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Just finished reading The German Girl: A Novel by Correa. It chronicles the story of a wealthy German Jewish family in Berlin, as the Nazis arrive and make life a living hell. The family is lucky (I guess you could say this) to be allowed to purchase passage on the M.S. St. Louis, a passenger liner, to take them to “the Americas.” The destination is actually Cuba. The story is told from two voices – the teenage daughter in this story, and from a current-day distant family member who is trying to learn about her ancestry. Of the 900+ passengers on the ship, only a few were allowed to disembark since the Cuban President decided he needed more money to accept them. Most families had no money left, as the Reich had taken nearly all of their assets. The daughter and her very eccentric mother were allowed to stay in Cuba.  The remaining passengers are rejected by the U.S. too, and eventually return to Europe, where most of the Jews end up dying in concentration camps. The story goes back and forth from the 1939 journey to current day as the link between the two women is slowly revealed. I had a tough time sometimes, tracking the people in this book, but the story was very riveting. It’s based on facts about the ship (see Wikipedia link above if you’re interested). A shameful chapter in history.

Recently finished reading a magnificent historical novel. Not new. Philippa Gregory has been a favorite author of mine for a couple of decades. You may remember her most famous book, The Other Boleyn Girl, published some years ago. I thought that was a really great book. I’ve read other books by Gregory, but most recently I read The King’s Curse (The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels). The time period is the 1450s to 1541, mostly under the rule of King Henry VIII, the infamous womanizer and wife/Queen-killer. The man who cursed Rome/the Pope because he wanted his first marriage annulled because Queen Catherine couldn’t produce a living male heir. And subsequently made himself the head of the church in England in order to do so. It was a Catholic country at the time. This story (it’s fiction, but woven with intricate historical detail) is from the voice of a lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine, Margaret of York, later titled Countess of Salisbury, but a Plantagenet in her own right (which is key to the later events in the book). Certainly I’ve read other novels over the years that dealt with Henry VIII, but not with this much breadth of info. What a wicked, sinful man he was. And did I say tyrant. Wow.  I could hardly put it down, through its nearly 600 pages. In the author’s notes at the end, she shares relatively recent medical info that suggests Henry probably suffered from a rare problem, Kell positive blood type, which can cause miscarriages, stillbirths and infant deaths IF the mother has the more common Kell negative blood type. And that in his later years, he may have had McLeod syndrome, a disease only found in Kell positive individuals. Around the age of 40 it causes physical degeneration and personality changes resulting in paranoia, depression and irrational behavior. All of those King Henry VIII had in spades. If you read the book, you might read the author’s notes (at the end) before reading the book. If you like historical fiction (I love any book about English history) you’ll just love this one. It’s interesting, though, as I think about the many books I’ve read covering this era in English history, that each book presented its hero/heroine as the most innocent and worthy individual vying for the crown of England. I remember thinking Anne Boleyn was dealt with so badly during her life (and certainly her beheading), and yet reading this book, I completely reversed my opinion. Anne Boleyn was called a wh–e by most people during the years she shared Henry’s bed. The “curse” from the title pertains to Henry’s inability or the curse on the Tudors, that caused him to fail in producing a male heir. In any case, none of Henry’s wives should have died for it – likely it was all Henry’s fault anyway. Just read this one, okay?

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, too!

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.

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 Salads, on April 5th, 2012.

cabbage_salad_buttermilk_dressing

It was about time I got around to making this salad – it’s been in my to-try file for years. Don’t tell anybody, but this is very low calorie. It’s also delicious, crunchy and a perfect accompaniment to grilled meat. In this case I served it alongside pulled pork sliders.

It was about 4 years ago and I was reading Smitten Kitchen’s blog. She raved. I mean she raved about this salad. I put it into my MasterCook to-try file and promptly forgot it. I have hundreds and hundreds of recipes in my to-try file. I should stop, right now, reading any more food blogs, magazines or cookbooks because I have enough recipes to last me until I’m at least 389 years old. But I can’t seem to help myself. I really do try NOT to buy more cookbooks. But gosh, darned, so many people just write the most beautiful books, blogs and magazine articles! I just can’t help myself!

So anyway, needing a salad to go with the pulled pork sliders I made the other night, I thought a cabbage salad seemed appropriate and this salad fit just great. It was incredibly easy to make. Now the original recipe (which came from Gourmet magazine) called for Napa cabbage. Visiting two markets, I found only Savoy, so that’s what was used in this. Savoy and Napa are similar, although they definitely look different. But both cabbages have more tender leaves, or maybe they’re just thinner-leafed. Anyway, you probably could make this with regular cabbage, but I truly liked the Savoy.

The buttermilk dressing is so very light. It’s flavored with some finely minced shallot, and a little bit of sugar (I used Splenda). Fresh chives, radishes and celery round out the cabbage. That’s it. I liked the look of the radishes on top, so I actually left them in a separate little baggie and tossed some dressing with them and sprinkled them decoratively on the top of the salad. If you make the full 4-cup cabbage recipe, you’ll use all of the dressing. Next time I might make more dressing – not only is it good, the salad might need a bit more. It could also be used on a regular green salad too. Don’t let it sit long, though, on a regular green salad. Because the dressing is mostly buttermilk, it will wilt tender green leaves.

What I liked: well, the calorie count, for one. And truly, you’d never know it’s so low calorie. It’s overall delicious. Yes, I’ll be making it again. When I used the left over dressing I added just a tad more mayo to it (I didn’t quite have enough to dress another cabbage salad) and I liked it a lot. That would “up” the calorie and fat content of the salad, though. It’s really awfully good as it is!

What I didn’t like: nada, nothing.

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MasterCook 5+ import file – right click to save file, run MC, then File|Import

Cabbage Salad with Buttermilk Dressing

Recipe By: Gourmet, November 2007, written up on Smitten Kitchen blog
Serving Size: 6

1/2 cup buttermilk — well-shaken
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1 tablespoon sugar — or Spenda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons chives — finely chopped
1 pound Napa cabbage — cored and thinly sliced crosswise (4 cups), or Savoy cabbage
6 whole radishes — diced
2 whole celery ribs — thinly sliced diagonally

1. Whisk together buttermilk, mayonnaise, vinegar, shallot, sugar, salt, and pepper in a bowl until sugar has dissolved, then whisk in chives.
2. Toss cabbage, radishes, and celery with dressing. It’s perhaps more attractive if the radishes are dressed separately and sprinkled on top.
Per Serving: 69 Calories; 4g Fat (50.2% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 7g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 2mg Cholesterol; 238mg Sodium.

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  1. Robert Richards Recipes

    said on April 5th, 2012:

    This looks really good and I’m excited to give it a try!

    The slaw was really, really good. And so healthy! It disappeared in less than 24 hours, so I want to make it again too. . . carolyn t

  2. Toffeeapple

    said on April 6th, 2012:

    It even looks pretty Carolyn. I think I shall try that when I get back from Scotland next week. We don’t have Napa cabbages here but we do have Savoy. I think this is the time of year for Sweetheart cabbages too, they are very tender and tasty.

    Oh, how fun to go to Scotland! What will the weather be like? Do have a good visit. . . carolyn t

  3. Kalyn

    said on April 7th, 2012:

    Love your new photo! And I love everything about this salad.

    It’s probably on the South Beach, I’d suspect. You might want to try it. Worth making . . . carolyn t

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