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Reviews for "Cook Until Desired Tenderness"

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I love Cleo Papanikolas's new book, " Color Cook Until Desired Tenderness".
Here's an excerpt:

I knew he wouldn't like the avocado and almond butter on sprouted wheat that I used to dredge out of the cooler in my childhood...I cut two delicately thin slices of a fresh pain de mie, lightly spread them with a cream of sweet butter and freshly grated horseradish, then laid on transparently thin slices of bresaola. I unclipped the sharpie marker from my dirty apron and in a delicate script on the top slice of bread wrote, "Bite me!" Then I threw it at him.


Cook Until Desired Tenderness (North Atlantic Books 2005) is a curious and interesting book about food, life and love. The author, Cleo Papanikolas is a painter and the book is filled with her illustrations. Her bio says that she "has earned her living painting pictures, murals, and decorative finishes on almost any surface." The book is described as a fictional journal of a culinary artist and it is written with rich and imaginative prose.

The first chapter takes place in a family's summer digs at a commune named Karma Clan Ranch, previously the MacKlaran Ranch, which the kids nickname Karmicland where the main character, Sugar discovers a tin recipe box in the neglected kitchen. Inside are recipe cards, many reproduced on the page along with illustrations of the dishes Sugar reads about straight out of a 1950s American home: Jell-O molds, sugary salads and Baked Alaska, completely opposite to the non-sugary food she is fed:The refrigerator never had a functioning light bulb. Inside its dark interior, only useless food: lecitin, tahini, wheat germ, brewers yeast, opened plastic bags of miso paste, Postum, canning jars of blended things like goat's milk or nut milk (whatever it was, it was once frothy but had separated and formed a skin on top).

Sugar longs for the unavailable, processed foods she reads about on the recipe cards. Among the recipe card are collection of letters and cards by Mrs. McKlaran about how she courted her future husband with food. These letters cover the pages with an elaborate script with so many flourishes and smudges that it's not clear the reader is suppose to spend the time deciphering them or not, and yet they are tantalizing. The recipes have aphorisms from the chef printed on the recipe cards like: "Appetizers are the introduction to the meal, and as the name suggests, are intended to tempt the appetite." Sugar mulls over the aphorisms and the long ago ups and downs of Mrs. McKlaren's as she reads the recipes smuggled into bed with her at night.

The next chapter is about a boyfriend whose favorite food is Jell-O and lives off of packaged foods stolen from fast food restaurants and convenience foods. "He neatly wrapped the marinated chicken in tinfoil packages with some herbed frozen vegetables and popped them into the oven. The food never touched his hands, dishes or counter, which left him free to work on me like the winning calf-tied in the rodeo." (p. 31) Sugar ends up cooking his family a Thanksgiving dinner in the boyfriend's kitchen, creates a mess, and then flees with the food. The rest of the book continues such adventures.

Cook Until Desired Tenderness is lavishly illustrated – spoons hanging from wall and chandelier, drawings of walk-ins and dishes.

This is an adult's novel-cum-picturebook. While you could just read the story, you feel compelled to marvel over the illustrations. Still, Cook Until Desired Tenderness is a coming-of-age story for Foodies that revolves around the way we eat and cook.


My Book of the Moment: Cook Until Desired Tenderness

Notebook thin but packed to the rim with hotshot (and often hysterical) one-liners, Cleo Papanikolas' new book is a beautifully illustrated sketchbook/walk-of-life about falling in and out of love, in and out of the kitchen.

This book is the sort of small treasure that had me plopping on the couch when I got it and not moving until I'd digested every single word and actually touched the pages covered with absolutely breathtaking drawings (all food-based, of course).

Cleo's character (though this is fiction, why do I feel like Cleo herself has lived to tell some of these stories?) waxes poetic throughout the book on the madness of relationships (that crazy high when you first meet someone and then, the heart-piercing low when it's time to get the hell out...and fast) and how she blazes her way through the kitchen (or not) to match each fellas personality. Who can't connect with that: Certain guys make you cook yourself silly and others have you not cooking at all.

There are no recipes in the book, but it never claimed to be a cookbook--it's more of a wild adventure into love, via the ups-and-downs of recipes (some turn out, some don't).

Cleo is a talented writer and I just loved the whimsical nature of this book. It left me wanting more, more, more by the end of the read and wishing that I could draw like that...oh, where life might have taken me with an ounce of her talent.

My favorite part is toward the end of the book where she is living in a one-room apartment and literally sleeping on a huge dining room table (she was too lazy to move it out when the previous tenants left), surrounded by silverware she's collected along the way to this existence. Sounds right up my alley.


Book Review: Cook Until Desired Tenderness.
Posted Dec 3rd 2005 9:09AM by Andrew Barrow
Filed under: Books

What a wonderfully illustrated book. Absolutely packed with delightful coloured sketches by the author Cleo Papanikolas.

The back blurb says this is "an enchanting journey of reminiscences, drawings, and morsels of prose in which food is a love story..." There are five chapters; each telling a fictionalized food related story. Each is enchantingly written. The story covering food preparation in a restaurant kitchen is delightfully realised - the stress, the pressure, the fixation with a customer glimpsed through the serving hatch while the spoon collection - a short piece on a low point in a life has a quirky, sad edge with a touch of surreal madness. The story of trying to impress a lover with culinary extravagance is at once funny and also quirky. A lovely little book that would make a nice gift.

The author draws on her own restaurant experiences where she worked for many years. She resides in California.

Cooking With Amy

Remember the Griffin and Sabine books by Nick Bantock? They were beautiful, filled with the most amazing collage-style prints and illustrations. The stories were romantic and magical yet never mushy. They were like children's illustrated books but for adults.

Now imagine a culinary version and you have Cook Until Desired Tenderness, by Cleo Papanikolas. It's a gorgeous keepsake book that reads like a personal journal. Our heroine is Sugar, a girl growing up in the 70's in a household where refined sugar is forbidden. The story begins with her discovery of some old recipe cards and ends with her finding her place as a garde manger in a restaurant. But baked into the story you'll also find flirtations with spoons, a bite me sandwich, a nail cake, dinners gone awry and pots of butternut soup. A modern culinary fantasy, it has heartache, humor and a happy ending.

The illustrations are like a scrapbook of recipe cards, guest checks and watercolor creations. No actual recipes here, but a nice rainy day book to curl up with and savor over a cup of cocoa. If you crave a poetic mix of passion for cooking and cooking for passion, this slim volume is just the thing.


December 12, 2005
A Whimsical Book

"A delightful read, and a playful one." -- Catherine Nash, blogger, This is how my review capsule might read on the back of Cleo Papanikolas's Cook Until Desired Tenderness, an illustrated "journal" about one woman's love of food. It's the kind of book that is handwritten in parts, and typeset in others; where old recipe cards are reproduced with watercolors on the pages and whimsical illustrations of cakes and pies, of chickens pecking in the dirt and of tarnished silverware run along the border of every page. In its decorated pages, a young girl grows up, discovering the world of food her hippie parents hid from her (no sugar!) as she discovers herself. It's a quick read, and one that I enjoyed plenty. It would have gone nicely with a cup of tea or a bowl of vanilla ice cream in my lap.

My favorite scene tells of a Thanksgiving meal eaten with a group of strangers on the hood of a 1964 Lincoln Continental. Prepared in a boyfriend's house, then packed up when he behaves badly, the turkey and mashed potatoes are shared on the road after an unseen accident stops traffic. People pile out of their cars at sunset, offering up whatever they had planned to contribute to the dinner they were driving towards.

"We were a dozen Thanksgiving stragglers: last-minute invites to even up guest lists. In front of us was the first calm, warm sunset on the bay -- with a view of the city and all the bridges -- that any of us had seen in a long time."

A few loves are won and lost, then mourned before the heroine finds herself a job in a restaurant kitchen, and this is when she falls in love for good. There are no recipes, but one thought caught my eye: she whips up a chocolate cake batter, then pours it into a large silver serving spoon and bakes it in the toaster oven till it's cooked outside but still molten inside. Doesn't that sound lovely?

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