Today I have something different and special for you guys. The lovely Megan over at The Hungry Bookworm had the awesome idea of trading guest posts. I love her combinations of book reviews and recipes so I was very excited. She’s leading the charge this week with this delicious combination of a review of White Houses by Amy Bloom and a recipe for Sherry-Spiked Mushroom Soup inspired from the novel. I’ll be guest posting on Megan’s blog next week but for now I’ll let Megan take it away.Hi! I’m Megan, stopping by from my own literary blog, The Hungry Bookworm, which you may be familiar with if you frequent Ottavia’s Links I Loved posts. I’m so grateful to Ottavia for linking to my posts on occasion, and even more so for the opportunity to share a brand new post with you today. As in a typical Hungry Bookworm post, I’ll be pairing a book review with a recipe inspired by what I read.
Today I’m talking about Amy Bloom’s White Houses, a recently released historical fiction novel. Like many pieces of historical fiction, it blurs the lines between what is true and what makes for an interesting story. What is supposedly true about White Houses is the relationship it’s based on – that of Eleanor Roosevelt and her “first friend” Lorena Hickok, who was a journalist covering the Roosevelts. I had never before heard of the open secret that Eleanor had a lesbian lover, and honestly, learning this about one of the great first ladies is what prompted me to pick up the book in the first place.
I struggled a bit with the timeline throughout the book; there wasn’t enough historical context included to help ground the rest of the story. Other than that, though, Amy Bloom’s writing is very easy to read. I found the relationship between Eleanor and Lorena captivating and realistic, especially for the circumstances. The passion was offset with decorum and the struggle between their public and private lives was on full display.
Lorena first meets Eleanor when she is sent to interview her in the Governor’s Mansion in Albany. She enters the room with minimal expectations and finds that Eleanor greatly surpasses them – she is not “dull and unpleasant” as Lorena anticipated. They chat for hours, pausing to share a dinner of sherry-spiked mushroom soup, and continue talking into the night. Looking back, Lorena says she can still taste the soup, probably more to do with the memory of meeting Eleanor for the first time but clearly the evening lives vividly in her mind.
I, for one, love mushroom soup. Much like Lorena, the mention stuck with me throughout the novel, and I knew I had to make it. I found a recipe from Fine Cooking for a Wild Mushroom Soup with Sherry and Thyme. It seemed like the perfect fit.
To start, I melted butter in a large stockpot and added my diced onions. I let the onion cooks for just under 5 minutes, until they were beginning to brown. Then I added minced garlic, the sliced mushrooms, fresh thyme and salt and pepper.
I let all of the ingredients cook for another few minutes before adding the broth, bringing it to a boil, reducing to a simmer and cooking for another 10 minutes.
Once the mushrooms were tender, I removed the pot from the heat and allowed it to cool slightly. I put about half of the soup in a large bowl and used an immersion blender to smooth it. If you have a regular blender, that would work here as well.
I returned the blended soup back to the pot and added the half and half, sherry and soy sauce. I brought the temperature back up on the soup so it would be warm enough to eat.
I hope the soup that Lorena and Eleanor shared at their first meeting was as warm and welcoming as this one. If you’d like to try it for yourself, the full recipe is included below (as in all my posts). And, if you enjoyed this post, I invite you to stop by The Hungry Bookworm for more book reviews and delicious literary recipes, too. Again, thank you to Ottavia for having me as a guest on Novels And Nonfiction today – it’s been a pleasure!
Sherry-Spiked Mushroom Soup
Servings = 6
Prep Time = 15 minutes
Cook Time = 40 minutes
- 2 TBS unsalted butter
- 2 TBS olive oil
- 1 medium onion, cut into medium dice (to yield about 1 1/2 cups)
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 10 oz. or about 4 cups fresh baby bella / cremini mushrooms, wiped clean and thinly sliced
- 4 oz. or about 2 cups, fresh shitake mushrooms, wiped cleans, stems removed and thinly sliced
- 2 TBS plus 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 cups homemade or low-salt chicken or vegetable broth
- ¼ cup half and half
- 3 TBS dry sherry
- 1 TBS soy sauce
- Melt the butter and olive oil in a 5-qt. or larger stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until it’s beginning to brown (resist the urge to stir too often), about 4 minutes.
- Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the mushrooms, 2 Tbs. of the thyme, and 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper; cook until the mushrooms become limp, 2 to 4 minutes.
3. Add the broth, scraping up any browned bits in the pot with a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook until the mushrooms are tender, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
- Transfer about half of the soup to a stand blender and process until smooth. Return the mixture to the pot and stir in the half-and-half, sherry, and soy sauce. Add more salt and pepper to taste, if needed, and reheat.
- Garnish each serving with a small pinch of the remaining 1 tsp. Thyme.
Slightly adapted From: Fine Cooking
I received a free digital copy of this book from the NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.