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Our bookseller Christine got the chance to ask one of her favorite authors five questions. Of course she couldn't stop at just five...
J. Ryan Stradal is the author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest.

1. Would a pop-up restaurant make for good reality TV? Where would you like to see the show take place?

I think it'd be a fun idea -- a different pop-up every episode? I'd love to see some of the ones that happen outdoors or in ephemeral/temporary locations. The best ones could be doing for a dining experience what Andy Goldsworthy does with art.

2. Is there a cuisine that you have yet to try, but have always wanted to?

I have to admit that I'm intrigued by Kopi Luwak coffee.

3. Do you like to cook or bake? What is your specialty?

My favorite thing to make is the chicken & wild rice hot dish that's in the first chapter of my book -- which I grew up with -- but my seventeen years in California come out when I make breakfast tacos.

4. Do you think that current trends in cooking and food production (such as local sourcing, gluten-free everything, menus that list every last ingredient) are good for the foodie community? What trends do you see developing quickly? What trends would you like to see disappear completely?

I believe that for the most part they are extremely good for people -- I'm glad that people care about where their food comes from and restaurants are taking pride in local or conscientiously sourced ingredients. I hope we'll continue to see more evolving, seasonal menus on a more affordable scale. I know that some of the transparency is also a response to customers' food allergies, intolerances, and values, and I certainly don't think we're going to see less of that. We're probably not far off from having the pH of a dish or ingredient on a menu.
I have few restaurant grievances, but one stands out. I have nothing against real truffles, but over the last several years, I've experienced plenty of restaurants drizzling "truffle oil" over, say, a plate of french fries, and consequently marking up the price significantly. It might be great for a restaurant's bottom line, but that's one trend I'd love to see vanish.

5. How did you develop the structure of the novel? I found it fascinating that the recipes appeared at different times in different places, as though they were characters. (BTW, I cheered when Pat’s peanut butter bars reappeared!)

Thank you! I wanted to tell the story of a young woman's maturation as a chef through the influential food that came into her life -- told from the perspective of the person who introduced her to that food, intentionally or otherwise. I wrote it out of order, and I wrote more chapters than I ultimately included, but the structure never varied.

6. Will Eva return in your next novel? Will the novel also be centered around food?

So far, Eva hasn't made an appearance, but a few characters from Kitchens are mentioned in passing, and I think it's likely that you haven't seen the last of a few of them. Food is not the focus of the next book but there are a few pointedly Midwestern dishes or ingredients, somewhat neglected in the last book, that get more of a spotlight in this one -- rhubarb being one of them.

7. Lutefisk… yes or no?

I'll put it this way -- I'll never buy it again, but if I'm a guest in someone's home and it's served to me -- it wouldn't be Minnesotan of me to refuse it.
Friday, January 8, 2016 - 12:00pm