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I’m going to write up an entire blog post about this book. 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 Florence as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.

Also finished The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel by Gabrielle Zevin. It popped up on a list I subscribe to and was available for $1.13 as an e-book. As it begins, you’re hearing from A.J., a grieving widower who owns a bookstore on an obscure island off the East Coast. He’s angry, rude and every other negative adjective you can imagine. A book rep comes to visit and he’s awful to her, yet she perseveres and manages to sell him a few books. You get to know his friends (a friendship with him is full of sharp points) and one day an abandoned toddler is found in his bookshop. In between the story line about A.J., the book rep, the little girl and others, you will learn all about A.J.’s book tastes. If you’re an avid reader, you’ll really enjoy that part. It’s a charming book; loved it.

Also read 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 need that kind of book – you may not want to read this one.

 

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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