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The Kitchen Front

by Jennifer Ryan

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Four women during World War II in Britain and a cooking competition ( )
  pennykaplan | Dec 31, 2021 |
I really enjoyed listening to this feel good book about the power of women, WWII food rations and cooking. The book was a bit more sentimental than I typically like, but there was enough intrigue to keep me interested. Four women enter a BBC cooking contest during the war, each having to prepare creative and tasty dishes while using natural ingredients or rations sparingly. The entrants include Nell (a shy kitchen maid), Zelda (a chef from London), Audrey (a poor widow with three children) and Lady Gwendoline (Audrey's sister who married well). The storyline is fun (if not a bit predictable) and the description of food and recipes was thoroughly enjoyable as well as educational. ( )
  KatherineGregg | Nov 14, 2021 |
This is a delightful book about a cooking contest. It takes place in England in the early 1940s when there was food rationing cards with a limitation of staples that we enjoy today: sugar, milk, eggs and butter amongst many other items. It was a time when owning a refrigerator was a luxury and when it was illegal for an adult to eat an orange although okay for a child. And there was no waste with food.

The book begins with the contest for catering and chef professionals which highlights five women: Gwendoline, Mrs. Quince, Nell, Audrey and Zelda. The winner is awarded a position as a presenter and influencer on the radio show: The Kitchen Front. It's a cooking program to help Britain's housewives make the most of their rations.

Lady Gwendoline has the life of wealth with her husband, Sir Reginald Strickland, an officer of the Ministry of Agriculture residing in the beautiful Fenley Hall. She is not the best cook but well connected and she's desperate to win at all costs. Two of her employees enter together: Mrs. Quince, a master chef with a reputation of being one of the best for years and Miss Nell Brown, a young talented cooking assistant. Gwendoline's older sister, Audrey, also enters the contest. She has been a professional baker of pies and contributes to events at the Fenley Hall. Sadly she lost her husband in the war but enjoys her three sons. The final person to enter the contest is 32-year-old Zelda. She worked at a premier hotel in London that was bombed and had to take a job in the country as the head chef for the Fenley Pie Factory.

These women each have challenges that they must face while doing their best to win the contest with three rounds: appetizer, entree and dessert. The reader gets to see the actual recipes that are used with various creations including spam, rabbit, sardines and whale meat.

The book gives you a good glimpse of food rationing during this wartime but also it covers women's issues, the clear separation between wealth and poor workers and the hardship of living during the war with bombs and planes flying over. There are all kinds of tidbits.. It was discouraged to show tears even in such an emotional time with extreme distress. The Scarborough Fair was a song before Simon & Garfunkel. Wealthy people didn't always share a bedroom. Sir Strickland said, "That's for poor people who don't have enough bedrooms."

What a great book with the food, history and characters that warmed my heart. My thanks to the author, publisher and Net Galley for allowing me to read this advanced copy to be released on February 23, 2021. ( )
  Jacsun | Oct 5, 2021 |
Light diversion and a feel-good read. Predictable but comforting, I enjoyed learning more about the rationing and the contests. However, the conversations between characters, particularly romance scenes, were so sophmoric and read like an 80’s Harlequin romance. Editors, where were you? Still, I’ll hand it out to my fans if WWII and “gentle reads” books. ( )
  quirkylibrarian | Sep 28, 2021 |
I like the style of this one better than her first. The frame of the plot is also quite good. The characters do fall flat and some small issues bothered me (Lots of telling and not showing. Would Nell/Mrs. Quince really be that educated? Would an ending like really be able to last? ). I also wasn't really convinced that people, in that time and place, would have so readily accepted the modern opinions espoused today---almost every box was conveniently ticked and one of the few definite villains of the piece was the lady who didn't fit that mold.

We do people a disservice when we teach them that the only character/person you can cheer for is one who believes exactly like you and that the villain is one who has been mistaught/holds opinions different than yours. It is a form of perfectionism that doesn't allow people to learn, grow, and change. And it doesn't allow us to forgive our past selves when we are corrected(as we all must and will be at some time or another).

True, most "villains" hold opinions that you don't agree with. I disagree with Voldemort, George Wickham, and Mrs. Danvers, for example, fundamentally. However it's not what they believe but what they do as a result of that belief that makes them the villain. And the classic writers, like Trollope and Tolstoy, understand that writing/dealing with villains is a complicated business and, often, they don't leave our lives completely. Often we deal with villainous opinions for the rest of our lives. And we must learn to live and wrestle with them---while still tolerating and, in some cases, loving the holders.

And... I think I'm done with current adult lit for the moment. ( )
  OutOfTheBestBooks | Sep 24, 2021 |
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