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Just finished 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 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 parents were 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 a old 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.

Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong. Have you ever read about forensic dentistry? I sure had not, so I found it fascinating reading. It’s a debut novel for the author, and what a story. Halina, an Australian, with Polish roots, specializes in this obscure profession as a forensic dentist, and is asked to go to Poland, to help identify bone (and tooth) fragments, to put to rest a sad event in the story of this small town, when many, many people (Jews) were murdered. Was it the Nazis? Or was it the local townspeople who disliked the Jews. What a tangled web of intrigue, including Halina’s own mysterious past. I really enjoyed the read. The author does a great job of developing the characters (which I always like). This is no light read if you consider the subject matter, although it IS a novel (but based on fact). Nor is it a spy thriller – it’s more just an historical novel with lots of interesting people throughout. There’s a romance thrown in too, and a whole lot of angst about the discoveries found in the mass grave. But, the subject expanded my knowledge about forensics.

The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr. I just LOVED this book. I’ve never been much of a fan of Caravaggio’s paintings, although I’ve seen plenty of them (many are extremely large) in museums around the world. His paintings were dark, often with dark subjects. But as with many of the old masters, occasionally some obscure work surfaces, perhaps credited to another artist, even, that turns out to be one done by “the” master. In this case, Caravaggio. Although this book is written as a novel (with dialogue, etc.) it’s historical through and through. It begins with two young women art scholars, in Italy, who are asked to do a research project. One thing leads to another, and to another. All true.  If you enjoy books about art – I learned some things about the paint and the canvases of the time – you’ll be intrigued as I was.

Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press, by James, McGrath Morris. Each year my AAUW book club reads something related to Black History Month. This is a biography of a woman you’ve probably never heard of, Ethel Payne, and about her life-long journey in journalism, struggling to keep her head above water financially, but staying true to her purposes of telling the truth about the black stories and black racism of the day. Sometimes biographies aren’t all that riveting, but I found this one to be so, and I savored each new chapter. We had a really good discussion of the book, and the ups and downs of Payne’s life, especially during her years as a Washington reporter. You’ll not be sorry to have spent the time reading this book. It’s well-written, as well. I was thrilled when the author, Morris, left a message here on my blog, thanking me (and my group) for reading his book.

H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald. This one has been on the best seller list. It’s a memoir about a woman who takes on a personal challenge of taming a wild hawk. Prior to reading this book, I knew next to nothing about the entire subject of hawking, or taming any of the big, wild birds. The book is equally about the writer’s inner journey. She’s a consummate writer, and every page was a joy of words, for me. My only problem is my own – I found it hard, the more time that went by, and the more time the writer spent trying to tame this bird, to scream out “let the bird go.” Perhaps it’s because I spent time in Africa in 2015, seeing animals in the wild, that I felt more for the bird than I did with the writer’s discontent with herself and the taming process. Little did I know what a hard job it is to tame a hawk. I actually didn’t finish the book. It was a book club read, and highly recommended by several of our members. And I ended up not being able to attend the meeting as I had a cold. So perhaps there is some great ending to it that would have made me feel better. I haven’t gone to the end to find out. I just had to stop reading it. But I’m not NOT recommending it. If nothing else, read it for Macdonald’s sublime proficiency with words.

Also read George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade and Dan Yaeger. Here’s what it says on amazon: When George Washington beat a hasty retreat from New York City in August 1776, many thought the American Revolution might soon be over. Instead, Washington rallied—thanks in large part to a little-known, top-secret group called the Culper Spy Ring. He realized that he couldn’t defeat the British with military might, so he recruited a sophisticated and deeply secretive intelligence network to infiltrate New York. I won’t exactly call this book a riveting read, but it was interesting. Relating facts that few people knew about, this Culper Spy Ring. It’s a little chunk of American history researched in depth by the authors. An interesting read.

Also read The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George. If you’re an avid reader, you probably have the same kind of longing as I do for a quaint, independently owned bookstore right around the corner. So few exist anymore. This novel is about a very unusual book store, and book store owner. In Paris. On a boat/barge. It’s not a typical book store, and the writer takes you on a journey of discovery about (likely) her own lifetime of book reading. You’ll learn all about a variety of existing books and why they’re a good read. But it’s all cloaked in a story about this book store and the owner. And the customers. Very fun. I’m reviewing it for one of my book clubs next month.

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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