The Lost Family Supper Blog Tour
Anyone who knows me well knows that food is my love language. So when the teams from The Book Club Cook Book and Harper reached out to me about participating in a blog tour that combined reading AND eating, I did not hesitate to sign up. Jenna Blum's book The Lost Family has been on my radar for quite a while and I was very happy to get my hands on a copy. I am always fascinated by how authors get their inspiration and where the ideas for their stories come from. Jenna actually worked in the food service industry for years and has always wanted to be a restaurateur. She kindly discussed a bit about the plot of The Lost Family and once I read what she had to say, I was completely sold. Jenna said that "The Lost Family is a novel about a German-Jewish Auschwitz survivor named Peter Rashkin, who emigrates to New York, starts a restaurant, and falls in love—only to find his new American family haunted by the wife and daughters he lost during the war. Really, Peter is like Ferdinand the bull, except instead of wanting to smell the flowers, all he wants to do is cook. He was training as a chef in Berlin when the Nazis came to power; in America, being in his kitchen at Masha’s, his 1965 Manhattan restaurant named after his lost wife, is his happy place. The menus in The Lost Family are a fusion of 1965-era favorites and German-Jewish comfort food, Peter and Masha’s favorite childhood dishes: Masha’s “Little Clouds” (cream puffs with chocolate fondue), Brisket Wellington, Chicken Kiev, and my favorite, Masha Torte—an inside-out German chocolate cake with cherries flambé. There’s also a Hamburger Walter, invented for news anchor Walter Cronkite when dining at Masha’s, served Au Poivre with No Vegetables At All. (my dad was a newswriter for CBS and he told me this was how Walter liked his hamburgers.)"
The dish I prepared today for the tour is a nod to The Hamburger Walter although I jazzed it up a bit, as cajuns are known to do. These sliders are super easy to make and are a big hit with my family. You will need Slider size Hawaiian Sweet Rolls (they usually come in a 12 pk and are the best tasting bread you will ever put in your mouth) , a 1/2 cup of butter melted (however this is the South and if you feel so inclined to use the whole stick of butter no one will judge you), mayonnaise, Tony's and a dash of Tabasco sauce, shredded cheese (I don't put a specific measurement here because it's cheese and you should go crazy), bacon bits (please refer back to the cheese measurement), and a pound of ground beef to make the teeny tiny hamburger patties (there are just three of us so this is enough).
Preheat your oven to 350°. We grilled our patties along with other items for this but you can also cook them in a skillet if you prefer. Once your meat is cooked, take the bottom portion of your rolls and arrange them in a greased 13x9 baking pan. Add your patties, and then let loose with your cheese, bacon, mayonnaise mix and any other toppings you would like. Place the tops of the rolls on to your burgers and bake them in the oven for three to five minutes so everything is melted and amazing. While you are waiting, melt your butter and then when you take the burgers out of the oven, coat the tops of the buns with as much or as little butter as you desire. And then enjoy an explosion of happiness in your mouth!
If you would like to see all the recipes that have been inspired by this book, click here and it will take you right to the tour site.
Now on to the Book Review!
I have been talking with other bookstagrammers a lot lately about reclaiming my joy when it comes to reading. I don't mind telling you that every thing about this blog tour today brought me GREAT JOY. Food is on our mind A LOT down here in Cajun Country and it's usually my go to when any thing happens. Did someone have a new baby? You need to bring them a casserole. Had a hard day? Drown yourself in chips, salsa and queso and everything will be alright. Need a great start to the weekend? Serve up hot, buttery pancakes with bacon and eggs for breakfast and your whole house will be all smiles. Want to have a great night in the backyard with family and friends? Throw some stuffed rosemary chickens on the rotisserie and you've got yourself a party. When I read that the main character in The Lost Family's whole life revolved around his restaurant and creating a menu that honored his late wife's memory, I knew this was the book for me.
It is 1965 in Manhattan and the opening chapter sets the tone with a decadent menu from Peter's restaurant called Masha. Blum's talent as a writer is immediately evident as the smells of the Brisket Wellington leaped off the page, the tinkling of glasses could be heard, and it was as if I was in the restaurant myself, taking in everyone as they dined in their finery, eating their cherries flambe'. Peter runs Masha, and the restaurant is a tribute to his late wife and daughters who he lost in the concentration camps at Auschwitz. Peter himself suffered horribly and bears both the physical and mental scars of his time in the camps. His loss and grief are so deep he has never remarried or been interested in any one else, until he spots June dining one evening.
June is stunning, a model on the rise, and she immediately enchants Peter with her boldness and moxie. She fled her Minnesota home town as soon as she could, desiring more for herself than marrying her high school sweetheart and becoming a pregnant housewife. The bright lights of New York City and society beckoned and she answered, determined to make something of herself. Peter seems like the perfect fit for June... kind, established, and generous. But when you combine one woman's desire to always have more with one man's struggle to let go of a horrific past, it makes for heartbreaking consequences.
Peter lives and breathes Masha. He is consumed with his restaurant and therefore his family's memory and June soon finds herself in the exact situation she had hoped to avoid. "June looked at her husband now as he shifted their daughter and murmured to her, his hairline higher, his face tired. How different he was from the man she'd thought he was, the man he'd turned out to be be. Was it the same for everyone? Was the magnitude of discrepancy between the person you thought you were marrying and the person you got similar for most couples?" When June gives birth to Elsbeth, things shift yet again and soon their young daughter will bear the brunt of her father's anguish over a family she does not know and watch as her mother convinces herself that the answer to all her problems lies in someone else's arms.
Covering three decades and told in the voices of Peter, June and their daughter Elspeth, the reader is given a powerful look at the lasting effects of war, the failed expectations of family and how we often unknowingly hurt the ones that we love the most. The Lost Family will be released on June 5. Many thanks to the publishing team at Harper books for providing me with this advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.