I didn’t know what to expect with Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal. I decided to read it simply because it was designated as the 2017 One Book South Dakota. I loved it. The author beautifully combined food, gender roles in the Midwest, and interesting characters in a quick, yet moving novel.
Food is such an important part of our culture. This book looks at how the food we eat defines us geographically, and socio-economically. It also looks at the relationships we build and what really defines a family.
One of the most moving pieces in the book features Pat Prager, a sweet church lady and unappreciated housewife who enters her bars in a fancy Minneapolis baking contest. She is shamed by the younger, more sophisticated foodies.
This is where the main character, Eva Thorvald, shines as an interesting, yet dimensional protagonist. Eva gives Pat, and Midwestern home-cooking the respect they deserve. Stradal packs a lot in this short novel, and I was hanging on every word. At the end I was torn between wanting him to pen a sequel and wanting to just leave it at what the story was for fear of ruining a good thing.