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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 December 8th, 2010.

saffron basmati rice

After we had our big turkey dinner on Thanksgiving I piled all the bones, a bit of the skin, and some of the meat that I chose not to pick off, into my big crockpot and left it to simmer with a couple of quarts of water. It simmered overnight. By morning I had this lovely big pan full of thick turkey stock. Along with a bunch of little, tender pieces of turkey too (you can see a long strand of it in the left foreground above). After saving the meat pieces, I strained the broth to remove all the bones, skin and some of the little pieces of junky tissue, and it had almost no fat in it.

leftover turkey with basmati

Going to my to-try file I found a recipe that I’d read on someone else’s blog. I wasn’t so enamored with it as the blogger was (see link in last sentence below). My DH said “you can throw out the rest of that.” Sigh. I haven’t, because I figure I’ll eat it, even if he won’t. It’s rare that I make something my hubby simply won’t eat, but this dish was one. (Not the rice, just the turkey part.)

This reminds me of a story  . . . but let me just say about this above recipe, that I altered the ingredients a little. That sets the stage for my story  . . . years ago I was good friends with a gal who went to college with me. She married the same week I did (this was in 1962), and we ended up moving close to one another (by happenstance). In a matter of 5 years she had a whole passel of children, was a stay-at-home mom of the first order. Cooked everything from scratch, including all her own bread. One day she made a dessert – let’s just say it was a kind of Boston cream pie dessert – and raved about it, and she shared the recipe with me. A few weeks later I made it, but was short on time and I used a box mix for the yellow cake and a package of quick-cooking pudding for part of the filling. I wasn’t so thrilled with the results and mentioned it to my friend [one of my early lessons – if it’s your friend’s recipe, you don’t always tell your friends everything]. She quizzed me about what I’d done. After telling her how I’d changed the recipe to save time, she was hugely annoyed and informed me that if I wasn’t going to make things exactly the way she gave me the recipe, then she wasn’t going to give me any more recipes! It’s now 45 years later, and I still remember her lecturing me! She and her family moved to Oregon in the 1970’s and we’ve lost touch.

So perhaps, because I changed the recipe I made here today, it wasn’t like the recipe I printed out. The blogger would probably scold me for not adhering to her recipe exactly. She had used fresh, raw chicken, marinated it in yogurt and stuff, then flash-fried it. No sauce at all (there’s no sauce in the picture above, just some nuts on top). Me? Well, I had leftover turkey. So I coated the nice tender bite-sized breast meat pieces with the yogurt mixture and flash fried it too (quickly, as it didn’t need any cooking, just warming). The mixture was a tad on the dry side – but maybe it’s supposed to be that way – it’s a rice dish, not a curry or a stew. But it was too dry for me. So with the leftovers of that I added a jar of Trader Joe’s Thai green chile curry sauce. That almost made it worse!

BUT, the rice was fantastic, so I’m giving you that part. It will be made again. And again. Because of the texture of the rice (it’s actually more like a pilaf) and the flavor (saffron). I made a nice big batch of it and will freeze quart-sized freezer bags of it for future meals. It’s a Nigella Lawson recipe.

printer-friendly PDF

Saffron Basmati Rice Pilaf

Recipe By: Originally a Nigella Lawson recipe
Serving Size: 8

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 1/4 cups basmati rice
4 cups turkey stock — or chicken broth
1 whole lemon — zest and juice
1 teaspoon saffron threads
3 whole cardamom pods — gently crushed with meat mallet
2 tablespoons pistachio nuts — or other nut for garnish

1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter with olive oil. Once it’s shimmery hot, add the rice, stirring it to coat the rice. Allow to cook, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes. Add the saffron, cardamom seeds, turkey or chicken stock, and the lemon zest and juice.
2. Bring to a boil and cover tightly. Turn heat to very low and cook until the rice has absorbed all the liquid, about 10-15 minutes. Do not over cook the rice.
Per Serving: 226 Calories; 5g Fat (21.8% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 38g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 4mg Cholesterol; 1123mg Sodium.

A year ago: Butternut Squash Soup with Amaretti Cookie Crumbles
Two years ago: Chocolate Mousse in the Blender
Three years ago: Harlequin Pinwheels

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