Saturday, September 13, 2014

Weekend Cooking: Small Plates by Katherine Hall Page

This post is part of Beth Fish Reads' Weekend Cooking.  If you have anything related to food, cookbook reviews, novel or non-fiction book reviews, recipes, movie reviews, etc., head over to Beth Fish Reads and add your post. Or, if you want to read food related posts, head over to read what some interesting people have to say about food. 
Small Plates by Katherine Hall Page 
Published by William Morrow ISBN 9780062310798
Hardcover, $24.99, 240 pages

Katherine Hall Page writes a mysteries series starring Faith Fairchild, a New York City caterer who marries a minister from from Massachusetts and moves there with him to start a family. Like Jessica Fletcher of TV's Murder, She Wrote, Faith frequently finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation that only she can solve.

Page's newest book is a short story collection Small Plates, most featuring Faith and her adventures. They are like little tapas, and like tapas, some are more tasty than others. There are nine non-linked stories here, and the last one, The Two Marys, is the longest and in my opinion, the best one.

Mary Bethany is a unmarried middle aged women who cared for her parents until their death. Now she only has her beloved nanny goats for company in the winter, and the guests who stay at her B&B home in the warmer months.

She finds a baby in her barn on Christmas morning, along with a note asking Mary to care for Christopher, and $50,000 in cash. Mary calls her neighbor Faith and asks her to help her find the mother, whom she believes is in big trouble.

I liked the character of Mary, and when Page has the time in the story to draw us into the characters and story, I found it more satisfying.

Some of other stories, which are much shorter, are interesting as well, such as Death In The Dunes and Across The Pond, where the moral of the stories is beware of your sister. The Hiding Place has a clever twist to the story of a woman who yearns to start a family with her loving husband, and when she finds that her husband hides things in odd places, she finds it charming- at first.

The Would-Be Widower tells the story of Mr. Carter, who wants to be a widower, "and, since he already had a wife, he figured he was halfway there." The writing crackles in this one, and like a good Alfred Hitchcock story, there is some humor here as Mr. Carter schemes to kill his wife to accomplish his goal.

Sliced is a fun story for fans of culinary reality shows. Faith is a contestant in a cooking competition evening for a local charity. We see some characters we have met in other Faith Fairchild books, like Chef Billy Gold, a man with a huge ego and a bad temper (think Gordon Ramsay) who treated Faith terribly when he gave her a job she started her culinary career.

Claudia Westell is a famous TV cook, who uses shortcuts to make easy dishes (like Sandra Lee). Claudia was once Faith's assistant, and Faith fired her when she was caught her scanning Faith's recipes to steal them as her own.

The last chef was Jake Barlow, who had a disastrous experience as a chef at a restaurant in Sanpere where Faith and her husband have a summer home. Faith was at the restaurant when Barlow tried to create an over-the-top experience menu that fell flat, and he blames Faith for the fallout.

This story is fun because we see Faith create delicious dishes, such a savory bread pudding, using anchovies, baguettes, rainbow and smoked Ghost Pepper flakes and a picnic meal from chicken livers, frozen lemonade, Cheez Doodles and peppermint hard candies.

The end of book features recipes from the stories, like Cardamom Raisin Bread, Mussels with Pasta and St. Germain Cocktail.

Some of the stories end rather abruptly, like perhaps they were the beginnings of books that were abandoned, but this is a fun little book, perfect for picking up and reading one story at a time when you have a few stolen moments. And it's always fun to catch up with Faith.

rating 4 of 5

My review of Katherine Hall Page's A Body in the Boudoir is here.

5 comments:

  1. I have this on my list -- I think I'd love it, even tho some stories end abruptly.

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  2. What a fun idea! I'd love to read the story about the reality TV cooking show...I watch Chopped, Iron Chef, Top Chef, etc and am an overall fan of the Food Network, so would love to see how she wrote the "fictional" personalities.

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  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this book (love the title for a short story collection). :)

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  4. I'm not a big short story fan but maybe I should give these a go. Cheers from Carole's Chater

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  5. I always wonder about short stories, whether they started out as novels or not. I haven't read any of this author's books, although I should, because of the Massachusetts connection.

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