Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Boston Book Festival 2017

I was fortunate enough to attend the Boston Book Festival this year on Saturday, October 28, 2017. I always love attending this festival but this year I only attended one panel due to the overwhelming crowd this year. I feel like every year, the festival has been increasing in numbers and unfortunately some of the attendees can be super rude. The festival takes place in Copley Square at the Boston Public Library and at many of the beautiful churches on Bolyston  Street and on Newbury Street.

I ended up attending the The Biker, the Baker, and the Dumpling Maker panel at The Boston Public Library's Rabb Hall which was beyond fabulous! At the panel, Karen Akunowicz, Joanne Chang and Stella Parks spoke about their new cookbooks, chatted about some of their experiences and even shared about recipe testing and recommended some of their favorite cookbooks.

Joanne started Flour before she ventured into owning Myers+Chang with her husband, Christopher. Prior to cooking and baking, Joanne majored in Applied Mathematics and Economics at Harvard but soon figured out that it wasn't her calling. Her passion is baking! She only has Flour bakeries in locations she can bike to. I absolutely love Flour! I've been an avid follower since 2009 and I own all of Joanne's cookbooks.

Stella mentioned that her calling is to reconnect people with their childhood memories with pastries. High skilled and fancy pastries are not necessary. Her interpretation of American classic desserts connects people with friends and family. Stella's cookbook, BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts intrigues me because I love how she weaves in some storytelling with her fantastic desserts. It's sort of resembles a journal of her life and what baking means to her. She transposes some of her memories onto pages for her readers so they can also create meaningful memories.

Karen talked about how culinary school is very strict and it can create a toxic environment for females. You have to take the harassment at the culinary school. There is no crying or getting upset. If you do, it's pretty much "get out of the kitchen." However, you have to be strong in order in order to succeed. Joanne mentioned how she wants to make sure that everyone has benefits at her bakeries and  restaurant. She wants them to feel safe and that there is an HR person for people to go to. Karen and Joanne work well together at Myers+Chang and they coauthored a wonderful cookbook. Karen was elated to be asked to contribute to Myers+Chang at Home: Recipes from the Beloved Boston Eatery.

The three talented women talked about "why cookbooks now in the digital age?" When the audience was asked how many people use cookbooks still, almost everyone in the whole room raised their hand. Only a few prefer reading recipes off their tablets. There is something tangible about a cookbook that you can look and page through. It's okay if you get it a bit dirty. Also, they make wonderful gifts!

Stella mentioned that she didn't know that cookbooks were dying out. Actually, she was asked to write a cookbook and she decided to write it. Karen and Joanne used a Google document and worked on the book between their busy shifts. Karen said there was no romantic notions in Vermont or writing battleship style as she envisioned prior to writing the cookbook.

In terms of favorite cookbooks, Stella loves The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs for flavor pairings. Karen jokingly mentions she loves all the Flour cookbooks but she uses loves Hartwood: Bright, Wild Flavors from the Edge of the Yucat√°n. Joanne's most used cookbook is Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything.

In terms of recipe testing, Joanne talked about how scaling and rewriting for the home and not for the restaurant was sometimes a challenge. Testing out the recipes in a home kitchen was key. Joanne had three people test out a recipe and will receive feedback from them. The recipe is rewritten before she asks another three people to test out the recipe. This process continues until the recipe is perfect. Stella had her friends and associates test out her recipes and then she had professionals test them out.

The balance between stories, images and recipes were vital for Stella's book. Her book is for avid home bakers and for those how love some history. Her editor sat in during the photo shoot to help streamline the process. Karen and Joanne mentioned how their book is catered for home cooking.

After the panel, I was lined up to have Karen and Joanne sign my copy of Myers+Chang at Home: Recipes from the Beloved Boston Eatery. Joanne already signed my Flour copies in the past. Afterwards, I went to check out some of the vendor booths and had some Chicken and Rice Guys at the food truck outside of the Boston Public Library. I ended the day fairly short and ended up going home early.

Definitely check out Karen and Joann'e latest book Myers+Chang at Home: Recipes from the Beloved Boston Eatery and also Stella's book BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts. Thank you to the organizers and volunteers of Boston Book Festival. I always look forward to this free annual festival.


  1. It sounds like you had a great time and I am happy for you! i have never been to a signing or festival (yet)..Happy Thanksgiving!!

    1. Thank you! I hop you have a chance to attend a signing or a book festival. Happy Thanksgiving to you too!