a new city.  Journeying through Paris and the surrounding regions of France, Ann combats her loneliness by seeking out the perfect pain au chocolat and learning the way the andouillette sausage is really made. She explores the history and taste of everything from boeuf Bourguignon to soupe au pistou to the crispest of buckwheat crepes. And somewhere between Paris and the south of France, she uncovers a few of life’s truths.

Like Sarah Turnbull’s Almost French and Julie Powell’s New York Times bestseller Julie and Julia, Mastering the Art of French Eating is interwoven with the lively characters Ann meets and the traditional recipes she samples. Both funny and intelligent, this is a story about love—of food, family, and France.

5 Thumbs-Up

This book was a double delight for me to read, and took me a while to finish.  Not because it was slow-moving or plodding, but because at the end of each chapter there are recipes; recipes I just had to try out, ingredients permitting.

This is a novel, a travel book and a foodies paradise all rolled into the memoirs of the Author, and anyone who delights in reading any of these genres, either as a whole or separately will revel in this book.  The Author describes her love of Paris and how it came about, and the joy she felt at knowing they would actually be able to live there for a predetermined amount of time.  I fully related with her life of having to pack up and move every three years and, her excitement at going to a place that had been on her ‘wish-list’ for such a long time really spoke to me, as I am sure it will to every reader who lives a nomadic work connected lifestyle.

Like the Author, I am a Gallophile and love Paris.  This made it especially easy for me to fall into the book, and experience with her the sights and sounds of the city; remembering that same awkwardness of speaking French to a native.  Some of the areas she travels to outside of the city, I had not visited but through the skilful writing style of the Author I was there with her speeding through the countryside with my large baguette and wine bottle snugly secure in the back seat.  Into her memoir, the Author deftly weaves pertinent histories of the regions we travel with her to, and this just adds more flavour to those wonderful recipes.  This is a book that is both mentally and visually pleasing, not because it is jammed packed with travel and food photographs, but because the Author has described every detail of the year of the title with such depth, humour and courtesy, the reader has a clear image of what is taking place on the pages before them.

The recipes are delicious, and so easy to follow.  However, some of them require ingredients that may be difficult for the reader to come by depending on their location; do not be discouraged by this as there are plenty more that can be made with ingredients on hand and have you longing to travel to their region of origin.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves to travel, eat regional foods or just wants a good read with a little extra included.


Paper and Pies

I know that National Book Lovers Day took place yesterday August 9, but I had a review that I just had to post on that day so I was unable to write about this.  Plus it was also an unofficial holiday for all us book-worms and this would’ve meant taking time out from my latest read to sit down and put a piece together.  How could I possibly do that?

Apart from reading I also love to cook, in fact it’s another passion of mine that very few people know about.  So I tend to get a little excited when I come across something that hits both of these loves in one shot.  I’m talking about food centred fiction, and if that fiction contains recipes, be still my beating heart!

In celebration of National Book Lovers Day, although belatedly, I’d like to share with you my top ten reads, not in any order of preference, for lovers of the printed word AND food:

Book cupcakes

Friendship Bread ~ Darien Gee;  About life and loss, friendship and community, food and family, this book tells the uplifting story of what endures when even the unthinkable happens.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café ~Fannie Flagg; As an elderly woman relays her dynamic life story to a friend in the throes of a midlife crisis, readers get to know the townsfolk of Whistle Stop, Alabama, and their many mysteries.

Like Water for Chocolate ~ Laura Esquivel; In Mexico, a repressed daughter forbidden to be with the man she loves learns how to affect her world via the food she serves to others. Recipes set the tone for every chapter.

Blackberry Crumble: A Culinary Mystery ~ Josi Kilpack;  Sadie accepts her first investigation-for-hire and travels to Portland, Oregon, at the request of a woman who has suspicions about her wealthy father’s untimely death; includes eight recipes.

The Epicure’s Lament ~ Kate Christensen;  Hugo smokes and cooks and sexually schemes and pokes his perverse nose into other people’s marriages and business; and he records these events as well as his mordant, funny, gorgeously articulated personal history and his thoughts on life and mortality in a series of notebooks complete with recipes.

Monsieur Pamplemousse ~ Michael Bond; An esteemed food critic and his trusty bloodhound, Pommes Frites, find themselves embroiled in mystery when they are served a man’s head on a platter. It’s the start of a light-hearted series set in France.

Chocolat (Chocolat #1) ~ Joanne Harris; Mayhem ensues when a newcomer opens a chocolate shop in a small French village. Soon the townspeople crave not only the delicious confections available to purchase but also the company of the eerily insightful shop owner.

World of Pies ~ Karen Stolz;  Roxanne is our guide through a life that has moments of tenderness, poignancy, sorrow, and great humour, as well as some pretty great baking moments (recipes included).

Pomegranate Soup ~ Marsha Mehran; Each chapter is loosely based around a new recipe that is made in the cafe where the story is based. Mostly Middle Eastern

Househusband ~ Ad Hudler; Lincoln Menner is finding out just how hard it is to be a woman. “When his wife Jo was offered her dream job, Linc supported her wholeheartedly, leaving his thriving landscape business in Los Angeles and moving to Rochester, New York.

So there it is.  The recipes that are contained in some of the above books are amazing and play a part in the novels as a whole.  Even without the recipes, all these books are well worth taking some time out of your busy lives to read.

Buon appetito!