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Cooking the Books | Comfort Me With Apples by Ruth Reichl

Welcome to Cooking the Books (where we try recipes found in, well, books!)

Ruth Reichl’s memoir, Comfort Me With Apples: More Adventures from the Table, follows a burgeoning restaurant critic in the late 1970’s. Reichl, born in New York, starts her career as a chef in San Francisco with her artist husband. The memoir takes a frank look at relationships, occupational hazards, and of course, food. Reichl accounts meeting celebrities such as Wolfgang Puck and comedian Danny Kaye, details unusual experiences (like a 6 hour meal made entirely with garlic) and madcap adventures in the front (and back) rooms of restaurants far and wide. As would be expected in a memoir by a foodie, each chapter entails one or more extraordinary meals, and Reichl’s prose elicits the aromas, flavors and emotions (from sentimental to hilarious) of good food.

Recipes are sprinkled throughout the text – including sweet potato pie – that Reichl baked over and over again as therapy after being mugged near Berkley, California. It is this recipe that I brought to work for review by colleagues.

Sweet Potato Pie

From Comfort Me With Apples by Ruth Reichl


1 medium sweet potatoes (1.25 lbs)
¼ cup unsalted butter
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup whole milk
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
1 TB dark rum
1 TB flour
1 unbaked 9 inch pie shell


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prick the sweet potatoes with a fork and roast them in a shallow pan in the oven until tender, about 1.25 hours. Cool to room temperature. Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees and place a cookie sheet on the bottom rack. Scoop the flesh from the potatoes into a bowl and discard the skins. Mash the potatoes until smooth. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and stir in the sugar. Add the melted butter mixture to the sweet potatoes with the milk and eggs and beat with a whisk until smooth. Whisk in the remaining ingredients (will be quite liquidy). Pour the filling into the pie shell. Carefully transfer the pie to the heated cookie sheet on the bottom rack of the oven and bake until filling is just set, about 40 minutes. Put on a pie rack to cool.


My colleagues’ reactions:  “This is utterly delightful. Sweet potato pie is one of my favorite desserts, and it reminds me of my grandma.” “OMG delicious.” “Reminiscent of pumpkin pie, but with a milder, more subtle flavor and wetter texture. 9/10”

Another colleague, originally suspicious of a sweet potato pie recipe from an east coast native, noted “I owe an apology to the New Yorker. The pie was quite delicious.”


My verdict: The pie came out a vibrant amber color, smooth on top and in texture, and I thought, absolutely delicious, if not a bit on the sweet side. I plan to substitute sweet potato for pumpkin pie for the foreseeable future, perhaps using less sugar depending on the flavor of the potatoes. The book was entertaining and educational – so I recommend both!

Pie: 5 stars. Book: 5 stars.

Cooking the Books | Blueberry Blunder by Amanda Flower

Welcome back to Cooking the Books (where we try recipes found in, well, books!)

Amanda Flower’s who-done-it, Blueberry Blunder (An Amish Candy Shop Mystery #8) was an exploration into a genre I don’t normally frequent. As more of a literary fiction gal myself, my exposure to cozy mysteries has thus far been to admire the punny titles on the library’s paperback spinner rack:  Another One Bites the Crust, Dim Sum of All Fears – you get the point. However, when I saw this recipe included in the back pages (Blueberry-and-Cream Fudge) I decided to take a leap for the sake of…research.

The plot:  Bailey is a candy shop owner in Amish country Ohio, building her dream:  a candy factory. When her contractor is murdered, she is the self-appointed sleuth out to clear her friend’s family name. There’s plenty of pleasant dialog, an adorable pet pig, and enough small-town festival charm to fuel a Hallmark movie. I did become more invested in the mystery as the novel progressed and found the Amish culture descriptions enlightening.

The recipe:  I cooked up the fudge, refrigerated it, and brought it to work the next day. While it was set, it was difficult to get out of the pan. Pro tip: when it says “line the pan with parchment” line the bottom and the sides in one large piece. That way, the fudge can be lifted out to be cut and served.

My colleagues’ reactions:

The flavor:  “More blueberry!” “I can’t believe I’m saying this – too sweet!”

The texture:  “Creamy, but hard to get out of the pan.” “Texture was perfect.”

Overall:  “Messy – probably needs to be refrigerated?”  “I would eat this again!”

In summary: I am more than happy to move on from the cozy mystery genre, and despite my love of all things sweet, this recipe is not one I will try again.

Book and recipe: 2/5 stars

Bailey’s Blueberry-and-Cream Fudge

from Blueberry Blunder by Amanda Flower


1 cup fresh blueberries
½ T cornstarch
1 T lemon juice
¼ cup sugar
24 oz white chocolate chips
¼ stick of unsalted butter
14 oz sweetened condensed milk


Line a 9×9 pan with parchment.

Make the blueberry sauce. In a small pan, add blueberries, sugar, lemon juice and cornstarch over medium heat. Stir continuously and smash the blueberries until you have a thick sauce like a puree. Using a fine mesh strainer, push the puree through into a bowl.

Make the fudge cream. Over a double, add the white chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk and butter. Stir continuously to blend and until all the chocolate is melted.

Pour ⅓ of the white chocolate mixture into the 9×9 pan. Pour ⅓ of the blueberry sauce on top of the chocolate in the pan. Using a knife, swirl the white chocolate and blueberry together. Repeat these steps twice more.

Place the pan in fridge to set for at least three hours. Cut into pieces and eat. Fudge can last for one week in an airtight container.

Staff Picks — Anne

As a run-of-the-mill literary fiction fan, the novels on this list will not surprise anyone, however, I challenged myself with a few memoirs. Here are five recent reads I highly recommend.

Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal

As a craft beer enthusiast, this book had me at ‘hello’ and bonus points for a Mid-Western setting. The story follows two generations of women brewers, both talented chemists and business professionals, and illustrates how entrepreneurial spirit can lose its way in stuffy board rooms and bottom lines.

Driftless by David Rhodes 

Perhaps I’m biased (I was born in the Driftless Area of Wisconsin) but this was a fantastic read. Small town, small farm characters are fleshed out in each of their own chapters, lives intertwining, as is true. It’s a substantial book and beautiful to read.

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Why did I choose this book? Well, the hold list at the library indicated something was going on here. When my copy finally came in, I went along for the ride through this high energy, mid-century setting, hitting sexism head-on with humor, a sentient dog, and many good digs at the patriarchy. ‘This would make an excellent movie’ – I said before I realized it has been made into an Apple TV series!

The Storyteller by Dave Grohl

As a Gen-Xer, musician Dave Grohl’s memoir of the hard work and lucky breaks that led to his fame with Nirvana and Foo Fighters, is pop culture candy. The audiobook kept both my husband and I entertained for hundreds of miles in the car, and the audio book narrated by Dave himself really comes to life with his authentically goofy and riotous voice.

Epilogue by Will Boast

Initially, this memoir peaked my interest because of my familiarity with the settings of Boast’s coming of age (small-town Wisconsin and Knox College), but I whole-heartedly recommend it as an undeniably powerful story in its subject and craft.

Cooking the Books — Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

 Welcome to Cooking the Books, where we try recipes found in, well, books! This month, Technical Services Supervisor Anne tried out a recipe from one of her recent favs: I first read J. Ryan Stradal’s The Lager Queen of Minnesota this spring and I couldn’t put it down. When it was announced that Stradal was stopping by Galesburg’s Wordsmith Bookshoppe literally days after I finished the novel, I hustled on over. Stradal was polite, unassuming and kindly posed for a photo with me. (I’ll not share the photo as my Saturday-doing-chores look was not my best.) Soon after, I found myself purchasing an autographed copy of his 2015 novel Kitchens of the Great Midwest. The storyline follows the coming of age of Eva, a chef with a select palate, who’s life is woven through a cast of characters, all tied together by food. The book begins with memories of lutefisk, meanders Read more »

From Technical Services — Book Repair

Hardcover and paperback books don’t last forever, especially when they are well-loved and fall apart – literally – but don’t despair, the library can put the pieces back together again!

The Technical Services staff assess materials needing repair and utilize three main components:  glue, tape, and a helpful machine called Cover One. This machine heats the book glue and helps adhere pages back onto the spine.  The machine can also bind materials in-house, transforming loose-leave pages instantly into a bound volume.

Book repair preserves library treasures, saves resources, and returns your favorites back to the shelves (almost) as good as new!

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From Technical Services — Processing to Protect

Ever wonder what happens behind the scenes to get materials ready for our shelves? Here’s a peek into the life of a book as it’s physically processed in the Technical Services department.

When new materials arrive, Technical Services staff physically process items to protect them and extend their lives on our shelves. Those colorful and informative book jackets on hardcover books are covered with plastic, protecting them from moisture, so you can enjoy the book design AND its contents! Paperbacks are covered in a thicker plastic to prevent bends and rips and to strengthen them for standing straight on the shelves.

After covers are secured, staff construct labels with collection and call number information so materials can be shelved…

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Staff Picks — November 2021: Anne

Curious what the staff of GPL likes to read? Every month we’ll share five titles we’ve read recently. All titles are available for checkout at the library — give us a call or visit the catalog to put one on hold!

A divorced woman returns to her childhood home where she confronts the memory of her parents’ confounding yet deep bond. The accidental near-drowning of a child exposes the fragility of the trust between children and parents. A young man, remembering a terrifying childhood incident, wrestles with the responsibility he has always felt for his younger brother. In these…

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