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Just finished 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 want that kind of book – you may not want to read this one.

Also finished Julian Fellowes’s Belgravia. You know Julian Fellowes, the producer and writer of Downton Abbey? He lends his mind to a story about a family or two from the similar time period as Downton, who live in London. There’s some amount of intrigue, romance, observations from within the halls of wealthy Londoners and moderately well off tradesmen and their families. There’s affairs, shady business dealings, an illegitimate child, the comings and goings of the “downstairs” staff too, etc. The characters were well done – I had no trouble keeping all of the people identified. The story is somewhat predictable, but it was interesting clear up to the end.

The Letter by Kathyrn Hughes. It’s a very intricate tale. At first it’s about Tina, a battered wife [at which point I paused and wondered if I wanted to read any further, but I’m glad I did]. She tries to get the courage to leave her husband. Then enters the letter she finds in a suit pocket in the thrift shop where she volunteers. It’s old – sealed and stamped, but never mailed. Then you learn about Crissie, decades earlier, a young pregnant girl who is sent off to Ireland to a distant relative by her father, then to a rigid (meaning horrible) convent [the book takes place mostly in Manchester, England and in rural Ireland]. The letter is addressed to her. Jump forward decades and William, the adopted child Crissie gave up, tries to find his birth mother. William meets Tina in Ireland [a serendipitous moment] as she’s trying to find the woman to whom the letter is addressed. This book is the #2 best seller on Amazon at the moment. It’s a riveting tale and I really enjoyed it.

The Muralist: A Novel by Shapiro. It tells the story of a young woman, an artist, who was part of the U.S.’s WPA mural project from the 1930s-40s (she is fiction, the WPA is not). As with so many artists, even today, they live in abject poverty through much of their lives. This woman, though, had family in France, desperately trying to escape before Hitler’s henchmen rousted them into concentration camps. The story, a bit of a mystery but not of the mystery-genre, is about Alizée Benoit, this young painter, who slightly captivates Eleanor Roosevelt’s help. It also skips into current time when the painter’s great-niece uncovers paintings she believes were painted by her aunt. The painter had disappeared into thin air in 1940, and her relative tries desperately to find out what happened to her. It’s a really good story including such Abstract Expressionist painters as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner well-woven into the narrative. It keeps you guessing right up to the end. A good read. The author also wrote The Art Forger: A Novel a few years ago.

Also recently read 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 free-lance 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 family was 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 an old (wild) 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. Just read this one first!

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 Pork, on April 17th, 2010.

Oh my, was this ever sensational. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you’ll understand when I say this recipe is going onto my Carolyn’s Favs list. I’ve posted about 550+ recipes here on this blog – to date – and I have a list of about – oh, 40-50 of them that rank as 5-star, or blue ribbon worthy, or whatever superlative you’d like to use. This one, and it’s a simple one at that, is going onto the list.

This was the entree I served to friends who came to dinner a couple of nights before we left on this last 2-week trip. It starts with a pork tenderloin. Our Costco carries tenderloins and I usually bring them home, open up the package and seal them individually and freeze them. There were 5 of us for dinner that night, and two tenderloins were just enough.

Here’s another photo – I sliced the meat, a little bit on the diagonal, then pounded the pieces a little. Pork tenderloin is a very lean and soft piece of meat to begin with, so it took only a couple of flat pounds for each piece. Don’t make it super-thin, just thinner. Each tenderloin was cut into 6 slices (above) and pounded.

The sauce was SO simple. Since the pork did have to be cooked just before guests were served, I got everything all ready ahead of time – for the sauce – so once I cooked the meat I could make the sauce in a jiffy. Then it’s garnished with the sliced green onion. Everybody raved about this dish, me included. It had been in my to-try file since 2007 (Bon Appetit). I’m so glad I did. The only caution is about the red chili sauce – if you’re at all sensitive about spice-heat, reduce the amount. When I made it, I adjusted down the amount (to the tablespoon listed below) so it’s really spicy if you were to use the full amount. Taste as you go – that would be best!
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Pork Medallions with Chili-Maple Sauce

Recipe By: Bon Appétit | April 2007
Serving Size: 3

NOTES: Be sure to reduce down the chicken broth until it’s started to thicken. Otherwise it’s too watery. And be careful about the amount of chili-sauce you use – it’s hot. Add it sparingly until it suits your taste.

12 ounces pork tenderloin
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup — (the real stuff)
1 tablespoon chili-garlic sauce
1 whole green onion — chopped

1. Cut tenderloin crosswise into 6 slices. Using meat mallet, pound medallions between 2 sheets of plastic wrap to 1/2-inch thickness (this doesn’t take all that many swings with the flat mallet). Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and five-spice powder.
2. Heat oil in large skillet over high heat. Add pork; cook until brown and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to platter. Add next 3 ingredients to skillet. Boil until reduced to scant 1/4 cup, about 2 minutes. Pour sauce over pork; sprinkle with green onion.
Per Serving: 212 Calories; 9g Fat (37.4% calories from fat); 27g Protein; 8g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 74mg Cholesterol; 193mg Sodium.

A year ago: Blueberry Lemon Drop
Two years ago: Sopa de Calabacitas (a Southwestern style vegetable soup)

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  1. Karen

    said on September 23rd, 2012:

    Just found your blog and want to tell you that I have spent many hours going through your archives savoring each and every recipe and story that goes with them!! I have chosen many recipes to try, and value the extra advice with each (as above recipe with the heat of the chili garlic sauce!) I also am drawn to the picture above…yum! and absolutely love the plate your served it on…any idea where you purchased it?

    Hi Karen – welcome to my website! As for the plate – I THINK I got it at TJ Maxx, but I’m not positive about that. Might have been at Williams-Sonoma, but it was several years ago. Oddly enough, the center of the plate has begun to craze, which means it wasn’t fired properly. So that probably means it was a TJ Maxx purchase. Although I also have another platter I purchased at WS, and it’s begun to craze too. I paid full tilt for that platter, and it was expensive. The platter might have been from Home Goods too. Am just not sure!
    . . . carolyn t

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