Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

Kitchens of the Great Midwest

When Lars Thorvald's wife, Cynthia, falls in love with wine--and a dashing sommelier--he's left to raise their baby, Eva, on his own. He's determined to pass on his love of food to his daughter--starting with puréed pork shoulder. As Eva grows, she finds her solace and salvation in the flavors of her native Minnesota. From Scandinavian lutefisk to hydroponic chocolate habaneros, each ingredient represents one part of Eva's journey as she becomes...

Details Kitchens of the Great Midwest

TitleKitchens of the Great Midwest
Release DateJul 28th, 2015
PublisherPamela Dorman Books/Viking
GenreFiction, Food and Drink, Food, Contemporary, Audiobook

Reviews Kitchens of the Great Midwest

  • karen
    this is a book that uses that kooky structure i so enjoy when it's done right. like John's Wife and The Life and Death of Sophie Stark, we learn about the life of one character, here eva thorvald, through the eyes of the people who knew her at various stages in her life. in a series of episodic stories told by her father, her first boyfriend, a jealous rival, her cousin, etc etc - people who knew her well and people who knew her briefly, we watch...
  • Roxane
    Warm and charming. Interesting narrative structure. At times, Eva felt a bit manic pixie dream girl. But it is really nice to see such a lovely novel about people from the Midwest. A really fine debut.
  • Diane
    This is a charming foodie novel. I had expected a sweet story, but the book ended up surprising me with its richness and depth. What I liked best about this book was how each chapter was told from a different person's perspective. First we meet Lars, a chef who who adores his baby daughter, Eva. Lars' wife abruptly abandons them for another man, forcing him to be a single dad. The next chapter focuses on Eva as a young girl. Eva has inherited her...
  • Laurel
    Kitchens of the Great Midwest (or more aptly called “Eva’s Life by Way of Briefly Mentioning Food) takes Eva Thorvald rather rapidly from a newly-orphaned babe to a Scandinavian goddess with chipped fingernail polish who has a palate for either extremely hot peppers or one able to discern individual flavors from the most simply and exquisitely prepared dish. I grew up in the Midwest and lived in both Iowa and Minnesota so was excited to read ...
  • Jennifer
    My, oh my, did I love this book.I'm not sure if it resonated so strongly because:a) I spent most of my growing-up years in the Midwestb) I married a man from Minnesotac) I have actually eaten lutefiskd) My in-laws once, as a gift, gave me The Central Lutheran School of St. Paul, MN Cookbook (and it wasn't a gag gift). Said cookbook includes an entire chapter dedicated to bars.Stradal's book isn't quite a novel, and isn't exactly a collection My...
  • Erin
    Kitchens of the Great Midwest is hilarious without being cynical, touching without being overly sentimental, and wholly original. It is one of those rare books you can finish in a day or two, but won't stop thinking about for months, and J. Ryan Stradal's voice is one of a kind. He captures the cadence of the Midwest perfectly and lovingly, and while he allows the reader to laugh at some of the more "stereotypical" midwestern characters, it never...
  • Teresa
    Was I entertained? Yes.Did I love the book? No.Can he write? Definitely!Was I frustrated with the narration? Yes.Did I like the ending? I think so. The final chapter was far-fetched, but I enjoyed the final paragraph.I'll try to explain myself. This is a very different type of book. Without giving away any spoilers, the story is about Eva - her infancy, childhood and young adulthood. She is born with an amazing palate and has always been absurdly...
  • Jaclyn Day
    I told a friend yesterday that this book is almost perfect. It’s so rare to read a novel that just makes you happy–that makes you smile at the end. I loved the story, starting from the moment Eva’s chef father asked a confused pediatrician why he couldn’t feed his three-month-old daughter pork shoulder. ("For now, just breast milk and formula for the first three months." "That’s awful," Lars said.) The book starts and ends with food, an...
  • Diane S ☔
    3.5 On the surface, and of course from the title it seems like this would be a book about food. It is but also much, much more. We first get to know Eva as a baby and from there each chapter is narrated by a different character and highlights a different food. Almost more like connected narratives, than one continuing story. We learn about Eva, and her wonderful palate as well as her cooking talent from others, connected to her either loosely or ...
  • N. Moss
    Oh my god I love this book. It careens in a way that has kept me in a tense place where I don't want to stop reading, but I don't want to rush the book either. The voice of each chapter is unique and hilarious and touching, and I am in love with Eva, the protagonist who grows and eats and cooks with incredibly hot peppers, and turns into this weird, goth, cool chef chick and more. I don't want to give anything away, but this is one of those books...
  • MomToKippy
    The title and cover of this book give the false impression that it will encompass a warm and maybe historical feel of the food traditions and people of the midwest. The only reason I read over 80 pages in this is because I grew up on some of the streets mentioned and the places that provided the setting for this abysmal story. The adults have few redeeming qualities, the college student was just so trashy (the attitude toward her pregnancy was pr...
  • Jessica Jeffers
    What can I say, this book was perfectly tailored to all of my literary tastes. No pun intended, I swear.I always have the hardest time writing reviews for books that I fall in love with. It’s so much harder to quantify, “this book gave me lots of feelings” in a way that’s more than just SQUEEEEE!!!, and I always feel a lot of pressure to moderate myself because what if people read the book because I loved it here on Goodreads and then the...
  • Esil
    3 1/2 stars. Kitchens of the Great Midwest made me hungry. It's not a cookbook, but interspersed amongst these connected stories are a few recipes and descriptions of really tasty sounding dishes. The link between all of the stories is Eva, who has a rough start in life when her mother abandons her as a baby and her father dies soon after from a heart attack. She is then raised as their own by her father's brother and his wife. The book consists ...
  • Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂
    I liked this book. I didn't love it. I'm doing the Book Pool with the BLK reading group & other than my own selections, this is the book that caught my eye. And normally I love to read about other cultures.Not this time.I just felt really alienated from all the characters in this book, other than minor character Pat Prager & her family. These characters were funny & Stradal's writing really came alive writing their story. But I didn't care...
  • Evan
    For me this book is just one of those that starts off great and just slowly keeps sliding downhill. I also didn't get why it even included recipes, it's like the author thought that would be cool but it doesn't add anything to the story at all. I don't want to say too much about the ending so I don't spoil anything but let's just say I thought it was bad. Kitchens of the Great Midwest has promise but could have used a strong editor to really push...
  • Jennifer Lane
    Two Cups of Strange Characters, A Tablespoon of Food Porn, And a Dash of MidwestI’m not sure how to rate this book. The writing is top notch with unique characters. But parts of the story disappointed or disgusted me, and the ending felt anticlimactic.Eva Thorvald is just a baby when her sommelier mother abandons her. Her foodie father, who serves her gourmet delicacies, dies next. Despite this tumultuous childhood, Eva grows up to be a world-r...
  • Susan Phillips
    Quirky and courageous with an absolutely fascinating structure. A few elements of magical realism. This would be a terrific book club book. It will especially resonate with Midwesterners. (Not a romance.)
  • ☮Karen
    Just as your first steaming cup of coffee of the morning, sweet butter melting on freshly baked bread, a brilliant red heirloom tomato, a slice of carrot cake, and wine, great wine, are meant to be savored, so are these stories of Eva Thorvald. Born to a woman who chose a sommelier over her and a man who cherished her more than life itself, she grew up in our great Midwest learning about fresh food and family through osmosis. The descriptions mad...
  • Rebecca
    (Nearly 4.5) One of my favorite debuts of 2015. From my Bookmarks review: Stradal has revealed that his grandmother’s Lutheran church cookbook was the inspiration for this culinary-themed novel that takes place over the course of 30 years. His unique structure takes what are essentially short stories from different perspectives and time periods and links them loosely through Eva Thorvald, an intriguing character who remains hard to pin down. Ev...
  • Suzy
    What a wonderful way to start my new year of reading! A touching book about "found family" that I connected to in so many ways! It is set where I live in and around The Twin Cities in Minnesota, it's about food and foodie culture and about people from all walks of life and how they connect in surprising and unexpected ways. This is the story of Eva Thorvald, born to a budding chef father and a sommelier mother. Lars Thorvald has great aspirations...
  • Kathleen
    3***We listened to the audiobook of KITCHENS OF THE GREAT MIDWEST. The readers were excellent giving different voices for each character. Sections were humorous - my husband, who rarely laughs aloud, chuckled several times! However, he did not appreciate the vulgar language which was used throughout much of the book. Nor did I. About 40% into the book I was considering not finishing it. I read some reviews and based upon some 5 and 4 stars recons...
  • Cathrine ☯️
    4.5 Riedel wine glassesI loved this touching, quirky, delightful, original story and so appreciated it after some heavy reads. Each chapter is an anecdote from a different time period in Eva’s life journey starting from just before her birth. Each is told from the perspective of a different person in her radar of peeps at that juncture and all will come full circle in the end. Because her father is a foodie and wants to be a chef and her mother...
  • Barbara A.
    Astonishing. It is rare to find a book that meets and exceeds its pre-pub. hype. The stories are at once restrained, involving, wry, funny, and spot-on reads of both Midwest life and foodie culture. Eva is creating, making, sharing far more that great food here. She is creating and sustaining an extended family. I am hungry for more by Stradal. And I think I am going to reread this immediately. Brilliant, affecting, memorable. Read alikes? Louise...
  • Jerrie (redwritinghood)
    I liked the first half of the book. While it all came together in the end, I didn’t like that the second half really went off on some tangents. If you’re a real foodie, this would probably be a great feel good read.
  • Barbara
    3.5 stars: KITCHENS OF THE GREAT MIDWEST by J. Ryan Stradal is an engaging story of Eva Thorvald, a major culinary force. Eva’s story begins sadly, as her mother abandons her as an infant, and soon after that, her father dies of cardiac arrest. Her father, Lars, was a foodie and a chef. Before his death, he had big plans to feed her gourmet food mashed up in a food processor. He wanted to introduce culinary delights at a young age. Ultimately, ...
  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    I received a copy of this from the publisher through the Penguin First Reads program in exchange for an honest review.The story of Eva Thorvald, a chef with a once-in-a-lifetime palate, is told through other people in her life. It starts with her mother, her father, then moves toward people who aren't as directly connected to her. This tactic had varying amounts of success in my mind. In the beginning I felt I had a clear sense of Eva, particular...
  • Melania 🍒
    Kitchens of the Great Midwest will always have a special place in my heart. It’s funny because I bought this book knowing almost nothing about it, I used a random number generator to pick something from my wishlist and this was it. It was also in a time that I just got into reading again, and this was perfect for me at that point. And now, upon re-reading it, I realize that even if I’m a different reader and I have other expectations from my ...
  • Beth Knight
    To me, this book was overhyped. I was expecting it to be better. I'll write an actual review later, after I get all my thoughts together.
  • Clif Hostetler
    This book consists of eight chapters, each of which stands as an independent short story that follows a different individual, time and place. But the reader of this book will notice, as they progress through the book, that some of the characters from previous stories make appearances. These short story chapters build upon each other, and by the time the end of the book is reached it leaves the impression of being a complete and unified novel. It'...