Monday, November 26, 2012

Cooking for Harry: A Low-Carbohydrate Novel - Kay-Marie James

Cooking for Harry: A Low Carbohydrate Novel by Kay-Marie James - Will love be enough to keep a marriage together, or will the Atkins Diet ultimately tear Harry and Francie apart? Pop a pan of cookies into the oven and put up your feet. Cooking for Harry is a deliciously good time. (Bilbary Town Library: Good for Readers, Good for Libraries)Summary:  Harry became a fabulous cook.   It began with a simple indulgence: secret bowls of buttery popcorn that he and his wife, Francie, would share after the children were tucked into bed.  The aroma of melting butter, the hot kernels on their tongues, the salt crystals sticking to their lips -- it was their ow private romantic feast, imbuing their marriage with a new kind of passion.  Soon, Harry began to dazzle Francie with luscious bisques and brioches, delectable souffles, rich rissotos, and classic versions of coq au vin that left her breathless.

Their family life came to revolve around the dinner table, where each night Harry's cooking brought Francie and their four children together for an awe-inspiring and mouthwatering meal.  But inevitably the years slip by, and when all but one child has left the house, Harry wins a digital scale in his company's Holiday Raffle and their happy bubble bursts in a single instant.  Harry's cooking has finally caught up with him.  His doctor confirms it:  He desperately needs to lose weight.

Terrified of losing him, Francie puts Harry on a strict diet, leaving him eternally frustrated at the table and in the kitchen.  When they both realize that he has to take a break from his culinary passions if this diet is to work, Francie begins to cook.  Eventually a younger-looking, leaner, and more driven Harry emerges -- one so newly committed to his job and his low-carb support group that not only is he no longer in the kitchen, he's hardly ever at home.  Feeling confused by the dynamics of their new relationship, Francie must contend with her need to keep Harry on his diet, and also with the women who have suddenly begun to eye her truly attractive husband.  The question now becomes:  Will love be enough to keep this marriage together, or will the Atkins Diet ultimately tear Harry and Francie apart?

Pop a pan of cookies in the oven and put up your feet.  Cooking for Harry is a deliciously good time.  (Summary from book - Image from

My Review:  It doesn't take a genius to figure out why I picked up Cooking for Harry.  All anyone has to do is read the above summary, heck, the first paragraph of the above summary and my motivations become crystal clear.  Food.  Luscious, delectable, totally devourable food.  And Kay-Marie James can write it.  Boy, howdy.  Her pre-diet descriptions of Harry's lavish meals were enough to have the pickiest eater salivating.  It's probably a good thing that I read this book on Thanksgiving day and into the days following, since there were plenty of leftovers to satisfy any cravings this book inspired.

Cooking for Harry was published in 2004 -- the height of the low-carb diet craze.  It was obvious from the "a low carbohydrate novel" portion of the title that this book would have an anti-carb theme, but I was surprised by how much of it felt like a sales pitch for the Atkins diet.   Honestly, I was disappointed when Harry went on a diet so soon into the book.  I missed the old Harry -- the one  who cooked and consumed carbs and proteins alike with reckless abandon.  Oh sure, there was bacon, eggs, and avocado galore post-diet, but it just wasn't the same.  Who can live without chocolate?  

As far as stories goes, this one was fine.  Nothing above and beyond, but definitely an okay read.  When Francie and Harry decide to diet together, they have difficulty adjusting to the unexpected side effects of Harry's lost weight and newly found purpose, eventually growing apart and questioning their relationship.   They cook, eat, fight, stray, and hash things out over gobs of protein.  This book is worth the read if you're in it for the food descriptions and some relationship turbulence and growth, but if you want a giant literary revelation -- look elsewhere.

My Rating: 3 Stars

For the sensitive reader:  I don't remember any profanity but there were some vague sexual references, and passing mention of their marital sex life.

Sum it up:  A literary feast for low-carb lovers.  Well, sort of.

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