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me_in_paris_198That’s me, on a trip, in a Paris restaurant.
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On a recent road trip, I listened to 2 books on CD that I checked out of the library. With long stretches of highway with nothing to occupy my time, I love doing books on CD. The better of the 2 was definitely Frances Mayes’ new memoir, Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir. She narrates the story herself, and I just loved hearing her southern accent all the way through, her lilting, slow manner of speaking. She tells the story of her youth, from as young as she can remember to about age 25 or so, with most of it her coming-of-age in her teens. Her parents were alcoholics. Her older sisters were away at college. She wasn’t from a wealthy family exactly, but there was some money, a maid that she loved dearly who protected her from her parents sometimes. A grandmother figures large for some of the years. Her thought processes are normal, although she says from the get-go that she always felt she was different than most people, not a traditionalist for sure. Having read her other books, I never picked up on all the angst she experienced as a young woman, a girl, really. I absolutely LOVED the book. Mayes has a gift of prose – of a kind you don’t often read – she uses amazing language and phrases, adverbs and adjectives. Describes scenes so well and with such detail you just know you’re right there beside her.  Didn’t want it to end. As I reached across to the passenger seat to pull out the last CD I was sad, knowing the story was coming to an end. Because she ended it at about age 25, I suspect there may be another book in her future. For several days after I listened to this book I could hear Mayes’ southern accent in my head (like I hear memorable music when I attend a concert or sing a hymn or praise song at church). Her voice resonated in my head. If you enjoy memoirs, and reading about a kind of a crazy family, AND you like Frances Mayes, well, then, you’ll like this book for sure.

The other book, that I am sorry to say I cannot recommend is Sue Miller’s book, The Senator’s Wife (Vintage Contemporaries). Reading the back of the CD box I wasn’t sure, but I took it anyway. And at first I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue listening to it (when the young woman digs into her neighbor’s personal letters when she’s supposedly taking in the mail and watering plants), then got engrossed in the story. It’s about a young couple who move to a new house, part of a duplex in New England. Their next door neighbor is the aging and somewhat estranged wife of a Washington Senator. The young woman is far too curious about her neighbor and her neighbor’s marriage, what there is of it, although she cares about her neighbor a lot. The chapters switch back and forth between the young wife and the aging woman next door with their personal daily trivia, interspersed with some drama on both sides. The Senator is a philanderer, hence the partial estrangement. The young woman has a baby and consequently spends lots of time at home, overwhelmed with motherhood, hoping for something to change her life. When the Senator has a stroke and returns “home” for his “wife” to care for him (her choice) the plot thickens. The young wife is asked to babysit, so to speak, for an hour or so once a week for the old man, and that’s when, something happens that sickened me. I disliked this young woman and felt her behavior was just so disappointing. I couldn’t continue. If you like that sort of thing, then maybe you’d like the book. I was on the last CD when the story took this turn, and I was sorry I’d wasted so many hours on it to get there. Friendship isn’t about betrayal – it isn’t a friendship then. If any of you have read this already and want to comment, send me an email. Go to my contact page above.

Read Maude by Donna Mabry. It’s a true story (but written as a novel) about the author’s grandmother, Maude. It takes place from the early 1900s to her death in the 1960s. She lived a hard, hard life (mostly in Detroit), and there’s information that even takes me back to things I vaguely remember about my own grandmother’s life. I was fascinated. I won’t say that I couldn’t put it down, but I looked forward each night to read what was going to happen next. It’s hard to tell you much about the book without revealing too much of the story – I won’t call it a happy book, because there is much sadness within its pages, but you admire Maude for what she did, the role she played, her inherent grit. But I wanted to smack her 2nd husband! A good read, though.

While I was on my 3-week trip to Europe, I read 5 books. Of them all, Sgt. Reckless: America’s War Horse by Robin Hutton, was by far the best story, a true story about an American Marine. Many books have been written about Sgt Reckless, this rather nondescript, small Mongolian mare that was purchased by American forces in Korea in the height of the war. She was reared as a race horse, but she spent her career as an heroic soldier for our military, saving countless lives as she willingly delivered munitions from one place to another. Everyone who came in contact with her loved her. She became a regular soldier, mostly so they could requisition food for her. Sometimes she survived on next to nothing to eat. She aimed to please, and please she did, as in one 24-hour period she ferried ammunition up steep slopes (too steep for soldiers to climb) and she did it all by herself. When the Marines unloaded her cargo, she immediately worked her way down for more. She knew what she was supposed to do. She was highly intelligent, amazing many people over the course of her life. If you love animal stories, you’ll love this one. Have a Kleenex box nearby.

Another really riveting story, one I could hardly put down, is The Headmaster’s Wager by Vincent Lam. My friend Joan recommended this one to me. Most likely  you’ve never read anything about Chinese immigrants living in South Vietnam during the war there, right? Neither had I. And you have to keep track of who is who, and the politics of the time. The Vietnamese don’t like Chinese people, so there’s that going on. The Chinese man runs an English school somewhere near Saigon. He has a right hand man who may or may not be what he appears to be. The Chinese man has a son who gets himself into trouble. Oh, webs woven every which way. As I said, I could hardly put it down. Will make a very good book club read.

IN THE POWDER ROOM: The guest half-bath in my house has a little tiny table with a pile of books that I change every now and then. They’re books that might pique someone’s interest even if for a very short read. The Art of Travel, a collection of essays about traveling (it’s not a how-to), gathering a variety of stories of some historic authors and where and why they traveled; The Greatest Stories Never Told; and Sara Midda’s South of France; also Forgotten Bookmarks: A Bookseller’s Collection of Odd Things Lost Between the Pages (just the cutest book – with a miscellany of things – letters, grocery lists, notes, reminders, confessions the author discovered hidden inside the books he purchased for his used bookstore).

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small engraved sterling silver tea spoons that I use to taste as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Cookies, on July 12th, 2008.

one bowl chocolate chip, thin and buttery cookies
You’ve heard it here before – I have a very hard time passing up any chocolate chip cookie recipe. Good old Tollhouse is still my fav, but occasionally I’m tempted by another. Fickle cookie person that I am! What made this one unique was cornstarch. I know, cornstarch in a cookie? As I was reading Anna’s blog, Cookie Madness (I don’t know HOW that girl makes so many cookies, sometimes 2-3 batches a DAY!), she was talking about her very favorite CC cookie recipe, from Wellesley. She elaborated that they’re not the best-est looking cookie in the parade, but they’re thin, buttery and crispy, if you bake them right. She also mentioned that there’s a very fine line between looking done, and being just right – with crispy edges – and being overdone. That’s the secret. All RIGHT, I thought. Let’s give this a try.

Anna talked about the difficulty with her perfect recipe, of baking these so they come out at the perfect stage, so she decided to add one tablespoon of cornstarch. Hoping to encourage the crisp edges, but deter the overdone cookie. I’m never sure about adding either more liquid (like a dash of coffee, for instance) or dry stuff, just because it could change the chemistry of a cookie, big time. I’m glad she tried the combination. It works! In this case I did add some walnuts. If you’re a CC cookie purist, then you’ll omit those, I guess.

These cookies were easy as pie to mix up. Oh, that phrase is a misnomer. Pie isn’t easy, according to me. But you get my drift. One bowl? Yes. Thin? Yes. Buttery? Oh yes. Delicious. Oh my yes. I think my first batch got overdone – I saw what she meant about the fine line. I baked these one pan at a time as Anna suggested . . . I used a Silpat on the cookie sheet . . . and when I peeked at the cookies at 10 minutes, they didn’t show any sign of crispy (browner) edges, so I left them in for ONE MORE MINUTE. At 11 minutes they were too done. Oh, dear! So, the next pan I cut down the time by 30 seconds. Still too done. Maybe the 10 minutes was right. But, you do have to remember, that once the pan is hot, when you put in the second batch, they’ll take less time. So I still have a bit of learning to do with this recipe. But it doesn’t matter once you taste them! When I removed them from the oven, believe it or not, you could actually see light through some of the cookies, they’re that thin. Notice in the picture that the top cookie almost looks slumped. My husband looked at them and said “what’s wrong with those cookies?” Hah. Funny guy.

If you like soft crumbly cookies, this recipe is NOT for you. But if, like me, you love crispy crunchy cookies, these guys will float your boat. And also providing you don’t mind eating or serving some ugly ducklings! My one time fling may turn into an affair. We’ll have to see. Thank you, Anna, for sharing this wonderful recipe with us.
printer-friendly PDF

One Bowl Thin & Buttery Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe By: Anna from Cookie Madness
Servings: 36

8 tablespoons unsalted butter — room temp (114 grams)
1/2 cup light brown sugar — packed (100 grams)
6 tablespoons granulated sugar — (78 grams)
1 teaspoon vanilla — (5 ml)
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt — (2.5 ml)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda — (2.5 ml)
1 tablespoon cornstarch — (15 ml)
1 cup flour — (4.75 oz) – (135 grams) — scooped
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips — (270 grams)
2/3 cup chopped walnuts — optional (my addition)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C) and have ready an ungreased cookie sheet – preferably one that is not insulated (I used a Silpat).
2. Beat the butter, both types sugars, and vanilla together in a medium bowl, using an electric mixer. When creamy, beat in the egg. When egg is well blended, add salt and baking soda and beat well, scraping sides of bowl once or twice and making sure baking soda is well distributed throughout batter. Add cornstarch and stir until blended. Add flour and stir (do not beat) until it is almost blended in. Add the chocolate chips (and nuts if you use them) and stir until all flour disappears.
3. Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto the ungreased cookie sheets. Bake one sheet at a time on center rack for 8-10 minutes or until edges are golden brown. The cookies should get very brown around the edges, but do take care not to burn the bottoms.
Per Serving: 184 Calories; 11g Fat (51.1% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 21g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 21mg Cholesterol; 84mg Sodium.

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  1. Anna

    said on July 12th, 2008:

    Hi Carolyn!

    I’m glad you liked the cookies. Also, yours look gorgeous! Maybe it’s the way you arranged them in the photo, but I think they look delicious.

    As for burning and crispness issues, I like cooking mine on a non-insulated cookie sheet because I like the crispness even if it means I need to be diligent in checking the time. However, an insulated cookie sheet might work almost as well and would definitely prevent browning on the bottom. So I might go ahead and test some on an insulated sheet too.

  2. Carolyn

    said on July 14th, 2008:

    Maybe the secret would be using parchment paper. The Silpat may act as an insulator, but the parchment might be better. I’ll have to try that next time instead. I’m still loving these cookies – they are the most crisp cookie I’ve ever eaten, and the taste is just superb.

  3. Jerianne

    said on February 22nd, 2014:

    I really like this One-Bowl,Thin and Crispy CC Cookies. Mmmmmm

    Let’s get together some time next month??? I need a Carolyn fix! 😀

    Thanks for all your hard work putting your excellent blog together.

    I’m glad you liked those. I do too, obviously! . . . carolyn

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