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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 Miscellaneous, on October 11th, 2016.

mango_chutney

What rich color! Perfect side for some grilled steak, chicken, or pork. Or as a little condiment on a sandwich. Or, spread some on top of cream cheese for a nice appetizer with crackers.

Awhile back we had a family get-together and daughter Sara brought this chutney. She left some of it with me and I’ve enjoyed it with grilled chicken and some grilled pork chops.

Back decades ago I first read about Major Grey’s mango chutney. I was in the stage of my early experimental cooking and tried making chicken curry, as I recall, and with no recipe for chutney (or even a thought of making it myself) I bought a jar of it. My recollection is that it was very expensive! Too bad I didn’t try to make it. Presumably the Joy of Cooking contains a recipe for it (I haven’t looked). Here’s what Wikipedia says about it:

Major Grey’s Chutney is a type of chutney, reputedly created by a 19th-century British Army officer of the same name who, though likely apocryphal, presumably lived in British India. Its characteristic ingredients are mango, raisins, vinegar, lime juice, onion, tamarind extract (occasionally), sweetening and spices.

I think one of my grandmothers used to make chutney, and I must not have had a great memory of it – it probably had sticky dates and/or some candied fruit in it (yuk in my book). My grandmothers made numerous types of pickles that appeared on the dinner table (I wasn’t much into pickles in those days), and both of my grandmothers made some kind of piccalilli (mixed veggies in a slightly sweet brine). I wasn’t much into cauliflower back then, either, which was a major component of that condiment.

mango_chutney_with_steakBut chutney is a wonderful side dish. See photo at left nestled next to a nice piece of grilled ribeye steak. It’s s omething you can make a week ahead of time, and if you’re so inclined, this recipe gives instructions for canning it. Sara doesn’t can, and we ate a ton of this chutney that night, so don’t know that she had a lot left over. The recipe came from Simply Recipes. It’s very straight forward. First, you bring sugar and vinegar to a boil. While that’s happening, cut and prep the fruit, onion, and measure out the other ingredients. They’re all added to the liquid and cooked down (simmered) for about an hour until it’s thickened. At that point, can it for 15 minutes, or put in clean, sealed containers or jars and store in the refrigerator for several weeks. Actually, I have nothing fewer than 10 chutneys or marmalade sides on my blog. Go HERE if you want to view them.

What’s GOOD: Love this stuff. It’s sweet and only slightly savory from the onion. It’s not like jam, exactly, but it’s a close cousin. The crystallized ginger adds a nice little touch to it, and the raisins too. Altogether good. Make it ahead. Serve it with grilled meat.

What’s NOT: can’t think of anything. Try it; you’ll like it.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Homemade Mango Chutney

Recipe By: From Simply Recipes (blog)
Serving Size: 12 (probably more than that)

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
3 cups mangos — peeled and cut in 3/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup onion — chopped
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/8 cup crystallized ginger — finely chopped
1/2 garlic clove — minced
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds — whole
1/8 teaspoon red chili flakes

1. Combine sugar and vinegar in a 6 quart pot; bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves.
2. Add remaining ingredients and simmer, uncovered, until syrupy and slightly thickened, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Stir occasionally during cooking. It will be thicker once it cools. If it gets too thick, thin with just a little bit of water.
3. Optional preparation: place in sealed jars in the refrigerator – it should keep for several weeks. Or, to can, pour into clean, hot jars leaving 1/2-inch head space; close jars. Process in a water bath 15 minutes.
Per Serving: 113 Calories; trace Fat (1.4% calories from fat); trace Protein; 29g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 3mg Sodium.

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  1. hddonna

    said on October 11th, 2016:

    Have been meaning to try making this for years. I have a humongous jar from the international grocery to use up, but once that’s gone, I’ll know where to go for a recipe.

  2. Toffeeapple

    said on October 12th, 2016:

    I am not vry fond of chutneys but I looked up British recipes for that and the Picalilli to see how they differed, you can see the results here:

    https://www.rivercottage.net/recipes/pams-piccalilli No brine involved here.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/mangochutney_1319

    Mangoes I eat raw, I dislike the sweetness of them when cooked.

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