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On my recent road trip, I visited one of my local libraries and borrowed 5 books on tape. We listened to 3 of them. I’m a big fan of Craig Johnson, the author of a series of mysteries taking place in Wyoming, and a TV series on Netflix called Longmire. This book, A Serpent’s Tooth: A Longmire Mystery was really complex. Hard to explain, but it’s about graft and greed and oil. Worth reading, for sure. Also read Stone Kiss by Faye Kellerman, another complex mystery about Lt Decker, an LA cop who journeys to NYC to help out his family when a murder occurs. Lots of violence in this one.  Not particularly a fav book, I’d venture. Then read Leaving Time: A Novel by Jodi Picoult. I’ve read most of her books – always very riveting. In this book, you’ll learn a whole lot about elephants since the protagonist in it is a young girl whose mother disappeared when she was quite young. Her parents ran an elephant sanctuary in New Hampshire. In the ensuing years, Jenna has tried to find clues as to her mother’s whereabouts because she just cannot believe her mother would have up and abandoned her. There are a whole cast of characters (her mother, her father, employees at the sanctuary, a cop or two, and a psychic). All play fairly prominent roles. Fascinating book – I really liked it, almost as much for the education about the behavior of elephants as about the mystery. A great read.

Also on the trip, I read a book (on Kindle) for one of my book clubs, The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin. It’s about the relationship between Truman Capote and his “swans,” a group of aging high society ladies, and specifically Beth Paley. I don’t know whether to recommend this book or not. Truman Capote was not a nice man, although the whole novel (vs. non-fiction, which this is not) is conjured from speculation about the years Truman was kind of adopted by the group of women. He cared about all of them (most were married/divorced, wealthy women) but in the end he betrays them all by writing a novella about their secrets, their marriages, their affairs (theirs or their spouses, information they’d all shared with him, thinking he could be trusted with their innermost secrets). It was scandalous, and yes, all that part is true. I finished the book, but almost felt like I’d read a “dirty book.” There is no graphic detail in this book – it’s just what Capote did to destroy these women, supposedly his dear, darling “swans.” He was the villain in the book, and in his old age . . . well, I won’t spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it.

I’ve written up an entire blog post about this book. (It hasn’t been posted yet, but will soon.) 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 Siena (and also San Gimignano) as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.

 

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, easy, on July 16th, 2011.

rhubarb_crisp

Oh, do I love rhubarb. As I was growing up, my mother used to have a rhubarb patch in our back yard. She’d never let me go cut any of it, though, since the leaves are poisonous. My mom and dad liked stewed rhubarb. Period. Although once in awhile my mother would make a rhubarb pie, perhaps for guests. I rarely make anything with rhubarb because my DH knows that rhubarb requires a lot of sugar to make it palatable. Therefore, he avoids it most of the time and I never make it because of that.

Picnik collageBut when were visiting our friends Sue and Lynn, and I asked to help with dinner, she handed me the printout for this one afternoon and I made it according to her recipe. Dave said yes, he’d have some. He loved it. I loved it. Sue and Lynn loved it, of course.

This recipe is quite simple – it comes from cooks.com. One of dozens of such recipes, but this one’s a winner, I think.

You mix up a crumble of oatmeal, flour, sugar, and some melted butter, etc. and half of it goes in the bottom of a glass baking dish. Then the fresh chunked rhubarb goes in on top of it. That’s what you can see in the top photo at left with the cornstarch-based clear sauce that’s poured over the top. The remaining crumbs are sprinkled on top.

Into the oven it goes for about an hour. Or longer if the top doesn’t quite brown sufficiently. You do want it to be a golden brown when it comes out of the oven. The baked version is in the lower photo.

During the baking the sauce and the rhubarb marry and create a lovely loose fruit mixture and the crumbs on top add a delicious crunch.

Serve it with vanilla ice cream or pour over some half and half. Whichever suits you! Thanks, Sue, for a great recipe.

What I liked about it: the flavor, the texture of the topping. Not too sweet. Not too sour. Just right, as the saying goes. Also easy!

What I didn’t like: absolutely nothing.

printer-friendly PDF

Rhubarb Crisp

Recipe By: From my friend, Susan L. (from cooks.com)
Serving Size: 7

1 cup flour
3/4 cup oatmeal
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter — melted (1 cube)
1 cup water
4 cups rhubarb — in 1/2″ chunks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch

1. In a bowl mix flour, oatmeal, brown sugar, cinnamon and melted butter. Place half of the mixture in the bottom of a 9×9 glass baking dish
2. Add raw rhubarb on top.
3. Combine in a pan the water, vanilla, sugar and cornstarch. Cook over low heat until the mixture thickens. Pour over rhubarb and top with remaining crumb mixture.
4. Bake at 350° for 50-60 minutes (or longer) until crust is brown. Serve with vanilla ice cream or half and half poured over it.
5. You may substitute 2 cups of strawberries for 2 cups of rhubarb – if so, use 1 more T. of cornstarch.
Per Serving: 429 Calories; 14g Fat (28.8% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 74g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 35mg Cholesterol; 147mg Sodium.

A year ago: Caribbean Rice
Two years ago: Corn – everything you ever wanted to know about it
Three years ago: Peaches and Nectarines – everything you ever wanted to know about them
Four years ago: The BEST Bean Salad (a Paul Prudhomme recipe, very low calorie and VERY good)

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