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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, on July 28th, 2007.


apple crispI would be ever so negligent if I didn’t post one of my favorite recipes, my mother’s Crisp Apple Pudding. I’ve been making this for as long as I’ve been cooking (that began in 1962). It was written out in my mother’s small recipe journal, something she began when SHE got married in the 1930’s, a recipe from her mother. And she passed this recipe on to me when I got married. My mother is gone now. Bless her heart. I loved her so much. But she lives on in this recipe for sure. I think of her every time I fix this.

Technique:

This recipe has something unique – after mixing up the crumbly topping and sprinkling it over the apples, you gently sprinkle cold water over the top. When baked the top is nice and crunchy tender.

I believe – but I’m not sure – that this recipe came from a vintage (probably 1930’s version) Betty Crocker Cookbook. Or maybe it was a Better Homes & Gardens. Did they publish cookbooks back in the 1930’s? I think one time in a used book store I saw a very old, stained copy of one of those books and glanced in it, and sure enough, it looked like this recipe. It has one very unique technique that I’ve not seen in any recipes I’ve studied. Even today. I did a search just now, and after looking at probably 40-50 apple crisp recipes, with variations of toppings (this one has no oatmeal or brown sugar in it), not a single one of them sprinkles the flour/sugar topping with water. That’s what gives this apple dessert its crispness, a different texture for sure. I love it – of course, it’s what I grew up having when my mother made this, so it’s what I think is the “right” kind of apple crisp. Note that this dessert has a whopping 5 grams of fat per serving.

apple crisp before bakingOne year either Bon Appetit or Gourmet did a very in-depth article about crisps, buckles, pandowdies and slumps. They are all similar, but not quite the same. And this technique was not in there, either. I even wrote a letter to the writer of that article about it. Never heard from her. Oh well. Her loss!

So, here is my mother’s recipe: Sliced apples, piled into a 8×8 Pyrex or metal baking dish, with a floury-egg-sugar based crumbly topping, dotted with a little butter, and sprinkled with cinnamon and a bit more sugar. THEN, it’s sprinkled with water to give that topping an honest-to-goodness crust. Once baked the topping melds together into a crust, and rises a little bit since it has baking powder in it. Allow to cool about an hour, then serve with warm cream or whipped cream. Ice cream is okay too, but whipped cream is better, I think. I’ve cut down a little on the sugar – I think originally it called for 1 cup, so if you like it sweeter, go ahead and add the full amount. And I hate to say this, but in a pinch, this is marvelous for breakfast.
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Crisp Apple Pudding

Recipe: From an ancient Betty Crocker cookbook, I believe, but via my mother.
Servings: 6-8
NOTES: The preparation of this apple dish is a little different because of the water sprinkled over the top. It gives the pudding a wonderful crispy top. This travels well, although it’s best eaten the day it’s made. Can be served with whipped cream or Cool-Whip.

1 cup flour
7/8 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 whole egg — beaten
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
4 large apples — peeled and sliced

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Spread sliced apples into an 8×8 pan. Sift together the flour, sugar and baking powder. Add the egg and mix well. Spread this mixture over the top of the apples, spreading as evenly as possible. Sprinkle the top with the spices and the 2 T. of sugar. Using your fingers or a small spoon, sprinkle water over the topping, sprinkling as evenly as possible. Dab the butter on top, in small pieces.
3. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until top is brown. Allow to cool about an hour, or until it’s room temperature.
Per Serving: 309 Calories; 5g Fat (15.1% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 64g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 46mg Cholesterol; 133mg Sodium.

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  1. randi

    said on September 30th, 2007:

    Just pulled this recipe out of the oven and was puzzled why mine had a very different (dry) look than yours.

    Oooops, just realized I skipped the *dotting of the butter* step. I will have to try this again because it sounds so GOOD…especially the Apple Crisp PUDDING part!

  2. Carolyn T

    said on October 1st, 2007:

    Randi – hope you sprinkled the top with the water – that’s the most important step. Really this dish is more like a cobbler than a pudding. But that’s what Betty Crocker called it and who am I to change a name, I guess? Hope you enjoyed it anyway!
    Carolyn

  3. Amanda

    said on September 25th, 2008:

    Originally found this recipe on your old blog and followed the links to get here. I just made a recipe of the same name but a bit different and was search out similar ones. I have added a link to this recipe from my blog post 🙂

    Amanda – thanks very much. I do love that recipe. Now that apples are about come back for a new season, my mouth is watering to make it again. Thanks for stopping by and thanks for the link . . . Carolyn

  4. yvette

    said on January 23rd, 2010:

    I made this dessert last night for Joe and dinner guests.
    I served it warm, with vanilla ice cream.
    Everyone asked for seconds.
    We all voted that this should be a repeat dessert!

    I’m so glad it was a success, Yvette. It’s certainly a family favorite around our house! . . . carolyn

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