Delicious Reads and Simple Foods for a Relaxing Summer

Delicious Reads and Simple Foods for a Relaxing Summer

summer books
© Angello Lopez/Unsplash

Oh my lord, do we need a break!

It’s summertime. The city has emptied out. I silenced my news feeds and let my mind wander, desperately looking for relief. I arrived at the sound of the sea, a pop of a cork and the smell of a smoking BBQ. I felt the tension in my shoulders subsiding.

So, I humbly recommend, everyone take a collective deep breath. Exhale slowly. And whether you are setting off with the kids for the summer place, or settling into your favorite spot along the Seine with a bottle of crisp rosé and a glass, try these summer reads and easy foods for the holiday season.


© Annie Spratt/Unsplash

If You Can’t Get Enough of Food  

Emily Nunn’s The Comfort Food Diaries, because she writes from the heart and cooks from scratch. Gabrielle Hamilton’s  Blood, Bones and Butter, because she runs a New York restaurant, takes shit from no one, and crafts words lighter than a perfect soufflé. Laurie Colwin’s Happy All the Time, because she was the queen mother of food and fiction and her recipes for love and life always leave you sated. And in case you somehow missed it, with heavy heart and eternal gratitude, Kitchen Confidential, because Anthony Bourdain gave us all permission to see the world through a plateful of street food and an open mind.

© Alexis Duclos for INSPIRELLE

First fiction, second-hand

For those who love a good used bookstore, or better yet, a yard sale on a lazy summer’s afternoon, I have a peculiar habit. I like to read a previous book prior to a great author’s new release. In that spirit, try Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus, Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings, and Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers. All three are coming of age stories in their own unique voice, from the powerhouses who brought us Americanah, and the brand new The Female Persuasion and The Mars Room.

An Un-Scientific Survey

Just in case you’ve somehow missed every Top Summer Reading List and you must dash through the bookstore en route to the shore? People are talking about There There by Tommy Orange, An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, and Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward. If you are looking for sheer, authorial wave-crunching magnitude, try Bill Clinton and James Patterson’s The President is Missing. Irony paired well with a can of cold beer. A quick Facebook perusal netted a thumbs-up for Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone, and anything by Roxane Gay.

And lastly, if you feel the urge to plumb the depths of middle age and human relationships, try Pamela Druckerman’s There Are No grown-Ups and Tom Perotta’s Mrs. Fletcher. No wine needed with these two to get the conversation started.

Who Sees Documentary Films, Anyway?

You! Because there ARE rainy days at the shore, and two films have snuck into the theatres that I promise, if you have a pulse, you will not be disappointed. “RGB – the detailed and up-close story of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. See it to watch her doing push-ups with her trainer at the age of 85. See it to fall in love with her husband, Marty, because behind every great woman… And see it, because RGB is the one wall we need to keep standing.

Next, Won’t You Be My Neighbor”, the lovingly -produced documentary about the life and career of Fred Rogers of the iconic “Mister Rogers Neighborhood.” You’ve probably seen the parodies. You will be surprised to feel the tears well up as you embrace the love and pain this ordained minister called upon to send a message of safety and acceptance to children, every time he pulled on his cardigan sweater and laced up his blue sneakers. They say it was the worst-produced TV show ever. Watch it and you’ll feel like it was the best of times.

summer bbqDon’t Sweat the Kitchen

I live in a 4th floor walk-up in the middle of a very hot city. How is it then I have grilled simple and simply fabulous meals for five of the past 10 nights? Because I have no shame! If you don’t have a grill, find a friend who does, I’ll bring the meat works like a charm.

Summertime is short and precious. Protein, fire, vegetables, and s’mores. The more people the merrier. Invite everyone to bring a dish and take to the tongs. I’ve never met a barbeque that feels like work.

bbq recipes
Surf and Turf favorites for the BBQ. © Ken Carlton

Surf & Turf. How I love those vintage words. Score steaks of any cut, or chops, burgers or sausages. Skewer three large shrimp or langoustines, still in the shell. Melt some butter, garlic and squeeze in the lemon. Baste everything as it sizzles and do not overcook. Complainers can always throw their food back on the fire. 

Grilled Vegetables. Please visit the farmer’s market. Fill your canvas bag with squash, zucchini, eggplant and corn. Cut the gourd veggies length-wise, paint lightly with olive oil and salt. Cook fast – just long enough to heat and stripe. Crunchy, warm and salty is good. And the corn caramelizes on the hot coals. You don’t even need to add butter.

Fish on the Fire. Fear not the poisson. If it is thick and fresh at your local poissonière, buy it. Oil it. Throw sprigs of fresh herb on top. Lay gently on the hot grill and cook until browned on one side. Flip only once and do the same on the other side. When it flakes, it is fini. (Use a wide spatula for a tool. It keeps the fish in one piece.)

@ Frank Zhang/Unsplash

Homemade Sangria. This is truly the summer nectar of the gods. Buy every fresh fruit and berry you can find at the market. Grab your largest, prettiest pitcher and chop in peaches, apples, apricots, fresh strawberries and blueberries. Fill the pitcher with garden variety red or white. Add some sugar and freshly sliced lemon. Stir and let marinate all day in the fridge. Pour over ice when you light the grill and garnish with fresh berries. (If you want a little more kick, enhance the brew with brandy for red sangria, light rum for the white.)

Not in Any Cookbook 

My recipe for a much-needed vacances from all that ails us?

Find your happy place – be it a corner café, the family gîte, or the guest room of that friend who always says “it’s yours, any time.”

Go there. Turn off the phone. No, I really mean it! Screens away. Dress clothes away. Throw on your favorite faded shorts and a cotton shirt. Take a walk on the beach. Hunt for sea glass. Cozy up on the porch with a good book. Wait for the first sounds of the sizzling grill. And stare into the green-blue maw of a breaking wave and let the sights and sounds and smells take you away.

It’s summertime. Let’s just be.

Ken Carlton is founder and editor-in-chief of Beyondish, a food review and storytelling website. He is the author or ghostwriter of eight books, including the award-winning memoir, THE HUNGER, the story behind Greenwich Village’s celebrity hotspot, The Waverly Inn. Ken wrote the "His Point of View" column for Cosmopolitan and appeared as a dating expert on OPRAH. He still muses about food, relationships and parenting at his website, Food for Marriage. A New Yorker and Parisian at heart, he has scripted conferences in Paris for CNN and Fortune magazine. Ken and his wife, a professor, split their time between Brooklyn, NY and Chicago. You can follow him on Instagram @foodformarriage



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