Transcript / LoLT: Chicken Soup Manifesto and Two New Books — 23 February 2024

Transcript / LoLT: Chicken Soup Manifesto and Two New Books — 23 February 2024

Friday, 23 February, 2024

This is a transcription of ‘LoLT: Chicken Soup Manifesto and Two New Books — 23 February 2024’

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David: I want to tell you one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten. This is going to be obvious to some people, but it really helped me out. It’s that, in a relationship, there are three parts. There’s you, there’s the other person, and there’s the relationship itself. And they all need care. If you’re going to have a successful relationship, all three of those parts need to be in working order and they all need to get attention from time to time.

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[cheerful music]

Melissa: Coming up, a cunning mystery set on a train in Australia.

David: A sequel to one of the best books of 2018.

Melissa: Plus, our distraction of the week. I’m Mel.

David: I’m Dave. This is the library of lost time.

Melissa: I eat up closed-circle mysteries like popcorn, and if they’re set on a train, it’s like having just the right amount of salt AND extra butter. So I am predisposed to like the new novel ‘Everyone on This Train is a Suspect’ by Benjamin Stevenson. He’s well-known in Australia as a stand-up comedian. And his 2022 book ‘Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone’ was a massive hit. It was published in 26 countries and is in the works as an HBO series. That story is an homage AND a send-up of golden age murder mystery tropes — with a very cheeky narrator who breaks the fourth wall to speak directly to the reader.

Melissa: That narrator’s name is Ernest Cunningham. He’s an author, and he’s back for this sequel. The conceit of this book is that the novel Ernest wrote about the murder in ‘Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone’ has made him so famous that he’s been invited to a prestigious writers’ festival aboard a famous train that runs between Darwin and Adelaide in Australia.

Melissa: He’s joined on board by crime-writing luminaries, including a forensic science writer, a writer of literary mysteries, a best-selling mystery author, a psychological suspense writer, and the author of legal thrillers. In short, they’re all experts in murder. How to write a murder. How to investigate a murder. And how to get away with murder.

Melissa: When one of them winds up dead, the others, including our narrator Ernest, turn detective. But they’re also all suspects.

Melissa: I love a voice-y narrator, and this guy is the voiciest of voice-y narrators. He frequently breaks the fourth wall and is quite cagey with his exposition. Before the murder in this book, he warns that a comma will be a pivotal clue.

Melissa: Kirkus wrote, ‘It’s not for everyone — but if you want to read a supercharged meta-pastiche like this, this is exactly the one to read.’ Based on that description, I think you’ll know if this book is right for you. It feels very right for me. It’s ‘Everyone on This Train is a Suspect’ by Benjamin Stevenson.

Melissa: BTDubbs, if you also like books set on trains, there are fantastic train books in our Strong Sense of Place episode called ‘Trains: Better Than Planes and Cars. Fight Me.’ Because we can be a little cheeky, too. I’ll put a link to that episode in the show notes.

David: Tommy Orange is an author who’s known for his 2018 book ‘There There.’ It’s about modern Native American life. It follows 12 different characters travelling to the Big Powwow at the Oakland Coliseum in the mid 2010s. It’s a bit of a collage. The voice jumps around between first, second, and third. The book has non-fictional essays; there’s one right in the middle. It was Orange’s first book. He has a bachelor’s degree in sound design. He was working at a bookstore, started reading, then decided he needed to write.

David: ‘There, There’ was well received. The Globe and Mail says that it should, quote, ‘probably be on reading lists for every creative writing program in the country.’ Margaret Atwood said it was ‘an astonishing literary debut.’ It was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, one of the New York Times ‘Best Books of 2018,’ and won the American Book Award.

David: His second book is out this week. It’s called ‘Wandering Stars.’ It’s both a prequel and a sequel to ‘There There.’ It’s a historical; it’s a multi-generational family saga about a group of Native Americans. It starts with the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864 and continues to modern-day Oakland. Every review I read mentioned that the quality of the writing is high. If this appeals to you, and you have not read ‘There There,’ you should start with that. Both books have some characters in common, and it’s probably a better experience.

David: This book is ‘Wandering Stars.’ It’s by Tommy Orange. And it’s out now.

David: And now our Distraction of the Week. [magical sound effect]

Melissa: For Christmas this year, Dave gifted me the excellent cookbook ‘The Chicken Soup Manifesto: Recipes From Around the World’ by Jenn Louis. It includes 130 recipes from 64 countries. And it kicked off a cooking project that will probably take us until sometime in 2026. I’m making a pot of chicken soup almost every week until we’ve tried every recipe in the book.

Melissa: I’ve never cooked through an entire cookbook before … except for ours, of course. I’ve cooked through our Well Fed cookbooks dozens of times.

Melissa: We take turns choosing a soup each week, and that’s been fun because we each gravitate toward different flavor profiles.

Melissa: Dave, do you remember the soups you’ve picked so far?

David: The first one was from Norway.

Melissa: Yes, Hunsekjuttsuppe. It’s a basic chicken soup flavored with parsnips and tart apples. Slightly sweet, a whisper of licorice from the parsnips. We had that with a piece of toast with melted goat cheese on top.

Melissa: The second one was Waterzooi from Belgium. This is a traditional chicken soup, but then, at the end, you stir in something creamy — we used Greek yogurt — and top it with minced parsley. Super cozy.

Melissa: My first pick was the first soup in the book. It’s Chorba Bayda from Algeria. It’s got a touch of cinnamon, plus rice and chickpeas. And it’s silky because the broth is thickened with a couple of egg yolks. Which is a really good trick.

Melissa: And we had Kotosoupa from Greece, which was light and bright. Perfect for a cold gloomy day. It includes diced zucchini and potato, and we finished it with a spritz of lemon juice. My notes say it was fantastic on Day 3.

Melissa: So, why chicken soup? Why does almost every cuisine have its own version? Cultures that eat meat invariably eat chicken. It’s readily available, it’s affordable, and it tastes good. Where there’s chicken, there’s chicken soup. Jenn Louis said that when she talked to people about chicken soup, they loved it for two reasons: its nourishing properties and as a hangover cure. As far as anyone can tell, the first person to say something like, ‘You look sick. Eat some chicken soup.’ was the Sephardic rabbi Moses Maimonides in the 12th century. Which makes sense because chicken soup is also known as Jewish penicillin.

Melissa: That idea sunk in for Jenn Louis one fall day a few years ago. She was on a work trip in San Diego and woke up with a terrible cold — and she was scheduled to fly home to Portland, Oregon. She called her sister, complaining about how lousy she felt. When she got home, exhausted, her sister surprised her with a giant pot of homemade chicken soup.

Melissa: She says that a pot of chicken soup is the ultimate gesture of love.

Melissa: So, for Valentine’s Day this past Wednesday, I made an extra special pot of soup for Dave. It’s called Chupe de Pollo con Chipotle, and it’s from Peru. The broth is flavored with chipotle chiles in adobo sauce. Chipotle chiles are jalapeños that have been dried and smoked. They’re not too hot but very flavorful. So, those go into the broth, with lots of garlic and South American spices, including my all-time favorite cumin. That all gets simmered and pureed, then you add red potatoes, a few diced tomatoes, and hominy — corn with big kernels. And at the end, you add a little cream and a little lime juice. It’s velvety and creamy and spicy and chewy. We had it with crispy corn tortillas.

Melissa: This soup project is a nice way to get creative and explore the tastes of other cultures — and it’s adding a nice rhythm to our weekly meal planning. I 100% recommend The Chicken Soup Manifesto, but you could do this kind of project with any cookbook.

Melissa: I should also mention that throughout Season 6 of our Strong Sense of Place podcast — which is coming up soon — I’ll be sharing our soup adventures on Patreon. I’ll post the recipe and any adjustments I made, along with photos and what Dave and I thought of it. If that sounds tasty to you, now would be a delicious time to join our community on Patreon.

Melissa: Visit for more on the books we talked about today and recipes from The Chicken Soup Manifesto.

David: Thanks for joining us on the library of last time. Remember to visit your local library and your independent bookstore to lose some time yourself.

Melissa: Stay curious. We’ll talk to you soon.

[cheerful music]


Top image courtesy of Ed Anderson.

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