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Just finished 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 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 parents were 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 a old 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.

Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong. Have you ever read about forensic dentistry? I sure had not, so I found it fascinating reading. It’s a debut novel for the author, and what a story. Halina, an Australian, with Polish roots, specializes in this obscure profession as a forensic dentist, and is asked to go to Poland, to help identify bone (and tooth) fragments, to put to rest a sad event in the story of this small town, when many, many people (Jews) were murdered. Was it the Nazis? Or was it the local townspeople who disliked the Jews. What a tangled web of intrigue, including Halina’s own mysterious past. I really enjoyed the read. The author does a great job of developing the characters (which I always like). This is no light read if you consider the subject matter, although it IS a novel (but based on fact). Nor is it a spy thriller – it’s more just an historical novel with lots of interesting people throughout. There’s a romance thrown in too, and a whole lot of angst about the discoveries found in the mass grave. But, the subject expanded my knowledge about forensics.

The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr. I just LOVED this book. I’ve never been much of a fan of Caravaggio’s paintings, although I’ve seen plenty of them (many are extremely large) in museums around the world. His paintings were dark, often with dark subjects. But as with many of the old masters, occasionally some obscure work surfaces, perhaps credited to another artist, even, that turns out to be one done by “the” master. In this case, Caravaggio. Although this book is written as a novel (with dialogue, etc.) it’s historical through and through. It begins with two young women art scholars, in Italy, who are asked to do a research project. One thing leads to another, and to another. All true.  If you enjoy books about art – I learned some things about the paint and the canvases of the time – you’ll be intrigued as I was.

Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press, by James, McGrath Morris. Each year my AAUW book club reads something related to Black History Month. This is a biography of a woman you’ve probably never heard of, Ethel Payne, and about her life-long journey in journalism, struggling to keep her head above water financially, but staying true to her purposes of telling the truth about the black stories and black racism of the day. Sometimes biographies aren’t all that riveting, but I found this one to be so, and I savored each new chapter. We had a really good discussion of the book, and the ups and downs of Payne’s life, especially during her years as a Washington reporter. You’ll not be sorry to have spent the time reading this book. It’s well-written, as well. I was thrilled when the author, Morris, left a message here on my blog, thanking me (and my group) for reading his book.

H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald. This one has been on the best seller list. It’s a memoir about a woman who takes on a personal challenge of taming a wild hawk. Prior to reading this book, I knew next to nothing about the entire subject of hawking, or taming any of the big, wild birds. The book is equally about the writer’s inner journey. She’s a consummate writer, and every page was a joy of words, for me. My only problem is my own – I found it hard, the more time that went by, and the more time the writer spent trying to tame this bird, to scream out “let the bird go.” Perhaps it’s because I spent time in Africa in 2015, seeing animals in the wild, that I felt more for the bird than I did with the writer’s discontent with herself and the taming process. Little did I know what a hard job it is to tame a hawk. I actually didn’t finish the book. It was a book club read, and highly recommended by several of our members. And I ended up not being able to attend the meeting as I had a cold. So perhaps there is some great ending to it that would have made me feel better. I haven’t gone to the end to find out. I just had to stop reading it. But I’m not NOT recommending it. If nothing else, read it for Macdonald’s sublime proficiency with words.

Also read George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade and Dan Yaeger. Here’s what it says on amazon: When George Washington beat a hasty retreat from New York City in August 1776, many thought the American Revolution might soon be over. Instead, Washington rallied—thanks in large part to a little-known, top-secret group called the Culper Spy Ring. He realized that he couldn’t defeat the British with military might, so he recruited a sophisticated and deeply secretive intelligence network to infiltrate New York. I won’t exactly call this book a riveting read, but it was interesting. Relating facts that few people knew about, this Culper Spy Ring. It’s a little chunk of American history researched in depth by the authors. An interesting read.

Also read The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George. If you’re an avid reader, you probably have the same kind of longing as I do for a quaint, independently owned bookstore right around the corner. So few exist anymore. This novel is about a very unusual book store, and book store owner. In Paris. On a boat/barge. It’s not a typical book store, and the writer takes you on a journey of discovery about (likely) her own lifetime of book reading. You’ll learn all about a variety of existing books and why they’re a good read. But it’s all cloaked in a story about this book store and the owner. And the customers. Very fun. I’m reviewing it for one of my book clubs next month.

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 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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