Who is Eva Thorvald? To her single father, a chef, she's a pint-sized recipe tester and the love of his life. To the chilli chowdown contestants of Cook County, Illinois, she's a fire-eating demon. To the fashionable foodie goddess of supper clubs, she's a wanton threat. She's an enigma, a secret ingredient that no one can put their finger on. Eva will surprise everyone. On the day before her eleventh birthday, she's cultivating chilli peppers in her wardrobe like a pro. Abandoned by her mother, gangly and poor, Eva arms herself with the weapons of her unknown heritage: a kick-ass palate and a passion bordering on obsession. Over the years, her tastes grow, and so do her ambitions. One day Eva will be the greatest chef in the world. But along the way, the people she meets will shape her - and she, them - in ways unforgettable, riotous and profound. So she - for one - knows exactly who she is by the time her mother returns. Kitchens of the Great Midwest is about the family you lose, the friends you make and chance connections that can define a life. Joyful, quirky or brazen, everyone lends their voice to tell Eva's story - one that's as heartwarming as it is irresistible, taking the bitter with the sweet.
An oven-warm yet bittersweet collection of character studies circling the story of Eva Thorvald . . . Hilariously precise in its cultural geography . . . But in spite of its locavorous detail, the novel's plot is driven by a universal truth: that food brings people together Independent on Sunday
J. Ryan Stradal's writing has appeared in The Rumpus, Los Angeles Review of Books, Rattling Wall, McSweeney's: The Goods, and Hobart, among other places, and he edits the fiction section of The Nervous Breakdown. Born and raised in Minnesota, he now lives in Los Angeles, where he co-hosts a literary-culinary events series called Hot Dish and has worked as a TV producer, notably for Ice Road Truckers and Deadliest Catch. He does not own a gun and a motorcycle, which makes him unique among the men in his extended family.