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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 Fish, Salads, on August 16th, 2016.

clementines_tuna_pasta_salad

Tuna, pasta, some pickle action, radishes, celery and ample pepper. Oh yes, mayo. A nice salad for a warm summer’s day.

Lately it seems like I’ve allowed my palate, my wants, to rule what I fix in my kitchen. This day, I was craving tuna and I nearly made my favorite tuna salad, posted here on my blog ages ago, Sicilian Tuna Salad. BUT, I thought I might try something different. I used Eat Your Books to help me find something from my own cookbook collection, and sure enough, it located a tuna and pasta salad from Amanda Hesser’s cookbook, The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century. I did have to substitute a few things – I thought I had cornichons, but couldn’t locate them in my refrigerator, so I added some dill pickles instead. I also didn’t have chow chow and Tennessee chow chow to boot – that’s not something I ever stock since I really don’t eat it. It sounds like something my grandmother used to can every summer. Can you still buy chow chow? Anyway, peppadew pepperswhat I did have were peppadew peppers (sweet – see photo at left), so I added those instead (see them, some of the little red pieces in the photo). I also added radishes – just because I love them. Those weren’t in the recipe at all. Amanda used little elbow macaroni – I didn’t have any of that, either, so I used penne rigate.

You could say that this is a totally different salad – I used less mayo too. It took no time at all to mix this up – waiting for the pasta to cook, drain and cool took the longest. And since it made a bunch, I’ll have it for lunch several more times. I’ll likely be very tired of it before I eat it all. I should have cut it in half . . . the recipe indicated it served 1-2, but gosh no, it made a lot; enough for 3-4 lunch sized portions. Maybe more.

What’s GOOD: what can you say about a tuna pasta salad? It was good. Not exactly sensational – truthfully, my other tuna salad, the Sicilian one I linked above – is better, but this one was very good nevertheless. I’ll enjoy eating it, but when/if I get a craving again, I’ll go back to my favorite one (it doesn’t use mayo). This one is liberally slathered with it – if you don’t like mayo, you definitely wouldn’t like this salad.

What’s NOT: really nothing. Perhaps if I’d had chow chow (Tennessee chow chow, excuse me) and cornichons, that might have made the salad a bit different. I’m not sure.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Clementine’s Tuna Pasta Salad

Recipe By: Adapted significantly from Amanda Hesser’s New York Times Cookbook
Serving Size: 5

Salt
1/2 pound macaroni (I used penne rigate)
1/2 cup celery — minced
1/2 cup cheddar cheese — diced
4 whole green onions — minced
4 whole cornichons — finely sliced, or dill pickle finely diced
3 tablespoons chow chow — or peppadew peppers, chopped
2/3 cup radishes — sliced
2/3 cup mayonnaise
12 ounces canned tuna — drained, flaked
Black pepper to taste

1. Simmer pasta in salted, boiling water for 10-12 minutes, according to package instructions. Do not over cook. Drain and set aside to cool.
2. In a medium-sized bowl combine the celery, cheddar, green onions, radishes, chow chow, cornichons, mayonnaise, tuna and pepper. Do add more pepper than you might think it needs.
3. Add cooled pasta and stir to combine. If using penne pasta, it takes a bit of stirring to get the salad to mix thoroughly without clumps of the tuna/mayo mixture. Chill and serve. You might garnish it with a sprinkling of minced Italian parsley.
Per Serving: 530 Calories; 30g Fat (50.4% calories from fat); 27g Protein; 40g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 43mg Cholesterol; 637mg Sodium.

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  1. hddonna

    said on August 17th, 2016:

    I’m familiar with the existence of chow chow, but don’t think I’ve ever had it, unless it was a church dinner during my growing-up years. Your Tuscan one sounds very doable, though. I missed that because I don’t think I was a blog reader when you posted it. Just got back from a trip to Kansas to see my son, his wife, and their two children, the food situation needs assessing, and I can’t go to the grocery store because I’m expecting a load of shingles. I was wondering what to fix for supper, and that sounds like just the ticket! I love capers; the guys aren’t crazy about them, so I’ll probably cut back on them and put extra on my own serving.

    Hope everybody will enjoy it. I do love that Sicilian (not Tuscan) salad. . . carolyn t

  2. hddonna

    said on August 20th, 2016:

    Thanks for pointing out that it is Sicilian, not Tuscan–I might have had trouble finding the recipe if it weren’t that you linked it here! Very tasty–comment over in the post for the Sicilian one.

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