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Just finished News of the World: A Novel by Paulette Jiles. 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 required me to read it and I just LOVED it. It’s about an old man (a widower), who was a former military captain, during the 1800s, who goes from town to town to read out loud the current news of the world (yes, there WAS such a job.) Newspapers didn’t make it to small towns back then. By chance he’s asked to take a 10-year old girl to East Texas to reunite with relatives. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby (her parents were killed in the raid), raised by the Kiowa and as was often the case of such children, she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. And yet, they learn to trust each other on the journey. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!). This book is truly a wonderful read – I didn’t want it to end. The author has a gift of description and the severe dangers and difficulties of a old west horse and wagon journey. The relationship is tender. Now I’ve got to investigate the author’s other books, of which there are many.

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.

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.

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.

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 Soups, on August 19th, 2007.

Do you know what this is? It’s my soup library. We’re not into soup season yet. I look forward to making soups – lots of soups – when the weather turns colder. That certainly hasn’t happened here in Southern California – the weather turning cooler I mean. It’s been hotter in the last couple of days than it’s been all summer. In the 90’s. Sticky. At least it’s sticky for us. Yet I really love soups any time of year. But hearty soups don’t frequent my table when it’s hot. Except yesterday.
Soups are so comforting. Yesterday, my DH was (and still is today) suffering from a reaction to a drug he was taking, so I thought about defrosting some soup that will go down smoothly. His tongue is swollen. He’s itchy all over. Has a sore throat as part of the drug reaction too. So I said, how about I defrost some soup for lunch? He nodded yes since it hurts to talk.

When I make soup I usually make extra. Usually a lot of extra. It’s basically the same amount of work to make a soup for 4 as it is to make it for 10. Maybe a bit more chopping and mincing, but that’s it. But then we’ve got leftovers for a day or two later AND some to freeze.

My standard operating procedure is to pour hot soup out into a large flat pan (one of those quarter sheets) or anything large and flatish. Then I label the Ziploc half gallon size freezer bags (not the kind with a zipper) using a grease pencil, so the writing doesn’t come off in the freezer. I even write the quantity so I know how many each bag will serve. When the soup has cooled enough to handle, usually within 30-60 minutes, I scoop, ladle, or pour it into the bags, trying to portion out the contents – like getting equal amounts of chicken pieces or other chunky ingredients equalized. When I do this task I make sure there’s virtually no air in the bag. This is do-able with some patience by laying the bag flat on the counter and leaving just a corner of the bag open. Holding up that tiny open corner I slide the air bubbles toward the corner, easing air out of the bag before sealing it tight. Then I lay the bags flat on our cool granite countertop for a little longer to cool some more (maybe 20-30 minutes total, usually about 10-15 minutes per side, moving the bags to a different – cool – spot). Then they’re plopped into the refrigerator to cool down completely.

A couple of hours later, using a smallish cookie sheet that’s just the same size as the Ziploc bag, I lay a soup bag on the sheet and place it in a level place in the freezer. The levelness is critical because you don’t want to stand up bags later that are heavier weighted at one end. They cause problems in the “library.” I carefully straighten the bag first, so corners aren’t crinkled (wrinkled corners will sometimes crack in the freezer if you juggle the frozen “flats” around now and then. Once frozen solid, another bag goes onto the sheet and I continue until all bags are frozen. Once frozen the bags stand upright in the “library.” Much easier to handle. Much easier to see. Much easier to remove from the shelf too.
I still have 11 soups lined up in waiting, even after removing one today. We had some tomato soup for lunch. Some of that wonderful cream of tomato soup I made in June from the French bistro cooking class in Sonoma. You can spot the bags of tomato soup in the library – all the same color, all lined up like soldiers. Or sardines in a can. Or books on the shelf.

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  1. Kristen

    said on August 20th, 2007:

    You are brilliant. I love the idea of freezing soup like this. Fantastic idea!

  2. Susan

    said on September 22nd, 2008:

    My friend sent me your link and said “you’ll really enjoy this!” We too have done this very same thing and LOVE the way we can stack it like a “library” just like your picture. It is so FUN to see that someone else does this too. We freeze our spaghetti and chili this way . . making a large enough batch that we only have to make it once a season. Another advantage of freezing in the bags is they defrost quickly in a sink of water. We freeze many of the veggies/fruits from our garden this way and stack the bags of each veggie type in a wire baskets labeled with each veggie name. . . helps keep the ‘jungle in the freeze’ a bit tamed!

    Hi Susan – Am glad you liked my post. At the moment (September) we’re just starting to get into soup season again. In fact we’re having some tonight. I’m looking forward to making more soups this winter. I just have to make room in the freezer. Unfortunately, I’m a freezer pack-rat, and have a hard time throwing out things. We’ll have to EAT some soup before I can freeze any MORE soup! Good for you, though, for freezing so much of your garden’s produce. I also freeze chili and stews in the same manner. . . Carolyn

  3. Connie Langford

    said on February 3rd, 2011:

    Thanks, Carolyn for the great idea. More economical – spacewise. I only have a refrigerator freezer, so this will help a lot!!

    You’ll be so glad once you see how great it works. . . carolyn t

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