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Since I’m a fan of Ann Patchett, it’s no surprise that I wanted to buy her most recent book, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage. It’s a book of short stories, but not fictional ones – it’s a compilation of essays and articles she’s written over the course of her writing life. My favorite is the one in which she describes in intimate detail how she goes about writing a book. About the process, her thinking, and the the hard, hard work it entails. I loved every one of the stories. She is quite self-deprecating about the book – it likely wasn’t her idea to put it together as she never thought any of her essays were worth much. She wrote them to make a living. Each of the chapters (essays) has been updated and/or addended to, so she did have to put some spit and polish on all of them before sending this group to the publisher. She’s written essays for a very esoteric group of publications; some I’d never heard of. But I enjoyed the book from beginning to end.

Also just finished reading The Invention of Wings: A Novel by Sue Monk Kidd. What a story. Sometimes it’s a good thing to read the author’s notes before you read a book. I guess I’m glad I didn’t (in this case the notes were at the end of the book) because it was then, afterwards, that I read that one of the characters in this novel is fictional; the other two (sisters) were real. There’s a bit about the Quaker religion in this book too, which was different. This is a slavery story and about the beginnings of the abolitionist movement. Interwoven between the 2 sisters who make waves about anti-slavery is the poignant story of one particular slave and her hard, hard life. It’s heartbreaking in many respects, not just because of the violence and abuse heaped upon her. The book is almost a page-turner. Very glad I read it.

Also read The Four Seasons: A Novel of Vivaldi’s Venice by Laurel Corona. It was recommended to me by a friend, and I enjoyed it a lot. It has a rather unusual story line, all envisioned by the author from reading a tiny line of elaborate script from a journal at what remains of a foundling hospital (run mostly like a convent by Catholic nuns) in Venice. It said something like Antonio Vivaldi purchased “a bow for Maddalena Rossa.” That started the author’s novel journey. Two sisters are raised at the Ospedale della Pieta. One becomes famous for her violin skills; the other for her voice. One is married “out” and the other stays cloistered her entire life. Then you throw Vivaldi himself into the mix, as he really was paid by the Ospedale for his compositions and for teaching some of the residents to play instruments. It’s an enlightening story about Vivaldi himself (a priest, with a lot of questions about his piety). It takes place in the early 1700s. Fascinating story and I want to listen again in total to Vivaldi’s very famous work, The Four Seasons, as a result of reading this. I’ve heard it many times before, but it will have new meaning now.

Also read The Time In Between: A Novel by Maria Duenas (translated). Apparently this book has been a runaway best seller in Europe as it deals with a little known, or I should say a part of WWII that you’ve probably never read about – Spain. The heroine is a Madrid seamstress, but is seduced by a young man to go to Morocco. She knows no one and is left high and dry when the lover disappears. She finds her way, makes friends, begins sewing couturier clothing in Morocco. The Spanish Revolution intervenes and merges into WWII. She becomes a spy of sorts (in Madrid) because she is coveted as a seamstress to the Nazi wives of Madrid. It’s a page-turner and informative. Good read.

IN THE POWDER ROOM: Our guest half-bath has a little tiny table with a pile of books that I change every now and then. They’re books that might pique someone’s interest even if for a very short read. The Art of Travel, a collection of essays about traveling (it’s not a how-to), gathering a variety of stories of some historic authors and where and why they traveled; The Greatest Stories Never Told; and Sara Midda’s South of France; also Forgotten Bookmarks: A Bookseller’s Collection of Odd Things Lost Between the Pages (just the cutest book – with a miscellany of things – letters, grocery lists, notes, reminders, confessions the author discovered hidden inside the books he purchased for his used bookstore); and The Trouble with Poetry (Billy Collins).

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small engraved sterling silver tea spoons that I use to taste as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Breads, Uncategorized, on October 21st, 2009.

raised pumpkin bread slicedWe don’t eat a lot of bread at our house – generally a half a slice each for breakfast. Once in awhile we’ll have a sandwich, but believe it or not, most bread gets moldy before we use it up. We freeze bread some, but I’m never very happy with it after it’s been in the freezer for more than 4-5 days. I wrap it in foil, then in a freezer plastic bag and still the edges seem to dry out. A few months ago we had just started using what we could, stored at room temp and throwing it out once it got moldy. But I was tired of the grainy, seedy bread we’d been having.

pumpkin bread yeast Since it’s Fall, I dug out my tried and true pumpkin yeast bread recipe and one day when I was home, and I made bread. Normally when you think of pumpkin bread, you likely think of a sweet quick bread. This is not that kind. This is a perfect sandwich or toasting bread. It’s NOT sweet, although it does have a little bit of sugar in it. It’s a soft bread – I use 3/4 white bread flour and 1/4 whole wheat flour. Our normal half-slice portion at breakfast has been upped to a whole slice each. It’s so nice with a little bit of butter. Here you can see the loaves just out of the oven.

If you’ve not been reading my blog for a long time, you may not know that I used to bake a whole lot of bread. When I was a young mom, trying to make some money, for a lunch out, for a babysitter now and then. I had a very small but thriving business, of sorts, baking bread once a week that I sold to friends and family. I was a stay-at-home mom, and enjoyed the process of making bread. I had a menu of about 10 varieties I made, including Stollen at Christmastime. And this bread wasn’t on the menu because I hadn’t discovered it yet.

raised pumpkin bread slice Years later, when I was working full-time, I invested in one of the first bread machines, and we enjoyed loaf after loaf when our kids were teenagers. This recipe is one that I adapted from one of the bread machine cookbooks. But I’ve found that it works best to make it by hand. Well, you can mix it in the machine for the first round, but let it rise in bread pans for the second rising. It will become a beautiful tall loaf, worthy of the finest toasters or turkey sandwiches. This time I kneaded it in the Kitchen Aid mixer with the dough hook, and did the 2nd time by hand, kneading in the raisins and nuts as I worked.

This isn’t a new recipe to my blog – I posted it first a year ago. Although I’ve been making this bread a couple times a year for about 25 years. It’s absolutely the BEST with Thanksgiving turkey leftovers in a sandwich. Don’t be intimidated by making yeast bread – as long as you have a few hours when you can tend to the bread a couple of times, this is a pretty foolproof recipe. I’ve never had it fail. If you want, add different fruit (dried apricots, craisins) or nuts (pecans). Or eliminate one or the other if you don’t have them on hand.
Click here to get to the recipe.

I’ve submitted this recipe to Yeastspotting.

A year ago: Pear Crisp (ooh, was that ever good!)
Two years ago: Twice Baked Cauliflower Take Two

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  1. Susan/Wild Yeast

    said on November 12th, 2009:

    This looks fabulous! I can imagine it with toasted pumpkin seeds also. Thank you for joining YeastSpotting!

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