From the New York Times bestselling author of the National Book Award longlist title The Poet X comes a dazzling novel in prose about a girl with talent, pride, and a drive to feed the soul that keeps her fire burning bright.
Ever since she got pregnant freshman year, Emoni Santiago’s life has been about making the tough decisions—doing what has to be done for her daughter and her abuela. The one place she can let all that go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness.
Even though she dreams of working as a chef after she graduates, Emoni knows that it’s not worth her time to pursue the impossible. Yet despite the rules she thinks she has to play by, once Emoni starts cooking, her only choice is to let her talent break free.
This was one of my favorite books of 2019 and I hadn’t even noticed that I didn’t do a review for it so I’ll do a mini one with what stuck with me since 2years ago.
This is a beautiful book full of love, passion, family, and food. It’s about fears and dreams and never giving up.
It deals with teen pregnancy and all that entails, but Emoni is such an amazingly strong character (in fact one of my favs)! She inspires me and I even tried some of her recipes – which is why I decided to review this book, so keep reading for that*. She goes above and beyond to do what she must for her family. She is incredibly passionate and strong and I loved reading about her and her journey.
Another thing that I absolutely love is the family dynamics. Latino families just feel more united and alive, but I might be biased here… I loved Emoni’s grandmother and how much she cared for her and her granddaughter, it couldn’t be easy, after losing her own daughter, but she is such a strong and beautiful soul! Without her Emoni’s and her baby girl’s life would have been a lot different and sadder for sure. She encouraged her and stuck by her side and it just made me SO happy. She made Emoni who she is and she is a hell of a woman and mother.
This book has a lot of important messages, but the one that stuck to me most was that no matter the circumstances, the only thing stopping you from moving forward and following your dreams is yourself. She could have used so many things as excuses… But she didn’t. She went for it, she tried and that’s something not everyone does for fear of for example failing. Despite her problems and tough moments, she had a strong friendship, a role model, and a passion bigger than herself and she tried. It doesn’t matter what you have or don’t have because no one life is perfect but if you use what you do have and a lot of work, you might just manage to follow your dreams. So, apart from teenage pregnancy, Emoni is a hell of a role model, am I right?
Also, food makes everything better. I knew I loved books with food as atopic or just random food references/moments, but this was the first book that showed how much it meant to me.
Emoni’s “When Life Gives You Lemons’, Make Lemon Verbena Tembleque” Recipe!
- Two cans of coconut milk
- Handful of white sugar – I put 1,5dl
- 4 shakes of cornstarch – I put 4tbsp
- Pinch of salt
- Bunch of Lemon Verbena leaves – Adjust to your taste, I put what you see in the photo
- Bunch of Vanilla Beans – Used 2
- Cinnamon, enough to garnish
I’ve done this recipe before but not with verbena leaves. I’ve previously tried both without any herbs and with lemon balm. I’ve also never used two vanilla beans just to let it seep. They tend to be quite expensive, so I’ve previously used vanilla extract and the vanilla beans seeds – the only problem with the latter is that it loses that all-white effect…
- In a saucepan, heat coconut milk until it comes to a boil. Muddle a bunch of lemon verbena leaves and vanilla beans and had to the heated coconut milk. Let steep.
- After fifteen minutes, mix infused coconut milk, salt, sugar, and cornstarch. Stir the mixture until the cornstarch is completely dissolved. (I tend to prefer to mix it first on the side with some of the infused milk to prevent lumps from forming) Let the combined ingredients come to a boil and keep stirring until the mixture begins getting pudding thick.
- Pour into a big cereal bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator for five hours. ( I prefer tiny-sized portions tho since I like to eat directly from them… It’s just more convenient and just as good)
- After removing the mixture from the cereal bowl mold, sprinkle with cinnamon. (Just run a knife through the edge and invert it into a plate!)
According to Emoni, this is best eaten cold while daydreaming about palm trees and listening to an Héctor Lavoe classic.
Ever tried a recipe from a fiction book yet? Which ones have you / would you like to try? Let’s discuss it in the comments below!