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I’m going to write up an entire blog post about this book. It may be one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s a memoir by Pat Conroy (an author I’ve long admired). He died a year or so ago – sad, that. In order to get the most out of My Reading Life, I recommend you BUY THE HARDBACK. I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s an autobiography of sorts, but not really. He never wrote one, I don’t think, and I doubt he would ever have written one as he likely didn’t believe anyone would want to read about his (sad) life. In this memoir, he chronicles the books (and the people who recommended them) that influenced his life. Starting at his mother’s knees and continuing through influential teachers and mentors and friends. One of my book clubs read it, and I devoured it, cover to cover, with little plastic flags inserted all the way through to re-read some of the prose. Pat Conroy was a fabulous writer – he studied words from a young age and used them widely and wisely throughout his writing, but better than most authors would. He adored his mother, and hated (with venom) his aviator military father who physically abused everyone in the family, including his mother. They all took it like stoic Buddhas. I’m going to have to read Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel because of reading this book. I’ve never read it. Conroy says that book’s first page is the best first page of any book he ever read in his life. Wow. And maybe my book group is going to re-read Tolstoy’s War and Peace (Vintage Classics) too because of the chapter on that book. We might have to assign that to a 2-month or longer read. If you have friends or family who are avid readers, this would make a great gift, this book, My Reading Life. If YOU are a reader, it needs to be on your bookshelf, but in hardback, so you can go back to it and re-read his stories. It’s a series of essays, each one about a sub-section of his life. A must-have and a must-read.

Also read The Towers of Tuscany by Carol Cram. It was a bargain book through amazon or bookbub (e-book). Back in the Middle Ages women were forbidden to be artists. Their only place was in the home, caring for children and sewing and cooking. But the heroine in this book was taught to paint by her widowed artist-father (in secret, of course). When her father suddenly dies, all hell breaks loose and she must fend for herself. Much of the book takes place in Florence as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.

Also finished The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel by Gabrielle Zevin. It popped up on a list I subscribe to and was available for $1.13 as an e-book. As it begins, you’re hearing from A.J., a grieving widower who owns a bookstore on an obscure island off the East Coast. He’s angry, rude and every other negative adjective you can imagine. A book rep comes to visit and he’s awful to her, yet she perseveres and manages to sell him a few books. You get to know his friends (a friendship with him is full of sharp points) and one day an abandoned toddler is found in his bookshop. In between the story line about A.J., the book rep, the little girl and others, you will learn all about A.J.’s book tastes. If you’re an avid reader, you’ll really enjoy that part. It’s a charming book; loved it.

Also read a quirky book, Goodbye, Vitamin: A Novel by Rachel Khong. She’s a new writer (newly published, I guess I should say) and this story is about Ruth, a 30+ something, trying to readjust to life without her fiance, who’s dumped her. She goes back home to help with the care of her father, who has Alzheimer’s. Written in a diary style, it jumps all over about her life, her mother, the funny, poignant things her father says on good days, and the nutty stuff he does on not-so-good days, her ex-, and her very quirky friends, too. Then a woman flits through who had had an affair with her father –  you get to observe all the angst from the mom about that. Mostly it’s about her father, as he’s relatively “together” early in the book, but then he disintegrates. Reading that part isn’t fun, although the author is able to lean some humor into it. I’m not sure I recommend the book exactly – I read it through – and felt sad. It doesn’t tie up loose ends – if you need that kind of book – you may not want to read this one.

 

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 Desserts, on June 6th, 2007.

This isn’t my recipe. It’s from a new book on the horizon called The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebovitz. So, how’d I find out about it? From reading food blogs, of course (The Traveler’s Lunchbox, to be exact)! Early in my blog reading, I heard about David Lebovitz and soon subscribed to his very entertaining blog.

David is an American in Paris (can you hear Gershwin’s music trilling?), although he worked for 13 years at Chez Panisse in Berkeley. I talked a bit about the dinner we had last week at that restaurant, and I recall one of the waiters mentioning the favorite dessert there is whatever cobbler is on the menu. Interestingly, David Lebovitz just wrote up a blog posting about a new rendition of cobbler using polenta, click here, and he talks about his stint at Chez Panisse. And totally off the subject of food – I sent out (to a bunch of my friends) a link to his blog after reading his “take” on Europeans, the French, the Italians, and the Americans on the subject of B.O. It’s also about the very American expression we hear everywhere, “Oh my God.” His write up is LOL (that’s cyberspeak for laugh out loud) funny. If you’re interested, click here. If you read it, read the comments at the bottom – they’re almost as funny as his blog posting.

How do you segue from body odor to ice cream. With difficulty, I think. But trudge on, I say. I tried this recipe from reading the blog, and once the book came out I ordered it for myself on Amazon for $16.47 (hardback). The book is chock full of very unusual combinations. Here’s a sampling of ice creams, sorbets or granitas in the book: Sweet Potato Ice Cream with Maple-Glazed Pecans, Roquefort-Honey Ice Cream, Oatmeal Raisin Ice Cream, Malted Milk Ice Cream (one of his favorites, he says), Chocolate-Coconut Sorbet or Black Currant Tea Ice Cream. He also includes some cookie or bar recipes that he calls “vessels” for serving ice cream. And he adds in a few toppings like glazed or candied nuts or fruits.

After falling in love with Banana Gelato at Gelato Vero in San Diego (see previous post about this) I was certain I’d like this rendition. You roast the ripe bananas in the oven with brown sugar and butter, then scrape out every last bit from the pan, and mix with the milk base, chill, and freeze. The brown sugar comes through, and it has a very full, rounded flavor of the bananas and caramel. It disappeared in no time, although I did serve it to guests, so there wasn’t much left after that. The best part is it’s low in calories and fat – yes, really, just 4 g of fat per serving – see nutrition info just below the recipe.
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Roasted Banana Ice Cream

Recipe By: David Lebovitz, The Perfect Scoop
Servings: 6
NOTES: This doesn’t have a custard base, which means putting it together is a snap. The other benefit is that it doesn’t actually contain any cream. Just that little bit of butter and some milk – that’s all. But you’d never know it since it tastes as rich and creamy as any super-premium ice cream out there. But don’t take my word for it – go make some yourself!

3 medium bananas — ripe, peeled
1/3 cup brown sugar — 70 grams
1 tablespoon butter — cut into small pieces
1 1/2 cups whole milk — (375ml)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice — freshly-squeezed
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Slice the bananas into 1/2-inch pieces and toss them with the brown sugar and butter in a 2-quart baking dish. Bake for 40 minutes, stirring just once during baking, until the bananas are browned and cooked through. Scrape the bananas and the thick syrup in the dish into a blender or food processor (or a large bowl, if you’re using an immersion blender). Add the milk, granulated sugar, vanilla, lemon juice and salt, and puree until smooth. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions (or freeze in a covered container, blending every couple of hours with an immersion blender until it becomes solid).
2. If the chilled mixture is too thick to pour into your machine, whisking will thin it out.
Per Serving: 156 Calories; 4g Fat (23.2% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 29g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 13mg Cholesterol; 142mg Sodium.

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  1. Elizabeth

    said on August 25th, 2010:

    Very good. Thank you!

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