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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 Chicken, on January 3rd, 2009.

alabama-white-sauce

Until a few months ago I’d never even HEARD of Alabama White Sauce. I read about it over at the Blue Kitchen blog, but the sauce recipe comes from some fella called Big Bob Gibson, dating back to 1925. I’ve had the Blue Kitchen recipe in my to-try pile for awhile, but just needed the right group of diners here at home to make it. After sleuthing on the internet about Alabama white sauce, they all have somewhat similar ingredients (mayo, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, hot pepper of some kind and horseradish) although some recipes I found didn’t have horseradish or lemon juice. It seems that slathering it on chicken is the most popular use, but I’ll tell you that when I served the leftovers with some hot steamed baby broccoli, I also drizzled just a tad of the sauce on the vegetable. Oh my was that good.

Here’s what you do – grill some chicken – brown it over direct heat/fire, then cook it on indirect heat until it reaches 165° F. Then slather the sauce on both sides, continue cooking for about 5 minutes, slathering it again. It should be done, or nearly so. Remove from the grill, loosely cover with foil and let it sit for about 5 minutes and serve with another dollop of the sauce on top of each piece. And maybe on any vegetables you happen to be serving with it. L-o-v-e-d it. Even l-o-v-e-d it better with the leftovers, I think. The sauce had time to sink into the meat a bit more and I just reheated the chicken pieces in the microwave.
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Alabama White Sauce, with Grilled Chicken

Recipe: Blue Kitchen Blog, but was first created by Big Bob Gibson in 1925
Servings: 6
Serving Ideas: If you have leftovers of this sauce, put it on steamed vegetables. Would also make a good dip for artichokes.

1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper — or up to 3/4 tsp if you want it HOT

1. Make the sauce. Combine all of the ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and whisk well to combine. Cover bowl and store in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. It will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.
2. Salt and pepper the chicken pieces of your choice (legs and thighs). Grill the chicken – on direct heat first, then off direct heat until it reaches 165ºF. Began slathering the chicken liberally with the White Sauce, again turning it a couple/few times and saucing it each time. After 5 or so minutes,transfer the chicken to a serving platter, let it rest for about 5-10 minutes, then serve it with another dollop of sauce on top of each piece.
Per Serving (uhm, this is JUST the sauce, not including the chicken): 275 Calories; 31g Fat (94.7% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 13mg Cholesterol; 371mg Sodium.

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  1. Marie

    said on January 3rd, 2009:

    Ohh, I’m going to have to try me some of this Carolyn! My boss is from Alabama you know. I bet they’d love it too!

    I’ll betcha they would like it. Be sure to drizzle some on a veg too. Or serve just a tiny little bowl on the side for people to dip into. I really must try it with an artichoke too. . . . Carolyn T

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