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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 Salads, on November 19th, 2016.

watermelon_nectarine_salad

What a different combination. Watermelon and nectarines. Then with a kind of Asian dressing poured over it and tossed with a lot of mint. Really unusual but very tasty.

New recipes are made when you’re missing something and you decide to substitute, or you’re lucky enough to be a genius about conjuring up an original recipe. Me, not so much the latter, but the former. When I decided to make this salad I was sure I’d just read a recipe for combining watermelon and nectarines, but when I went hunting for it I couldn’t find it (still can’t). So I just had to use the recipe that was in my MasterCook file that I’d just downloaded from the Food & Wine website, but instead of pea shoots (which I didn’t have) I used nectarines.

This is a very unusual salad, and if you’re at all put off by combining fruit with a kind of Asian twist on a dressing, you may want to pass this one by. But it was really delicious. I mean, really delicious. It would go best with a simple protein of some kind, maybe a teriyaki glazed chicken breast, or even a really plain piece of fish. In which case this salad would almost serve as a salsa. What I served it with didn’t go, particularly, with it, so I ate it separately. I finished my entrée, then I ate this salad, and that way it was fine.

It came together in a flash – chopped up watermelon, sliced nectarines, fresh mint, then a whisked together dressing of unseasoned rice wine vinegar (meaning it doesn’t have sugar in it), shallot, oil, sesame seeds, and a little splash of Asian fish sauce. Very different for a fruit salad, but it works.

What’s GOOD: the combo was really different. Next time I’d probably cut the nectarines into bite-sized pieces (halving the slices) as they were too big to eat in one bite. The dressing is oh so very different for a fruit salad, but I’d do it again. Because I knew there was fish sauce in it, I could taste it, but am not sure others would/could detect it. It comes together very quickly – if you have the ingredients this will make itself in about 5-6 minutes. Try it before watermelon season is gone.

What’s NOT: If you’re not a fan of fish sauce, you might not like it so much – it’s different, I’ll give you that. I enjoyed it a lot. I may make it again since I still have more watermelon and another nectarine.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Watermelon and Nectarine Salad with Mint

Recipe By: Adapted from Food & Wine, Aug 2016
Serving Size: 6

3 tablespoons unseasoned rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons minced shallot
2 tablespoons canola oil — or olive oil
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
1 1/2 pounds watermelon — seedless, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
2 medium nectarines — seeded and sliced
2/3 cup mint leaves — coarsely chopped
1 cup pea shoots — torn (1 ounce) optional
Kosher salt (maybe not needed)

1. In a small bowl, whisk the rice vinegar and shallot; let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk in the oil, sesame seeds and fish sauce.
2. In a large serving bowl, toss the watermelon with the nectarines, mint and pea shoots, if using. Add the dressing and toss well. Taste for seasonings (it shouldn’t need salt as the rice wine vinegar and the fish sauce both contain a significant amount of sodium). Serve right away as it gets soggy once it sits for awhile.
Per Serving: 123 Calories; 6g Fat (44.9% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 16g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 3mg Cholesterol; 211mg Sodium.

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  1. Toffeeapple

    said on November 19th, 2016:

    I like your new picture, is it a more recent shot?

    I’d be lucky to get a watermelon here, they make an appearance for just about two weeks in summer, and nectarines here are useless, they are picked too early and they never ripen. We don’t grow them but I am used to buying from the roadsides in southern France. There they are sold only when ripe.

    I like the idea of the dressing, I don’t mind fish sauce and frequently use an anchovy or two as a seasoning.

    Yes, new picture! My church does a new directory every 4-5 years and I just had that photo taken (very observant of you!). I took a picture of the picture and then had to do some photoshop-ing to it because it had an oval frame around it.

    Too bad about watermelon – we are so fortunate here in California, but then we’re a state that produces so much food. And nectarines grow here locally. . . Carolyn T

  2. hddonna

    said on November 19th, 2016:

    I believe you when you say it’s good. I hope I remember to try it next summer when I can get good nectarines. I do love sweet and salty combinations. Sounds interesting–and tasty.

  3. hddonna

    said on November 21st, 2016:

    I noticed the picture, too, and thought it was very good!

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