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How to Cook a Tart

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Cookbook author Jasmine March's life is like a perfectly prepared béchamel-rich, satisfying, and drenched in butter. But even a great béchamel curdles sometimes. Her husband, Daniel, has taken up with one of his Zone-dieting drama students; Careme, her daughter, is bent on starving herself to death; and Jasmine's fellow foodies have had just about enough of her Cookbook author Jasmine March's life is like a perfectly prepared béchamel-rich, satisfying, and drenched in butter. But even a great béchamel curdles sometimes. Her husband, Daniel, has taken up with one of his Zone-dieting drama students; Careme, her daughter, is bent on starving herself to death; and Jasmine's fellow foodies have had just about enough of her astronomically caloric recipes. To make matters worse, her publisher is threatening to cancel her contract. And then there's the small matter of the dead body she finds one morning on her kitchen floor. Filled with mouth-watering descriptions of Jasmine's creations-venison stew with Madeira and juniper berries, crispy chicken breasts stuffed with goat cheese and mint-Nina Killham's smart and spirited first novel is good enough to eat.


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Cookbook author Jasmine March's life is like a perfectly prepared béchamel-rich, satisfying, and drenched in butter. But even a great béchamel curdles sometimes. Her husband, Daniel, has taken up with one of his Zone-dieting drama students; Careme, her daughter, is bent on starving herself to death; and Jasmine's fellow foodies have had just about enough of her Cookbook author Jasmine March's life is like a perfectly prepared béchamel-rich, satisfying, and drenched in butter. But even a great béchamel curdles sometimes. Her husband, Daniel, has taken up with one of his Zone-dieting drama students; Careme, her daughter, is bent on starving herself to death; and Jasmine's fellow foodies have had just about enough of her astronomically caloric recipes. To make matters worse, her publisher is threatening to cancel her contract. And then there's the small matter of the dead body she finds one morning on her kitchen floor. Filled with mouth-watering descriptions of Jasmine's creations-venison stew with Madeira and juniper berries, crispy chicken breasts stuffed with goat cheese and mint-Nina Killham's smart and spirited first novel is good enough to eat.

30 review for How to Cook a Tart

  1. 4 out of 5

    Renee

    Everything about How to Cook a Tart, the debut novel from Washington Post food writer Nina Killham, is too much. Its heroine, cookbook author Jasmine March, is a rotund creation, a lover of cream and butter and pork and all manner of excess. Food governs her. She's given to ruminations along these lines: "of all the herbs, Jasmine thought, basil was her soul mate. Basil was sensuous, liking to stretch out green and silky under a hot sun with its feet covered in cool soil." Her husband Daniel is Everything about How to Cook a Tart, the debut novel from Washington Post food writer Nina Killham, is too much. Its heroine, cookbook author Jasmine March, is a rotund creation, a lover of cream and butter and pork and all manner of excess. Food governs her. She's given to ruminations along these lines: "of all the herbs, Jasmine thought, basil was her soul mate. Basil was sensuous, liking to stretch out green and silky under a hot sun with its feet covered in cool soil." Her husband Daniel is having an affair with a woman of the opposite extreme: an actress named Tina who's a skinny-limbed disciple of the Zone diet. Jasmine's daughter Careme is--what else?--an anorexic. Killham pushes these characters off the precipice of probability when Tina is found dead in Jasmine's kitchen, a brownie stuffed in her mouth. --Claire Dederer --This text refers to the Hardcover edition. I must warn, I was very disappointed in the ending; Renee.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Darcie K

    I can't believe I read this. I blame it on review blurbs like "smart, sexy, hilarious, and not to be missed." Thanks for nothing, Washington Post. Sometimes a book with a pink cover is just what a girl needs. I can't ever imagine that need being fulfilled by this particular pink-covered disappointment. The descriptions of cuisine are laudable, but the plot, characters, and surprise ending weren't enough to redeem the food writing. Booo.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Katy

    I really enjoyed "How to Cook a Tart." I truly did. I do agree, however, after reading other reviews, that EVERYTHING in this book was stretched, however. One only needs to know the basis of the novel to laugh at the far-fetched-ness: Jasmine, the protagonist, is a cookbook author and an avid lover of foods fatty and healthy alike (more on the fatty side). Her husband is having an affair with a stick-thin actress on the Zone diet. AND their daughter, Careme? She's an anorexic. Careme isn't really I really enjoyed "How to Cook a Tart." I truly did. I do agree, however, after reading other reviews, that EVERYTHING in this book was stretched, however. One only needs to know the basis of the novel to laugh at the far-fetched-ness: Jasmine, the protagonist, is a cookbook author and an avid lover of foods fatty and healthy alike (more on the fatty side). Her husband is having an affair with a stick-thin actress on the Zone diet. AND their daughter, Careme? She's an anorexic. Careme isn't really a believable anorexic, however. Instead of being an obsession, her anorexia comes off as more of a habit, or a game. The difficulty and the inner struggle aren't portrayed at all in here, instead she is somehow able to focus on other things, such as losing her virginity??? And the ending was stunning. I'm not really giving anything away here, because it gives this away on the synopsis on the back of the book, but the story ends with a murder? And eating the human meat? I wasn't geared up for this kind of change. Suddenly a cute, lighthearted book was turned into a murder mystery in the last 20 pages. Whoa! In conclusion, "How to Cook a Tart" was a fun read. Jasmine was a lovable character, and we even come to like Daniel, her cheating husband. Despite it's flaws, it will remain on my bookshelf for a rainy day.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Debra Hale-Shelton

    OK, I bought the book because the independent booksellers recommended it on their Booksense list. I also was impressed by the food angle. Well, there's not much food writing herein. OK, I can deal with that. The plot was a bit over the top. But I can deal with that, too. But the ending, excuse me. It was so stupid, it was insulting. Did the Booksense seller really read the whole book??

  5. 4 out of 5

    Marshaferz

    Delicious! A fast, fun read - not deep by any stretch, but a great "summer book." And I want that pumpkin ravioli recipe!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jessie (Ageless Pages Reviews)

    No. I think that says it best.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Louise Hartgen

    Being one of those people who lives to eat, I just knew I was going to love this book from the start. The little review of it I saw said not to read it if you were either dieting or even slightly hungry! Oh yes, a book right up my street. When I found out that Jasmine, the slightly ditsy but very lovable main character was plump, sweet-natured, open-hearted and passionate about real food, that is full-cream, high-calorie, un-emasculated full-on stick-to-your-hips heaven, I was disposed to love Being one of those people who lives to eat, I just knew I was going to love this book from the start. The little review of it I saw said not to read it if you were either dieting or even slightly hungry! Oh yes, a book right up my street. When I found out that Jasmine, the slightly ditsy but very lovable main character was plump, sweet-natured, open-hearted and passionate about real food, that is full-cream, high-calorie, un-emasculated full-on stick-to-your-hips heaven, I was disposed to love the book from page one, and I did. So, here we have a woman with a nice husband, a happy family, a job she loves and everything going for her, only then, like her figure, it all goes a bit pear-shaped. This story might seem to some as light and fluffy as a well-baked Victoria sponge, but every slice of cake has a sting in its tail, so to speak, and so does this book. I found the book brilliantly funny, very sad in places and extremely thought-provoking, as well as loving all the descriptions of the mouthwatering food! Read it and see for yourself, except not if you're dieting or even slightly hungry, the cookie jar will suffer a terrible fate!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Clover White

    This book is probably one of the strangest books I have ever read. Don't even get me started on the terribly gross ending (hint: there is a double entendre in that title), but the writing itself was so uneven. On one hand, it sets out to be a book promoting eating for pleasure's sake, and not worrying about calories and fat content-- but on the other hand, it has lots of decidedly fat-phobic descriptions of the characters. One time, the main character bemoans cookbooks that promote unrealistic This book is probably one of the strangest books I have ever read. Don't even get me started on the terribly gross ending (hint: there is a double entendre in that title), but the writing itself was so uneven. On one hand, it sets out to be a book promoting eating for pleasure's sake, and not worrying about calories and fat content-- but on the other hand, it has lots of decidedly fat-phobic descriptions of the characters. One time, the main character bemoans cookbooks that promote unrealistic recipes-- then it lays out the highly gourmet recipes she writes. It's really for the ending that I gave this the lowest rating, but it was also just poorly written. Very sad that it's the only book I read in a week's time.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mary Beth Marion

    I picked this up because Anthony Bourdain had a favorable review blurb on it, and he hates everything, so I figured "how bad could it be?" Note to self: that question should never be a reason to purchase a book. I couldn't push myself beyond the first 50 pages of this one, so I'm putting it down for a day when I'm simply desperate for something to read and there is nothing else in the house - not even a cereal box. Got it at a used book store, and am very glad I didn't pay full price. Vapid, I picked this up because Anthony Bourdain had a favorable review blurb on it, and he hates everything, so I figured "how bad could it be?" Note to self: that question should never be a reason to purchase a book. I couldn't push myself beyond the first 50 pages of this one, so I'm putting it down for a day when I'm simply desperate for something to read and there is nothing else in the house - not even a cereal box. Got it at a used book store, and am very glad I didn't pay full price. Vapid, uninteresting people, and I don't really care what happens to any of them. I can't really recommend this one to anyone.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca McNutt

    How to Cook a Tart was sort of comedic, but it got a little too weird for me when the entire book revolves around food. I'm surprised the characters didn't turn into food, too! The author literally couldn't talk about anything else in the entire novel, which was odd and disappointing.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

    This one was interesting. When I was reading it mostly I didn't think much about what was going on but when I was telling a friend about it, I realized that what happens is really crazy and kind of creepy. It didn't seem creepy at the time though.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    it was ok. i admit it - i bought this book solely for the title! (and that fact that was on the clearance rack)

  13. 5 out of 5

    Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance

    Sorry. I hated this book the more I read it. Mean spirited humor just hits me the wrong way.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte

    This book was ok; it was funny at times, and it was pretty engaging. It wasn't an epic or anything, but it was enjoyable enough.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Beth Hughes

    HOW TO COOK A TART is the perfect recipe--especially if they love all things culinary. It's the perfect blend of humor (self-deprecating--as if there's any other kind?), varied points of view (which all cleverly come together at the end), romance, family dysfunction, and mystery. The result is a dizzying concoction with an ending I didn't see coming. I'm a teacher with a classroom library, and I'm still not sure where to fit this book, genre-wise. It's largely realistic fiction, which is where I HOW TO COOK A TART is the perfect recipe--especially if they love all things culinary. It's the perfect blend of humor (self-deprecating--as if there's any other kind?), varied points of view (which all cleverly come together at the end), romance, family dysfunction, and mystery. The result is a dizzying concoction with an ending I didn't see coming. I'm a teacher with a classroom library, and I'm still not sure where to fit this book, genre-wise. It's largely realistic fiction, which is where I had it stowed, but its shocking ending--that comes out of nowhere--enables it to sit comfortably among mystery/thrillers. I loved that I didn't have any expectations about this read. I wanted something lighter--after reading a few intense books, and I wanted something shorter. I went into this story without a single expectation, which I think makes for the best reading experience. I started it and was immediately hooked by Killham's intriguing opener. So, after a few dates, I decided to commit to this one, and it was a quick, fun ride. Killham does a great job at making our mouths water. Until she doesn't. At the end.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jonna Harris

    I enjoyed the majority of this novel, but the ending was so absurd that it was completely ruined for me. I enjoyed the rich food and cooking descriptions, as well as the rich characters, even if they were almost too rich. I was wondering where the murder mystery part came into the storyline, only to find it stuck in the last twenty pages like an afterthought. The author would have done better to leave it out, as it was poorly thought out and distasteful. If the story had concluded a different I enjoyed the majority of this novel, but the ending was so absurd that it was completely ruined for me. I enjoyed the rich food and cooking descriptions, as well as the rich characters, even if they were almost too rich. I was wondering where the murder mystery part came into the storyline, only to find it stuck in the last twenty pages like an afterthought. The author would have done better to leave it out, as it was poorly thought out and distasteful. If the story had concluded a different way it would have been much more enjoyable.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Davelyn

    I want to start out by saying though I did not enjoy this book, I think the author is immensely talented. In the beginning, it was hard for me to read this book. I could not relate to any of the characters and did not particularly like any of them. I hated their choices and decided I would give this book one star. As I continued, this book turned into quite the page turner. I was shocked at who the killer was and admired how clever the turns were. I'm glad I decided to finish the book! I look I want to start out by saying though I did not enjoy this book, I think the author is immensely talented. In the beginning, it was hard for me to read this book. I could not relate to any of the characters and did not particularly like any of them. I hated their choices and decided I would give this book one star. As I continued, this book turned into quite the page turner. I was shocked at who the killer was and admired how clever the turns were. I'm glad I decided to finish the book! I look forward to future works by this author (as long as they focus on different characters). 2.5 stars

  18. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    Overall fantastic- especially the descriptions of food- but the whole murder mystery bit was unnecessary. I would have preferred a few more pages of Jasmine's full-fat beliefs and life rather than a slap-dash cheesy murder plot that wrapped up in 10 pages.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Emily VanLaeys

    This started out as a light, fun read, but I was unprepared for the gruesome conclusion. I can't recommend this book. In fact, it's the first time I threw away a book rather than passing it on to another reader.

  20. 5 out of 5

    h.

    '"Handled well," Jasmine thought, "a good sharp knife was more useful than beauty"' (41). How can I not keep reading a book with such a great observation? August 16, 2011: Finished up this book, and I'm going to leave it at a four. It's not for everyone for sure, and not my usual fare. I'd call it real-world chic lit. It has absolutely none of the grating shallowness of Sex in the City or the Devil Wears Prada or those other trivial anthems to the inane. Killham created a likable, decent, '"Handled well," Jasmine thought, "a good sharp knife was more useful than beauty"' (41). How can I not keep reading a book with such a great observation? August 16, 2011: Finished up this book, and I'm going to leave it at a four. It's not for everyone for sure, and not my usual fare. I'd call it real-world chic lit. It has absolutely none of the grating shallowness of Sex in the City or the Devil Wears Prada or those other trivial anthems to the inane. Killham created a likable, decent, intelligent and real protagonist. She completely nailed what marriage is like. Jasmine's marraige is tender at times, sad at times, ridiculous at times. She wants to leave a lot of times, she wants to stay a lot of days. I love it that Jasmine is absolutely secure in herself. She knows what she values and her conflict is reconiciling herself to the fact that everyone else has a problem with her passions --- and her weight. But she holds the course and works it out for herself. Her self-respect never wavers nor should it. This is a farce, though. The plot, the mistress, the teenage daughter, and yes, the marble rolling pin scene and murder of the mistress are over the top (I'm giving nothing away. The story starts here.) It's kind of impressive the way Killham was able to marry realism and absurdity. I'm not sure I've come across this sort of very real character and very real mother and a very real relationship with in the genre of either chic lit or absurdity. And the farcical nature of it is not at odds with the realism. It's lightens it up. You're getting two books in one in Tart. Killman's writing is, as others on this site have pointed out, over-done. She lays the description on too thick. They're great descriptions, but a little would have gone a long way. That being said, some of Killham's lines are fabulous and insightful. All I can say is that during the editing process she should have noticed too much is too much and chosen more judiciously. I'd probably read something else by Killham if I come across it; though, I doubt I'll seek anything out. August 14, 2011: Picked up this book this afternoon. It was a hand-me-down, and I've been saving it for one of those days when I'd like to read that kind of book that is like watching very entertaining, yet trival tv. I don't indulge in decorating make-overs or run-way cat fights because I haven't got cable. Instead, I keep a pile of these books handy. It's a lot of fun. Quick. I'm on page 57. It might end up with three stars. We'll have to see how Ms. Killham handles the ending. Killham tends to be as heavy on the description as her protagonist (a plump kitchen goddess) is on her sauces. Jasmine is shamelessly decadent and doesn't care. She licks the butter, chocolate, bechamel off her thickly coated spoon in ectasy. Here is a truly hedonistic woman. Killham describes food with the same unabashed opulance that A.N. Roquelaure uses to describe fetish, gadgets, and release. I find myself blushing. A half-dozen of Jasmine's amuse bouche would send me into a food coma. Oh, and I have to mention she's as crazy about wine as food and her descriptions of a Sauterne are worth committing to memory to uncork the next time you find yourself annoyed by a pretensious wine prick. Her descriptions are of that honest provencial kind that immediately shame the pretensious. People hate Jasmine because she happily makes them fat, and then they make her the scape-goat for their lack of will. Her cookbook publisher has dropped her because butter doesn't sell in these post Julia days (except for Paula Dean). Her daughter hates her most of all for having made her plump as a kid, so now said kid (weighing in at about 92 pounds) is nursing an eating disorder as determindly as her mom nurses a roasting, fig-stuffed quail. This sixteen year old is such a brat it's a delight. You will know a kid or two just like her. The kind you might one end up slapping the living snot out of: screw the jail term. As the back-cover explains, Jasmine's bechamel has curdled. Her husband has apparently cheated on her. There's a murder involved as the first paragraph involves Jasmine finding his scrawny lover on her kitchen floor with a triple chocolate browning stuffed in her mouth. Then the narrative shifts right into back story, so I'm assuming I'll be in store for the marble-rolling pin, head cracking scene near the end. Most of all, I really like Jasmine. She's completely self-assured. She's doing what she loves: cooking and eating. Being heavy is the price, and she pays it gladly. She's fat and happy. Jasmine is a totally sympathic character: she's a kind women who used to be the Earth Mother to everyone she loves; now she's reviled. You feel bad for her as she struggles to process it all after this rug-pulling. Delicious, decadent stuff this book. If you're in the market for harmless fun and you can find it cheap, this is the book for you. Definately a one-time read, but then you can gift it. It's that kind of book that gets gifted down several hands until it ends up in Goodwill. Here's an idea: take it to your next dinner party as a hostess gift so long as the lady of the house is thin; you don't want to send the wrong message.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    I enjoyed the book. I love books and movies about food. In this book food becomes a "main character," and is a HUGE part of the plot. The ending was a bit over the top for me, but that said, I didn't see it coming.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly Hurd

    What I did read was a complete disappointment. For my full review go to http://areyougonnablogthat.blogspot.c...

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette

    Amazingly hilarious with the most wonderful descriptions of food! Suspenseful, surprising, and sumptuous. (Yay fun words)

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dylan

    god bless tony bourdain for giving this a blurb it truly does not deserve

  25. 4 out of 5

    Janet Mary Cobb

    I found some of the cooking descriptions far too detailed. Found the nonchalant attitudes towards adult/teen sexual tension inappropriate. The storyline by the end was too far-fetched.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Laura Palacios

    At times funny and at times hilarious … even the 'dark' parts. Read it, relate to Jasmine's situation and for a second (or longer) wonder if YOU could go down the same road.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Merel

    Deliciously wicked ;)

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Jones

    I was with it til the last chapter or two. The set-up at the start doesn't really pay off. Lovely writing, descriptions, and characterizations throughout though.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Audrey

    Of all the herbs, Jasmine thought, basil was her soul mate. She rubbed her fingers over a leaf and sniffed deeply at the pungent, almost licorice scent. Basil was sensuous, liking to stretch out green and silky under a hot sun with its feet covered in cool soil. Basil married so well with her favorite ingredients: rich, ripe tomatoes, a rare roast lamb, a meaty mozzarella. Jasmine plucked three leaves from her basil plant and slivered them in quick, precise slashes, then tucked them into her Of all the herbs, Jasmine thought, basil was her soul mate. She rubbed her fingers over a leaf and sniffed deeply at the pungent, almost licorice scent. Basil was sensuous, liking to stretch out green and silky under a hot sun with its feet covered in cool soil. Basil married so well with her favorite ingredients: rich, ripe tomatoes, a rare roast lamb, a meaty mozzarella. Jasmine plucked three leaves from her basil plant and slivered them in quick, precise slashes, then tucked them into her salad along with a tablespoon of slivered orange rind. Her lunch today was to be full of surprises. Synopsis: Tired of the DC diet scene, her anorexic teenager's backtalk and her husband's secrets, mid-list cookbook author Jasmine March embarks on a quest to make fat fun again. Which in no way explains the corpse on her kitchen floor. I loved it. Even if it hadn't had a mysterious inscription on the flyleaf, I would still have loved this curious, over-the-top little novel. At the beginning of the book Jasmine is presented to the reader as an object of pity: the fat wife of a handsome man, the awkward mother of a lanky, beautiful teenager and a cookbook author hopelessly out of touch with the current trends in beautiful, low-calorie fusion foods. But the measure of a great character is how they respond to adversity, and the worse things get, the more Jasmine gets her shit together and stops accepting other people's excuses. She continues to take refuge in her great love of food and cooking, but as she accepts it as her strength, she also learns to wield it like a weapon. Other reviews I've read of this book take it to task for Killham's style ("Everything about How to Cook a Tart, the debut novel from Washington Post food writer Nina Killham, is too much." --amazon review) and it's definitely a dense, almost overwrought style that takes some getting used to. You'll either love it or you'll hate it. It reminded me quite a bit of Caitlin Kiernan and Jean Rhys, so I loved the hell out of it. Another review complained of the "basil is her soul-mate" sentence up above, which I get; there are a couple of other oddities along those lines, including the Yodaesque, "Almost afraid to move, so shattered she felt." But for my money they're greatly outnumbered by more lush and beautiful constructions: --"Handled well, Jasmine thought, a good sharp knife was more useful than beauty." --"In her bathroom, Careme washed the blood from her face. She watched it curl toward the drain like a red whisper." While the book is stuffed to the rafters with food, it contains no recipes, at least not ones that require spelling out; Jasmine simply isn't that kind of cook. Just as she isn't that kind of heroine. Her lessons are more organic and pulled together out of the type of knowledge you just can't find in any cookbook. At least not one that's not like this one.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    Cookbook author Jasmine March is a pleasant, rotund woman. "Of all the herbs, Jasmine thought, basil was her soul mate." The story begins in Jasmine's kitchen where she finds a young girl dead on her kitchen floor, a brownie stuffed in her mouth. Jasmine's main concern is the well being of her favorite rolling pin. The rest is a flashback leading up to the present with an over-the-top conclusion. Jasmine's motto: To feast well is the best revenge. Too bad her publisher doesn't agree, feeling that Cookbook author Jasmine March is a pleasant, rotund woman. "Of all the herbs, Jasmine thought, basil was her soul mate." The story begins in Jasmine's kitchen where she finds a young girl dead on her kitchen floor, a brownie stuffed in her mouth. Jasmine's main concern is the well being of her favorite rolling pin. The rest is a flashback leading up to the present with an over-the-top conclusion. Jasmine's motto: To feast well is the best revenge. Too bad her publisher doesn't agree, feeling that Jasmine's latest cookbook had more fat content than a McDonald's deep-fryer. In a diet-obsessed world, Jasmine struggles to find a home for her unique and decadent recipes, full of rich butter creams, chocolates, sauces, everything we as a society try to avoid rather than indulge. Jasmine and her husband Daniel are pushing 40 and seemingly happy, until Daniel begins an affair with one of his acting students, Tina, a young, skinny disciple of the Zone diet. Jasmine's 16-year-old daughter Careme, also nothing like her mother, is an anorexic with a pet python, obsessed with losing her virginity. She finally meets a potential candidate who's actually attracted to her fat mother! Nina Killham's debut novel is enjoyable only because of the occasional humor, but mostly for its mouth-watering food content, the food we all want but avoid like the plague. But reading about rich food is safe and fun: it doesn't affect the width of one's waistline! The story itself moves along smoothly until the ending, which was a bit too outrageous for me. If you're desperate to read something, anything, while waiting for a better book to become available, ok then.

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