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On my recent road trip, I visited one of my local libraries and borrowed 5 books on tape. We listened to 3 of them. I’m a big fan of Craig Johnson, the author of a series of mysteries taking place in Wyoming, and a TV series on Netflix called Longmire. This book, A Serpent’s Tooth: A Longmire Mystery was really complex. Hard to explain, but it’s about graft and greed and oil. Worth reading, for sure. Also read Stone Kiss by Faye Kellerman, another complex mystery about Lt Decker, an LA cop who journeys to NYC to help out his family when a murder occurs. Lots of violence in this one.  Not particularly a fav book, I’d venture. Then read Leaving Time: A Novel by Jodi Picoult. I’ve read most of her books – always very riveting. In this book, you’ll learn a whole lot about elephants since the protagonist in it is a young girl whose mother disappeared when she was quite young. Her parents ran an elephant sanctuary in New Hampshire. In the ensuing years, Jenna has tried to find clues as to her mother’s whereabouts because she just cannot believe her mother would have up and abandoned her. There are a whole cast of characters (her mother, her father, employees at the sanctuary, a cop or two, and a psychic). All play fairly prominent roles. Fascinating book – I really liked it, almost as much for the education about the behavior of elephants as about the mystery. A great read.

Also on the trip, I read a book (on Kindle) for one of my book clubs, The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin. It’s about the relationship between Truman Capote and his “swans,” a group of aging high society ladies, and specifically Beth Paley. I don’t know whether to recommend this book or not. Truman Capote was not a nice man, although the whole novel (vs. non-fiction, which this is not) is conjured from speculation about the years Truman was kind of adopted by the group of women. He cared about all of them (most were married/divorced, wealthy women) but in the end he betrays them all by writing a novella about their secrets, their marriages, their affairs (theirs or their spouses, information they’d all shared with him, thinking he could be trusted with their innermost secrets). It was scandalous, and yes, all that part is true. I finished the book, but almost felt like I’d read a “dirty book.” There is no graphic detail in this book – it’s just what Capote did to destroy these women, supposedly his dear, darling “swans.” He was the villain in the book, and in his old age . . . well, I won’t spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it.

I’ve written up an entire blog post about this book. (It hasn’t been posted yet, but will soon.) 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 Siena (and also San Gimignano) as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.


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.

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
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:

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

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