I'm here to post a last-minute entry to one of my favorite food blog events, Novel Food, co-hosted by Lisa of Champaign Taste.
The book I chose is Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Perkin.
I've often spoken about my taste for simple and uplifting novels, and a reader named Arati recommended this book to me in this post- thank you, Arati, I enjoyed reading it.
This novel is set in a middle class home in modern Rwanda. Angel is a loving, nurturing woman who is raising five small grandchildren (after the unfortunate demise of both of her children) while also going through a hot-flash riddled menopause. She is a cake decorator by profession, and her specialty is elaborate custom-made cakes decorated in flourishes of colorful icing. As friends and neighbors drop in to order cakes from her, we hear about the stories of their lives- their hopes and dreams and secrets- as they fill out the cake order form while drinking a few cups of tea with Angel.
What makes the novel different from other books set in cozy domestic situations is that it is set in Rwanda, a country that has gone through terrible suffering in the recent past. Now, I am certainly concerned about issues like HIV/AIDS (euphemistically referred to as "the disease"), genocide and female genital mutilation ("cutting") and do my fair share of tsk-tsking about them. But these are distant problems for me and I can only think of them in abstract terms. In this novel, these issues get a human face as the characters grapple with them on a daily basis. The book gives a vivid description of modern life in Rwanda where ordinary folks are trying to rebuild lives after the genocide, and it provides a glimpse of the culture and mores of a country that I know little about, outside of the horrific images in the news.
The descriptions of the luscious and vibrant cakes that Angel makes for her clients are irresistible- at one point, I had the sudden urge to put the book down and do a web search for cake blogs just so I could feast my eyes on some beautifully decorated cakes. All in all, I highly recommend this book as a simple but meaningful read.
The cake I baked today is the exact opposite of the elaborate masterpieces that Angel makes. It is the simplest kind, a loaf cake to use up overripe bananas that were neglected in the past week. You don't have to be a professional baker to make this. It is a recipe that can be made by any home cook, even one who is living in a fog of anti-allergy medications.
A bag of spelt flour has been sitting in my freezer for several months, and I found a great way to use it in this vegan banana bread recipe from Lauren Ulm's cookbook. I adapted it slightly by reducing the amount of sugar and adding walnuts.
Banana Walnut Spelt Bread
(Adapted from the Vegan Yum Yum cookbook by Lauren Ulm)
1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Grease a loaf pan and line it with parchment paper is desired.
3. Mix the dry ingredients:
- 2 cups spelt flour
- 1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1⁄2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. apple pie spice (or ground nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice)
- 1⁄2 cup walnuts, chopped
- 3 overripe bananas, peeled and mashed with a fork
- 1⁄2 cup sugar
- 1⁄2 cup oil
- 2 tsp. molasses
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
6. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until a toothpick comes clean.
We tasted a small slice of the cake and it is delicious- fragrant, dense, nutty and filling. The rest of it will be sliced and packed so V can share it tomorrow with his cricket buddies.
I am so glad I borrowed the Vegan Yum Yum cookbook from the library; it has a dozen recipes that I can't wait to try, including several ways to dress up tofu in glossy marinades and a few different ways to make vegan "cheese" sauces.
Have a good weekend, and depending on how I am faring with my allergies, I'll come back in a few days with a couple of entries for Blog Bites: The Copycat Edition. I've been getting some fantastic entries and you still have a week to send in a post if you would like to.