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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 salad recipes are divided up in several sections. Click on the title below to go to that section.

Bean Salads!

Black Bean & Mango Salsa Salad
Black-Eyed Pea Salad
Corn and Black Bean Salad
Shaved Asparagus and White Cannellini Bean Salad
The BEST Bean Salad (Paul Prudhomme’s recipe and he named it)
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Bread and Grain Salads!

Green Panzanella, Chicken and Pasta Salad
Grilled Panzanella Salad
Meyer Lemon Harvest Grain Salad with Asparagus
Pea & Bacon Panzanella Salad
Quinoa Salad with Shiitakes, Fennel and Cashews
Summer Grilled Panzanella Salad
Tomato Bread Salad with with Corn and Mozzarella
Wild Rice Salad
Zov’s Lentil Salad
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Fruit Salads!

Melon with Prosciutto
Minted Watermelon Feta Salad
Persimmon, Orange and Pomegranate Salad
Tomato Watermelon Salad
Watermelon and Nectarine Salad with Mint
Watermelon Arugula Feta Salad
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Green Salads!

Apple, Dried Cherry, Walnut Green Salad
Arugula Salad with Bacon and Balsamic Fig Dressing
Arugula Salad with Grapes, Fennel and Pecans
Arugula and Radicchio Salad with Blue Cheese, Walnuts and Oranges
BLT Salad (bacon, lettuce, tomato in a salad)
Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette (Salad)
Cocina Salad with Lime Cilantro Dressing
Greens with Fresh Cranberries, Pecans and Apples with Lime Dressing
Escarole, Belgian Endive and Apple Salad
Field Greens with Fire Roasted Poblano Chiles
Goat Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms with Arugula Salad
Greek Village Salad
Green Salad with Avocado Lime Vinaigrette and Spicy Pumpkin Seeds
Green Salad with Chevre Dressing
Green Salad with Pears, Walnuts and Dill
Green Salad with Plums, Asian Pears and Grapes
Grilled Caesar Salad
Hearts of Romaine with Blue Cheese, Pecans and Pears
Heirloom Cherry Tomato, Fennel & Arugula Salad
Iceberg Lettuce Wedge with Blue Cheese
Italian Basil Salad with Parmesan Crisps
Layered Greek Salad
Lemony Green Salad
Orange and Endive Salad
Roasted Carrot, Feta and Arugula Salad
Romaine Leaf Salad with Oranges, Walnuts and Pecorino
Pesto Pea Spinach Salad
Rustic Green Salad with Roasted Figs and Goat Cheese
Salad with Tuna, Egg & Green Beans
Spinach and Berries Salad
Spinach, Jicama, & Orange Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette
Spinach Salad with Mango
Spinach Salad with Roasted Apples and Pecans
Syrian Pita Bread Green Salad
Watercress, Belgian Endive, Kalamata Olive Salad
Watermelon and Field Greens Salad
Winter Greens Salad with Bacon, Orange, Walnuts and Blue Cheese
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Main Dish Salads!

Cajun Chopped Salad with Shrimp & Andouille
Chicken on Greens with Chile Buttermilk Dressing
Chicken Breast Salad Caribbean
Chicken, Arugula, Corn and Parmesan Salad
Cobb Style Salad with Mustard Crusted Grilled Chicken
Couscous Chicken Salad
Curried Chicken and Rice Salad
Deconstructed Chicken Caesar Salad
Fumi Chinese Chicken Salad
Grilled Caesar Salad with Chicken
Grilled Chicken Salad
Grilled Peach, Mozzarella and Chicken Salad
Grilled Sirloin Steak Caesar Salad
Grilled Steak Salad with Grilled Onions and Corn
Mexican Chopped Salad (with or without chicken)
Mexican Chopped Salad Take Two
Nicoise Style Chopped Salad with Shrimp
Pear, Arugula & Fennel Salad
Pacific Rim Shrimp Pasta Salad
Roasted Chicken Salad a la Zuni Cafe
Salade Nicoise
Seared Ahi Tuna Salad with Cannellini Beans
Seared Steak Salad
Shrimp on Lemony Watercress
Skirt Steak Salad with Tomatoes and Croutons
Summer Shrimp Salad
Thai Inspired Turkey Larb Salad
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Pasta Salads!

Asian Noodle Salad with Julienned Vegetables
Barbecued Macaroni Salad (dressing contains some BBQ sauce)
Curry Pasta Salad (from Namibia)
Grilled Oranges, Rice Noodle and Crab Salad
Joan’s Pasta Salad
Pea, Cheese and Macaroni Salad
Sicilian Tuna Salad
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Potato and Rice Salads!

Basmati & Wild Rice Salad
Chipotle Potato Salad with Corn
Grilled Sweet Potato Salad
Potato Salad
Potato and Romaine Salad
Rice and Vegetable Salad (Silver Palate)
Roasted Sweet Potato Black Bean Salad with Jalapeno Dressing
Roasted Sweet Potato, Black Bean & Poblano Salad
Wild Rice Salad with Watercress
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Veggie Salads! (including cole slaws)

Algerian Carrots
Asian Slaw
Asparagus Summer Salad
Butternut Squash & Kale Salad
Cabbage, Apple and Dried Cranberry Slaw
Brussels Sprouts Salad (from Farmgirl Fare Susan)
Cabbage Salad with Buttermilk Dressing
Caesar Coleslaw
Carrot Ginger Slaw
Celery, Celery Root Salad with Horseradish
Celery, Date, Pecorino Salad
Cole Slaw with Peanuts and Buttermilk Dressing
Corn and Black Bean Salad
Corn, Tomato and Scallion Salad (healthy too)
Corn, Black Bean and Tomato Salad
Curried Apple & Pecan Broccoli Slaw
Fresh Corn Confetti Salad with Cilantro, Mint and Feta
Eggplant Salad (Mujadara – an Indian dish)
Grilled Veggie Salad with Mint and Feta
Heirloom Tomatoes with Mozzie and Balsamic
Hot Brussels Sprouts Salad with Dried Cranberries
Jicama Slaw
Kale Mix Salad
KFC Cole Slaw (no, it’s not really the recipe but I tried it anyway)
Lemony Green Bean Salad with Red Onion
Marinated Tomato Salad (Mrs. Nylander’s)
Moroccan Carrot Salad
Na’ama’s Fattoush Salad (a Middle-Eastern very veggie-centric salad)
Pea, Radish & Sugar Snap Salad
Radicchio Salad
Roasted Beet & Quinoa Salad
Scott’s Broccoli Salad
Spicy Carrot Salad with Arugula
Sweet Cabbage Slaw
Tex-Mex Jicama Salad
Tomato Corn Salad with Shallot Vinaigrette
Tomato Salad with Goat Cheese
Warm Moroccan Carrot and Spinach Salad
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Other Salads!

Armenian Parsley Walnut Salad
Lebanese Layered Salad
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