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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 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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