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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 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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