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Recently finished reading The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.

The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas. It’s a very, very good read. It tells the story of an older married woman who lives in a small mining town in the Colorado rockies (this is the mid-1800’s), and is well known by all because she’s the only midwife in the area. Often people can’t pay her anything, or very little for her days of service with little or no rest or food. Suddenly, a couple accuse her of strangling their infant. Hence the story is about how this small town rallies or rails for or against Gracy. She didn’t commit the crime, but not everyone can be convinced since the angry father is a wealthy and influential man in the area. There’s plenty of relationship issues here, which make really great fodder for a novel. And there are plenty of characters in the book that you’ll love or hate. Some secrets get dredged up too. Oh, such a good read.

 

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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