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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 Veggies/sides, on May 10th, 2008.

Without much of any equivocation, I can say that asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables. I like it  just about any way it comes – even raw – but the best prep for me is oven roasted. So when I was reading a posting over at A Year from Oak Cottage, a blog I read regularly, and Marie talked about preparing her crumbled asparagus, I perked up, printed out the recipe, and tried it.

The greatest of superlatives are needed here. Fabulous. Delicious. Moist. Pretty. Perfect. All those things. I made these for a dinner party last night, and I’d say the winning recipes of the evening were the dessert (yes, I’ll post it in a few days) and this asparagus. I made two pounds of asparagus, and there are maybe 4 spears left. Of course, I was serving 12 people, but everybody loved these, with me included.

Yes, I’ll be making these again. And again. They’re that good. I did change the recipe just a little bit – only the proportions – because I ended up with too much mayo left over, but this isn’t one of those exact kinds of recipes anyway. If you want to use less mayo altogether, as long as you rub each spear with enough mayo so the crumb mixture will stick, do so. Nobody will know it’s rubbed with mayo – it isn’t visible. Maybe you could coat the spears with olive oil and it would work too. You dip the spears in the mayo (rubbing it on with your fingers worked best), then my DH helped by rolling the spears in the panko crumb-cheese mixture. It does help to have two sets of hands since you muck up your fingers in the mayo and further muck them up if you go back and forth to the crumbs.

So, I suggest you get yourself to your local farm stand or market and make these right away quick. Asparagus season is almost over, and I’ll be making these again soon. Buy plenty because you’ll eat more of these than you anticipate!
printer-friendly PDF

Crumbled Asparagus

Recipe By: Marie’s blog, A Year at Oak Cottage
Serving Size: 6

1 pound asparagus
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 cup panko — or dry seasoned bread crumbs
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese — finely grated

1. Pre-heat the oven to 400*F. Lightly spray a shallow baking tray with some cooking spray or line sheet with silicone pad (Silpat) and set aside.
2. Wash asparagus and dry it really well. To prepare spears for cooking, grasp at either end and pull the tip end over and down. The stalk will break naturally at the point where it starts to get tough and stringy. Use the fibrous ends for stock or for your compost pile. If the asparagus is thick-skinned or fibrous (take a small bite to test), peel the spears from just under the head to the stem end. If serving guests, you might want to cut off the ends – a straight cut – which will look a little prettier.
3. Combine the dry bread crumbs and the cheese in a shallow dish and set aside.
4. Rub each spear of asparagus with the mayonnaise, making sure each one is well coated (use your fingers for this), then carefully roll it in the bread crumb mixture to coat. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining spears.
5. Bake in the heated oven for 12 to 19 minutes (depends on the size of the asparagus), until the crumbs are nicely crisped and the asparagus is crispy tender. Serve.
Cook’s Notes: I did peel off the outer skin of the asparagus for about the lowest inch or two on each spear. Give the asparagus room on the baking sheet so the spears don’t touch (otherwise they steam rather than crisp). Watch the time as you don’t want to overcook them. Test one for just crisp tenderness. They get cold quickly, so serve immediately
Per Serving: 134 Calories; 11g Fat (68.5% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 9g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 4mg Cholesterol; 100mg Sodium.

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  1. Maggie Pohlman

    said on May 11th, 2008:

    My husband & I were the lucky recipients of this FANTASTIC receipe. This platter of asparagus went around the table “several times” & there were many ooohs & aaaahs. I am no gourmet….but I’d try this in a second!! Crunchy & delightful!

  2. Toffeeapple

    said on May 13th, 2008:

    Aparagus is just in season here and I am lucky enough to live near a small-holding where I can pick it for myself. I always roast it but have never tried coating it before, I can imagine the textures and flavours so have no doubt that I should enjoy this.

    How nice of your dinner guest to comment.

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