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Am just starting News of the World: A Novel by William Morris. One of my book-reading friends said this is one of the best books she’s ever read in her LIFE. That kind of praise requires me to read it. It’s about an old man, during the early, old wild west times, who goes from town to town and people pay him money to read the newspaper to them. (Imagine, there WAS such a job.) By chance he’s asked to take a very young girl to Texas to reunite with her family. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby, raised by them, and she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!).

Just finished Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong. Have you ever read about forensic dentistry? I sure had not, so I found it fascinating reading. It’s a debut novel for the author, and what a story. Halina, an Australian, with Polish roots, specializes in this obscure profession as a forensic dentist, and is asked to go to Poland, to help identify bone (and tooth) fragments, to put to rest a sad event in the story of this small town, when many, many people (Jews) were murdered. Was it the Nazis? Or was it the local townspeople who disliked the Jews. What a tangled web of intrigue, including Halina’s own mysterious past. I really enjoyed the read. The author does a great job of developing the characters (which I always like). This is no light read if you consider the subject matter, although it IS a novel (but based on fact). Nor is it a spy thriller – it’s more just an historical novel with lots of interesting people throughout. There’s a romance thrown in too, and a whole lot of angst about the discoveries found in the mass grave. But, the subject expanded my knowledge about forensics.

Recently finished reading The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr. I just LOVED this book. I’ve never been much of a fan of Caravaggio’s paintings, although I’ve seen plenty of them (many are extremely large) in museums around the world. His paintings were dark, often with dark subjects. But as with many of the old masters, occasionally some obscure work surfaces, perhaps credited to another artist, even, that turns out to be one done by “the” master. In this case, Caravaggio. Although this book is written as a novel (with dialogue, etc.) it’s historical through and through. It begins with two young women art scholars, in Italy, who are asked to do a research project. One thing leads to another, and to another. All true.  If you enjoy books about art – I learned some things about the paint and the canvases of the time – you’ll be intrigued as I was.

Also just read Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press, by James, McGrath Morris. Each year my AAUW book club reads something related to Black History Month. This is a biography of a woman you’ve probably never heard of, Ethel Payne, and about her life-long journey in journalism, struggling to keep her head above water financially, but staying true to her purposes of telling the truth about the black stories and black racism of the day. Sometimes biographies aren’t all that riveting, but I found this one to be so, and I savored each new chapter. We had a really good discussion of the book, and the ups and downs of Payne’s life, especially during her years as a Washington reporter. You’ll not be sorry to have spent the time reading this book. It’s well-written, as well. I was thrilled when the author, Morris, left a message here on my blog, thanking me (and my group) for reading his book.

Also read H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald. This one has been on the best seller list. It’s a memoir about a woman who takes on a personal challenge of taming a wild hawk. Prior to reading this book, I knew next to nothing about the entire subject of hawking, or taming any of the big, wild birds. The book is equally about the writer’s inner journey. She’s a consummate writer, and every page was a joy of words, for me. My only problem is my own – I found it hard, the more time that went by, and the more time the writer spent trying to tame this bird, to scream out “let the bird go.” Perhaps it’s because I spent time in Africa in 2015, seeing animals in the wild, that I felt more for the bird than I did with the writer’s discontent with herself and the taming process. Little did I know what a hard job it is to tame a hawk. I actually didn’t finish the book. It was a book club read, and highly recommended by several of our members. And I ended up not being able to attend the meeting as I had a cold. So perhaps there is some great ending to it that would have made me feel better. I haven’t gone to the end to find out. I just had to stop reading it. But I’m not NOT recommending it. If nothing else, read it for Macdonald’s sublime proficiency with words.

Also read George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade and Dan Yaeger. Here’s what it says on amazon: When George Washington beat a hasty retreat from New York City in August 1776, many thought the American Revolution might soon be over. Instead, Washington rallied—thanks in large part to a little-known, top-secret group called the Culper Spy Ring. He realized that he couldn’t defeat the British with military might, so he recruited a sophisticated and deeply secretive intelligence network to infiltrate New York. I won’t exactly call this book a riveting read, but it was interesting. Relating facts that few people knew about, this Culper Spy Ring. It’s a little chunk of American history researched in depth by the authors. An interesting read.

Also read The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George. If you’re an avid reader, you probably have the same kind of longing as I do for a quaint, independently owned bookstore right around the corner. So few exist anymore. This novel is about a very unusual book store, and book store owner. In Paris. On a boat/barge. It’s not a typical book store, and the writer takes you on a journey of discovery about (likely) her own lifetime of book reading. You’ll learn all about a variety of existing books and why they’re a good read. But it’s all cloaked in a story about this book store and the owner. And the customers. Very fun. I’m reviewing it for one of my book clubs next month.

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 Desserts, on August 3rd, 2013.

strawberry_rhubarb_cobbler_orange

Without question, I’m begging you to make this. While rhubarb is still in season (barely) get yourself some, and gather some nice juicy strawberries and prepare this relatively simple cobbler that will make you and your guests swoon.

This recipe all started when our daughter Sara called to say she had some rhubarb one of her customers had given her, and since we were having a family get-together at her house in San Diego with dear friends who were visiting us from Philadelphia, she wanted to use it. Some of the group went sailing on our boat (which lives in San Diego) in the afternoon, then we high-tailed it to her house in time for dinner.

She’d never cooked rhubarb before. We live about 70 miles apart so we collaborated on who would do what – she did most of the dinner – I brought sangak bread and made this dessert. I found some rhubarb in one of our stores so brought additional – she said she didn’t have a lot. And, before we left home I mixed up the dry ingredients for the biscuits you see above. Once there I asked Sara for her rhubarb and she promptly pulled out 3 bunches of baby red chard. I laughed and told her no, that’s not rhubarb! She laughed. She had never even HAD chard before, she thought. It was very limp looking (she hadn’t wrapped it in a plastic bag) so I don’t even know that it will be edible.

straw_rhub_collageAnyway, good thing I’d brought about 8 stalks of rhubarb. I cut up all the fruit, added the sugar, tapioca and orange zest and let it sit for about 20 minutes (lower picture above). I spread it out to all the corners (I made a 1 1/2 sized recipe, so I used a 9×13 Pyrex dish, which was perfectly sized. Then I mixed up the dry ingredients, added the butter and cut that in, then added the milk and egg, mixed, plopped the biscuits all over the top (upper photo above). Baked for 35 minutes. Done! We let it rest about 45 minutes or so before we enjoyed it (immensely) with vanilla ice cream on the side.

The recipe came from Simply Recipes, Elise Bauer’s blog. She explained that this recipe was revised and revised until she got it, finally, just right. I agree. It’s marvelous.

What’s GOOD: oh my goodness, was this ever fantastic! Next time I’m at the grocery store I’m looking for any remaining rhubarb. Strawberries are still in, so I know I’ll find those. The biscuit/cobbler is tender and tasty. Loved it with vanilla ice cream. Altogether wonderful.
What’s NOT: absolutely nothing whatsoever. Worth making.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler

Recipe By: Many thanks to Elise at Simply Recipes blog
Serving Size: 6

FRUIT:
4 1/2 cups rhubarb — cut into 1-inch pieces. Trim outside stringy layer of large rhubarb stalks make sure to trim away and discard any of the leaves which are poisonous; trim ends.
1 1/2 cups strawberries — stemmed and sliced
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons tapioca
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
COBBLER:
2 tablespoon sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup milk
1 egg — lightly beaten

Notes: when I made it I ended up with more strawberries than rhubarb. I think this recipe is forgiving in that way – try to use the proportions above, but if not, just make sure you have the right amount (volume) of fruit. If you use less rhubarb, reduce the sugar some.
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a bowl, mix the rhubarb and the strawberries with the sugar, tapioca, and orange zest. Let sit to macerate for 30 minutes to an hour.
3. In a medium bowl, combine 2 Tablespoons of sugar, the flour, baking powder and salt. Cut the butter in with a fork or pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the milk and egg until just moistened.
4. Pour fruit into a 2-quart casserole dish. Drop the batter on the fruit. Bake in a 350°F oven for 35 minutes until cobbler crust is golden brown.
5. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream (optional).
Per Serving: 285 Calories; 9g Fat (28.9% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 47g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 57mg Cholesterol; 310mg Sodium.

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