Bookies Review/Discussion Of The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

Last week my book club met for the discussion of The Postmistress by Sarah Blake.  I had read and reviewed this book earlier this year and was not fond enough of it to read it again.  I did consider trying it in audio but my library did not carry it.

As the time drew closer for our review… I have to admit, I was not looking forward to it.  I decided to turn my focus towards the food part of our meeting and that is really when it got interesting for me.

The 1940s were all about rationing, protein stretching, substitutions, rediscovering “grandma’s foods”, and making do with less. Home cooks made sugarless cookies, eggless cakes, and meatless meals. Cookbooks, magazines, and food company brochures were full of creative ideas for stretching food supplies. Why the shortage? Food was needed to feed soldiers fighting in World War II.

When entertaining, I learned that finger sandwiches were quite popular, served open-faced (so the bread would go farther).  They also drank  a lot of tea as coffee was scarce and if you could find it… expensive.

At this point my creative side kicked in…. the book may not be the best for review, but by golly the food was going to make this discussion a success.  😀

The day of the review, I made the open-faced sandwiches, a cucumber one with a spread of cream cheese and ranch dip mix, and a delicious seafood one (see recipe below). 

Then I also made a potato chip and tuna casserole, apparently popular in the 1940’s.  This consisted of very few ingredients…. cream of mushroom soup, tuna, peas, and potato chips.  Yup.  I read the recipe and literally said, “ewww!”

other entries that the Bookies brought were Angie’s (By Book Or By Crook) Grandmother’s stand by hot dish of noodles and tomato’s…

the only meat available in the 1940’s was what you could raise and prepare yourself so…

Side dishes were often garden vegetables or a jello or pudding…

Maybe Creme Brulee was not quite the dish of the 40’s…. but after trying it, who was I to complain…. oh YUM! (recipe below)  Thanks Sharon!

Between all that and the pickles, potato salad, tea and water with orange and lemon slices… we were set.

It was time to discuss The Postmistress.  The surprise is, I loved our discussion and here are some of the things that came out of it.  (Should be spoiler free)

We discussed how in the 1940’s your news came mainly from radio.  We wondered if the news being broadcasted seemed more real than it does in today’s world of over saturation of all things media.  This led to how powerful news was then and led us to discuss the airing of The War Of The Worlds and how people who tuned in late thought that broadcast was real.

When the motto for a journalist to get a story was “get in and get out” we discussed in such a story can you ever fully get out?  Would not some of the things we see, hear, and do in life not ever leave us?

We had a great discussion over today’s media of too much immediate knowledge of all things considered “news worthy”.  Were we better off then or now?   Sure the modern ways of communicating are awesome, but I also believe there is truly such a thing as TMI (too much information).  Facebook came up in the discussion of course and how some of the younger generation do not know how to filter what they put out there in the world for all to see.  This led us to discuss what could possibly go even further for the next generation as so much is considered not taboo now…

Historical novels were discussed as a whole… love them/hate them… what are the pro and cons?  I felt pro for historical fiction as I learn through them in a format that I may have at one time not read or found boring… the novels take me places I have not known. 

Over all the discussion was wonderful and engaging.  The food was good, except the potato chip tuna casserole which I did not like at all.  We ended our discussion close to 9 pm which is unusual as we usually wrap up close to 8 or a little after.  Maybe it was the recent anniversary of 9/11, but for some reason I feel even after the ten years of this group being together… we bonded even more on this night.

**The food portion of this review is part of Weekend Cooking, a wonderful meme you may find at Beth Fish Reads.


The Seafood Spread

This was taken as part of a recipe I usually make as a salad.  You will need:

imitation seafood

dill weed



a generous dose of chopped Cilantro (I am a cilantro junky!)

salt and pepper

Chop the seafood into small pieces and place in medium bowl.  I used two packages of the seafood (found in the deli department) for the Bookies.  Add the mayo only using enough to coat, it should not be goopy with mayo…. sprinkle generously with the dill seasoning, add the cilantro and chopped fine onion, as well as the salt and pepper to taste.  Place in frig until ready to serve.  For this event I served it on Rye Bread Squares, buy you could use it on crackers too.



Creme Brulee

Yield – 4 servings
2 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean split lengthwise
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup plus 1 tbs sugar

1/3 to 1/2 cup white granulated or brown sugar (for topping)


Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

In a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan, heat the cream with the vanilla bean for 15 minutes, stirring to ensure it does not burn. Remove from the heat and let it stand for 15 minutes. Remove and discard the vanilla bean. Strain the cream.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks with an electric mixer on high-speed for 5 minutes, or until they are light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the sugar. Add about half the cream, a little at a time (to temper the eggs), to the egg mixture, whisking until well blended. Then pour the egg mixture into the remaining cream mixture. Stir until completely blended.

Pour the custard into four 9-ounce ramekins or custard cups. Place the dishes in a large baking pan. Pour enough HOT water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 35-40 minutes until the custard is set.

Remove the dishes from the baking pan and cool completely at room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 2 or up to 24 hours.

To serve, let the ramekins stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes. Sprinkle the tops with sugar in a thin, even layer over each ramekin. To caramelize the  sugar, light a propane torch and hold it so the flame just touches the surface. Start at the center and spiral out toward the edges of the ramekins. If the sugar begins to burn, pull the torch away and blow on the sugar to extinguish the flame.

*Sharon said this recipe took her three tries to get it right and she is an amazing cook so I think this one is not for the faint of heart…. or… errr…. me.  😯

53 thoughts on “Bookies Review/Discussion Of The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

  1. I agree with Beth H. You *do* have the best meetings. I love, love, love how your menu fit the book. Creme brulee is my dessert of choice. If it’s on the menu, I’m ordering it.

  2. I’ve never tried Creme Brulee, but LOVE tuna casserole although I’ve never made it with potato chips. As for the finger sandwiches, I love anything with cucumbers! And chicken is my FAV meat!

    I sure wish I knew of a book club near me like the Bookies BC. You girls always have such a great time!

  3. I remember growing up the mid-to-late forties and eating lots of Jello dishes. Tomatoes and cucumbers, too.

    I think that today’s media overdoes the news coverage by talking things to death. After a news report, they then go on and on, speculating, etc. TMI, definitely!

    I remember the time before TV. We used to curl up next to the big Atwater Kent radio and listen to the Lone Ranger. Fun!

    I love how you match the foods to your book.

  4. Your food pictures kill me–they just make me want to gorge myself! As for The Postmistress, I wouldn’t look forward to discussing it either. It left me seriously underwhelmed.

  5. Love that you catered the food to match the book! I have this one on my TBR pile, but haven’t gotten to it yet. Not big on WWII books, but it’s gotten decent reviews so know I’ll get to it sooner or later.

      1. It’s the only way I will eat tunafish sandwiches. If there isn’t potato chips on them, it’s not happening. I’ve been like that since I was a wee little kid.

  6. Sounds like you guys had a GREAT time! So glad to hear it…and thanks for the recipe share! As for the book itself, yeah…I read it right before it originally came out and unfortunately, it wasn’t for me. Stunning cover though….simple yet stunning.

  7. Wow, I wished there were bookclubs like yours here in Belgium, especially whith food like that (though I am not sure about the tuna-thing). As often is the case, you have brought a smile to my face. Thanks!
    Great review

  8. What a wonderful group you have. It sounds like a perfect time, and I love the connection between the book and the food. I have the book but haven’t read it yet.

    1. I love doing that Nan because it seems to bring out a little something more in our reviews…. we have had some wonderful meals but my favorite was when we reviewed Cutting For Stone and the food was Ethiopian… delicious!

  9. The key to a good tuna casserole is white albacore tuna. The regular tuna is awfully..well fishy these days. The finger sandwiches look good. The creme brulee was the reward for suffering through tuna casserole. Do people join your book club just for the food? It always looks so good! I’d read the phone book to eat at one of your meetings!.

    1. Thanks Beth – I just bought plain ol’ tuna. 😀

      Our group is so fun and only recently have we been able to offer new people to come. For awhile we were 18 members and it was too hard to find places to meet. Now we are 14 but in attendance we average around 12 per meeting.

  10. Sorry you didn’t like The Postmistress that much. I absolutely loved it.

    But the creme brulee–we can agree on that! My father-in-law makes a sort of lazy man’s creme brulee. I’m not sure how he does it, but it doesn’t take him long at all. I’ll have to ask when he visits in a couple of weeks.

  11. I love to read your Bookies posts – but always with a pang of jealousy mixed in with hunger! 😀 You guys have SO much fun!!

    I’m glad you had a great discussion on Postmistress as well. I liked the book, but wouldn’t rank it up there with my favorites set in this era.

  12. I came across this sit by accident and feel have to comment. Firs, I love the sound of your book club. and I am VERY hungry after seeing the food pictures. But I have to say I loved the book and am sorry so many were disappointed with it. The WW11 stuff was very interesting – particularly i didn’t know that Vichy France tried to save its Jewish refugees until the Nazis completely took over. Fascinating. And it was also fascinating to read about Cordell Hull refusing the entry of Jews into the US . I decided to google him to find out more, and discovered he subsequently won the Nobel Peace prize!!!

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