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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 about attending further education 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. I could hardly put it down. 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. You yearn to hug her, comfort her. Yet she finds eventually happiness and peace. A beautiful book worth reading. Was a book club read.

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. If you like Hyde’s novels, for the month of September many of her books are available on Kindle at a very reduced price ($1.99 and $.99 each). Go grab them while they’re available. I just purchased 6 of her books. 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. This took place in the 40s, and at the time no women were ever seen on the showroom floors, but these two pretty young women were the harbinger of equality, though none of that comes into play here. They were “runners,” who whisked orders and money to and fro from the salesMEN to the office. They stood in silence near the elevators on the ground floor and waited for a sale to take place. They lived in cramped quarters. They enjoyed everything NYC had to offer them at the time, and they were wowed by an occasional celebrity sighting. 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. No one can seem to solve them, and those who try also get caught in the crossfire. Finally a man is brought in from back East. That’s where the inception of the FBI comes into play, though there was no FBI then. This is a very interesting read, probably sufficient info to do a book club read. A book everyone should read if you know little (or a lot) about the abominable treatment given to the Native Americans over the last several hundred years. 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? When 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. It tells the tale of a 70ish man, a widower, who has been diagnosed with terminal colon cancer. He’s a retired physician, knows the scenario of death by cancer, and doesn’t want to do it. He decides he’s going to take a bird hunting trip, east of the mountains in Washington State (Guterson writes a lot about his part of the world), with his two dogs, and he’ll commit suicide. He sets up an elaborate ruse with his children and grandchildren, and heads out. All of this, so far, takes place in the first 10 pages of the book. First he has an accident in his car, and that sets off a cavalcade of incidents. You’ll learn a whole lot about flora and fauna (one of Guterson’s writing attributes). You’ll learn a lot about apple and pear orchards, which abound in eastern Washington (I’ve been there, it’s beautiful, pastoral and full of fruit). Flashbacks of his life story are interspersed throughout, his growing up on an apple farm, meeting his wife, his service in WWII, their reuniting after the war and the life they had. You’ll learn some about his cancer pain, the grief of his wife’s death 5 years prior, and about his resolve to end it all. Please don’t NOT read this because  you’ll think it’s depressing. It is and it isn’t. It’s so much more for the better. And I just read, this book is being made into a movie.

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. Then he discovers that there is a lot more to know and understand about this elderly little lady down the hall and he begins a journey to try to find someone for her, the Luis Velez of the title. If you want to use coming-of-age to describe this, that’s partly true. He learns all about himself, the abilities he didn’t know he had, the kindness that lives within him that he never realized was there, and the friends he makes along the way who make some life-changing differences in his young life. He discovers he has some gifts that he can give to others, something most teenagers don’t understand. I can’t recommend this book highly enough – it’s a bit of a tear-jerker, but for every good reason and moral character trait described in the book. It’s there.

Kristin Hannah is quite an author. She’s written upwards of 20 books, I think. This one, Magic Hour: A Novel is another very mesmerizing read. I could hardly put it down. A young, 6-year old child is found in a small town on the Olympic Peninsula. She’s mute and frightened beyond reason. And she seems not to understand English. A psychiatrist is brought to town to try to unravel the mystery and to “reach” the child. I don’t want to spoil the story, but know that the whole subject of nature (biology) vs. nurture comes into play and will keep you hanging onto your seat until the last few pages.

Ever heard of Barbara Pym? I knew the name, but hadn’t ever read any of her work. She was an English author (deceased now), having penned several books. I think she was an inveterate spinster, and in this book, Excellent Women she wrote about a small village community in England with the humdrum, day to day life, but she wrote with such interesting detail. I thought I might be bored to tears reading it, as it describes a 31-year old woman, considered a spinster in the time (1950s), and the book is about her rather boring life with new neighbors who move into her small home (2 units, sharing a bathroom), the local vicar, his sister, and a myriad of other ladies of the parish. Yet you get caught up in the very minor intrigue of the deteriorating marriage of the couple in the building, the love life of the vicar, and the annual planning for a jumble sale at the local church. This book is considered Pym’s best. I loved the book. I highlighted a bunch of phrases and sentences (I will be doing a book review in one of my book clubs). It wasn’t boring at all, and was entertaining right up to the last page!

Did you ever watch Sandra Lee on the Food Network? This was in the early days of the network, and I did watch her some, although her cooking style didn’t mesh much with mine, since I’m a bit of a make-things-from-scratch kind of girl. But then, I don’t make my own mayo, or jam anymore. And I understand her philosophy, making it easier for busy women to feed their families and juggle a busy life. I’d never thought about reading her memoir. But then, a friend highly recommended I do so. I found a used copy online, and read Made From Scratch: A Memoir. She had a very, very hard young life. Her mother? Well, she shouldn’t have even been a mother. Sandra was the eldest and from a very early age she took care of all of her younger siblings. She was badly mistreated and nearly raped by a family member. Her grandmother Lorraine was her favorite person from the get-go and Sandra took care of her grandmother in her waning years. Once Sandra was old enough she left home and went to college for 3 years, then her entrepreneurial spirit just took over. She learned by doing in every job she’s ever had, and I have to admire her tremendously for her accomplishments. She made money, then lost it, found another niche, made money, then lost it. Yet she’s got the kind of grit that we should all emulate. There are 2 recipes in the book. Sandra is a Christian, and a paragraph that really gripped me was at the very end: “Grace has become one of my favorite words. To me it means learning to balance the good days with the bad. Grace is about being proud of yourself, your actions, your life, what you stand for, and the way you give back [Sandra is a huge philanthropist]. Its’ being generous when someone hurts you; it’s knowing when and how to react. It’s knowing that someone you’re not fond of today might turn out to be the only person who puts his or her hand out tomorrow just when you’re about to step in front of a moving bus. Grace is offering understanding and acceptance when the rest of the world does not.” This book isn’t great literature; yet I’m very glad I read it. She is an inspiration.

The book Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist) by Min Jin Lee had been recommended to me by several friends. Finally got around to reading it. It’s a novel about a family of Koreans living in Japan and covers several decades, beginning in the 1940s, I believe. They’re poor. Dirt poor, yet the women just get themselves back up and work. The husbands in the story have problems, health and otherwise. But what you see here is work, and work and more work just to keep above water. You’ve probably read about how poorly Koreans are treated in Japan – they’re kind of thought of as scum of the earth. I don’t know if this phenomena is still true today, but it apparently was even up until a couple of decades ago. As  you read this book, you’ll find yourself rooting for various family members as they progress in life. A fateful decision is made by one that reverberates throughout her life and those of her children. Pachinko (the machines and the gaming economy that runs because of it) is thought of as part of the underbelly of Japanese culture. I remember seeing the pachinko machines when I visited Japan back in the 1960s. So the book infers, much of pachinko is even controlled by a kind of Japanese mafia and certainly has no status if you work in the pachinko arena. Wealth, yes. Status, no. Very worth reading, even though it’s tough going part of the way. This isn’t a “happy” book. But still worth knowing and reading about the subject. Reading the author’s afterword at the end was very revealing and interesting.

Also read An American Marriage (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Tayari Jones. The book is set in the south with a young, well-educated, middle-class couple and suddenly the husband is accused and convicted of rape (that he didn’t commit). The book is not about the justice system or his wrongful conviction. Not at all. It’s about the relationship, the husband, wife, and then the 3rd person who inserts himself into the mix. Much of this story is told through the letters that Roy and Celestial write each other during and after his incarceration. Jones recreates the couple’s grief, despair and anger until they finally work their way to acceptance, but maybe not how you would expect it. This is complicated emotional territory navigated with succinctness and precision, making what isn’t said as haunting as the letters themselves.  Some of the above (italics) came from the New York Times’ book review.

Recently finished Sally Field’s memoir (autobiography) called In Pieces. I’ve always admired her and her acting, but never knew much about her. I remember when she was involved with Burt Reynolds, but knew nothing about her dysfunctional coming of age. I think she’s a consummate actress, and was awed by her performance in Norma Rae, and also with her role as Abraham Lincoln’s wife.  She wrote this book herself, with help from a writer’s workshop and with some good advice from various other writers. It’s very well written. She spends a lot of time discussing the very young years and her perverted step-father. But the over-arching person in her life was her mother, be what she may as far as being a good/bad mother. I really liked the book; really enjoyed reading about how Sally throws herself into her tv and film roles over her life. And what a defining moment Norma Rae was in her career. Well worth reading if you enjoy movie star memoirs.

If you want grit, well, read Kristen Hannah’s newest book, The Great Alone: A Novel. It’s a gripping novel about a young girl whose family moves to Alaska when her father is gifted a small plot of land with a ramshackle cabin on it that’s barely fit for habitation. The family survives only because some of the townspeople offer to help them learn how to live through an Alaskan winter, which is not easy. The girl’s father is a tyrant and a wife-beater as well. Some pages were hard to read. Surviving on the land with nearly no funds is an arduous task in the best of times, but doubly so when you’re dealing with an Alaskan winter which lasts about 9 months of the year. I don’t want to spoil the story by telling you too many details. The book touches on some very current social issues and is so worth reading. Although difficult at times, as I said. But I’m very glad I did. I think it would make for a good book club read – lots of survival issues to discuss, let alone the other social problems that ensue. But there’s also love, which makes it worth the read.

Recently finished reading a book for one of my book clubs. I’m interested to find out who in that group recommended this book, Tangerine: A Novel by Christine Mangan. Had it not been selected for my club, I wouldn’t ever have picked it up. Most of it takes place in Tangiers, in the 1950s. Alice and John have moved there, newlyweds, when Lucy Mason shows up. Lucy is Alice’s former college roommate. Lucy simply moves in. There’s bad blood between them following the death of Alice’s beau during their college years. Lucy, who might appear as a very sensible woman, has a dark physical and mental obsession with her “friend.” Is it horror? Not really by strict definition. Is it a mystery? Not quite, although there are several murders that take place. Chapters jump between Alice’s voice and Lucy’s voice and you understand the mental fragility of Alice, and this consuming obsession Lucy has for her friend. I’m NOT recommending this book, but I did finish it just because of my book club choosing this very strange book.

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.

One of my book clubs occasionally reads a kind of edgy book. This is one of them. By Mohsin Hamid, Exit West: A Novel is a book set in an age not dissimilar to our own and in current time, but something bad has happened in the world. Something never divulged, although symptoms of a civil war are mentioned. A unmarried couple, Nadia and Saeed, are given the opportunity (as others are, as well) to go through a door (this is the exit part of the title) and to another place in the world – it takes but a second – to go through the special door. They go to England (London), to a palatial mansion. Sometimes the power grid is sketchy. Another door. And yet another. And finally to Marin County (north of San Francisco). You follow along with the ups and downs of the chaste relationship of the two, this couple from a house to living on the streets. And the eventual dissolution of the relationship too. I wasn’t enamored with the book, but after listening to the review of it and hearing others talk about it, I suppose there’s more to this story than it might appear. Hope is the word that comes to mind. The book is strange, but it won the Los Angeles Times book award in 2017. It’s received lots of press. It made for some very interesting discussion at our book club meeting.

The Last Letter from Your Lover: A Novel by JoJo Moyes. Story: Jennifer Stirling wakes up in hospital, having had a traumatic car accident. She’s introduced to her husband, of whom she has no recollection, and is sent home with him eventually, to a life she neither remembers or embraces readily. But this is the life she was raised to have, so surely it must be worth living, underneath the strange, muted tones of her daily existence. Jennifer goes through the motions, accepts what she is told is her life and all seems to bob along well enough, except when she finds a letter that isn’t her husband’s handwriting, and is clearly a link to someone she has been involved with, but whom? London, France, Africa and America all come into play in this story of a woman piecing back together her life in effort to understand what she has lost, and what she threw away. There is a bit of a time-hop from 1964 to 2003. . . from a reviewer on amazon.  I loved this book from page one to the end. There’s some bit of mystery and you so get into the head of Jennifer Stirling. I could hardly put it down. Great read.

Francine Rivers, an author relatively new to me, but much admired, is most known for this: Mark of the Lion : A Voice in the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness, As Sure As the Dawn (Vol 1-3) It’s a trilogy. The first 2 books are about Hadassah, a young woman in the time of the Roman Empire. When Jerusalem was overrun and destroyed, the Christians still alive were sent off and away, separated and derided and abused. Hadassah was one of them. She’s a slave to a wealthy family and it takes 2 of the books to read before the son of the family finally realizes that he’s in love with Hadassah. If  you’re a Christian, you’ll learn a whole lot more about the time following Christ’s crucifixion, about the lot of the struggling Christian community. The 3rd book in the trilogy is about a gladiator who is part of book 1 and 2, but not a main character. You’ll learn about his life too, after he regains his freedom from the fighting ring and the battle of his soul. These books are a fabulous read. Can’t say enough good things about them all. I’ve never been a huge fan of old-world Roman Empire reading, but this one was altogether different. Very worth reading.

Amy Belding Brown wrote this book: Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America, a true accounting in 1676, of Mary Rowlandson, a woman who was captured by Native Americans.  Even before she was captured on a winter day of violence and terror, she sometimes found herself in conflict with her rigid Puritan community. Now, her home destroyed, her children lost to her, she has been sold into the service of a powerful woman tribal leader, made a pawn in the ongoing bloody struggle between English settlers and native people. Battling cold, hunger, and exhaustion, Mary witnesses harrowing brutality but also unexpected kindness. To her confused surprise, she is drawn to her captors’ open and straightforward way of life, a feeling further complicated by her attraction to a generous, protective English-speaking native known as James Printer. The story is riveting, and perplexing once she is traded back to her home. You’ll see a different side to the Indian problem back then and find yourself conflicted. An excellent read.

Taylor Caldwell was a prolific writer, and one I read when I was younger. She died in 1980, and this book, her last, Answer As a Man certainly delivers as her others did. All his life, Jason Garrity has had to battle intolerance and injustice in his quest for power, money, and love. His new hotel will give him financial security, the means to support a loving family and become an upstanding citizen. When family secrets and financial greed combine to destroy his dreams, his rigid moral convictions are suddenly brought into question. . . from Goodreads. Caldwell believed the banking industry was way too powerful, and often took aim at it, as she did in this book. It chronicles the life of a very poor, impoverished Irish immigrant to the U.S. He was an upstanding citizen, God-fearing, but maybe naive in some respects. Good book if you enjoy very deep character study.

Another book by Diney Costeloe, Miss Mary’s Daughter. When a young women is suddenly left with no family and no job or income, she’s astounded to learn that she’s actually a granddaughter of a “grand” family in Ye Olde England. She’s very independent (at least I thought so, for the time period), but is willing to investigate this new family of hers. There are many twists and turns – is she going to inherit the family home – or is the man who has been caring for the home and his daughter the logical inheritors. There’s a villain who nearly sweeps her off her feet, much intrigue from many characters. Well developed plot with a happy ending. A good read.

Celeste Ng is a hot new author. I read another of her books (see below) but this time I read Little Fires Everywhere. There are so many various characters and plots in this book, as in her others. This book focuses on a Chinese baby abandoned at a fire station and the subsequent court battle when the single mother surfaces six months later to try to reclaim her daughter from the family in the process of adopting her. Emotions well up, waxing and waning on both sides of the issue. You may even find yourself changing your own mind about the right or wrong of a child raised with a natural-born mother (albeit late to the raising) or the mother the child has known since near birth. Ng likes to write books with lots of grit and thorny issues. Although a good read, I liked Everything I Never Told You better than this one.

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright. Oh my. This book has so many layers: (1) the young, impoverished couple and their infant son who live, literally, in a dump in Cambodia and about the precarious structure, if you can even call it that, that comprises their “house” in the midst and perched on top of trash; (2) the woman who collects the rent (hence the title and yes, people have to PAY to live there); (3) the young son’s chronic illness; (4) how they make a living out of collecting and selling trash; and (4) the life saving grace and wisdom imparted by characters in the book as the young mother begins to learn to read. If you decide to read this book, please don’t stop at about page 15-20, thinking you just don’t know if you want to read about this. Please continue. It’s so worth it. Have a highlighter pen in your hand because you’ll find so many quotes you will want to remember. Believe it or not, there is also quite a bit in this about literature.

C.J. Box’s book The Disappeared (A Joe Pickett Novel). I just love Box’s novels. They take place in present day semi-wild west, and chronicle the fish and game warden, Joe Pickett, as he unravels another crime in his territory. A woman has disappeared, and the governor has asked him to figure it out. He does, but the tale meanders  through multiple layers of intriguing story. His books are riveting. Men and women enjoy his books – so if you have a fellow in your life or family that would enjoy an intriguing book (this is not espionage) then gift him one of Box’s books.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant.

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. Rivers is a prodigious writer of Christian fiction, and I’d never read anything by her until now. As I write this, I’ve already read this, another one (below) and just purchased the Kindle trilogy called Mark of the Lion (Vol 1-3) that I haven’t yet started. (Two of my friends have said the trilogy is her best.) Redeeming Love details the fictional story of a godly man, Michael Hosea, forging his way in the era of the Gold Rush. He’s “driven” to rescue a beautiful prostitute who lives and works her trade in a nearby town. The entire book is about the story, the rescue, and it parallels a bit of scripture about Hosea who rescues a prostitute names Gomer. You get into the heads of both Hosea and the prostitute, named Angel. We read this for one of my book groups. A great read.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde. A

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. W

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

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