Review: Bagels, Schmears, and a Nice Piece of Fish by Cathy Barrow


Thank you to Net Galley for providing a Kindle copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

My Interest

We’re a weird family. I’d guess cinnamon rolls or biscuits and gravy (or a trip to iHop) are the most popular Christmas breakfasts in very rural Southwestern Ohio, but we have everything bagels topped with smoked salmon, aka “lox,” cream cheese, capers, and red onion. It’s a mandatory part of Christmas just like the chocolate oranges and tuna fish for the cats. (WHERE do we buy this in very rural land? Kroger–we’re right outside the national HG and, if they are out, Jungle Jim’s at Eastgate carries it, but both run short at the holidays so someone else IS eating it or they don’t order very much–I suspect the latter.) I was looking at Net Galley while stressing with another shortage–the right cure of lox for our breakfast, when I saw this little cookbook and requested it.

The Story–or Contents

Wow! I was impressed. I could eat the pictures! Lox, herring (a childhood favorite of mine was herring in sour cream–yes, I was odd. My cousin got so sick one night from eating too much pickled herring she still can’t get near it and that was in 1971). The various cheese spreads are all delicious-sounding, though being almost in the South here (at least people are in culinary terms) Pimento cheese on a bagel might raise a few local eyebrows no matter how delicious it might be. Smoked whitefish salad? Bring it! Smoked trout spread? Yes, please. On and on with the foodie goodness of this little book. And the sandwiches? Huge piles of goodness between the two halves of the bagel. Forget going to a New York deli–enjoy them at home because this book lets you develop a bagel bakery AND deli in your own home.  But bacon on a bagel…..holy culture clash! Never mind, I know it will be delicious! Also covered are pickling your own lox or veggies and assembling a lovely bagel platters for guests on special occasions

In addition to the food, we also learn the story of the author’s family and of why she came to make her own bagels. It was an enjoyable little read.

My Thoughts

This one is a keeper! I will definitely be trying a few things–the Smoked Whitefish salad first up, I imagine, if I can get the fish.

One minor complaint, which may be related to the pre-publication status of the book was the index and some of the phots, were a mess. That’s a shame, but probably does not carry over into the published volume. And, it does not, however, keep you from enjoying all the great eating this book will inspire. You can read more at the author’s blog,

My Verdict

4 big bagels!

Bagels, Schmears, and a Nice Piece of Fish by Cathy Barrow is available for pre-order now to be delivered on March 15. 2022.

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Something Different: Top Three Recipes of 2021


I love to cook, have an extensive cookbook library, and most nights fix a real dinner–even if just for myself. I have always chosen healthy (healthier?) foods, but tend to eat too much! I’ve been successful at cutting back and making real changes so you won’t find any choices here that are too “dangerous.” My taste is mine and mine alone. If you don’t think these sound good–that’s fine! But, if you do try one of these recipes–will you let me know if you liked it? None are my original creations, just ones I’ve found and loved.

Super Easy, Super Good Chicken Sheet Pan Dinner from Frugal Fit Mom: 4:06 Cajun Chicken

My adult son and I have eaten this Cajun Chicken sheet pan dinner so often this year! It works fine with frozen corn on the cob, but thaw the corn a little first. It is, of course, best with fresh corn. I’ve used both what is called “fresh thyme” at my grocery store (in those plastic clam shells) and dried. Either is fine. I’m a big Christine fan, too. I watch all her videos–often when I eat dinner alone. She has good tips and is high-energy in a way that I find helpful to me.

The upscale, but easy, and wonderful Pappardelle Pasta with Rosemary Portobello Mushroom Sauce from Family Style Food


Photo by: Family Style Food   Exact page link click here.

Please click to read Family Style Food’s original post for this great vegetarian dish! Karen Tedesco gives great advice on selecting the mushrooms and about the pasta. I confess that actual pappardelle is too expensive where I live so I used lasagna sheets I cut in wide strips. No matter–the flavor of this dish is superb. And it looks so impressive on a plate or in a pasta bowl! Crusty bread, a lightly dressed fresh greens salad and –wow! A super easy, healthy, delicious dinner.

Link to the recipe: Pappardelle Pasta With Rosemary Portobello Mushroom Sauce

The superb daily lunch dish–with or without the toast.

Marinated White Beans With Olive Oil Toast from How Sweet Eats


Photo by How Sweet Eats

I confess again: The toast made with artisan bread is soooooo good I had to quit buying the bread! I love good bread. I love good olive oil. Enough said! The marinated beans are a great, filling lunch that do not put you into an over-stuffed food coma. I have made this many times with or without the sun dried tomatoes or without the feta cheese–any version is just wonderful. The hardest part of this dish is leaving it alone to marinate until lunch time. It’s also great on a plain salad of field greens.

Link to the recipe: Marinated White Beans on Olive Oil Toast from How Sweet Eats


Review: World Travel: An Irreverent Guide by Anthony Bourdain and Laurie Woolever

My Interest

I devoured Kitchen Confidential when it came out, but oddly, I’ve never watched more than a few minutes of any of Anthony (“Tony”) Bourdain’s tv shows–I prefer reading about food and travel (and, until last week when my daughter gave me one) I do not own a tv. (I occasionally watch online though). After reading this book, I doubt I’ll go in search of any of Boudain’s tv shows, but I would be I might read more of his word. His style is not mine. It’s more Bobby Knight than I’d like–especially around food. But he certainly knew good food and exciting travel.

The Story

At the time of his death in 2018, Bourdain and his “lieutenant,” Laurie Woolever, were at work on the project of telling about people, places, and most importantly, food he had encountered over his twenty years of making travel and food tv programs. Unfortunately, they only got to have that one meeting. Tony ended his life and left Laurie with the idea to finish the project. Instead of Tony writing about places and experiences he’d loved, friends, coworkers, and relatives have contributed prose and memories. Tony’s words, drawn from his television shows and writing, make up the balance of the book.

In this world tour, I enjoyed all of his stops, but I was especially drawn to two places–the first of which is Salvador in Brazil. I was taken in by the interesting sound of the taste of a caipirinhas [a lime juice-based cocktail with sugar cane “spirits”] and for the acaraje. What’s not to like about this:

“[A] paste a batter, a falafel-like wad of smushed-up black-eyed peas, seasoned with ground dried shrimp and onions, deep-friend till crispy and golden, in some chili-spiked dende oil [red palm oil]. On top you got your catapa which is, sort of, a shrimp curry paste, and your tomato salad, your friend shrimp, your cararao frito. A must.”

As Bourdain points out in his tv show [transcript] the slave trade was very big in Brazil. You can certainly tell that just from the description above of the acaraje. Black-eyed peas [“cowpeas” in some parts of Africa], red palm oil, dried shrimp? How much more West African can you get? But you are eating it in South America. Love that whole picture. Wash it down with a caiprinhas. which to me evokes memories of Malwai and Cathay, a sugar cane “spirit” that could knock over a Teamster with its kick.

The second most compelling portrait was of Barcelona:

Outside of Asia, this is it: the best and most exciting place to it in the world.”

That’s a pretty bold statement even for as bold a guy as Tony was.

“The simple, good things of Spain that most Spaniards see as a birthright…’How can ham be this good?! How can something that comes in a can be that terrific. Simple things–an anchovy, an olive, a piece of cheese. Really really simple things, the little things that you see every day here–that’s what’s cool about Spain.'”

I love everything about this statement–simple food that lends itself to daily life, to visiting with friends. Food that fills you up but doesn’t weigh you down. Sign me up!

My Thoughts

There was no place in this book I wouldn’t want to see and experience. I must admit, though, that shark’s live and various types of tripe do nothing to my taste bud, but do make my gag reflex kick in. Ok, so I’m not as adventurous as Tony–not many of us are. But to eat my way through all the versions of wonderful Piri-Piri chicken in Mozambique, or sample street foods in India or Singapore. Those would certainly be amazing meals.

As for the book–it isn’t nice to criticize a posthumously published book. But, this, in essence, was a copy-and-paste of a dead man’s tv orations, padded out with words from a woman who was his assistant and with whom he wrote a cookbook. While Laurie Woolever’s prose was wonderfully descriptive and does set the scene well, I must say I was underwhelmed by this repackaging of Tony. When Laurie was asking herself if the world really needed this book, she should have listened to her gut saying, “Probably not.” Tony’s vision for the book would have been much better as it would have been populated with his planned essays on places, food, experiences, and more. Bourdain’s larger-than-life personality does well on the tv screen. Transcribing those words spoke, shouted, or muttered into the camera in a specific context, is just not great reading. Nonetheless, it is still a decent addition to contemporary travel literature for those who want a super-quick read. [“How thoroughly passive-aggressive can she be?” I hear you asking! LOL]

My Verdict


World Travel: An Irreverent Guide by Anthony Bourdain and Laurie Woolever




Review: In The Kitchen: Writing on Home Cooking and More


My Interest

I loved the cover was the first reason I chose this one. I also have been having good luck with essays and similar lately so decided to try to read more of them this year. Bonus: After reading this I decided I must make and try Pelau! (The recipe linked is from the essay’s author.)

The Essays

The collection is divided into the following categories:

  • Coming to the Kitchen
  • Reading and Writing the Kitchen
  • Beyond the Kitchen

Within those categories, the essays were sometimes idiotic (an annotated list of all the stoves in the author’s various homes over the course of her adult life) frequently mediocre to “fine” (as in “just fine”), and occasionally very good. I’m reviewing the best ones, but not in any ranked order:

Brain Work by Laura Freeman

I knew I’d love this essay when she started it off quoting from Muriel Spark’s Girls of Slender Means. Freeman tells us about her reading author’s diaries, something I love to do. Specifically, she looks at what writer’s have for lunch. I love little details like that in diaries. This was a fun “literary” look at food.

Food is a Bridge to Community by Julia Turshen

While this was occasionally a little eye-rolling for me as a Midwesterner almost 30 years older than the author, I admired her by the end. We might use different terms, but we share the same sort of ideals. Who doesn’t love someone passionate enough about a person, place, idea, or cause that they get up do something about it? In this case, the author coordinated the creation of a cookbook that she then sold to raise $20,000 for an organization close to her heart. She also gives generously of her time to a local food charity and created a database of food professionals of all sorts “featuring only women and gender non-conforming individuals” (p. 100). I like her mantra: “You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to have an impact.”

The New Thing by Juliet Annan

Annan’s essay references writer Laurie Colwin’s book Home Cooking, which a friend has pushed me to read for years (I have read another of her books), so two pushes by other author’s toward this book in less than two months means I will be finding a copy and reading it soon. Nora Ephron and a host of folks like Nigella and Jamie show up, too. In addition, she talks about the first “sensation” cookbook of my adult life–The Silver Palate Cookbook, out of which I managed to cook NOTHING. That was in the days when half the ingredients required a trip to Atlas Supermarket in Broad Ripple (think Doll’s Market in St. Matthews), a place that intimidated me on my best days. I think I donated my copy a few years ago to the library book sale.

In The Kitchen: Writing on Home Cooking and More

Do you enjoy food writing? Do you ever read cookbook? Have a favorite food writer? Leave me a comment or post.

Other Foodie Posts:

Books for a Foodie Lit Class

Food For a Younger Land by Mark Kurlansky

Save Me The Plums by Ruth Reichel

Hippie Food by Jonathon Kauffman

10 Yummy Foods Mentioned in Books

A Boat. A Whale & A Walrus by Renee Erickson [scroll down in the post]