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me_in_paris_198That’s me, on a trip,  sitting in a Paris restaurant.
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Just finished a page-turner of a book, Before the Fall by Noah Hawley. It grabbed me nearly from the first sentence. A small group of people take a private jet out of Martha’s Vineyard. Sixteen minutes later the plane crashes into the ocean. Two survive, a 4-year old boy and a single guy, a painter, who ended up on the plane almost by happenchance. What might have looked more like a fluke accident turns a bit sinister when you begin to know all of the people on the plane, including the two pilots and the flight attendant; the parents of the young boy, and a few others. Each person is scrutinized through the author’s lens and his/her culpability is analyzed. The painter and the boy form a bond because the man rescues the child and they swim miles and miles to shore. It’s just riveting. It’s not a James Bond type of thriller, but a real-life kind of drilling down into the core of each person on the plane.

Eight Hundred Grapes: A Novel by Laura Dave. I bought it because it’s about Sebastapol, a cute little town in California wine country, in Sonoma County, although it’s on the fringes of the more mainstream wineries. A daughter of a friend of mine recently moved there, and when I visited her a few months ago, I was charmed by the cute downtown and the small village feel to it. Anyway, although the backdrop of the entire book is about the winery, the wines, the fields, the processes of wine making, it’s more about the family relationships. It seems that everyone (mom, dad, 2 sons, wife of one, a daughter [who is the protagonist] and her fiance and his ex-girlfriend) is in the midst of extreme turmoil. I swear, when I think about authors as they toil away in their aeries writing, they compile a big long list on a huge whiteboard of all the different awful things (divorce, affairs, fistfights, love lost, love gained, screaming and yelling, public drunkenness) they can make happen in one book and they pick and choose, yet make every effort to pack in as many of them as they can. No one in this family is immune from high levels of emotion and action or acting out about something or many things. I enjoyed the book despite those character flaws which occur on nearly every page. You have compassion for each one of them. Yet they’re a close family nonetheless. I haven’t read any of Laura Dave’s other books, but I suspect this one will be a winner. It’s not on any best-seller lists, but amongst book club readers, I believe it’s a strong contender.

When one of my book groups gathered last week, we discussed a bunch of books that we might read for our next Sept-August “year.” We select them all, for the whole year, in advance. On the list of 18 possible ones (we’ll read nine only) was an old classic – I guess you could call it a classic – Plainsong – by Kent Haruf. Since it was published some years ago I dropped by the library, and sure enough, they had a copy. I came home and devoured it in one fell swoop. What a story. Tender, yet harsh in some respects. It tells the story of a group of small-town people (a teacher – a man separated from his wife, but he has the 2 boys who both play prominent roles in the book; a single woman caring for her aging and Alzheimer’s driven father; a young teenage girl who should have known better, but got pregnant; a couple of very old brothers, both single, struggling along with their ranch). All this takes place in a small town in eastern Colorado. I laughed. I cried. I wanted to reach through the pages to some of these characters to give them a hug. It’s a winner of a book. I may have to read more of Haruf’s books. The prose is spare, yet you can feel the anguish, the pain, the love, the caring. What a book!

You may have heard about this woman, Marina Chapman . . . she was kidnapped at about age 4 in Columbia. She was eventually discarded in the jungle. This, just a few days after her capture. No humans. No help. She learned to survive in the jungle and was taken in by a large Capuchin monkey family. She had no language, much, except sounds she learned amongst the monkeys. She lived for some years in the jungle, all alone. Eventually she saw some humans and followed them, was made a slave. Terribly treated, nearly starved, and was being primed as a prostitute, but she escaped that too. Her story is harrowing, and yet uplifting. She did escape eventually, in her mid-teens and grew up from there with a kind, loving family in Bogota. Her adult daughter helped her to write the stories – most of which she wanted to forget. The book is The Girl With No Name: The Incredible Story of a Child Raised by Monkeys by Marina Chapman and Lynne Barrett-Lee. National Geographic highlighted her story awhile back, and she appeared on some morning TV shows when the book came out in 2014. The author is writing a sequel, about Chapman’s life after she was rescued. I’ll be watching for that as this book leaves you hanging – only knowing that she was rescued and went to Bogota.

Just finished reading a very unusual book, certainly not on everyone’s radar – Once an Arafat Man: The True Story of How a PLO Sniper Found a New Life by Tass Saada. It’s about an angry young Palestinian. He felt wronged; he felt despised; his father didn’t understand him. He escaped his family’s plan for his life and became a PLO sniper. He killed many people. He killed Israelis and was elated. He was sent to the United States and big plans were in store for him, he thought. And then he discovered a new life as a Christian. It didn’t happen overnight, and he had many questions along the way. His family disowned him, yet he persevered. He met an American woman, married her, and had children. And he became an activist for change. It’s a fascinating story. He now speaks around the world, for peace and understanding about the Palestinian problem(s). It’s quite a book, and I’m glad I read it.

 

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.

Scroll down to the bottom to view my Blogroll

Posted in Desserts, on May 20th, 2010.

With friends coming over for a Scrabble-fest, I needed a morning kind of bread. I had mis-filed this recipe in the “bread” section. It was only after I’d gathered all the ingredients together that I read – oh, this is actually a dessert, even though it says corn bread. But, well, maybe it would be okay anyway, I hoped. And yes, it was! Clearly, it is a dessert – it’s sweet (although it’s certainly not as sweet as I’d anticipated) and crunchy from the cornmeal. It was very easy to make.

I’d read the recipe over on FoodGal’s blog last year. It’s from Sherry Yard’s cookbook Desserts by the Yard: From Brooklyn to Beverly Hills: Recipes from the Sweetest Life Ever (she of Spago pastry chef fame). Food Gal absolutely raved about this recipe, calling it a star, and billed it as an academy-award winning corn bread [dessert]. With those words, I knew I had to try it sometime. Making the bread/cake itself was fairly ordinary (although there is more sugar than in a bread, of course). Once out of the oven, though, the cake is brushed with a honey-water-butter mixture that sinks into the holes you’ve made all over the top of the cake. You can barely see in the photo above the honey mixture as it sunk part-way down. I topped it with some powdered sugar; just because. I didn’t want my guests to be confused this was a bread. Results? It was very good. And I liked it because it wasn’t as sweet as some corn cakes could have been!
printer-friendly PDF

Honey-Glazed Spago Corn Bread (Cake)

Recipe By: From “Desserts By the Yard” by Sherry Yard, via Foodgal blog 7/09
Serving Size: 12

CAKE:
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cake flour
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 large eggs — at room temperature
3 ounces unsalted butter — (3/4 stick)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk
1/2 cup buttermilk
GLAZE:
3 ounces unsalted butter — (3/4 stick)
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup water

1. Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-by13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil and spray foil with baker’s spray.
2. Sift together cornmeal, all-purpose flour, cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt 2 times. Set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs. Melt butter and immediately whisk into eggs in a slow stream. Whisk in oil, milk, and buttermilk. Whisk in dry ingredients just until combined.
4. Scrape batter into the pan and bake for 30 minutes. Rotate pan from front to back and continue to bake for 10 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
5. To make the glaze: While corn bread is baking, melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add honey and water, and whisk until blended.
6. When corn bread is done, remove from oven and poke holes all over the bread, about 1/2 inch apart, with a toothpick. Brush with the glaze and allow to cool.
Per Serving: 372 Calories; 20g Fat (48.4% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 43g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 105mg Cholesterol; 557mg Sodium.

A year ago: Stewed Eggplant and Tomatoes
Two years ago: Almond Pound Cake with Limoncello
Three years ago: Mister Charlie (casserole)

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  1. Carolyn Jung

    said on April 20th, 2011:

    Glad you loved this recipe as much as I did. The powdered sugar is an inspired touch, too. You remind me that I need to make another batch of this soon to satisfy my craving. 😉

    Yes, indeed, we liked them a lot. Thanks for visiting my blog . . . carolyn t

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