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Just finished 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 want that kind of book – you may not want to read this one.

Also finished Julian Fellowes’s Belgravia. You know Julian Fellowes, the producer and writer of Downton Abbey? He lends his mind to a story about a family or two from the similar time period as Downton, who live in London. There’s some amount of intrigue, romance, observations from within the halls of wealthy Londoners and moderately well off tradesmen and their families. There’s affairs, shady business dealings, an illegitimate child, the comings and goings of the “downstairs” staff too, etc. The characters were well done – I had no trouble keeping all of the people identified. The story is somewhat predictable, but it was interesting clear up to the end.

The Letter by Kathyrn Hughes. It’s a very intricate tale. At first it’s about Tina, a battered wife [at which point I paused and wondered if I wanted to read any further, but I’m glad I did]. She tries to get the courage to leave her husband. Then enters the letter she finds in a suit pocket in the thrift shop where she volunteers. It’s old – sealed and stamped, but never mailed. Then you learn about Crissie, decades earlier, a young pregnant girl who is sent off to Ireland to a distant relative by her father, then to a rigid (meaning horrible) convent [the book takes place mostly in Manchester, England and in rural Ireland]. The letter is addressed to her. Jump forward decades and William, the adopted child Crissie gave up, tries to find his birth mother. William meets Tina in Ireland [a serendipitous moment] as she’s trying to find the woman to whom the letter is addressed. This book is the #2 best seller on Amazon at the moment. It’s a riveting tale and I really enjoyed it.

The Muralist: A Novel by Shapiro. It tells the story of a young woman, an artist, who was part of the U.S.’s WPA mural project from the 1930s-40s (she is fiction, the WPA is not). As with so many artists, even today, they live in abject poverty through much of their lives. This woman, though, had family in France, desperately trying to escape before Hitler’s henchmen rousted them into concentration camps. The story, a bit of a mystery but not of the mystery-genre, is about Alizée Benoit, this young painter, who slightly captivates Eleanor Roosevelt’s help. It also skips into current time when the painter’s great-niece uncovers paintings she believes were painted by her aunt. The painter had disappeared into thin air in 1940, and her relative tries desperately to find out what happened to her. It’s a really good story including such Abstract Expressionist painters as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner well-woven into the narrative. It keeps you guessing right up to the end. A good read. The author also wrote The Art Forger: A Novel a few years ago.

Also recently read 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 free-lance 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 family was 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 an old (wild) 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. Just read this one first!

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 Pasta, Salads, on July 4th, 2007.


I’d forgotten about this salad and how much I love it until last weekend when I went to Joan’s daughter’s home to greet their newly adopted infant, and Joan had made it as part of a lovely luncheon. Joan is rather “famous” for this salad – it’s one other people request too, not just me. We used to have season tickets to our local summer symphony series, and we’ve had many a picnic dinner on the lawn at the amphitheater, and every time Joan and Tom would attend I requested she make this. And she graciously gave the recipe to several people. So, thanks very much, Joan. I needed a salad for an outdoor dinner, and this just fit the bill.

Nothing about it is hard. It probably takes about 40 minutes to make it, including boiling the pasta. Be sure to not overcook the pasta. You don’t have to use penne, but that’s the way Joan makes it, and that’s the type I prefer too. You can add more sun-dried tomatoes if you wish – her recipe calls for 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup. I used 1/4. And our basil plant is proliferating, so I pruned it back for this salad. The basil is crucial in my opinion. It also will keep a few days, although it’s best the day it’s made.
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Joan’s Pasta Salad

Serving Size : 10
Serving Ideas: If this is served as a main course, it would probably serve about 6 people.

SALAD:
1 pound penne rigate — cooked al dente
1 cup cherry tomatoes — halved
1/4 to 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes — chopped
4 ounces Feta cheese — crumbled
1 cup Parmesan cheese — Fresh, grated
1/2 cup Italian parsley — chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil — chopped
1/2 cup green onion — chopped
1/2 cup pine nuts — toasted
DRESSING:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt — or more to taste
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic — minced
1/4 teaspoon sugar

Make dressing and set aside. Gather salad ingredients in a large bowl and pour dressing over. May be served immediately or chilled, but bring it back to room temp.
Per Serving: 382 Calories; 20g Fat (46.5% calories from fat); 13g Protein; 39g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 16mg Cholesterol; 529mg Sodium.

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  1. Anonymous

    said on July 7th, 2007:

    Carolyn,
    I copied this into my Master Cook program from our friend Joan. It looks yummy. Do you use sun dried tomatoes in oil and dried ones that you rehydrate?
    Your MC Pal …..Linda
    P.S. Thanks for everything!

  2. Carolyn T

    said on July 7th, 2007:

    Yes, I use sun dried in oil. You just blot some of the oil off before cutting them up. I have used dried ones, but it’s better with oil.

  3. yvette

    said on April 1st, 2012:

    I have been wanting to make this pasta salad for some time because it
    is listed under “Carolyn’s Favorites”. It belongs there ! I have never been crazy about pasta salads until this one !
    The dressing was an extra bonus on the pasta salad.

    Thanks, Yvette. My friend Joan will be happy to hear it! . . . carolyn T

  4. Jeannie Wolff

    said on September 25th, 2012:

    This salad is awesome!!! It deserves 10 stars! Thank you very much for sharing your friend’s recipe. My husband and I made this salad for dinner last night and today we’re still in awe of it. 🙂 BTW, is there something you can do with garlic so there’s not such a strong lingering aftertaste? That’s the only negative.

    Hi Jeannie – yes, there is something you can do: (1) Mix the dressing up the day before and let it sit; (2) Use a lot less garlic; (3) Cook the garlic just a little bit in a bit of oil (I’ve never done that, but it would be possible); or (4) Use garlic powder instead of fresh garlic. Try those things and see how it goes. I love it because of the maximum garlic flavor in it, but I know not everyone does. . . carolyn t

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