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Just finished reading How It All Began: A Novelby Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.

The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas. It’s a very, very good read. It tells the story of an older married woman who lives in a small mining town in the Colorado rockies (this is the mid-1800’s), and is well known by all because she’s the only midwife in the area. Often people can’t pay her anything, or very little for her days of service with little or no rest or food. Suddenly, a couple accuse her of strangling their infant (she arrived after the birth, actually). Hence the story is about how this small town rallies or rails for or against Gracy. She didn’t commit the crime, but not everyone can be convinced since the father is a wealthy man in the area who carries a lot of clout. There’s plenty of relationship issues here, which make really great fodder for a novel. And there are plenty of characters in the book that you’ll love or hate. Some secrets get dredged up too. Oh, such a good read.

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 middle-aged 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, and wealthy) 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.

 

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 November 16th, 2007.


Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve been planning the Thanksgiving menu the last couple of days. We’re excited that we’ll have all three of our children here, with all 5 grandchildren too, who range in age from one infant up to age 13. Plus some other extended family too. That will make a table for 16, which is two more than our table can accommodate, so we’ll probably have to set up a small table for the children nearby.

Everyone is bringing something, so that makes my job easier. I’m grateful for the help. I’ve always thought that Thanksgiving dinner is one of the most labor intensive there is, of the entire year. So much of it has to be done at the last minute – the potatoes, the gravy, the salad, etc. But I heard a suggestion the other day – potatoes hold real well in a crock pot. Just make them several hours ahead, preheat the crock pot and throw the entire batch in, cover, and it will hold for many hours. Sounds like a plan to me.

So, listen up . . . that’s the phrase I seem to use when I’m about to share something important. I’m going to give you my prized (well, no, I haven’t really won a prize for it, it’s just prized by me!) recipe for cranberry relish. My mother introduced cranberry relish to our family’s Thanksgiving table back in the late 1950’s I think. It was just the chopped cranberries (and I was often the one who had to sit and hand chop the cranberries – very tedious, I might add), and minced orange, including some of the peel, with sugar. I made it that way for years. Until one year I saw a recipe in a magazine, I think, that mentioned adding apple and ground ginger. I love ginger and what it does for baked goods and other things too. I tried it, and it’s become the regular on my Thanksgiving table ever since. Over the years I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit – reduced the sugar a tad, and added more ginger. And I think the original recipe called for 2 apples, but I preferred the single one. So that’s why I call this a Carolyn original. I have no recollection where I first saw the recipe including the apple and ginger, so I can’t given any credit for it.

This keeps for about a month, and is wonderful added to a turkey sandwich, or as a chutney type side with grilled meat. But it seems to have its strongest affinity to poultry. I can eat this straight out of the container, I like it so much. Just remember to make this a day ahead, if at all possible. It takes several hours for the flavors to blend AND for the sugar to do its magic with the fruit, drawing out the juices.
printer-friendly CutePDF

Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click link to open in MC – 14 contains photo)

Cranberry Relish with a Zip

Recipe: This is a Carolyn original
Servings: 10
NOTES: Cranberry relish has always been a favorite of mine, and I’ve made a bunch of different kinds over the years. But, this is my favorite, with just a bit of tartness. It’s also wonderful with grilled meats – pork chops, chicken and even steak.

12 ounces fresh cranberries
1 large apple — cored
1 large orange — with peel, chopped
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cup sugar

1. You may use fresh cranberries, if available. If you’ve frozen them, just defrost before starting relish.
2. In a food processor, whiz up the cranberries first. Do not allow them to turn to mush. Scrape out into a bowl. Do the same with the apple, leaving the peel on, and add to cranberries. Cut orange into many small pieces, peel and all and do the same. Be careful there aren’t any large pieces left in the workbowl. Add ginger and sugar to the mixture, stir well and refrigerate for a few hours.
2. Will keep for about a month before spoiling.
Per Serving: 90 Calories; trace Fat (1.4% calories from fat); trace Protein; 23g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 1mg Sodium.

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  1. Anonymous

    said on November 18th, 2007:

    I made your relish today and was extremely happy with the results. That addition of ginger just adds a little bite that I love. It is now ready for Thanksgiving day–if I can stay out of it! Thanks. Jancd

  2. Carolyn T

    said on November 20th, 2007:

    Am so glad you liked the result. Hope your family enjoys it too.

  3. kari b

    said on November 21st, 2007:

    On a roll right now. Have the Lemon Cake in the oven and made a double batch of the Cranberry Relish. I LOVE the relish. I dont know that it will make it to Thanksgiving! Thanks so much for sharing!

  4. Carolyn T

    said on November 21st, 2007:

    I’m glad to be able to share this recipe. I love it too!

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