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

Read Grace Unshakled, by Irene Huising. From Amazon’s page, it says: “In the year 2025, 17-year-old Grace Duncan finds herself in shackles because of her faith in Christ. An obedient daughter and stellar student, doing time in jail was never on her mental radar, despite the changes in religious laws [this takes place here in the United States] over the past few years. Through twists and turns in circumstances, Grace and a small band of Christians in Newport Beach, California begin a journey to discover what it means to follow Christ with unwavering faith in the midst of increasing persecution. Facing the potential loss of all her hopes and dreams, would Christ be enough?” We read this for one of my book clubs, and it’s a scary thought about what it could mean if we take God out of our country. The author is a friend of a friend and she attended our book club meeting to share about how she came to write this book. I don’t often share my faith here on my website, but this book made me stop and think about the direction our government is going, removing more and more our ability to worship God. Or to worship in any religion. Will this book ever make waves in the book world? Probably not. My copy may be a pre-edited version, as it contained numerous typos and formatting errors. But they didn’t detract from the subject, just the cosmetics. The book doesn’t come to a resolution; in fact it leaves you hanging, as some books do. It was intentional (obviously), but left me wondering about the “end of the story.”

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

Read The German Girl: A Novel by Correa. It chronicles the story of a wealthy German Jewish family in Berlin, as the Nazis arrive and make life a living hell. The family is lucky (I guess you could say this) to be allowed to purchase passage on the M.S. St. Louis, a passenger liner, to take them to “the Americas.” The destination is actually Cuba. The story is told from two voices – the teenage daughter in this story, and from a current-day distant family member who is trying to learn about her ancestry. Of the 900+ passengers on the ship, only a few were allowed to disembark since the Cuban President decided he needed more money to accept them. Most families had no money left, as the Reich had taken nearly all of their assets. The daughter and her very eccentric mother were allowed to stay in Cuba.  The remaining passengers are rejected by the U.S. too, and eventually return to Europe, where most of the Jews end up dying in concentration camps. The story goes back and forth from the 1939 journey to current day as the link between the two women is slowly revealed. I had a tough time sometimes, tracking the people in this book, but the story was very riveting. It’s based on facts about the ship (see Wikipedia link above if you’re interested). A shameful chapter in history.

Recently finished reading a magnificent historical novel. Not new. Philippa Gregory has been a favorite author of mine for a couple of decades. You may remember her most famous book, The Other Boleyn Girl, published some years ago. I thought that was a really great book. I’ve read other books by Gregory, but most recently I read The King’s Curse (The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels). The time period is the 1450s to 1541, mostly under the rule of King Henry VIII, the infamous womanizer and wife/Queen-killer. The man who cursed Rome (the Pope) – he wanted his first marriage annulled because Queen Catherine couldn’t produce a living male heir. And subsequently made himself the head of the church in England in order to do so. It was a Catholic country at the time. This story (it’s fiction, but woven with intricate historical detail) is from the voice of Margaret of York (a lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine),  who was a Plantagenet in her own right (which is key to the later events in the book). Certainly I’ve read other novels over the years that dealt with Henry VIII, but not with this much breadth of info. What a wicked, sinful man he was. And did I say tyrant. Wow.  I could hardly put it down, through its nearly 600 pages. In the author’s notes at the end, she shares relatively recent medical info that suggests Henry probably suffered from a rare problem, Kell positive blood type, which can cause miscarriages, stillbirths and infant deaths IF the mother has the more common Kell negative blood type. And that in his later years, he may have had McLeod syndrome, a disease only found in Kell positive individuals. Around the age of 40 it causes physical degeneration and personality changes resulting in paranoia, depression and irrational behavior. All of those King Henry VIII had in spades. If you read the book, you might read the author’s notes (at the end) before reading the book. If you like historical fiction (I love any book about English history) you’ll just love this one. It’s interesting, though, as I think about the many books I’ve read covering this era in English history, that each book presented its hero/heroine as the most innocent and worthy individual vying for the crown of England. I remember thinking Anne Boleyn was dealt with so badly during her life (and certainly her beheading), and yet reading this book, I completely reversed my opinion. Anne Boleyn was called a wh–e by most people during the years she shared Henry’s bed. The “curse” from the title pertains to Henry’s inability or the curse on the Tudors, that caused him to fail in producing a male heir. In any case, none of Henry’s wives should have died for it – likely it was all Henry’s fault anyway. Just read this one, okay?

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

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Salads, Vegetarian, Veggies/sides, on June 12th, 2009.

garbanzo salad feta

Okay. Attention here. (Teacher rapping her ruler on her desk) This is your homework for tonight. You must go home and make this recipe, suit it to your tastes, and report back tomorrow on the results. Got the assignment? Good.

When I read about this recipe over at Farmgirl Fare, Susan raptured on about how delicious it was. Yea, yea, I thought. What’s another garbanzo bean salad? And yet there was something about what she had to say that piqued my interest. Maybe the feta? The cooked onions? The garlic? All those things in a cold salad? All of the above were reasons. And probably the photo doesn’t do it justice. My first bite, as I was making it, was sublime. How could those ingredients – all simple things, all items I had in my refrigerator or pantry, taste so darned good? Don’t know the answer, but it just is. Good. Susan mentioned that whenever it’s in her refrigerator somehow her fork finds its way into the bowl. Yep. I understand perfectly. Our leftovers probably won’t last through tomorrow (although I did make only half a recipe – using one can of garbanzos). Note to self: buy more cilantro and red onion (so I can make more in a few days).

garbanzo-feta-salad

Susan’s recipe called for kalamata olives (or oil-cured). I chose to eliminate those, but that’s just my personal choice. You can add them in. I also added some tarragon just because I had a small package of it about to go south. I may not have had enough green onion tops, but I think this salad is flexible. If there are ingredients in this you don’t like, switch them out, that’s all. Oh, I also used lime juice because I had fresh limes. There wasn’t time to chill it, but it made “no nevermind,” as they say. I’ll have to let you know if the leftovers are even more off the charts. The recipe came from a cookbook called Falling Cloudberries: A World of Family Recipes by Tessa Kiros.

So, friends. Are you going to make this right now or later? I recommend right now.
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Garbanzo Bean Salad with Red Onion, Parsley, Cilantro, and Feta

Recipe By: Adapted from Foodie Farmgirl Fare blog 6/09, who got it from a cookbook called Falling Cloudberries
Servings: 5

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil — plus more if desired
3 cups red onion — chopped
1/4 cup fresh garlic — finely chopped
2 cans garbanzo beans — (15 ounce) drained & rinsed (or 3 cups cooked garbanzo beans)
3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro — (packed)
3/4 cup Italian parsley — (packed) chopped fresh flat leaf
1 1/2 cups chopped green onions — green parts only
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice — (or lime juice)
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon — minced (my addition – optional)

1. Heat 1/3 cup olive oil in a large frying pan and add the red onion, stirring to coat it with the oil. Cook the onion gently over medium or medium-low heat, stirring often, until the it is soft and starting to brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about one minute; don’t let the garlic brown. Remove from the heat and let cool.
2. In a large bowl, stir together the garbanzo beans, cilantro, parsley, green onions, and lemon juice. Add the cooled onion garlic mixture. You can also mix the onions and garlic into the beans while they’re still warm, and the other ingredients will help cool them down. Mix in the crumbled feta cheese and olives (if using). Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste (remember that the feta and olives will already be salty) and up to ½ cup more olive oil if desired. Add tarragon, if using.
3. This salad tastes best if made ahead and allowed to sit for a few hours before serving. Serve at room temperature, with a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil if desired. Note: Susan adds kalamata or oil-cured olives to hers. You can too.
Per Serving: 585 Calories; 26g Fat (38.6% calories from fat); 23g Protein; 70g Carbohydrate; 19g Dietary Fiber; 27mg Cholesterol; 381mg Sodium.

A year ago: Watermelon Blueberry Soup (cold)
Two years ago: Baby Back Ribs with Peanut Butter Slather (oh yea, those ribs were amazing)

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  1. Marie

    said on June 15th, 2009:

    I have all of Tessa Kiros’ cookbooks, including Falling Cloudberries. Her recipes are excellent and the books are quite beautiful. I think my favourite one is Apples For Jam. IF this is one of her recipes I know it is spectacular!

    Well, Marie, you’ve just clinched it. I must order both cookbooks, I guess. . . carolyn t

  2. yvette

    said on July 5th, 2010:

    I served this salad at my Fourth of July BBQ. It was a hit !! This does belong on your “Carolyn’s Fav’s” list.
    Yvette

    Thanks, Yvette. So glad you enjoyed it! . . . carolyn t

  3. Joanne

    said on June 25th, 2011:

    Hi Carolyn…hope you’re having a wonderful time in Colorado. I just made this salad and it’s delicious! Just wanted to know for next time what kind of olives and how much do you suggest. Olives are mentioned in the directions but are not in the ingredient list. Joanne

    Hi Joanne – sorry about that mixup. The original recipe called for olives. I will look it up when I get home. I didn’t use any when I made it so I should have removed all olive reference but obviously didnt get it quite right. I will fix soon and send you a msg about it. Thanks fir telling me. Got to watch those typos! . . . Carolyn

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