BOOK: The Lives Our Mothers Leave Us by Patti Davis (Hay House, 2009) consists of interviews conducted by Davis, daughter of Nancy Reagan and former President Ronald Reagan, with two dozen women, including Melissa Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love; Newsweek columnist Anna Quindlen, who has written searing essays about her mother who died at 40; and Carnie Wilson, whose mother was only 16 when she married Beach Boy Brian Wilson. The subtitle captures the content perfectly: Prominent Women Discuss the Complex, Humorous, and Ultimately Loving Relationships They Have With Their Mothers.
WHY READ? Because everything about a mother-daughter relationship is oversized and intense — the conflict, the love, the mutual influence and the mutual need for approval. And because it's a great selection for a women's book club. Daughters routinely roll their eyes and complain about their mothers when alive, but then grieve forever when they die. "Even if our mothers are gone, they are never gone from us," Davis says. "If you burrow under the surface of any woman, you'll find what her mother thought about her." Davis acknowledges her own well-known difficulties with her own mother ("My mother and I were never mild with one another," she says, understating the rancor she has chronicled in her autobiography, The Way I See It), and she exults in the friendship they finally forged. Then she recounts a nasty disagreement they had recently over a string of pearls, of all things.
MAKE IT: Mom and apple pie … these two icons of American devotion seem to belong together, so it seems only fitting that a discussion of this book about the travails of daughterhood be accompanied by some sort of apple delight. Apple pies can be challenging, however, so here's a simpler version that mixes the cinnamon-and-sugar-coated apples with an easy bread "crust." (Mother would be appalled, no doubt.) And in keeping with the theme of some of these mother-daughter relationships, this recipe includes a liberal shot of Jack Daniel's.
TAKE IT: If you're too busy to bake, there are plenty of surprisingly good frozen apple pies available at the supermarket. Consumer Reports recently gave high grades to Mrs. Smith's Classic Dutch Apple Pie and to Marie Callender's Dutch Apple. A fresh apple pie from the bakery would also be delightful. And remember, all apple pie must be served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It's the law.
Tom Valeo, Special to the Times
Read & Feed is a monthly column in Taste that matches popular book club selections with food to serve at meetings. If you have suggestions or would like to share what your book club is cooking up, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Put BOOK FOOD in the subject line.