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I’m going to write up an entire blog post about this book. It may be one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s a memoir by Pat Conroy (an author I’ve long admired). He died a year or so ago – sad, that. In order to get the most out of My Reading Life, I recommend you BUY THE HARDBACK. I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s an autobiography of sorts, but not really. He never wrote one, I don’t think, and I doubt he would ever have written one as he likely didn’t believe anyone would want to read about his (sad) life. In this memoir, he chronicles the books (and the people who recommended them) that influenced his life. Starting at his mother’s knees and continuing through influential teachers and mentors and friends. One of my book clubs read it, and I devoured it, cover to cover, with little plastic flags inserted all the way through to re-read some of the prose. Pat Conroy was a fabulous writer – he studied words from a young age and used them widely and wisely throughout his writing, but better than most authors would. He adored his mother, and hated (with venom) his aviator military father who physically abused everyone in the family, including his mother. They all took it like stoic Buddhas. I’m going to have to read Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel because of reading this book. I’ve never read it. Conroy says that book’s first page is the best first page of any book he ever read in his life. Wow. And maybe my book group is going to re-read Tolstoy’s War and Peace (Vintage Classics) too because of the chapter on that book. We might have to assign that to a 2-month or longer read. If you have friends or family who are avid readers, this would make a great gift, this book, My Reading Life. If YOU are a reader, it needs to be on your bookshelf, but in hardback, so you can go back to it and re-read his stories. It’s a series of essays, each one about a sub-section of his life. A must-have and a must-read.

Also read The Towers of Tuscany by Carol Cram. It was a bargain book through amazon or bookbub (e-book). Back in the Middle Ages women were forbidden to be artists. Their only place was in the home, caring for children and sewing and cooking. But the heroine in this book was taught to paint by her widowed artist-father (in secret, of course). When her father suddenly dies, all hell breaks loose and she must fend for herself. Much of the book takes place in Florence as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.

Also finished The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel by Gabrielle Zevin. It popped up on a list I subscribe to and was available for $1.13 as an e-book. As it begins, you’re hearing from A.J., a grieving widower who owns a bookstore on an obscure island off the East Coast. He’s angry, rude and every other negative adjective you can imagine. A book rep comes to visit and he’s awful to her, yet she perseveres and manages to sell him a few books. You get to know his friends (a friendship with him is full of sharp points) and one day an abandoned toddler is found in his bookshop. In between the story line about A.J., the book rep, the little girl and others, you will learn all about A.J.’s book tastes. If you’re an avid reader, you’ll really enjoy that part. It’s a charming book; loved it.

Also read a quirky book, Goodbye, Vitamin: A Novel by Rachel Khong. She’s a new writer (newly published, I guess I should say) and this story is about Ruth, a 30+ something, trying to readjust to life without her fiance, who’s dumped her. She goes back home to help with the care of her father, who has Alzheimer’s. Written in a diary style, it jumps all over about her life, her mother, the funny, poignant things her father says on good days, and the nutty stuff he does on not-so-good days, her ex-, and her very quirky friends, too. Then a woman flits through who had had an affair with her father –  you get to observe all the angst from the mom about that. Mostly it’s about her father, as he’s relatively “together” early in the book, but then he disintegrates. Reading that part isn’t fun, although the author is able to lean some humor into it. I’m not sure I recommend the book exactly – I read it through – and felt sad. It doesn’t tie up loose ends – if you need that kind of book – you may not want to read this one.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Soups, on August 7th, 2007.

strawberry gazpacho
I know. You’re going to think I’m nuts. Strawberry Gazpacho? What more unlikely combination could there be? Savory tomatoes with sweet, juicy strawberries? Well, trust me on this one. It was served to me at one of the cooking classes I attended in Coto de Caza. And Tarla Fallgatter, the instructor, said we’d really like it. And like it we did. I liked it so much I made a batch the next day. And another batch a week after that. And the week after that.

It makes a lovely little respite on a hot summer night. It’s quite refreshing. It could be served in plastic cups, even, for people to enjoy – standing around before an outdoor meal. Or you could make it a sit-down course, but I like the appetizer idea better. It’s not difficult, although you will likely need to go shopping first – it’s not like you’re going to have all the ingredients on hand. But it’s worth doing so. And this is very low calorie too. Surprising – once you try this, you’ll be surprised too, as it’s very rich tasting.
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Strawberry Gazpacho

Recipe: Tarla Falgatter
Servings: 6
Serving Ideas: If you’re serving this on a warm day, chill the soup ahead, in a bowl that will nest into another bowl that you fill with ice. Then set out the soup on the ice and put the garnish bowl next to it with a ladle and soup bowls and let people help themselves. Be prepared for people to take seconds.
COOK’S NOTES: There are layers of flavors in this soup – you can’t quite pick it out, but it just mellows in your mouth. The riper the strawberries the better. If you use mostly unripe ones the flavors just don’t come through. The overnight marinating is important so don’t skip this step.

SOUP:
1 quart strawberries — lightly crushed
1/2 cup white onions — thinly sliced
1/2 cup red bell pepper — chopped
3/4 cup hothouse cucumber — peeled, seeded, thinly sliced
1/2 whole garlic clove — crushed
1/4 cup fresh tarragon
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil salt and pepper to taste
GARNISH:
1/2 cup strawberries — hulled and finely diced
3 tablespoons chives
1/4 cup red bell pepper — minced
1/4 cup hothouse cucumber — peeled, seeded, finely diced
6 sprigs chervil — optional

1. Combine all the soup ingredients except salt and pepper in a plastic or non-reactive bowl (or plastic bag), cover and chill overnight. Place the ingredients in a blender and puree, adding cold water(about 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup, no more) to thin it to a light soup consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper and chill. Chill the soup bowls, if possible.
2. Mix together the garnish ingredients in a non-reactive bowl. Pour each portion of soup into a small bowl and add the garnish to the center, trying to mound it in the center.
Per Serving : 133 Calories; 10g Fat (60.1% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 12g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 4mg Sodium.

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  1. Anonymous

    said on August 8th, 2007:

    Carolyn,
    This is what I am going to take to the Hollywood Bowl on August 18th!
    Linda from Carlsbad

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