Cookbook Review: A Literary Tea Party by Alison Walsh

Note: I received a digital advance reader copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

As a lover of children's literature, tea parties, and food, I knew from the description alone that I would love this book. A book with recipes reimagined from references in classic novels? Like Alison Walsh, I was that kid who wished she could taste some Turkish delight after reading about it in the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I too longed for sip of Anne Shirley's raspberry cordial. It's one of those books that you makes you think, "Why didn't I think of writing this?" Brilliant concept from the start.

Then when you read Alison Walsh's heartfelt intro, you realize just how dedicated she is to making this book a success. She admits that as a blogger first, cook second, she had to spend a lot of time researching and tinkering with recipes to get them to work. As anyone who has worked with candy can attest, it is a labor of love, and I felt grateful to Walsh for sharing the fruits of her labors with us.

This is a cookbook that bookworms will fly through, fueled by the desire to see which book Walsh will pull a recipe from next. Her recipes are divided into sections of savory treats, sweet treats, tea blends, and tea alternatives, and they cover a wide range of books, mostly children's classics. She owes a lot of her recipes to references from Agatha Christie, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Frances Hodgson Burnett among others. You'll learn to make the aforementioned Turkish delight (flavored with lemon to make it more suitable to American palates), Mr. and Mrs. Beaver's ham sandwiches from the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and egg salad sandwiches from Anne of Green Gables.
The recipes are intended to accompany tea, so they are mostly small bites rather than main courses, and there is a large number of tea blends in the tea section that are also inspired by classic stories. I'm not even a tea drinker, and this book made me want to throw a tea party, doilies and all.

There is a color photo to accompany every recipe, as well as a little excerpt from the source text to jog your memory. Admittedly, at least half of the recipes do not come from direct references and are rather inspired by the source text instead. This was a little disappointing to me, since it wasn't what I was expecting. For instance, one of her recipes from the Hobbit is a honey nut banana bread that is only loosely inspired by a passage about the character Beorn's main diet of honey and cream. However, one of my vivid memories of reading the Hobbit is the many long passages about food, such as when the dwarves arrive at Bilbo's home, a food chapter if I've ever seen one. I was most hoping to see a recipe for Elvish lembas (one of those made-up foods that will always stick with me) or a recipe for Anne Shirley's infamous cake. I feel like there were a lot of missed opportunities here with additional books and food references she could have included. If Alison Walsh is reading this, she could always crowd-source some of these suggestions and write a sequel to this book.

The only other complaint I had was that some of the recipes seem a little too simple, such as deviled eggs, bacon-wrapped dates, or cheese bites. That may be my own personal complaint however, since the simplicity of the recipes can also make them more accessible, either to adult booklovers who don't necessarily like to cook, or to children who are just getting started in the kitchen.

Despite these complaints, I think this is a strong first showing for Ms. Walsh, and this is sure to be a hit with my book-obsessed friends.

Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

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