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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tasting Spoons

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

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Posted in Salads, on March 11th, 2008.

Spinach & Strawberry Salad

We’ve had an informal and infrequently-meeting gourmet group for a few years. Initially we met every couple of months, but then traveling got in the way of more than one gathering. Now we seem to meet only when one of us can manage to get everyone’s schedule to jibe. And initially the group was also a “healthy” gourmet group. We called it – and still do – the HGG (Health Gourmet Group). The healthy part lasted about 2 years, I’d say, and now it’s more like a “try to be healthy if you can” group. But when we do get together, we have a great time.

My friend Sue brought this salad to one of our dinners, and everybody just loved it. I’ve served it more than once since then, always to raves. There is an elusive flavor in this salad. Maybe it’s just the combo with the strawberries, which isn’t often seen in salads. Sue said the recipe came from one of her Junior League cookbooks. I’ve altered the recipe a little – reducing the amount of greens to serve 6 – it served way more originally, and I always had leftovers which didn’t keep, of course.

I made this as a separate course the other night for a large dinner party, while the main entrée finished off its cooking in the oven. I liked doing that because this salad is just so darned good to get diluted with more intense flavors from the beef we had for our entrée, or the seasoned vegetables either. Know what I mean?
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Spinach & Berries Salad

Recipe By: from my friend Sue, from a Junior League cookbook
Serving Size: 10
Cook’s Notes: Get everything all ready ahead of time and it’s but seconds to get the salad mixed and served. Sprinkle some of the nuts in the salad, then add a few more almonds on the top of each serving (or if you’re passing the salad, just sprinkle the remaining nuts on top). Be sure to use baby spinach, as full-leafed spinach is too cumbersome to eat easily and a bit too tough in my estimation.

SALAD DRESSING:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
2 cloves garlic — minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
SALAD:
3/4 cup slivered almonds — toasted
12 ounces spinach leaves — baby spinach if possible
1 head butter lettuce
1 bunch green onions — chopped
1 pint strawberries — thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh dill — minced

1. Mix salad dressing – olive oil through onion powder – and allow to sit to mellow flavors.
2. Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl and pour dressing (taste to see how much is needed) over.
Per Serving: 198 Calories; 17g Fat (72.3% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 11g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 75mg Sodium.

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  1. yvette

    said on June 7th, 2010:

    Hello Carolyn,
    I made this salad last night for Joe and me and dinner
    guests. I love this salad !!! The dressing is superb.
    I loved having the strawberries in the salad. The toasted
    slivered almonds gave the salad a nice crunch
    This is a “must have” summer salad recipe.I look forward to
    making this again and again. My dinner guest, Lynn, took home a copy
    of the recipe. This definitely belongs on the “Carolyn’s Fav List”.

    Glad you liked it, Yvette! It’s a favorite of ours too. . . carolyn t

  2. Elizabeth

    said on February 24th, 2011:

    I made this for my husband’s birthday dinner, he loved it! I had everything for the dressing(added a squeeze of meyer lemon too), but for the salad didn’t have all the ingredients so used strawberry, avocado, sliced almonds and parsley. Thanks for another great recipe.

    Isn’t that just a great salad? I agree. Thanks so much. . . carolyn t

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