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Sara

Sara and me

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Esther Freud’s book The Sea House: A Novel is about a small village on England’s southern coast. There are characters galore in this book, and it sometimes takes a bit to figure out which decade you’re reading about (few clues) or which person. Oh yes, her, current day. Oh, that’s him, during the war. Max, oh, I thought he died. No, that’s his son. I think. The book is about love found, love lost, love sometimes found again, sometimes not. About how fleeting it can be or seem. There is family dysfunction. Relationship dysfunction. There is quite a bit of adultery going on, yet I found myself understanding why. The book relays a true story (names changed) about an architect and a woman who is trying to write a book about him. Drawings and paintings of this village play a big part. There is some mental dis-health too. And throughout, it’s about the land, the sea, and this remarkable house. I wondered if in the hardback edition there were any photo plates of the drawings. One character is driven to draw the rooms he’s in, the house he’s in, or the house he conjures in his mind. There are lots of beach walks, and there is a huge tidal flood too. Despite having some difficulty keeping track of the characters, it was a good read.

Amor Towles’ book, Rules of Civility: A Novel was quite a read. It’s NYC, 1937. Twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent [Kon-TENT she iterates to many] is in a Greenwich Village jazz bar when a handsome banker, happens to sit down at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel Katey on a year-long journey into the upper echelons of New York society—where she will have little to rely upon other than a bracing wit and her own brand of cool nerve. She struggles to keep her poverty at bay, and like many women of her time and the day, wished themselves on men of means. There is love. There is loss. And through it all, the thread that holds it all together is the mores – the rules of civility – required of most everyone. To keep up the face. To swing. To survive. Really well developed drama and a very real sense of place. I’m reviewing the book in one of my book clubs; fortunately there is a lot online about this book.

Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl by Stacey O’Brien. What an adorable book. True story about Stacey’s 20 years with a feisty but lovable barn owl. She’s a biologist, was working at Cal Tech and someone brought in a tiny abandoned barn owl. She took him home, and he became her “mate” (that happens at year two). Everything about this book is interesting, from how she nurtures him in his tiny habitat, to how she transforms her living space to accommodate a full grown owl. He couldn’t be habilitated to the wild because of a wing injury (likely when he fell out of the nest). It’s a heartwarming story.

Loved The Wedding Officer: A Novel by Anthony Capella. It takes place in the middle of WWII in Naples. A young British officer, Captain James Gould, is sent to Naples to wade through the zilions of applications from soldiers to marry local Italian women (and presumably take them back to England when the war ends). The supposition is that all the women are ladies of the night, and it’s their ticket to a better life. He holds to his principles until he meets lovely Livia, who begins cooking for a group of soldiers (it was a real job). Food plays a starring role in this book, as well as Vesuvius’ eruption. It’s a very interesting story – I don’t know if it’s true there were such positions in the British military, but it sounds like it. Gould has to find his way through the miasma of politics, corruption, provisioning in a war-torn country and the warfront. But all of it is laced with the very sweet love story.

Reading behind Bars: A True Story of Literature, Law, and Life as a Prison Librarian by Jill Grunenwald. So interesting. Jill is  young, with a newly minted degree in library science at a time when the economy was very slow. She accepts a position in a minimum security prison in Ohio. She needs a job, and agrees to the commute, rain, shine or snow. The “library” is limited. The inmates her “staff.” She weaves her way through the pitfalls of limited funds, theft, perversion, jerks, rules, and every myriad of inmate problems. Very interesting read.

The Walls of Lucca by Steve Physioc. A novel that takes place in between WWI and II. Franco is a weary Italian soldier. He stumbles into a vineyard and is hired. It’s hard work (nothing he’s ever done before) but he’s a very diligent worker. He didn’t stop there to find love, but it found him. There’s a lot of sinister Fascist activity throughout the book, plenty of local history, and of course, a bit about the walls of Lucca.

The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna. A novel about Croatia in the aftermath of their more recent wars. A British family buys a very dilapidated house, and a local man (the handyman) begins helping them fix it up. Two children play a part, with the British husband merely peeking in now and then. There is local dissension, town secrets, some violence as the town tries to heal from years of war. And the handyman just keeps working, pondering his own demons as well. Very riveting story.

A Column of Fire: A Novel by Ken Follett. It takes place in the 1500s, in England, and has everything to do with the war between the Catholics and the Protestants, that raged throughout Europe during that time, culminating in the Spanish Inquisition. Some of that is hard to read, but Follett writes sagas, and I was really “into it.” Have always loved his writing, and if you haven’t ever read this sidebar before, or my section on books, his book, The Pillars of the Earth: A Novel  is my#1 favorite book I’ve ever read. In this Fire book, though, there are numerous characters, families really, in France, London and the (fictitious I think) town of Kingsbridge. Riveting reading, as are all of his books.

Having read all of Kristin Hannah’s books, I knew I’d read her latest too: Between Sisters: A Novel.  Two sisters, raised by the same mother but different fathers. At a young age a rift occurs and the sisters go their own way. Anger is there, but deep down you know, reading this, that they care about each other. The one that left is a successful but lonely attorney in Seattle. The other is a single mother who owns a small seasonal cabin rental facility near Seattle. It’s a very sweet story – takes awhile to “get there” but you know they’re going to reconcile and find their sister-groove again. Good book. Worth reading.

Just finished Matt McCarthy’s book The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly: A Physician’s First Year. It tells the true life story of his first year as an intern at a New York hospital. You ride the wave of his first, painful days when he questions if he was ever meant to be a doctor, to the end of the year when he recognized his true passion for infectious disease diagnostics. I really enjoyed the book, and commend him for being so brutally honest about his own vulnerabilities and what he saw as complete inexperience. If you enjoy this genre of book, this is a good one.

Also read Karen Harper’s book The Royal Nanny: A Novel. The time frame is 1890s onward, at Sandringham, when Charlotte Bill (a real person) was hired by the Duke and Duchess of York, to care for their children. She was hired as an under-nurse, but soon became the prime caregiver of the youngest children. She became “Lala” to the children, and they loved her dearly. And she them. This is a serious below-stairs look at that part of the royal family, their foibles, idiosyncrasies, and even the proclivities of the children themselves. It was a great read. Loved it from the first page.

Also read Roger Swindell’s Mendelevski’s Box. It’s an historical novel about the aftermath of WWII in impoverished Amsterdam. It’s an eye-opener. Over the last many years I’ve marveled at authors who have found a niche of some part of that awful war and it was enough to write a great story. Simon is the hero, here. He was a Jew and miraculously survived Auschwitz and returned to his home, hoping to find his mother and sister (who were also at Auschwitz, but he knew not their fates). He knew his father had died in the camp. The family home had been taken over by others. He was destitute. He befriended two young women (one had worked for his father in his clock-making business). There is a “box” in the story – an important element. Simon finds a job, income, friends, and love. Finds some caring people, but also encounters some very shady characters as well. The story is told very well. There is mystery, poignant love and redemption. Well worth reading.

Camille De Maio wrote Before the Rain Falls. Very interesting story about a young doctor who returns to her border town in Texas for a very short vacation. And about a young down-on-his-luck journalist who goes to the same town to get a story. There’s a death/murder long ago, the sharp shards of emotions that remain in the town. The survivors. The grandmother who spent 7 decades in prison. And a love story. Very sweet book about family. Love. Loss. As I write this, it’s $.99 on Kindle.

Also read a very quirky non-fiction book: The Perfect Gentleman: The remarkable life of Dr. James Miranda Barry by June Rose. This is a biography about a person who lived in the mid-1800s. He was a surgeon; graduated from Edinburgh Medical School at the age of 14. Joined the British Army as a medical officer then sent off to South Africa and many other tropical outposts during his career. There was always “talk” about him. He never married. He was querulous. He got high-handed too frequently. He was a tee-totaler, and always had a dog named Psyche. He was a brilliant diagnostician and was appalled at the condition of prisons and even ordinary Army barracks. When he died it came out – Dr. James Barry was really a woman. And a woman who had borne a child. Facts that were suspected by many, but never corroborated. S/he did so because a woman wasn’t allowed to go to college, let alone medical school. When you read it in context, it’s logical what her mentors suggested she do. I can’t say that this book is all that well written – some of it uses the stilted language of the time, even though it’s current in its publication. But it’s a fascinating read nonetheless. So I’ve read, there is going to be a documentary made about her life.

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley. The premise of this book is different . . . a woman writer goes to Scotland to connect with distant heritage. She hopes to gain inspiration for her next book. As she investigates, she discovers she’s related to a family that lived in the early 1700s at Slains Castle on the east coast of Scotland near Aberdeen. This was the time of the Jacobite rebellion (the exiled King James and his hoped-for return to England). When I say this woman gets inspiration . . .well, it’s more than that. She questions whether she could possibly have genes that contain memory (what an idea, huh?), because she begins to know how events took place, who the people were, what they said, exactly where they stood, the layout of the castle, even the furniture in the rooms. She wasn’t channeling, actually, but I suppose it could be interpreted so. The book is full of the Jacobite history (more than I’d ever known before, but then I love English/Scottish history). There’s a romance back then, and a romance in the today time. Both lovely. Great book. An historical novel of the first order.

Another great read, The Island of Sea Women: A Novel by Lisa See. Six months ago I attended an author’s talk at the Bowers Museum. Lisa See was the speaker and shared her story about this book. I’ve heard her speak several times before (she lives near me) and have read several of her books. This one, though, is very different. She was sitting in a doctor’s office reading some magazine and spotted a tiny snippet of data about Jeju Island off the coast of Korea where the island as a whole is matriarchal because the women were trained from a young age to deep dive, free dive, for mollusks. These women were the breadwinners. Husbands stayed home and cared for the babies. The island is real. The history is real. And what happened during WWII on this island is horrific – makes me feel ashamed that our military had a hand in what happened to many people. But everyone should read this book. It’s a novel, about 2 girls who are divers and how their lives diverge for a variety of cultural reasons and because of the war.

Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford. A novel about the early days of radio in London. This book takes place in the 1920s and tells not only the general history of the early days of radio, but also the role women played (a vital one). Initially it was in the background, because women weren’t considered intelligent enough. Maisie, the heroine in the book, works her way up the ranks. It’s a fascinating read from beginning to end. Many famous characters (real) flow through the studios. Early voting rights play a part in the story line also. And some wartime intrigue. You’ll find yourself cheering from the bleachers when women make a tiny inroad into the male-dominated field.

A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts by Therese Anne Fowler. My friend Ann, from Idaho, brought it with her as we spent a week in Palm Desert in February. She handed it to me and said I’d really like it. Oh, did I! Loved the book. This book is a novel, but based on the life of Alva Smith Vanderbilt (Belmont). Her family was nearly destitute (and faking it) when a marriage was proposed for her with William Vanderbilt. There is lots of dialogue in the book which is made up, but I’m guessing the author probably read many diary entries of Alva (and the family) to create a very intriguing and readable story. A life of unbelievable privilege. Several children, including one who marries into a titled family in England. You see the inner life of Alva – her day to day busy work, charity work, visiting for afternoon tea, the undercurrent of society’s morals – men were nearly expected to have mistresses or affairs. This was the Victorian Age when sex between husbands and wives was not necessarily, and usually not, passionate. I loved this book from page one until the end.  Alva was a suffragette of the first order. Having read the book, I have a lot of admiration for her, even though she lived in the highest echelons of society.

Also read In Falling Snow: A Novel, by Mary-Rose McColl. From amazon: Iris, a young Australian nurse, travels to France during World War I to bring home her fifteen-year-old brother, who ran away to enlist. But in Paris she meets the charismatic Dr. Frances Ivens, who convinces Iris to help establish a field hospital in the old abbey at Royaumont, staffed entirely by women—a decision that will change her life. Seamlessly interwoven is the story of Grace, Iris’s granddaughter in 1970s Australia. Together their narratives paint a portrait of the changing role of women in medicine and the powerful legacy of love. The book  gives you a vivid picture of the state of nursing in WWI, but the story is quite mesmerizing. And there’s a twist almost at the end. Highly recommend.

Also couldn’t put down The Secret Wife by Gill Paul. A long story that begins in war-torn Russia. Cavalry officer Dmitri falls head over heels in love with one of the daughters of Tzar Nicholas. But events intervene, as history tells us. That was 1914. Cut to 2016 when a young woman inherits an ancient cabin in upper New York State and she discovers a jeweled pendant. The two times weave together to make a really riveting story. Lots of Russian history; well written; as I said, couldn’t put it down.

Uncommon Woman. A book about Colonial America, but really the western frontier at that time, which is in western Pennsylvania. The warring native Americans play large in this book. There is a romance, yes, but this book is not “a romance.” It’s more than that – about the hardships of living on the land, away from protection, Tessa and her family struggle to make a living and avoid the angered natives who take revenge when their people are murdered. Clay Tygart is a respected officer/soldier and commands a fort near where Tessa lives. Clay was captured by Lanape Indians when he was a young man, so he straddles both sides of the equation – first hand, he knows how the natives feel, but also his role in the lure of American exploration of the west. The natives wish to preserve their hunting grounds from the encroaching settlers. This book takes place in the mid-1700s I think. Loved it. Not only the history that is brilliantly detailed, even to the summer heat they experience. The crops they raise, the constant fear of attack. And the sweet love that weaves through it. Not a speck of sex in it.

Reading mysteries has never loomed large in my reading life. Occasionally, yes. And some espionage type books. But light mysteries have not intrigued me much. But one of my book clubs had us read Louise Penny’s novel, A Rule Against Murder (Chief Inspector Gamache Novel). The member actually handed out a cheat sheet of the characters in the book (many) and posed several questions of us as we read through it. The cheat sheet really helped. She asked us when (or if) we caught the foreshadowing of the murder culprit (I never did). The book takes place at a lovely inn in Canada and Chief Inspector Gamache (he is quite a character – along with his wife – are vacationing there) when a murder occurs. None of the characters escape the C.I.’s scrutiny. Lois, our book club member, led us through a very thorough and lively discussion of the book. Usually, my complaint about murder mysteries is that they don’t make for good discussion at a book club – but this book was an exception, for sure. Many of my learned book club friends rave about Louise Penny. One told me I should read Still Life next, and probably should have read it before I read this one.

Rachel Hauck is an author I’ve enjoyed reading over the years. Just finished reading The Memory House. It’s about relationships. Love. About family. About secrets. Doesn’t that just describe about 90% of every novel out there these days? Beck is a cop in NYC; a series of events occur and she is forced to take leave. Just then she inherits a house in Florida. She barely remembers the woman who bequeathed the house to her. Then you meet Bruno, a sports agent who will figure large in Beck’s life. Then the book jumps back in time to Everleigh, the woman who owned the house and you learn her story. Really stories of her two husbands. And how do those stories connect to present day. Very sweet book. Not a speck of sex in this one, either.

The Parrot Who Owns Me: The Story of a Relationship by Joanna Burger. Such an interesting book – nonfiction. The author is an ornithologist by profession (and a PhD) and this memoir of sorts is about her Red-Lored Amazon parrot she and her husband own. But no, it’s the parrot who owns her/them.

My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.). Resolute is what I’m discussing here. A book club friend recommended this book, I immediately bought it on my Kindle. I could NOT put the book down. I devoured it. Any other “work” I should have been doing was swept aside as I read and read of Resolute’s adventures. It’s fiction, but based some on a true story. Resolute, as a young girl from a privileged life on a plantation in Jamaica, was taken captive by slavers, eventually ended up in Colonial America. This book is the story of her life. The people she met, the men in her life, her children, and always about her indefatigable energy for life. Always hoping to return to Jamaica.

Finished The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek: A Novel by Kim Richardson.  It’s a novel about the first mobile library in Kentucky (this is the 1930s) and the fierce, brave packhorse librarians who wove their way from shack to shack dispensing literacy, hope, and, just as importantly, a compassionate human connection.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This book was offered as a bargain book from Bookbub, and something about the description resonated with me – maybe because of my Old Testament readings regarding the lives of shepherds back in ancient days. I utterly loved this book. It might not suit everyone – it’s a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, the son of a farming family, who sabotages everything in his being regarding going to school and leaves as soon as he is able (probably about 8th grade, I’d guess). And becomes a shepherd. And at night, he read literature that he accumulated from his grandfather. He bickers with his father, eventually moves out. One night in a pub with his blokes (friends) he enters some kind of a contest in the pub and realizes he has a lot more knowledge than he thought he did. In time he applies to get what I’d call here in the U.S. a G.E.D (high school diploma), which he does, and then he applies to Oxford, on a whim. And gets in. He graduates. He applies his knowledge to his rural life. He marries, has children, but still, his day to day life is all about his Herdwick sheep, although he does have a day job too working for UNESCO. You’ll learn more about sheep than you might have wanted to know. I absolutely loved, LOVED this book. If you are interested, James Rebanks has a Twitter feed, called @herdyshepherd1, and you can sign up to get updates from him about his farm and his sheep. I don’t do Twitter or I would.

Moloka’i: A Novel by Alan Brennert. A riveting book about the early days of Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) in Hawaii, and the stigma attached to the victims AND their families. It chronicles the story of a young woman, diagnosed almost as a child, and ostracized from her family, subsequently learning to live alone and remote.

House by the Fjord by Rosalind Laker. What a darling story. From amazon: A touching and atmospheric love story – When Anna Harvik travels to Norway in 1946 in order to visit the family of her late husband, the country is only just recovering from five cruel years of Nazi occupation. So it is with surprise that she finds in this cold and bitter country the capacity for new love and perhaps even a new home. I just loved this book – could hardly put it down; yet it’s not a mystery. You’ll come away with a desire to find that house by the fjord. I want to go there and have some coffee with the Anna, who was a Brit, yet fell head over heels in love with Norway.

Running Blind (Jack Reacher) by Lee Child. A Jack Reacher mystery. From amazon: Across the country, women are being murdered, victims of a disciplined and clever killer who leaves no trace evidence, no fatal wounds, no signs of struggle, and no clues to an apparent motive. They are, truly, perfect crimes. Until Jack Reacher gets in the middle of it. A page turner, as are all of the Jack Reacher stories.

Say Goodbye for Now by Catherine Ryan Hyde. This story, which takes place in a kind of Texas backwater, sets a town into an angry mess when two young boys, one white, one black, become friends, something most folks don’t like. At all. There’s a dog involved, the father of the black boy, the father of the white boy plus a woman who lives in the town and does her best to avoid people altogether. But they all get fused. Wonderful story.

Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart. A sweet book, true story, of the author and her friend, during one summer in the midst of their college years, going by train to NYC and ultimately getting a job of Tiffany’s.  Cute read.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. You might think what a stretch – what does an Indian (Native American) tribe have to do with the FBI. Read and you’ll find out. This is back in time, 50s I think, and a number of murders have taken place on the Osage Reservation. A wake up call, even for today.

Oh wow. Just finished reading David Guterson’s book, East of the Mountains. You know this author from his most well known book, Snow Falling on Cedars. I loved the Cedars book when I read it years ago, and assumed I’d like this other book (not new) as well. Have you learned to trust my judgment when I tell you, you HAVE to read a book? If I tell you the story line, I can already hear you thinking . . . oh no, I don’t want to read this kind of a book. Please trust me. You’ll come away from it being glad you did.

A fabulous read – Catherine Ryan Hyde’s newest book, Have You Seen Luis Velez? I marvel sometimes about how authors ever come up with the ideas they do, to create the premise for a novel. And this one is right up there at the top of the list. Raymond, a youngster, an older teenager, who has a big lack of self-confidence and feels like an odd duck sometimes, reluctantly (at first) befriends an elderly woman in the apartment building where he lives with his mother and step-father. He discovers she’s blind and needs some help, which he gives her.

Magic Hour: A Novel

Excellent Women

Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist) by Min Jin Lee

An American Marriage (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Tayari Jones.

Recently finished Sally Field’s memoir (autobiography) called In Pieces.

If you want grit, well, read Kristen Hannah’s newest book, The Great Alone: A Novel.

You’ve got to read Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book – Take Me With You. What a story.  From Amazon’s description: August Shroeder, a burned-out teacher, has been sober since his nineteen-year-old son died. Every year he’s spent the summer on the road, but making it to Yellowstone this year means everything. The plan had been to travel there with his son, but now August is making the trip with Philip’s ashes instead. An unexpected twist of fate lands August with two extra passengers for his journey, two half-orphans with nowhere else to go. What none of them could have known was how transformative both the trip—and the bonds that develop between them—would prove, driving each to create a new destiny together. Have a tissue handy at the end. It’s such a charming, sweet story. You’ll fall in love with the young boys, and fall in love with them again 10 years later.

The Last Letter from Your Lover: A Novel by JoJo Moyes.

Mark of the Lion : A Voice in the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness, As Sure As the Dawn (Vol 1-3) by Francine Rivers.

Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America

Answer As a Man

Celeste Ng Little Fires Everywhere.

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright.

C.J. Box’s book The Disappeared (A Joe Pickett Novel).

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant.

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde.

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee.

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian.

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively.

 

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 Breads, on December 3rd, 2007.

bishops bread slices

I’ve been waiting for months and months to give you this recipe. Since I only make this at Christmas-time, I didn’t think it appropriate to share it when the temps outside were in the 90’s. Although this is not my original recipe, I will tell you I’ve been making this for about 40 years, and this is one of those recipes – if you’re a regular reader of my blog – that I say – “now, listen up! I’m about to share something important.” Hence it is. Important. My mother’s friend Mary gave me this recipe, back in about 1969 or 1970. We had a group of us – 4 women: my mother, Fay, and two of her friends, Esther and Mary, both near her age. And me. We played the Japanese version of Mah Jong about every 2 weeks or so, and one of us provided lunch. It had to coincide with when my daughter, Dana, went down for her nap, so more often than not, it was at my house. After eating the repast we’d then play the game for a couple of hours.

So, Mary brought this, one Mah Jong day, when it was close to Christmas. My mother (and dad both) liked fruitcake. But I never did. Still don’t. I’ve been known to try a nibble, with somebody’s prized recipe, thinking that maybe my taste buds have changed, that I’ve matured somehow. Or that somebody has found some unique new way to make fruitcake palatable. Sorry. No. I still don’t like fruitcake. I detest citron, and anything close to it. So, when Mary brought this over, explaining that it was something like fruitcake, I was suspicious. However, she quickly said she didn’t like fruitcake, either. Oh good. I became a bishop’s bread convert from the first bite. SO:

• I do like maraschino cherries. Certainly I don’t eat them 11 months of the year. I mean, where do we ever even SEE maraschino cherries anymore except on some caterer’s platter or in a Shirley Temple. I went through a stage in the 1970’s when red dye was an anathema, but that didn’t keep me from making bishop’s bread, I’m sorry to say. So much for my dedication to the shrine of a healthy body! But now they don’t use the bad red dye (supposedly), so I hope that since this is only consumed by me for these few, short weeks, maybe I’ll live another day.

• And, I like chocolate too. You all already know that. You can use Nestle’s chips, or cut up your own, or use some other brand. The better the brand the better the bread. You could use milk chocolate too, I suppose.

• And, I like walnuts.

• But, I don’t like fruitcake.

• Enter, ta da: Bishop’s Bread!

So, on to this recipe. If you’re going to be a stickler for detail, I suppose this does bear some resemblance to fruitcake – it has a similar consistency – chunks of goodies glued together with a basic cake recipe. Kind of like pound cake. But, instead of citron and dried fruit (lemon, lime, orange, red candied cherries, dates, figs, etc) this has nothing but chocolate chips, walnuts and maraschino cherries. The cherries maintain their moistness, and you combine them with walnuts and chocolate, and it’s a marriage made in heaven, I say. Yes, it’s a bread-like shape, and you slice it like fruitcake, but it isn’t. I promise. On my honor.

Here’s how it’s made:
bishops bread mixThere’s the walnuts, chocolate chips and masarschino cherries all mixed with all the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder and salt). The sugar goes into the egg mixture, which is added next.

bishops bread eggsYou add in the eggs and sugar mixture to the dry ingredients. Stir with a spatula until everything is well coated AND you can’t see any white flour bits anywhere.

bishops bread in pansThere’s the raw batter spooned into the pans – this time I used pretty paper pans, so I didn’t have to use the buttered waxed paper on the bottom because you tear off the “box.”

bishops bread baked 540There they are, just baked and cooled. They make lovely gifts for people at this time of year.

You can bake it in bread pans, so you’ll have just one loaf using the recipe below. Or, if you’re a Bishop’s Bread lover, then you bake in large quantity. Today I made a quadruple batch. It would make 4 bread pans full, but I had some smaller, cute little cardboard ones that are perfect for giving away (picture above). I made seven of them and one loaf pan. I’ll keep the loaf sized one and very judiciously give away the others. Only to very special friends. You can interchange nuts if you’d prefer something different. And if you don’t like maraschino, then substitute apricots, perhaps, or dried cranberries maybe. But it won’t be the same.

bishops bread fruitnuts closeup

Over the years I’ve tried to find out the history of this bread/cake. The internet hasn’t been of much help other than to give me several similar recipes (purportedly dating to the 1950’s) with candied cherries, sometimes almonds or pecans, chocolate, and dates. I did see a couple with maraschino cherries, so this must have been somebody’s interpretation. Obviously, the way-back origin must be religious in some way with the word “bishop” in the title. I did find this, though:

Any purchased or homemade cake decorated with the bishop’s name and a tiny mitre can be used on the feast of a bishop-saint, the traditional cake is Bischofsbrot or “Bishop’s Bread.” (this was from a Catholic Church website)

It probably did have candied cherries in it at one time. Whatever it is, I adore this bread. And if you’re a regular reader of my blog, and you like my recipes, then I sincerely request that you make this bread. Post Haste.
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Bishop’s Bread

Recipe: a dear friend from the 1970’s, Mary Wilfert
Servings: 20 (slices)

FLOUR MIXTURE:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
CHOCOLATE, NUT & FRUIT MIXTURE:
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
2 cups walnuts — chopped
1 cup maraschino cherries — drained, halved
1 cup sugar
3 whole eggs

NOTES:  You could also make these in smaller pans (and bake a shorter time) and give as gifts to friends and neighbors. The proportion of nuts, chips and cherries can vary to your taste. If you don’t like maraschino cherries, substitute dried cranberries, for instance. Prefer pecans? Or maybe macadamia nuts? The original recipe I was given also included dates.
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a bread pan and line the bottom with waxed paper (yes, it’s important). Sift dry ingredients (this is to make certain the baking powder and salt are evenly distributed) into a large bowl. Add chocolate chips, walnuts and cherries and stir to coat the items, particularly the cherries.
2. With an electric mixer combine eggs and sugar and beat until thoroughly mixed, then add to fruit-flour mixture and stir gently, but well, until combined. You don’t want to see any pockets of flour. Pour into prepared pan(s) and place on middle rack in the oven. Reduce oven temp to 325°F. Bake for 60-75 minutes, testing in center with an instant read thermometer, until it reaches about 210°F. If you use a toothpick to test for done-ness, and the tester goes into a chocolate chip, it’s hard to tell it’s done. Continue baking as needed and test at 5-minute intervals. Remove pan(s) to a rack and allow to cool in the pan. When cool, remove from pan, remove waxed paper from the bottom, then wrap well in plastic wrap and foil, or preferably in plastic bags and refrigerate. Slice about 1/4 inch thick. Eat with gusto. [Makes 1 regular sized bread pan loaf; more if using miniature bread pans .]
Per Serving: 255 Calories; 13g Fat (42.8% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 33g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 32mg Cholesterol; 82mg Sodium.

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  1. ThursdayNext

    said on December 4th, 2007:

    I cannot get over this recipe…it sounds like the perfect dessert for Christmas. It also seems versatile and I am seriously wondering how this would be in a simple trifle – layered with some vanilla pudding in a trifle bowl and then topped with chocolate shavings. Or would this pair better with ice cream? Thoughts? I am scheduled to make a trifle for Christmas day and want to break away from my usual…would this work?

  2. Carolyn T

    said on December 4th, 2007:

    Hmmm. I don’t know about the trifle idea. If you can picture using a dense kind of bread (well, like date nut bread, for instance), that kind of heaviness, then it might work. If you sliced the bishop’s bread quite thin it might work. And I wouldn’t make the vanilla pudding/sauce all that sweet – under sweeten it, I’d think. You could always add more sugar later if you took a taste of the bread with the pudding. And some whipped cream to cut the richness? Just a thought.

  3. Anonymous

    said on December 5th, 2007:

    This bread is the best!!! I am so lucky to be a recipient of the few loaves my mom makes, I wish I had taken two loaves. This is the best. I don’t like fruitcake either.

  4. Book Group Friend

    said on December 17th, 2007:

    This is a great recipe. I served it recently and got rave reviews. It looks so pretty thinly sliced on a Christmassy plate. If you have any left overs, it stays moist for quite awhile. So make sure to save some for yourself!!

  5. Carolyn T

    said on December 17th, 2007:

    I still have one loaf left. I think I’ll keep it hidden in the refrigerator until awhile after Christmas. I’m already on food overload with the parties, dinners, etc. we’ve been going to. But I agree, it’s good stuff!

  6. Anonymous

    said on December 26th, 2007:

    You don’t always have to make it as an actual bread loaf shape. My mother has been placing the batter in cupcake tins for years. It cooks faster and is perfectly portioned.

  7. Arlene

    said on February 13th, 2010:

    I’ve been looking for this recipe for YEARS !!! A friend used to make it and I loved it. Wondering if I should add dates ??? Have you ? I don’t want to ruin it. Thanks

    Yes, absolutely you can add dates. I’m not overly fond of them, but I believe they were in the original recipe given to me. . . hope you enjoy the bread! . . . carolyn t

  8. Rev Beth Casey

    said on December 5th, 2010:

    I want to just add a memory to this bishops bread. My mother made it when I was a kid.. however she did something I have done and works quite well. She would make hers in a 9×13 pan and sprinkle white sugar on the bottom of her pan after she greased it. she would rinse her cherries and place them accordingly. Then pour her batter which only carried flecks of the cherries and nuts in her batter. When she flipped the bread after it was cooled the sugar sparkled like glitter..very pretty and impressive.
    I now do this with my loaf pans.. I also chop my cherries and chocolate and nuts very fine and only put a small amount in the batter.. it looks so pretty when you cut it and still very good..the larger fruit and nuts are all at the bottom of the pan and its in the flipping that you get the right effect.. try it, you might like it too!

    What an interesting idea, Beth. Thanks for the suggestion. I may have to try it that way just because it’s different. . . carolyn t

  9. mary lynn reed

    said on December 14th, 2010:

    I have loved and made Bishop’s Bread for years, for my family and for presents. It’s a universal hit.

    For a fictionalized biography of Katherne Swynford, one of my all time favorite books is “Katherine” by Anya Seton. It’s very well researched and well crafted for historical fiction of the 1950s. It was reprinted in 2004. I highly recommend it.

    So happy to find a kindred spirit as far as BIshop’s Bread is concerned! And yes, I read Seton’s “Katherine” probably 30 years ago. Loved it! . . . carolyn t

  10. Anonymous

    said on December 30th, 2010:

    I have been making this bread for many, many years. I received the recipe from a neighbor (currently 96 years old). This recipe calls for dates, walnuts, brazil nuts. We also put in red and green maraschino cherries with the juice.
    This neighbor of mine told me that her ancestors told her that in the 1300’s this bread was made special for when the Bishop of the Catholic church would come for a visit. He was the only one who could eat of it. Eventually as time went on, other church officials were allowed to eat it. This day and age, everyone gets to eat it no matter what religion you are. It originated in Germany. I am sure there could be a lot of truth to this.

    I did do some internet research at one time about the history of the bread. I was never able to find any recipe that was quite like this one, but you’re right about the making of it for the Bishop; hence it’s name. In the time of the Middle Ages, nuts and dried fruits were precious, so to serve that to the Bishop certainly would have been a big “treasure.”

    I don’t use the juice from the cherries because it colors the batter. I prefer a regular creamy colored bread part. And this year I didn’t dry them off enough so some of the juice did leak out into the bread. But it tasted the same, and always good! I also don’t use dates, although they were in my original recipe. I’m just not all that crazy about dates. Out of hand, fine, but I don’t like them much in baked goods – taste too much like citron, I suppose. Thanks for stopping by my blog .. .. carolyn t

  11. Jaie

    said on November 13th, 2011:

    I was reading “Pat of Silverbush” written in the 30’s and your recipe came up in a search. I now must try it!

    Ah, is the bread mentioned in the book? I’ve never heard of the book – do let me know as I’ve always wanted to know more about it and there is just about nothing on the internet about it. Let me know what you think. I’ve just finished baking a new version of it (using a different batter, but the same hard stuff – chocolate chips, maraschino cherries and walnuts). It will be posted within a week or so. . . carolyn t

  12. Tee Vee

    said on December 7th, 2011:

    My grandmother and mother have been making Bishop’s Bread for YEARS!!! It is a great recipe and a huge surprise to anyone and every one who tries it. I use pecans rather than walnuts (more flavor!)and half the amount of cherries (other half dates); OTHERWISE, STICK TO THE RECIPE. Surprise your friends and family!!!

    The trick is getting non-fruitcake people to even TRY it. But, I agree, it’s delicious stuff. . . carolyn t

  13. Nancy B.

    said on December 9th, 2011:

    I got a similar recipe from a friend’s Mom over 25 years ago and I make it every Christmas. Everyone loves it. There a 2 differences. The first – use candied cherries instead of marashino. Also, when cooling the loaves, put the tines of a fork into the loaf in about 6 or 7 spots about a 1/2 inch down. Then spoon over the brandy over those spots.
    FABULOUS!
    Sounds wonderful, Nancy! I may have to try it! . . . carolyn t

  14. Ruth Youngstrum

    said on November 12th, 2012:

    Help -I made this but it was so thick and dense that it broke apart -do I need to add some more liquid due to our altitude?? I live at 5280 ft. Still tasted great. Thanks.

    I don’t THINK altitude would play much of a part in this because there is no leavening in it (baking powder). Is it possible the loaf got too hot (meaning the oven was too hot)? I never do add any liquid to it. I did, however, make a newer version of this bread – look on my blog for Golden Bishop’s Bread. I haven’t gone to look up the differences – a reader sent me this other version – and I liked it a lot. But I’m not sure it had any other liquid in it either. I’ll have to look further. I live at sea level, so don’t do much about high altitude cooking, obviously, and I don’t even remember what changes have to be made. I’ll go look at that too and I’ll email you. . . carolyn t

  15. Marcia

    said on December 4th, 2012:

    My mother made this Bishop’s Bread every Christmas and I helped from the time I was about 5 or 6. I am now 65 yrs ago. I am not motivated to make it but sure would love to taste it just once!! Does anyone volunteer to make one large loaf and send it to me? I have paypal and would pay for the labor and ingredients. Thank you.

    Marcia, it’s so EASY to make? You should try it. . . carolyn t

  16. Suzy

    said on December 7th, 2012:

    I got my Bishop’s Bread recipe from a co-worker who brought it to work every December. My recipe includes chopped dates. It is my husband’s favorite Christmas cookie.

    If you read my write-up about the recipe, mine (that came from a friend of my mother’s) also contained dates, but I don’t overly love dates, so I left them out of the recipe from the beginning. Do go read my Golden Bishop’s Bread recipe too, that I acquired last year
    http://tastingspoons.com/archives/7584. . . carolyn t

  17. Valarie

    said on May 3rd, 2013:

    They make this bread in the cutest ABC Family Christmas movie (12 Dates of Christmas) and call it cherry chip loaf. I looked all over the internet for a recipe for cherry chip loaf and this looks perfect. Besides the fact that I’m pretty sure I didn’t cook it quite long enough, it turned out great. It is so good! Thank you for sharing a bit of the history and the real name.

    I’ve not heard of the ABC Family Christmas movie or the 12 Dates of Christmas. Will have to ask my Tivo to record it later this year! Am glad you found the recipe. It’s one of my all-time favorite recipes and except for one year I think I’ve made it every December since about 1970! Long, loooooong time! . . . carolyn t

  18. Judi Uvick

    said on December 12th, 2013:

    Is there no shortening in this bread? With 3 eggs, it shouldn’t be dry, but you can never tell!

    No, there’s no added fat in the bread. As you can see from the photos, it’s mostly the “fruit,” – the chocolate chips, the maraschino cherries and the nuts – with the batter just kind of holding it together. The eggs add all the binder it needs to hold together. It doesn’t need anything else. You can take a look at my other Bishop’s Bread (the “original” one). It’s an even more basic batter: http://tastingspoons.com/archives/215/. I can just tell you from years and years of experience, it works just fine without any butter or shortening. . . carolyn t

  19. Glen

    said on December 12th, 2014:

    Hi Carolyn… looks yummy. Going to try it this weekend. Noticed the recipe does have baking powder. So, should I use plain flour or is it ok to use AP or whatever I have on hand? Always look forward to your post. Thanks.

    All-purpose flower doesn’t have any leavening, only self-rising flour does. So yes, just use ordinary flour. It plays a minor role in the bread anyway, just some kind of glue to hold together all the goodies. . . carolyn t

  20. Kate

    said on December 24th, 2014:

    Hi Carolyn, I came across your blog this past Thanksgiving because I misplaced my recipe card for bishop’s bread, and it was too late at night to call an aunt for it. Our family has made bishop’s bread for years, passed down by my Granny, Helen. She told us that she had come up with the recipe by accident, I’m not sure what year exactly but it would’ve been sometime in the 50’s- early 60’s, when she was living in the Chicago area. She was baking a batch of fruitcake, when she inadvertently switched to another recipe, which happened to be for a chocolate chip quickbread. It was a hit with the kids, so she documented the hybrid recipe and dubbed it Bishop’s Bread. Her version was made with fruitcake components, the recipe we pass along in the family has the same quantities you have here except that she used just says 5 cups of mixed fruit and nut- i esp. like to use (dried/plumped in brandy) apricot, cranberries etc with chopped walnuts and pecans. We all traditionally make it on Thanksgiving, and I like to make it for Christmas too. I plan to make your version of this recipe this Christmas season. My Granny was an amazing and beautiful lady and it’s so wonderful to see how far her legacy has reached. God Bless!

    That’s really interesting. My research about Bishop’s Bread goes back into ancient history in Europe, but the bread wasn’t made with chocolate chips, of course, but with nuts and fruits of the season, most likely. Thanks for commenting. . . carolyn t

  21. Ann

    said on December 12th, 2015:

    My grandmother got this recipe sometime around 1910 from one of her Swedish neighbors. She, and then my mother, made this every Christmas and it was always a hit. Her recipe uses red and green candied cherries and chopped dates. It was only made at Christmas time because the candied cherries were expensive and could only be found in stores around the holidays. You should warn your readers that this is a very stiff dough. It contains almost no liquid ingredients (no oil, butter, milk, water etc) except for the eggs. It’s not the kind of quick bread dough that can be poured into the loaf pans, it needs to be spooned.

    Yes, my original recipe called for dates (I’m not fond of dates in breads, so I eliminated them) and my friend who gave me the recipe didn’t like candied cherries (I don’t either) and she substituted maraschino cherries and I was in LOVE with the bread from the first bite. My batter may not be quite as stiff as yours, but I agree, it’s not a standard kind of pour-able batter! Thanks for stopping by . . . carolyn t

  22. Susie

    said on December 13th, 2015:

    Hi, I have loved this bread since 1971 and only make it at Christmas. Sadly no one but me likes it so I have to eat the whole thing by myself…sigh.
    I lost my recipe last year and I thought just maybe I could find it. Thanks!
    My recipe called it Chip and Cherry Cake and does have cut up dates in it…but don’t mind leaving it out 🙂
    Thanks! I am ready to make it.

    I haven’t yet made my bread this year. Maybe this week. You could add dates to it – your choice, for sure. I just don’t happen to like dates in bread, very much, so I left it out way back when, when I started baking this bread. I’m glad you found my recipe. It’s a good one! . . . carolyn t

  23. Sharon

    said on December 21st, 2015:

    our family has also made this for years, passed from my grandmothers family, Huston’s hailing from Allegheny. Like Ann said December 12th; we use green and red candied cherries and the dates and so only make it at Christmas time. When I make some for gift baskets I will double the batter, tastes as good and makes 3 little loaves. We called it ‘cherry chip bread’ but Bishop bread sounds best, everyone is gone now so no one to ask. Thanks all, enjoy.

    It’s amazing how different the bread can be. I wouldn’t eat it if it had candied fruit in it – just because I don’t like the stuff – but the maraschino cherries? Oh yes. In years past I’ve made big batches of it to give as gifts – not so much anymore since I’m a widow and none of my friends appreciate the bread as much as I do. My kids like it, though. Thanks for commenting . . . carolyn t

  24. Sarah

    said on January 6th, 2017:

    I made a loaf using my mother’s recipe today and was inspired to google a bit looking for the origin. This site is the first I stumbled on that uses the same basic recipe (I do walnuts, dates, candied cherries (though i’ve also done dried–delicious!). Now that I see all the comments above, I wonder if my family is alone in eating it with cream cheese on it? Just sliced with a layer of plain cream cheese. SO GOOD!

    Oh, that sounds wonderful, Sarah! In case you didn’t find it, I also have another recipe here on my blog for a Golden Bishop’s Bread – http://tastingspoons.com/archives/7584 if you’re interested in seeing a variation. It was good too, but I prefer my old tried and true one and go to that each and every year. I gave away one of the two loaves I made but I ate the entire 2nd loaf all by myself over the course of December. I love this stuff. Only one December in the last 45+ years have I not made this bread. Thanks for stopping by, Sarah. . . carolyn t

  25. Kris Allen

    said on February 10th, 2017:

    Thank you!!! My sister passed last year & I didn’t get her cookbook. Been looking for this recipe for ever. It seems to be the same as she made. Thank you do much for sharing.

    You’re so welcome. Happy memory-making. . . Carolyn t

  26. mush

    said on December 11th, 2017:

    Thank you for bring back the memory of my sister. She made bishops bread for years and of course I never got the recipe. She has passed away years ago and finding this recipe brings her back to me. I am looking forward to making my first batch today. Thank you again.

    You’re very welcome. Do note that my original recipe included dates, but I’m not much of a fan of dates, so have never used them. You can mix and match your favorite kind of fruit and nuts. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Let me know – I’ll be interested to hear if it’s like you remembered. I made a 2-loaf batch this year and am trying not to have a slice every day! I want it to last into January!. . . carolyn t

  27. Sarah Campo

    said on December 11th, 2017:

    How many loaves does this recipe make. Assuming one but wanna make sure.

    It makes 1 loaf of a regular bread pan size. You could use the smaller pans and it would make probably 3, maybe just 2. I always make it in the traditional bread pan, 8″ size. Sorry if that’s not clear in the recipe. . . carolyn t

  28. Margy Mc

    said on November 7th, 2018:

    I used to make this bread and send it to my husband in 1968 when he was serving with the Marines in Vietnam. What a wonderful find to see it again!

    It’s such a winner of a quickbread. It’s almost the season for it again. Yeah! . . . carolyn t

  29. michelle

    said on November 9th, 2019:

    We have made this bread for years. We use candied cherries (red and green), Dates, walnuts, pecans, and candied pineapple. The chocolate is the bonus the Bishop Bread.

    I’m just gearing up to be making a couple of loaves for the holidays. I simply can’t make it other times of the year or I’d be eating it too often! If you read my post, I don’t like candied fruit, hence this version is right down my alley . . . thanks for writing . . . carolyn t

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