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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 Pork, on January 27th, 2016.

slow_roasted_spiced_pork

You’d think, old as I am, I’d have figured out that you CAN oven bake a pork shoulder as a ROAST – that it doesn’t have to be for pulled pork – that a pork shoulder can have another life other than in barbecue sauce or as part of a Hawaiian luau!

With a big family get-together planned (this was after Christmas), I dug into my freezer and found this pork shoulder roast that I had in there, probably longer than it should have been, but once defrosted it showed no signs of deterioration, thankfully. I’d recently watched Ina Garten prepare this recipe on her Food Network program, and decided it sounded really good. It was.

pork_shoulder_ready_to_bakeThe pork roast, with a nice, big fat cap on it, is punctured in numerous places all over so the spice mixture (a wet combo of onion, garlic, jalapeno, oregano, cumin, chile powder, apple cider vinegar and olive oil) that is spread all over the roast can permeate the meat. You could probably do this ahead of time – I didn’t – and it still had plenty of good flavor. The meat is put into a big roasting pan (I used my big, huge turkey roasting pan, but it’s perfectly okay for any kind of meat), slathered on all this gooey stuff, poured some white wine in the bottom and into a slow, 300° oven it went, covered in heavy-duty foil. After 2 1/2 hours, the foil was removed, a bit more wine added in and it continued to slow-roast for another 4-4 1/2 hours. I added more white wine (you use a whole bottle) near the end, though I wouldn’t have to since there was ample liquid there.

Once out of the oven, I tented it with foil and allowed it to sit for another 20 minutes until we were ready to eat. My son, Powell, carved the roast, with me hanging around his elbows trying to take the top picture above. The meat is served with lime wedges, which added a really lovely, bright taste to the meat. I wouldn’t have thought of the lime, but it was a very nice addition.

What’s GOOD: loved the flavor of the meat. Pork shoulder is a fatty cut of meat, but when slow roasted, a tremendous amount of fat drains off. How much? I have no idea – probably not enough to call this healthy – but enough to make you not feel guilty eating it. I really enjoyed the spicy mixture flavor, although none of it was in the bites I ate because it sat on the top of the fat cap, but it flavored the interior somehow. And the white wine wafting around the roast during the long, slow baking time kept it moist too. It was really good – I’d definitely make this again if I was serving a big group. We had 10 people and there was very little left over from the 7+ pound roast I had.

What’s NOT: nothing really – pork shoulder might not be everybody’s cup of tea (high fat) but I thought it was very good.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Slow-Roasted Spiced Pork

Recipe By: Ina Garten, 2015
Serving Size: 12

7 pounds pork shoulder roast — (7- to 9-pound)
6 garlic cloves
1 large yellow onion — chopped
1 jalapeno pepper — ribs removed, seeded, and chopped
1/4 cup fresh oregano — chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons chipotle chile powder
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 bottle dry white wine — (750 ml) such as Pinot Grigio
Lime wedges — for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 300° F. Test your oven with an oven thermometer to be sure it’s accurate!
2. Score the fat on the pork diagonally with a sharp knife in a crosshatch pattern. With a small paring knife, make a dozen 1/2-inch-deep cuts in the top and sides of the pork to allow the seasonings to permeate the meat.
3. Place the garlic, onion, jalapeno, and oregano in a food processor and process until the ingredients are finely chopped. Add the cumin, chile powder, salt and pepper and process for 30 seconds to make a paste. Add the vinegar and olive oil and process to incorporate. Rub the mixture all over the pork, including the sides and the bottom, and place the pork in a large roasting pan, fat side up. Pour half of the wine into the pan and cover the whole roasting pan tightly with aluminum foil. Roast for 2 1/2 hours, remove the foil, and roast for another 4 to 4 1/2 hours, until the meat is very, very tender when tested with a carving fork. Every 2 hours, add another cup of wine to keep some liquid in the pan.
4. Remove the pan from the oven, cover it tightly with aluminum foil, and allow the meat to rest for 15 to 30 minutes. Slice, sprinkle with salt, and serve with lime wedges on the side.
Per Serving: 520 Calories; 40g Fat (71.4% calories from fat); 34g Protein; 2g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 141mg Cholesterol; 131mg Sodium.

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