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Carolyn

Sara

      Sara and me

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Just finished reading The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley. The premise of this book is different . . . a woman writer goes to Scotland to connect with distant heritage. She hopes to gain inspiration for her next book. As she investigates, she discovers she’s related to a family that lived in the early 1700s at Slains Castle on the east coast of Scotland near Aberdeen. This was the time of the Jacobite rebellion (the exiled King James and his hoped-for return to England). When I say this woman gets inspiration . . .well, it’s more than that. She questions whether she could possibly have genes that contain memory (what an idea, huh?), because she begins to know how events took place, who the people were, what they said, exactly where they stood, the layout of the castle, even the furniture in the rooms. She wasn’t channeling, actually, but I suppose it could be interpreted so. The book is full of the Jacobite history (more than I’d ever known before, but then I love English/Scottish history). There’s a romance back then, and a romance in the today time. Both lovely. Great book. An historical novel of the first order.

Another great read, The Island of Sea Women: A Novel by Lisa See. Six months ago I attended an author’s talk at the Bowers Museum. Lisa See was the speaker and shared her story about this book. I’ve heard her speak several times before (she lives near me) and have read several of her books. This one, though, is very different. She was sitting in a doctor’s office reading some magazine and spotted a tiny snippet of data about Jeju Island off the coast of Korea where the island as a whole is matriarchal because the women were trained from a young age to deep dive, free dive, for mollusks. These women were the bread winners. Husbands stayed home and cared for the babies. The island is real. The history is real. And what happened during WWII on this island is horrific – makes me feel ashamed that our military had a hand in what happened to many people. But everyone should read this book. It’s a novel, about 2 girls who are divers and how their lives diverge for a variety of cultural reasons and because of the war.

Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford. A novel about the early days of radio in London. This book takes place in the 1920s and tells not only the general history of the early days of radio, but also the role women played (a vital one). Initially it was in the background, because women weren’t considered intelligent enough. Maisie, the heroine in the book, works her way up the ranks. It’s a fascinating read from beginning to end. Many famous characters (real) flow through the studios. Early voting rights play a part in the story line also. And some wartime intrigue. You’ll find yourself cheering from the bleachers when women make a tiny inroad into the male-dominated field.

A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts by Therese Anne Fowler. My friend Ann, from Idaho, brought it with her as we spent a week in Palm Desert in February. She handed it to me and said I’d really like it. Oh, did I! Loved the book. This book is a novel, but based on the life of Alva Smith Vanderbilt (Belmont). Her family was nearly destitute (and faking it) when a marriage was proposed for her with William Vanderbilt. There is lots of dialogue in the book which is made up, but I’m guessing the author probably read many diary entries of Alva (and the family) to create a very intriguing and readable story. A life of unbelievable privilege. Several children, including one who marries into a titled family in England. You see the inner life of Alva – her day to day busy work, charity work, visiting for afternoon tea, the undercurrent of society’s morals – men were nearly expected to have mistresses or affairs. This was the Victorian Age when sex between husbands and wives was not necessarily, and usually not, passionate. I loved this book from page one until the end.  Alva was a suffragette of the first order. Having read the book, I have a lot of admiration for her, even though she lived in the highest echelons of society.

Also read In Falling Snow: A Novel, by Mary-Rose McColl. From amazon: Iris, a young Australian nurse, travels to France during World War I to bring home her fifteen-year-old brother, who ran away to enlist. But in Paris she meets the charismatic Dr. Frances Ivens, who convinces Iris to help establish a field hospital in the old abbey at Royaumont, staffed entirely by women—a decision that will change her life. Seamlessly interwoven is the story of Grace, Iris’s granddaughter in 1970s Australia. Together their narratives paint a portrait of the changing role of women in medicine and the powerful legacy of love. The book  gives you a vivid picture of the state of nursing in WWI, but the story is quite mesmerizing. And there’s a twist almost at the end. Highly recommend.

Also couldn’t put down The Secret Wife by Gill Paul. A long story that begins in war-torn Russia. Cavalry officer Dmitri falls head over heels in love with one of the daughters of Tzar Nicholas. But events intervene, as history tells us. That was 1914. Cut to 2016 when a young woman inherits an ancient cabin in upper New York State and she discovers a jeweled pendant. The two times weave together to make a really riveting story. Lots of Russian history; well written; as I said, couldn’t put it down.

Uncommon Woman. A book about Colonial America, but really the western frontier at that time, which is in western Pennsylvania. The warring native Americans play large in this book. There is a romance, yes, but this book is not “a romance.” It’s more than that – about the hardships of living on the land, away from protection, Tessa and her family struggle to make a living and avoid the angered natives who take revenge when their people are murdered. Clay Tygart is a respected officer/soldier and commands a fort near where Tessa lives. Clay was captured by Lanape Indians when he was a young man, so he straddles both sides of the equation – first hand, he knows how the natives feel, but also his role in the lure of American exploration of the west. The natives wish to preserve their hunting grounds from the encroaching settlers. This book takes place in the mid-1700s I think. Loved it. Not only the history that is brilliantly detailed, even to the summer heat they experience. The crops they raise, the constant fear of attack. And the sweet love that weaves through it. Not a speck of sex in it.

Reading mysteries has never loomed large in my reading life. Occasionally, yes. And some espionage type books. But light mysteries have not intrigued me much. But one of my book clubs had us read Louise Penny’s novel, A Rule Against Murder (Chief Inspector Gamache Novel). The member actually handed out a cheat sheet of the characters in the book (many) and posed several questions of us as we read through it. The cheat sheet really helped. She asked us when (or if) we caught the foreshadowing of the murder culprit (I never did). The book takes place at a lovely inn in Canada and Chief Inspector Gamache (he is quite a character – along with his wife – are vacationing there) when a murder occurs. None of the characters escape the C.I.’s scrutiny. Lois, our book club member, led us through a very thorough and lively discussion of the book. Usually, my complaint about murder mysteries is that they don’t make for good discussion at a book club – but this book was an exception, for sure. Many of my learned book club friends rave about Louise Penny. One told me I should read Still Life next, and probably should have read it before I read this one.

Rachel Hauck is an author I’ve enjoyed reading over the years. Just finished reading The Memory House. It’s about relationships. Love. About family. About secrets. Doesn’t that just describe about 90% of every novel out there these days? Beck is a cop in NYC; a series of events occur and she is forced to take leave. Just then she inherits a house in Florida. She barely remembers the woman who bequeathed the house to her. Then you meet Bruno, a sports agent who will figure large in Beck’s life. Then the book jumps back in time to Everleigh, the woman who owned the house and you learn her story. Really stories of her two husbands. And how do those stories connect to present day. Very sweet book. Not a speck of sex in this one, either.

The Parrot Who Owns Me: The Story of a Relationship by Joanna Burger. Such an interesting book – nonfiction. The author is an ornithologist by profession (and a PhD) and this memoir of sorts is about her Red-Lored Amazon parrot she and her husband own. But no, it’s the parrot who owns her/them.

My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.). Resolute is what I’m discussing here. A book club friend recommended this book, I immediately bought it on my Kindle. I could NOT put the book down. I devoured it. Any other “work” I should have been doing was swept aside as I read and read of Resolute’s adventures. It’s fiction, but based some on a true story. Resolute, as a young girl from a privileged life on a plantation in Jamaica, was taken captive by slavers, eventually ended up in Colonial America. This book is the story of her life. The people she met, the men in her life, her children, and always about her indefatigable energy for life. Always hoping to return to Jamaica.

Finished The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek: A Novel by Kim Richardson.  It’s a novel about the first mobile library in Kentucky (this is the 1930s) and the fierce, brave packhorse librarians who wove their way from shack to shack dispensing literacy, hope, and, just as importantly, a compassionate human connection.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This book was offered as a bargain book from Bookbub, and something about the description resonated with me – maybe because of my Old Testament readings regarding the lives of shepherds back in ancient days. I utterly loved this book. It might not suit everyone – it’s a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, the son of a farming family, who sabotages everything in his being regarding going to school and leaves as soon as he is able (probably about 8th grade, I’d guess). And becomes a shepherd. And at night, he read literature that he accumulated from his grandfather. He bickers with his father, eventually moves out. One night in a pub with his blokes (friends) he enters some kind of a contest in the pub and realizes he has a lot more knowledge than he thought he did. In time he applies to get what I’d call here in the U.S. a G.E.D (high school diploma), which he does, and then he applies to Oxford, on a whim. And gets in. He graduates. He applies his knowledge to his rural life. He marries, has children, but still, his day to day life is all about his Herdwick sheep, although he does have a day job too working for UNESCO. You’ll learn more about sheep than you might have wanted to know. I absolutely loved, LOVED this book. If you are interested, James Rebanks has a Twitter feed, called @herdyshepherd1, and you can sign up to get updates from him about his farm and his sheep. I don’t do Twitter or I would.

Moloka’i: A Novel by Alan Brennert. A riveting book about the early days of Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) in Hawaii, and the stigma attached to the victims AND their families. It chronicles the story of a young woman, diagnosed almost as a child, and ostracized from her family, subsequently learning to live alone and remote.

House by the Fjord by Rosalind Laker. What a darling story. From amazon: A touching and atmospheric love story – When Anna Harvik travels to Norway in 1946 in order to visit the family of her late husband, the country is only just recovering from five cruel years of Nazi occupation. So it is with surprise that she finds in this cold and bitter country the capacity for new love and perhaps even a new home. I just loved this book – could hardly put it down; yet it’s not a mystery. You’ll come away with a desire to find that house by the fjord. I want to go there and have some coffee with the Anna, who was a Brit, yet fell head over heels in love with Norway.

Running Blind (Jack Reacher) by Lee Child. A Jack Reacher mystery. From amazon: Across the country, women are being murdered, victims of a disciplined and clever killer who leaves no trace evidence, no fatal wounds, no signs of struggle, and no clues to an apparent motive. They are, truly, perfect crimes. Until Jack Reacher gets in the middle of it. A page turner, as are all of the Jack Reacher stories.

Say Goodbye for Now by Catherine Ryan Hyde. This story, which takes place in a kind of Texas backwater, sets a town into an angry mess when two young boys, one white, one black, become friends, something most folks don’t like. At all. There’s a dog involved, the father of the black boy, the father of the white boy plus a woman who lives in the town and does her best to avoid people altogether. But they all get fused. Wonderful story.

Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart. A sweet book, true story, of the author and her friend, during one summer in the midst of their college years, going by train to NYC and ultimately getting a job of Tiffany’s.  Cute read.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. You might think what a stretch – what does an Indian (Native American) tribe have to do with the FBI. Read and you’ll find out. This is back in time, 50s I think, and a number of murders have taken place on the Osage Reservation. A wake up call, even for today.

Oh wow. Just finished reading David Guterson’s book, East of the Mountains. You know this author from his most well known book, Snow Falling on Cedars. I loved the Cedars book when I read it years ago, and assumed I’d like this other book (not new) as well. Have you learned to trust my judgment when I tell you, you HAVE to read a book? If I tell you the story line, I can already hear you thinking . . . oh no, I don’t want to read this kind of a book. Please trust me. You’ll come away from it being glad you did.

A fabulous read – Catherine Ryan Hyde’s newest book, Have You Seen Luis Velez? I marvel sometimes about how authors ever come up with the ideas they do, to create the premise for a novel. And this one is right up there at the top of the list. Raymond, a youngster, an older teenager, who has a big lack of self-confidence and feels like an odd duck sometimes, reluctantly (at first) befriends an elderly woman in the apartment building where he lives with his mother and step-father. He discovers she’s blind and needs some help, which he gives her.

Magic Hour: A Novel

Excellent Women

Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist) by Min Jin Lee

An American Marriage (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Tayari Jones.

Recently finished Sally Field’s memoir (autobiography) called In Pieces.

If you want grit, well, read Kristen Hannah’s newest book, The Great Alone: A Novel.

You’ve got to read Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book – Take Me With You. What a story.  From Amazon’s description: August Shroeder, a burned-out teacher, has been sober since his nineteen-year-old son died. Every year he’s spent the summer on the road, but making it to Yellowstone this year means everything. The plan had been to travel there with his son, but now August is making the trip with Philip’s ashes instead. An unexpected twist of fate lands August with two extra passengers for his journey, two half-orphans with nowhere else to go. What none of them could have known was how transformative both the trip—and the bonds that develop between them—would prove, driving each to create a new destiny together. Have a tissue handy at the end. It’s such a charming, sweet story. You’ll fall in love with the young boys, and fall in love with them again 10 years later.

The Last Letter from Your Lover: A Novel by JoJo Moyes.

Mark of the Lion : A Voice in the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness, As Sure As the Dawn (Vol 1-3) by Francine Rivers.

Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America

Answer As a Man

Celeste Ng Little Fires Everywhere.

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright.

C.J. Box’s book The Disappeared (A Joe Pickett Novel).

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant.

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde.

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee.

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian.

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively.

 

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 January 11th, 2016.

veg_soup_bacon_herbs

Sometimes the simplest dishes are amazingly delicious. Vegetable soup can be so good, and yet when I order it out it’s usually got lots of root vegetables in it (which makes it a carb soup in my book – and definitely not my favorite in generic category of “vegetable” soups), tomatoes and has a red hue. This one is nothing at all like that – mostly green veggies with the hint of smoky bacon (optional) and a bit of milk and cream. This is a “dry” soup – not much liquid.

A year or so ago I began subscribing to a blog called Cooking in the Archives. It’s a blog from 2 very erudite women, both professors and researchers in English Lit, books in general, and rare books in particular. They must have become friends somewhere along the way and they both enjoy researching “old-tyme” recipes and updating them to today’s kitchens. I always enjoy reading their own journey as they identify a recipe (always shown in “old-tyme” language as well, then their translations) and about the permutations they make to the recipe.

A recipe that had me interested was one they posted earlier this year, called Herb Soop (no, that’s not a typo). Today I set out to make it – but then when I went to the grocery store I somehow forgot to buy some of the important ingredients that went into it. So I decided to make my own detour with what I had on hand. I’ll make that soup another day.

In February I’m hosting a luncheon here at my house (along with my friend Linda I.) for a small group of my P.E.O. sisters, as we watch a DVD on some thing yet-to-be-selected about American history, and I thought it would be fun to prepare a lunch that highlighted old-tyme food as well. The blog actually highlights recipes from 1600-1800, and not always American ones. But this soup recipe I made was just fabulous – although not necessarily an historical recipe.

Now, this soup. I started off with some very lean bacon, just because I think a bit of bacon adds SO much flavor to soups. You could leave it out if you’re a vegetarian. And you can use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth too. I rendered the bacon, then added a bit of oil (because the bacon had almost no fat in it), then half an onion chopped, and let that cook for a bit. Then I added Savoy cabbage (chopped), a poblano chile chopped up (certainly not in the original recipe) and celery and let that cook a bit. Then I added a package of frozen veggies I had on hand from Trader Joe’s (it’s a mixture of green beans, cauliflower, broccoli and peas). I didn’t really want cauliflower in this and I’ve not included it in the recipe below, but you can add it if you’d like to. Meanwhile I chopped up some fresh parsley and fresh mint and had those ready nearby. I added some chicken broth and allowed the vegetables to cook until they were nearly done, but not quite. Then I added a cup of milk to which I’d whisked in an egg (to thicken the soup just a little – this was in the Herb Soop recipe), and the herbs, plus a little sprinkling of freshly grated nutmeg (so good in creamy things – strictly my idea) and let that heat through and the veggies were cooked just perfectly. I scooped the soup into a wide bowl, garnished it with some more herbs and ate it with relish.

What’s GOOD: I threw this together in about 30 minutes of chopping and stirring. It’s a DRY soup – if you know what that means – it does not have a lot of liquid in it – so it’s mostly vegetables with a bit of a creamy base. I absolutely loved it. It was very filling, had a delicious variety of flavors and textures, enhanced by the herbs. I particularly liked the fresh mint in it – not something you see often. The poblano chile added quite a bit of heat – if you’re sensitive to hot stuff, leave it out. It will be just fine without it. You can add heat to your own taste with cayenne or some of the Slap Yo Mama Cajun seasoning. Don’t overdo it, though.

What’s NOT: Make sure you’ve GOT enough green veggies to make this – variety is the spice of life, and this soup! If you have a meat-eating family, they may not be satisfied with this. If I had to add some protein to this I’d add some shrimp, I think. Maybe some mild fish like sole.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 14/15 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Vegetable Soup with Bacon & Herbs

Recipe By: My own concoction but very loosely based on a recipe from Cooking in the Archives, 2015
Serving Size: 3

2 slices bacon — chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil — optional
1/2 yellow onion — chopped
1 cup celery — thinly sliced
1/2 Savoy cabbage — chopped
1/2 poblano chile — seeded, chopped small (optional)
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup green beans
1/2 cup broccoli — cut in small florets
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 pinch red pepper flakes
2 dashes Slap Yo Mama Cajun Seasoning — or cayenne
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg — freshly ground
1/2 cup Italian parsley — save some for garnish
1/4 cup fresh mint — save some for garnish
2 tablespoons chives — chopped
1 cup whole milk
1 large egg — beaten
1/4 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

NOTE: This soup is very flexible – add what vegetables you like, but I particularly made this to NOT include any root veggies. If you add them you’ll need to adjust the cooking time accordingly and note that there isn’t a lot of liquid, so root veggies won’t be submerged in broth.
1. In a large high sided pan render the bacon over low heat until it has begun to crisp.
2. Add oil (if needed) to the pan then add the chopped onion. Cook for 5-7 minutes until onion is translucent.
3. Add celery and cabbage, and poblano chile. Turn heat to low and continue to cook for another 3-4 minutes, stirring several times.
4. Add chicken broth, then add green beans, broccoli, peas, red pepper flakes, nutmeg and Cajun seasoning. Cover and allow mixture to simmer for about 7-10 minutes until vegetables are not quite tender.
5. In a small bowl whisk the egg, then add the milk. Add it to the pan, then most of the parsley, chives and mint. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1-2 minutes (don’t let it boil), then add heavy cream. Heat just until mixture is hot and vegetables are cooked to your liking. Taste for seasoning (salt and pepper) and add to suit your own palate. Scoop into bowls and garnish with additional parsley and mint.
Per Serving: 314 Calories; 22g Fat (61.6% calories from fat); 13g Protein; 17g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 113mg Cholesterol; 726mg Sodium.

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  1. hddonna

    said on January 11th, 2016:

    Oh, boy, I’m going to have to try this! I really like the idea of the mint, and the egg thickening is very unusual. I have been trying to find Savoy cabbage for over a year now. They used to have it at my supermarket every now and then, but I requested it from the produce manager, who’s always very accommodating, and he keeps trying, but they can’t seem to get it. I’ve checked the international grocery store I frequent also, several times, but no luck. It baffles me. This store has an excellent produce department. I may have to resort to planting some myself this spring. I’ll have to make do with regular green cabbage for now, but Savoy would be especially nice.

    How strange that you can’t get Savoy. I do love the stuff – better than regular. But I’m sure this would be okay with regular cabbage too. It might take a bit more cooking, depending on how thick the ribs are. Yes, the egg as a soup thickener is very unusual, and obviously was something they did back in the old days. Why, I don’t know. Flour surely is/was cheaper, but maybe it was more precious than using an egg yolk from the chickens in the coop behind the house. We’ll never know . . .carolyn t

  2. Toffeeapple

    said on January 12th, 2016:

    Without the milk and cream, this is my kind of soup.

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