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The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom



The Kitchen House Book Cover When a white servant girl violates the order of plantation society, she unleashes a tragedy that exposes the worst and best in the people she has come to call her family.

Orphaned while onboard ship from Ireland, seven-year-old Lavinia arrives on the steps of a tobacco plantation where she is to live and work with the slaves of the kitchen house. Under the care of Belle, the master’s illegitimate daughter, Lavinia becomes deeply bonded to her adopted family, though she is set apart from them by her white skin.

Eventually, Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house, where the master is absent and the mistress battles opium addiction. Lavinia finds herself perilously straddling two very different worlds. When she is forced to make a choice, loyalties are brought into question, dangerous truths are laid bare, and lives are put at risk. The Kitchen House is a tragic story of page-turning suspense, exploring the meaning of family, where love and loyalty prevail. Simon and Schuster


Book Club Resources

Green was incorporated into the table setting as it plays a prominent role in The Kitchen House. The story opens with a hanging body wearing a green headscarf. Green also symbolizes Lavinia’s birthplace – Ireland. Lavinia had a collection of bird nests and it was in the world of birds and botany that she found solace.

Bird Nests, green tablecloth

There used to be a peacock on the plantation and the plates they used in the big house were adorned with peacocks. Some fun plates to use for your book club party include these colorful peacock plates and napkins.


Book Club Menu

You can start your book club party off with peach brandy which was given to the inhabitants of the kitchen house as rare treat sent from the big house (page 41).

Mama Mae, the matriarch of the kitchen house, made a chicken soup with “a large handful of fresh green parsley from the garden, cloves of garlic, onion and a generous amount of salt” (page 137). I made an easy Chicken Vegetable Soup along with Cracklin’ Bread, which in the book was made in the large kitchen fireplace. Cracklins are a southern delicacy made by frying pork skin and fat (sounds dainty, huh?)

Chicken Veggies, southern cornbread

Kathleen Grissom has an amazing recipe for Molasses Cake that she and her daughter developed. The smell from this sweet and spicy cake is intoxicating.

molasses-cake

If you want to go all out you can prepare the Christmas meal which included a large smoked ham garnished with pickled plums and brandied peaches, a succulent cut of beef that had been slowly roasting for hours with a pan of sizzling potatoes underneath that caught the drippings, green peas in a heavy cream sauce, red beets glistening with butter, sweet potatoes dripping with honey and white parsnips sprinkled with fresh parsley. The appetizer was a steaming tureen of oyster soup garnished with sprigs of thyme. Dessert included a rich plum pudding, a tray of jellies and cremes, sweetmeats and dark raisins (pages 36-37). Now that would be a meal!

A book recommended by Kathleen Grissom is Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery and Booke of Sweetmeats, transcribed by Karen Hess. This book is not only the family cookbook of Martha Washington, but also contains information about the history of the cooking.

Book Club Resources

Ratings at the time this post was published

  • Goodreads: 4.16 stars (147,332 ratings)
  • Amazon: 4.5 stars (4,723 ratings)
  • LibraryThing: 3.98 stars (760 reviews)
  • My rating: 4.5 stars

Book Reviews

  • “Just when I thought that there were no new stories to tell about plantation life in Antebellum South, Kathleen Grissom has given us something unique with her first novel. She gives her readers a look at that life through the eyes of an indentured servant. I couldn’t help putting myself in Lavinia’s place, feeling her deep need for finding a home and understanding her inability to see and accept that one race of people is lesser than another.” – The Literate Housewife Review
  • “Tension lurks everywhere, propelling the story forward. Ample amounts of drama keep the reader interested; racism, nervous breakdowns, violent outbursts, and opium use are not uncommon. This novel captivates with its messages of right and wrong, family, and hope.” – Jackie Correa, San Fransisco Book Review
  • “Irish orphan finds a new family among slaves in Grissom’s pulse-quickening debut.” –Kirkus Reviews

Purchase The Kitchen House at your favorite bookseller

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About the Author

Born and raised in Saskatchewan, Kathleen Grissom is now happily rooted in south-side Virginia, where she and her husband live in the plantation tavern they renovated. The Kitchen House is her first novel

Visits Kathleen Grissom’s Website

Here is a fascinating story about how she came to write The Kitchen House. It is a lesson to all of those who feel a nagging to write a story…just listen to what those voices are saying and go with it!

Kathleen Grissom is now working on her next book called Crow Mary. After tasting her molasses cake, I hope she will also have a recipe book in the future!

The Kitchen House

Do you have any other ideas or recipes for a book club party for ? We would love to have you share them with us! You can leave a comment below and upload pictures as well.



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Feel free to add your ideas, comments or book review below.

  1. I loved this book! I like how the characters spoke to Kathleen Grissom and guided her writing. I am going to try to listen harder to the voices in my head!

    Comment by DallasGirls

  2. Hi!
    This sounds like an intriguing book. I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for stopping by my place. Have a great day!

    Sherrie
    Just Books

    Comment by Sherrie

  3. Lisa, what a delightful blog. I love the details that you pulled from the book to inspire others, and your photography is wonderful. The Kitchen House family thanks you.
    Kathleen (Grissom)

    Comment by Kathleen Grissom

  4. Thank you for such an amazing book and for the molasses cake recipe, which I will definitely be making again and again.

    Comment by Lisa

  5. Heard a lot of good things about this novel. Will add it to my TBR list and the ingredients for molasses cake to my shopping list. Nice photos

    Comment by Momma Rancher

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