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Recently finished reading The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.

The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas. It’s a very, very good read. It tells the story of an older married woman who lives in a small mining town in the Colorado rockies (this is the mid-1800’s), and is well known by all because she’s the only midwife in the area. Often people can’t pay her anything, or very little for her days of service with little or no rest or food. Suddenly, a couple accuse her of strangling their infant. Hence the story is about how this small town rallies or rails for or against Gracy. She didn’t commit the crime, but not everyone can be convinced since the angry father is a wealthy and influential man in the area. There’s plenty of relationship issues here, which make really great fodder for a novel. And there are plenty of characters in the book that you’ll love or hate. Some secrets get dredged up too. Oh, such a good read.


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 Breads, on May 26th, 2010.

Most of you have probably never heard of sangak. It’s a bread. A wonderfully fragrant, thin stretchy sesame-topped bread. At a local market here, called Wholesome Choice, they carry a variety of ethnic foods, provide a full meat department, including helal, plus an indoor hot deli with ethnic foods from about 4-5 different cuisines.

Last week I stopped at Wholesome Choice in Irvine and while I shopped for produce, my DH waited in the hot bread line to buy a strip of sangak (also written sagnak sometimes). It’s an Iranian bread, cooked in a hot stone oven, and it’s popular in their culture. Sangak is/was the staple food of the Persian army. It’s soft, chewy, light, holey, stretchy, spongy and moist all at the same time. I absolutely love this stuff. The pieces are about 12-14 inches wide and probably 3-4 feet long. Maybe longer. A family of 4 would easily devour the entire thing.

When we buy it, it’s brought absolutely blistering hot right from the stone oven on a dowel and flopped over onto a piece of lightweight brown butcher paper. It’s loosely folded up and placed in your grocery cart. And I defy you to not have some as you browse the shelves or stand in the check-out line.

That night our longtime friend Joe came to visit and stay overnight with us. Instead of going out to eat (my choice), by popular demand, I brought out some leftovers and we made dinner with sangak, some Sabra brand hummus with lemon, grilled red bell peppers I had on hand, with some Feta, basil, olive oil and balsamic. We also had a little bit of leftover grilled Italian sausage. It was a heavenly light dinner. We ate all but about 6 inches of the sangak bread. I haven’t tried this technique yet (but was informed this works), but if you have leftover sangak, tear or cut it into pieces, layer it between waxed paper, seal in plastic and freeze it. When defrosted (eat it within a day or two) reheat it in a skillet or on the grill for just a brief time.

A year ago: Mini-Mocha Choc Chip Cookies
Two years ago: Field Greens with Fire Roasted Poblanos
Three years ago: Sausage Pinwheels

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  1. Pat Wilson

    said on September 30th, 2016:

    Thank you for your email recipes and narratives. I enjoy your writing and information on cooking interesting food.


    Thank you Pat! I’m glad my written meanderings are entertaining! . . . Carolyn T

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