Saturday, July 21, 2012

Weekend Cooking: Recipes for a Perfect Marriage by Morag Prunty

In Recipes for a Perfect Marriage, author Morag Prunty (who also writes as Kate Kerrigan) blends the stories of modern day Tressa Nolan living in NY and Tressa's grandmother Bernadine who lived in Achadh Mor, Ireland with treasured Irish recipes. The result is a novel that parallels the lives of the two women generations apart at they adjust to married life and celebrates the tradition of passing recipes down in families.

Tressa Nolan is a successful food writer living in New York City.  She spent summers with her grandparents in Achadh Mor, Ireland and learned how to cook and bake at her grandmother Bernadine's side.  She idolizes her grandparent's marriage and expects to find the same partnership when she finally settles down.  At 39, she impulsively gets together with Dan who is the super in her building.  They have little in common but Tressa is inexplicably drawn to Dan and accepts his marriage proposal.  And then the real work begins . . .  Tressa realizes she may not love Dan is not sure there is enough between them to make it worth persevering through the hard times.  The differences between them become magnified and Tressa questions her decision to marry Dan.

Bernadine and James's marriage seems perfect to their granddaughter Tressa but when she is given her grandmother's journal Tressa realizes all is not as it seemed while she visited them. Bernadine had her sights on another man as a young girl and was devastated when that did not work out.  She married James but never felt the passion she had felt with her first love.  James loved her but she struggled to reciprocate even though she dutifully played the role of his wife.  Similar to her granddaughter, Bernadine often resented her husband even though, like Dan, James offered Bernadine a comfortable life.

The book alternates between Bernadine and Tressa's stories as each of their marriages go through various stages. It is a good lesson in persevering  - either woman could have quit their marriage a number of times but they stuck with it (perhaps in Bernadine's case because there was no other option) and rode the ups and downs of their marriages.  There were times I was annoyed by both women - they each had these good, hardworking men who adored them and yet they were still dissatisfied and frustrated by the efforts of these men to please them. Their ungratefulness made it difficult for me to feel empathy for them. At the same time, I did enjoy the parallels in their stories and, of course, all the references to places and traditions in Ireland.

Credit: Brown Eyed Baker
One of those traditions is cooking and the author includes many Irish recipes in this book.  One of my favorite, albeit most basic, is Irish brown bread.  My grandmother in Ireland would make it and we would enjoy a slice with jam at breakfast and again at tea.  It is simple but it's appeal lies in the simplicity.  Here is the recipe:

  1. 3 cups whole wheat flour
  2. 1 cup all-purpose flour
  3. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  4. 1 teaspoon salt
  5. 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  6. 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°. 
  2. In a large bowl, whisk both flours with the baking soda and salt. In a small bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the egg; stir into the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon until a rough dough forms.
  3. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth. Form the dough, put a cross in it and put it in the baking pan. Bake for about 50 minutes, until the bread has risen about 1/2 inch above the rim of the pan. Let cool to warm or room temperature, then slice and serve.     
Check out this Pinterest Board created for the book by the author.

Weekend Cooking is hosted each Saturday by Beth Fish Reads.  Participants are invited to share their food-related posts.  Check out what others have linked up this weekend!


  1. I love a book with recipes! Irish brown bread is delicious!

  2. Sounds like a good book. Would you be happy to link this in to Books You Loved on Carole's Chatter?

    I have linked in Coronation Chicken to Beth Fish Reads - a dish with a dash of history.

    Have a super week.

    1. Hi Carole - I just linked it up! Thanks for stopping by! I have always heard of Coronation Chicken but never knew how it was made until reading your post!

    2. Thanks for linking this in. Cheers

  3. Oh this one sounds good. Welcome to Weekend Cooking Colleen!

  4. I read this years ago...and the truth is, I remember very little about it. Bread shuer looks good!!!

  5. This sounds like my kind of book! Off to see if my library has it!

  6. Oh yes! I'm echoing Marg -- definitely my kind of book. I love Irish brown bread.

  7. I love books like this! The back and forth in time and recipes. Sounds fab!

  8. It is hard for me to feel empathy for that kind of character, too - but the mentions of recipes make me curious all the same... (I adore books with recipes in!).

  9. Books with recipes (and a lot of cooking) in it are just irresistible! I'm not very familiar with the Irish kitchen, but your brown bread looks very tasty indeed.

  10. Nice. The bread looks wonderful. I don't have any irish cooking traditions from my Irish family but maybe it's time to start some.

  11. The cover of this one catches my eye. Sounds good!

  12. So delighted you enjoyed the book - and the cooking! BTW Morag Prunty is pen-name for Kate Kerrigan. Or is it the other way around?

  13. Stories alternating between two generations' worth of stories fascinate me, and I love the Irish setting! (Also, that bread looks great.) I'll be on the look-out for this one!

  14. I think I might share your feelings of frustration with the two women, but the Irish aspect and the recipes as well as the parallel stories appeal to me. Sounds like a promising book.

  15. Lovely cover and I like the idea of the parallel stories. Even though you got frustrated by the women's dissatisfaction, it sounds like this book did work for you overall.

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