Monday, July 24, 2017

Bonjour Kale

"On my first day of third grade, while playing a game to introduce ourselves, we had to choose a noun corresponding to the first letter of our first name.  I casually chose 'kale', not thinking twice about it, until I realized that none of my classmates knew what it was. This was when I began to understand that my mother and I ate differently than the majority of Americans, and that experiencing the flavors, aromas, and textures of different vegetables was something unique we shared."
~ Bonjour Kale, Kristen Beddard

Although Kristen Beddard, the author of Bonjour Kale: A Memoir of Paris, Love, and Recipes (published in 2016), grew up eating kale, she never expected that it would become a main focus in her life.  Kale was  one of the first vegetables she liked as a baby, and her mother continued to use a lot of it in recipes and salads as her daughter grew up. Years later, when Kristen moved from America to France with her husband, Phillip, she searched for kale because it had always been a staple in the kitchen and an important part of her life.

"Kale was comfort.  Kale was my childhood. Kale was my mom."
~ Bonjour Kale, Kristen Beddard

She could not imagine her adult life as a wife with a kitchen of her own without kale.  Unfortunately, though, when she got to Paris, she could not find le chou kale anywhere.  

"I had yet to find the leafy green in Paris. Not at a single market or at any grocery store. Farmers and maraîchers who sold a variety of vegetables didn't seem to know what it was, and after an intensive Internet search, I'd come to the conclusion that kale was nearly impossible to find."
~ Bonjour Kale, Kristen Beddard

In France, Kristen's passion for kale led her to adopt a new mission and purpose, although she only knew a few French words when she first moved from New York to Paris.  She faced several other obstacles as well on her unique quest, but slowly and surely, she reintroduced this versatile vegetable to the people of France, and it became a part of French cuisine again.  Due to Kristen's creation of The Kale Project, through her diligent work with local French farmers and others, kale is now available at many markets and restaurants throughout France. This beautiful memoir tells the story of how she accomplished this, in a down-to-earth (pun intended), honest, and entertaining manner.

In addition to telling Kristen's story, Bonjour Kale is full of recipes and helpful tips, and it even tells you how to grow your own kale, if you're so inclined.  Early in the book there's a section titled, Keeping a Kale Kitchen, which features tips about buying kale, washing kale, destemming kale, and massaging kale.  Yes, like a sore body, kale will benefit from a good massage. ;)

"The key to any good kale salad is a good massage.  On already washed and dried kale, add the dressing of your choice and massage the kale with your hands for a minute or so."
~ Bonjour Kale, Kristen Beddard


I relish books that include recipes, and I was definitely inspired to cook with kale as a result of reading this memoir.  (Over the years, I've become a "foodie"--I love to cook, eat, and photograph good food!  My children seem to be headed in the same direction.)  Soon after I started reading Bonjour Kale, I bought some (organic) kale as well as the ingredients to make Sharzie's Secret Sauce, to use as a dressing on a kale salad. There are several recipes in the book that I'd like to try, such as Kale Chips (Three Ways), Kale and Courgette (Zucchini) Soup, and one that doesn't feature kale, but sounds wonderful and simple, Slow-Roasted Tomatoes.

I loved Bonjour Kale!  It's a mervilleux memoir, a well-written, intelligent story of success, and I enjoyed reading it very much. 

Merci mille fois to Emma from France Book Tours for inviting me to join this tour.  I'm honored to be the first stop on the tour.  Please visit the other stops on the Bonjour Kale Book Tour for more reviews, giveaways, and other features.

Thank you for reading!  Your comments are welcomed.

Saturday, June 17, 2017


Walking can be a great way to relax and to come up with solutions, or to be inspired in some way.  For author Steve Cushman, the idea for his new book, Hopscotch, published in 2017, started while he was out walking his dog, Suzy, about 10 years ago.  In the author's own words, here's what happened.

"A block or so away from my house, we came across a hopscotch board someone had drawn on the sidewalk.  Normal enough stuff as we have a lot of kids in the neighborhood.  But for some reason on this day I wondered what would happen if a hopscotch board was on the sidewalk of the hospital where I worked.  I'd been working in hospitals for over twenty years and had never seen a hopscotch board at one of them.  So I started thinking about how such a thing might affect people at the hospital, whether patients or staff.  That was the start of it, and then over the years I added characters and situations and a hopeful mystery until somehow it felt done and ready for the world."

Hopscotch tells a story through the (third person) points of view of the main characters, Dr. Jeffrey Boles, Emily, John, Stan, Mary, Rosa, and Metalhead Mike.  Dr. Boles is the first one to notice a hopscotch board drawn in chalk in an unlikely place, on the sidewalk near the entrance of Alfred Stone Memorial Hospital in Greensboro, North Carolina, where he works as an orthopedic surgeon.  John, a janitor at the hospital, is asked to remove the hopscotch board, and he does (after hopping around on it a bit).  But after it's cleaned off, the hopscotch board mysteriously re-appears.

Emily, a young girl fighting cancer, Stan, a wheelchair-bound Iraqi War veteran, Mary, the wife of a man who's doing very poorly, Metalhead Mike, who has had a bad head injury, hospital staff, and others are drawn to the hopscotch board.  Each chapter is headed by the name of the character whose story is being told, making it easy to follow.  As you read you learn more about each character as their individual stories unfold. 

Hopscotch is heartbreaking at times, but it's also hopeful.  Although it's not labeled specifically as YA fiction, I think this absorbing novel will appeal to young adults, due to a format that makes it easy to follow, its shorter length, and to the focus on some younger characters and the childhood game of hopscotch.  As an "older adult", though, I enjoyed reading this book very much.  I cared about the characters, which counts for a lot.  The hopscotch board--a symbol of hope in a setting that's often associated with illness and despair--makes the characters smile, and it made me smile, too.  This childhood game provides a welcome respite from their cares and troubles.  The stories in this book are touching, and the hopscotch board is a silver lining that connects the characters and provides joy, hope, and simple fun.  This is a wonderful book! 


Every Saturday, Booking Mama hosts Kid Konnection, a fun feature that highlights books for children and young adults.  Many thanks to the author for sending me an advanced reading copy of his new book.

Thanks for stopping by!  Your comments are welcomed.

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