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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 Chicken, on January 3rd, 2009.


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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