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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 April 30th, 2010.

You may think you don’t like Brussels sprouts. Once you taste these, you might just change your mind. As it was, all of us eating these just happen to love Brussels sprouts, so it was never even a whisper in our minds we might not like this preparation. We all loved it. Absolutely loved it. Was it hard? No. Time consuming? No. The payoff was huge. I might even eat these cold, they were so good.

The recipe I read over on Charmian Christie’s blog, Charmian’s Corner. And she said just about the same thing as I wrote above. Her recipe is called “Brussels Meet Brandy,” because the recipe came from a cookbook called Kitchen Scraps. By Pierre Lamielle.

So what’s involved? Simmer at high heat halved Brussels in a little bit of water with a pat of butter added. You boil it until the water is nearly all gone (and the Brussels are nearly cooked through). Then you add brandy. Now I diverged just a little at that juncture. I couldn’t find the brandy bottle, but I found Gran Gala, an orange-based brandy liqueur sitting unopened on my booze shelf. I didn’t flambé the Brussels as the recipe indicated; I just boiled off the liquor. Then you add fresh orange zest, the juice from the orange, a minced shallot, some fresh thyme and dried cranberries. That’s it. Oh yes, just a bit more butter too. You cook it for a few minutes, turning and stirring until the Brussels are done and the orange juice has boiled down to a syrup. Serve while they’re hot. The preparation was really VERY easy. The recipe below is pretty-much Lamielle’s version except for the type of liquor, the fact that I didn’t flambé it, and I added fewer dried cranberries. And trust me, you’ll like them.
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Brussels Sprouts with Orange Brandy and Dried Cranberries

Recipe By: Adapted from Pierre A. Lamielle’s Kitchen Scraps
Serving Size: 4

20 whole Brussels sprouts
2 pinches salt
4 tablespoons butter — divided use
4 tablespoons brandy — or Gran Gala, or Triple Sec
2 whole orange — zest and juice
2 whole shallot — minced
2 sprigs fresh thyme — leaves only
1/3 cup dried cranberries

1. Place the Brussels sprout halves flat side down in a large frying pan. Cover halfway with cold water, and add a pinch of salt and half of the butter. Place the pan on high heat, and cook at a rip-roaring boil until almost all the water has evaporated.
2. Add the brandy and simmer briefly; then add the orange juice and zest, shallot, thyme leaves, dried cranberries, and the last of the butter all at the same time. Toss and cook for a couple more minutes until the sauce gets syrupy and glossy. Serve.
Per Serving: 212 Calories; 12g Fat (55.5% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 17g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 31mg Cholesterol; 208mg Sodium.

One year ago: French Green Beans with Pears and Parmesan
Two years ago: Armenian Rice Noodle Pilaf (oh, is this ever delicious!)
Three years ago: Beer Margaritas (I don’t like beer, but I like these)

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  1. Marie

    said on May 1st, 2010:

    Carol, with moving and all the turmoil going on in my life these past months I have not had a lot of time for blog hopping. First of all congrats on your blog anniversary! That is a great accomplishment! Everything looks so delicious as always! You post the nicest recipes! xxoo

    Thanks, Marie. Glad you’re settled into your new home. I read your blog regularly too. . . carolyn t

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