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Just 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 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.

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.

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

Recipes highlighted in red are some of my all-time favorites. The pork and ham recipes are divided up in several sections. Click on the title below to go to that section. If pork (like sausage) is used in a soup, it’s under the SOUP category, not here under Pork. I have written up a blog post JUST about pork – the meat itself.

Chops!

Apple Brined Pork Chops Sous Vide 131°
Double Rib Pork Chops (Grilled) with Smoked Cinnamon
Grilled Pork Chops with Tomatillo Apple Sauce
Mongolian Pork Chops
Milk-Braised Pork Chops
Onion-Smothered Pork Chops
Pork Chops with Adobo Paste
Pork Chops with Apples & Dark Rum
Pork Chops with Basil Peanut Relish & Finger Limes
Pork Chops with Garlic Mustard Glaze
Pork Chops with Panko Crust
Pork Chops with Swiss Chard (a baked casserole)
Pork Chops with Apple Cider Sauce
Pork Chops with Sweet and Sour Cabbage
Southern Fried Pork Chops
Stuffed Pork Chops
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Ground Pork and Sausage (including sauces, meatloaf and casseroles)!

Lumpia (a fried Filipino turnover)
Mexican Black Bean Sausage Chili
Mister Charlie (casserole)
Piccadillo (a ground meat dish to serve over some kind of carb)
Sausage & Beef Enchilasagna
Swedish Meatballs a la Ikea
Zinfandel Sausage Sauce for Pasta
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Ham!

Ham Loaf (a ham meatloaf)
Ham Mousse (a filling for tea sandwiches)
Kurobuta Ham with Mustard Sauce (Kurobuta is also called Berkshire Pork)
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Ribs!

Asian Baby Back Ribs
Baby Back Ribs in Root Beer with Tomato Sauce
Baby Back Ribs with Peanut Butter Slather
Sweet and Spicy Barbecued Country Ribs
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Roasts!

Caramelized Carnitas Tacos
Crown Roast of Pork with Apple Gravy
Fruit Stuffed Pork Loin with Pear-Onion Sauce
Grilled Rack of Pork with Rosemary, Garlic and Sage
Mini-Roast with Memphis Rub
Pork Loin Roast with Apricot Glaze
Pulled Pork Sous Vide 140°
Roast Pork Loin with Apricot Compote
Roasted Chorizo-Stuffed Pork Loin
Rosemary Pork Loin
Slow Cooker Pork Sirloin Roast
Slow-Roasted Spiced Pork Shoulder
Smoked Pork Shoulder (in Brinkman smoker)
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Stews and Braises!

Crockpot Chile Verde
Malaysian Inspired Pork Stew
Pork and Green Chile Stew
Pork Osso Buco (like veal, but made in the same style)
Pork Ragu on Pasta
Pork Shoulder Ragu
Pork Stew with Calvados Cream
Pressure Cooker Pork Carnitas
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Tenderloin!

Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin
Buttermilk Brined Pork Tenderloin
Hoisin Sesame Pork Tenderloin Medallions
Pork Medallions with Chili Maple Sauce
Pork Tenderloin Stuffed with Mushrooms and Bacon
Pork Tenderloin with Black Bean Salsa
Pork Tenderloin with Cherry Grape Sauce
Pork Tenderloin with Fennel
Pork Tenderloin with Fig and Port
Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Grape Chutney
Pork Tenderloin with Lemon, Herb Pesto and Sherry
Pork Tenderloin with Mango Sambal
Pork Tenderloin with Maple Mustard Vinegar Sauce
Pork Tenderloin with Maple Syrup and Mustard
Pork Tenderloin with Mushroom Bourbon Cream Sauce
Pork Tenderloin with Onion Orange Pan Sauce
Pork Tenderloin with Pears and Pear Brandy Sauce
Pork Tenderloin with Pears and Mustard Port Sauce
Pork Tenderloin with Salsa Verde and Ancho Chile Sauce
Roast Pork Tenderloin Tangiers (Moroccan spices)
Rosemary Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Blackberry Sauce
Spice Crusted Pork Tenderloin
Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Succotash
Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Walnut Parmesan Crust
White Balsamic-Marinated Pork Tenderloin
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Other!

Andouille Sausage and Shrimp
Easy Cassoulet (contains sausage and chicken)
Fig, Prosciutto, Mozzarella and Pesto Pizza with Salad Top
Pork Enchilada Verde Casserole
Prosciutto Pizza with Mozzarella and Arugula Salad
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