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Just finished 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 want that kind of book – you may not want to read this one.

Also finished Julian Fellowes’s Belgravia. You know Julian Fellowes, the producer and writer of Downton Abbey? He lends his mind to a story about a family or two from the similar time period as Downton, who live in London. There’s some amount of intrigue, romance, observations from within the halls of wealthy Londoners and moderately well off tradesmen and their families. There’s affairs, shady business dealings, an illegitimate child, the comings and goings of the “downstairs” staff too, etc. The characters were well done – I had no trouble keeping all of the people identified. The story is somewhat predictable, but it was interesting clear up to the end.

The Letter by Kathyrn Hughes. It’s a very intricate tale. At first it’s about Tina, a battered wife [at which point I paused and wondered if I wanted to read any further, but I’m glad I did]. She tries to get the courage to leave her husband. Then enters the letter she finds in a suit pocket in the thrift shop where she volunteers. It’s old – sealed and stamped, but never mailed. Then you learn about Crissie, decades earlier, a young pregnant girl who is sent off to Ireland to a distant relative by her father, then to a rigid (meaning horrible) convent [the book takes place mostly in Manchester, England and in rural Ireland]. The letter is addressed to her. Jump forward decades and William, the adopted child Crissie gave up, tries to find his birth mother. William meets Tina in Ireland [a serendipitous moment] as she’s trying to find the woman to whom the letter is addressed. This book is the #2 best seller on Amazon at the moment. It’s a riveting tale and I really enjoyed it.

The Muralist: A Novel by Shapiro. It tells the story of a young woman, an artist, who was part of the U.S.’s WPA mural project from the 1930s-40s (she is fiction, the WPA is not). As with so many artists, even today, they live in abject poverty through much of their lives. This woman, though, had family in France, desperately trying to escape before Hitler’s henchmen rousted them into concentration camps. The story, a bit of a mystery but not of the mystery-genre, is about Alizée Benoit, this young painter, who slightly captivates Eleanor Roosevelt’s help. It also skips into current time when the painter’s great-niece uncovers paintings she believes were painted by her aunt. The painter had disappeared into thin air in 1940, and her relative tries desperately to find out what happened to her. It’s a really good story including such Abstract Expressionist painters as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner well-woven into the narrative. It keeps you guessing right up to the end. A good read. The author also wrote The Art Forger: A Novel a few years ago.

Also recently read News of the World: A Novel by Paulette Jiles. One of my book-reading friends said this is one of the best books she’s ever read in her life. That kind of praise required me to read it and I just LOVED it. It’s about an old man (a widower), who was a former military captain, during the 1800s, who goes from town to town to read out loud the current news of the world (yes, there WAS such a free-lance job.) Newspapers didn’t make it to small towns back then. By chance he’s asked to take a 10-year old girl to East Texas to reunite with relatives. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby (her family was killed in the raid), raised by the Kiowa and as was often the case of such children, she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. And yet, they learn to trust each other on the journey. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!). This book is truly a wonderful read – I didn’t want it to end. The author has a gift of description and the severe dangers and difficulties of an old (wild) west horse and wagon journey. The relationship is tender. Now I’ve got to investigate the author’s other books, of which there are many. Just read this one first!

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 Salad Dressings, on May 3rd, 2007.

Do you have go-to salad dressings like I do? My repertoire contains a list of about 8 dressings that I rely on, depending on my mood or a particular meal when I want a specific flavor addition to a meal. This is one of those, and it’s been a keeper since I first tasted it at the Mexican Village Restaurant, a 1960’s vintage restaurant in Coronado, California. I loved this dressing whenever I went to the restaurant, and was overjoyed when, in the 1970’s the San Diego Union Tribune printed a recipe, purportedly the original, but maybe it was somebody’s interpretation. Why it was called “Mock” Caesar, I really don’t know. It does have garlic, Parmesan, oil and anchovy paste in it (no lemon juice, though). It’s really just another style of garlic-Parmesan-blue cheese vinaigrette. But whatever it really is, it’s really tasty. I go-to to this often.

Note: I have received an email message from one of the daughters of the original Mexican Village family. She says my recipe isn’t anything like the one at the family’s old restaurant. Oh well. She said she and her family are trying to produce the dressing and other food items from the “old days” of the restaurant. I don’t live in San Diego, so don’t know if they’ve accomplished that goal or not. But the recipe – at the time I thought the newspaper recipe was similar. And, by the way, the Mexican Village has re-opened in its same Coronado location, but it is not owned by the previous family. The new owners just bought the name. And I’ve not heard any good comments about the food.

It keeps stored in the refrigerator for several weeks. It is at its best during the first few days, but it’s really just fine for a long time. Years ago I used to make this with the Kraft dry, crumbled Parmesan cheese in the paper can, because I sure didn’t know much about the real, Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. I use the latter now, but it’s certainly possible that the Mexican Village used the paper-can type themselves. It’s certainly cheaper!

SIDE NOTES ABOUT WHITE WINE VINEGAR: In the photo above, you’ll notice at the top right is a gray bottle. That’s my white-wine-vinegar jar/pot. I have this white (well, gray) one and a red one. Into those bottles go any dregs of wine that doesn’t get consumed. Initially I started with about 1/2 cup of white vinegar and 1/2 cup of wine in each bottle. I let it marinate (room temp is fine) for several days to allow it to develop, then you merely add more wine remnants. It can go months without additions. These bottles just reside on my pantry shelves. Don’t use sweet wines. And occasionally taste the mixture – if it’s not sour or tart enough, add 1/2 cup of vinegar to the bottle.
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Mock Caesar Dressing

Serving Ideas: Use different kinds of greens, but few veggies in the salad so the dressing shows through.

3/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 large garlic clove
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons green onions
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons blue cheese
1 teaspoon anchovy paste

Smash the garlic clove with the side of a chef’s knife to remove the skin. Drop into blender container with the salt. Whiz briefly and allow to sit while you collect the other ingredients. Add all remaining ingredients and blend well. Refrigerate for a few hours before using. Makes about 2 cups.
Per Serving: 132 Calories; 14g Fat (95.0% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 1g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 1mg Cholesterol; 305mg Sodium.

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  1. Laurie

    said on March 8th, 2014:

    I have never forgotten how much I loved the salad dressing at the Mexican Village in Coronado, CA. It must mean something that I don’t remember any of the other menu items, although the salad was just the prelude to the meal. I remember my parents buying a container of the dressing for me to take home because I loved it so much…very fond memory.

    Yes, I agree. And this recipe isn’t that much like it. I’ve never tried to tinker with this recipe to try to make it more . . . something . . . to what I remember. . . carolyn t

  2. Cutting

    said on January 9th, 2016:

    Mexican Village Salad Dressing (close enough!)

    ½ c. Bleu Cheese
    1 cup vegetable Oil
    1 teaspoon Salt
    1 teaspoon Pepper
    1 Tablespoon Worcester S.
    1 egg beaten
    3 garlic cloves pressed or equivalent

    Let mellow after blending.
    Serve over Romaine/mixed greens with avocado chunks !!

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