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Here are the tastingspoons players. I’m in the middle (Carolyn). Daughter Sara on the right, and daughter-in-law Karen on the left. I started the blog in 2007, as a way to share recipes with my family. Now in 2021, I’ll still participate, but the two daughters are going to do more posting from here on out.

We participate in an amazon program that rewards a little tiny $ something (pennies, really) if you purchase any books recommended (below), or buy products occasionally mentioned on the blog with an amazon link. 

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BOOK READING:

Could hardly put down Krueger’s book, This Tender Land: A Novel. My friend Ann recommended it. I was gripped with the story within the first paragraph, and it never stopped until I turned the last page. Tells the harrowing story of a young boy, Odie, (and his brother Albert) who became orphans back in the 30s (I think). At first there is a boarding school, part of an Indian (Native American) agreement, though they are not Indian. Some very ugly things happen at that school. Eventually they  escape, and they are “on the run.” With a few others with them. If you loved Huckleberry Finn, you’ll have a great appreciation for this story as they use a canoe to get themselves down river. Never having very much to eat and getting into trouble way too often, and authorities on their tail. Well, you just have to read the book to find out what happens.

Just finished Kristin Hannah’s latest book, The Four Winds: A Novel. What a story. One I’ve never read about, although I certainly have heard about the “dust bowl” years when there was a steady migration of down-and-out farmers from the Midwest, to California, for what they hoped to be the American Dream. It tells the story of one particular family, the Martinellis, the grandparents, their son, his wife, and their two children. The book is heartbreaking, but one of those that everyone should read. The hardship, the hunger, the dirt and dust, the failed crops, the lack of rain, then the story picks up again in central California, back in the day when the wealthy growers just used up the migrants. I don’t want to spoil the story. So worth reading. Hannah really knows how to weave a story.

Brit Bennett has written quite a book, The Vanishing Half: A Novel. It’s a novel, yet I’m sure there are such real-life situations. Twin girls are born to a young woman in the South. Into a town (that probably doesn’t exist) that prides itself on being light-skinned blacks. The father was very dark, but he plays no part, really, in this story. Growing up, the girls leave home at 18 to find their way in New Orleans. Suddenly, one twin disappears (her clothes and suitcase all gone in the wink of an eye). Her twin left behind has no idea what’s happened to her. As the story reveals, with divided paths, one twin continues her life as a black woman, and the other twin, the one who left, is able to pass as a white woman. She marries well, has a daughter. Well, let’s just say that there are lots of wicked webs woven throughout the story, starting from the girls’ mother who never wants to speak again of her lost daughter. But you know where this is going, don’t you? Things are found out. The author does a great job of weaving the story apart and then back together.

What a book. The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel by Marie Benedict. A novelized biography of Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress. She was a brilliant mind, and a beautiful woman. It tells the story of her coming of age, how she navigated the world of acting back in that time period (she was Austrian, and Hitler was in power). The writing was very well done – to tell Hedy’s story with detail and poignancy. Eventually Hedy made it to the U.S. and her life story changed, but still had its difficulties. I loved the book, beginning to end. She should have become an engineer as she invented several war related bomb tools. Very much worth reading.

Also read The Secret of the Chateau: Gripping and heartbreaking historical fiction with a mystery at its heart by Kathleen McGurl. There are two stories here. The historical part is just prior to and up to the French Revolution, when aristocrats were chased and killed, guillotined in many cases. There is a young couple (part of the royal court) who escape to a remote small castle owned by his family, located on the edge of France and Italy, hoping to wait out the revolution and hoping the villagers love and care about them. Then jump to current day as a small English group of close friends decide to retire somewhere on the continent, and settle on a small abandoned castle in the remote hills of France along the Italian border. Got the picture? The historian in the group is quite interested in the history of the home, and clues are revealed (in the tower) that lead her and the group on a quest to discover what happened to the couple who used to live there. There was a fire once upon a time. There’s an pesky ghost. There’s also a very old child’s doll/playhouse on the grounds. Plus there’s a small graveyard. It is VERY intriguing. Very interesting. I love historical novels like this, and this one in particular does have quite a mystery involved, too.

Also finished reading Sue Monk Kidd’s recent book, The Book of Longings: A Novel. It is a book that might challenge some Christian readers, as it tells the tale of Jesus marrying a woman named Mary. The story is all about Mary, her growing up, her scholarly pursuits, and then from the moment she meets Jesus as a young man. The story follows along to and beyond his death on the cross. In the time of Christ it was extremely uncommon for a man not to marry. It was almost unseemly. Fraught with suspicions, I’d suppose. Although scripture, as scripture, does not play a very strong part here, if you’ve read the Bible you’ll see many of the stories of Jesus’ life through Mary’s eyes. I loved the book from the first word to the last one. The book is believable to me, even though the Bible never says one way or the other that Jesus ever married. It’s been presumed he never did. But maybe he did?

Jeanine Cummins has written an eye-opener, American Dirt. A must read. Oh my goodness. I will never, ever, ever look at Mexican (and further southern) migrants, particularly those who are victims of the vicious cartels, without sympathy. It tells the story of a woman and her young son, who were lucky enough to hide when the cartel murdered every member of her family – her husband, her mother, and many others. Her husband was a journalist, and his life was always in danger because he wrote the truth, and that was taking a risk. The story is about her escape, with harrowing chapters as she makes her way north from Acapulco, with various major detours, one step, or sometimes nothing more than a hair’s width ahead of the cartel minions trying to find her. I could NOT put this book down. The author is not Hispanic, and some have criticized her for that, but she did her research, and many authors write about places and people they are not. I have nothing but respect for her having told this story. You need to read this.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice, living in an English home which lacks much, leaps to agree to marry a visiting American. It was an escape for her. He is a man of some family wealth, and she travels from England to Kentucky, during the 1920s. Once settled into the family home, she discovers married life is not what she had expected. Affection is lacking, and she must share the home with her tyrannical father-in-law, the owner of mines in the deep mountains. And with the ghost of the deceased mother-in-law. The family cook won’t tolerate Alice’s help in the kitchen. Alice is terribly lonely and unhappy. The town doesn’t much like this English woman with her funny way of speaking. But then, she meets a woman who encourages her to join the Horseback Librarians. With trepidation, she begins traversing the remote hills, through unbelievable weather, to deliver old, battered and tattered books to the remote inhabitants of the area. She makes friends, wonderful, loving people from all walks of life. There is tremendous tension from the danger of the mines, the unions trying to get a foothold, plus the unraveling of her marriage, including the dreaded father-in-law who feels she should answer to him, behave as he wants. Uh, no. Alice goes her own route. Her new friends become her family, and, oh, what love. There has been much criticism of Moyes’ possible plagiarism of another book regarding the Horseback Librarians. I read the other book – but I didn’t feel remotely as intrigued by that story as I was by Moyes’ version. A feel good story, but it takes some while getting to that “feel good” part, nearly to the end.

Frances Liardet has written a blockbuster tale, We Must Be Brave. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Although the scene is WWII England, this book is not really about the war. It’s about the people at home, waiting it out, struggling with enough food, clothing and enough heat. It’s about Ellen. Her early years, under much hardship. About her teens, some of it as an orphan. Then a young adult, which includes marriage, a marriage blanc, which I didn’t understand until you learn the meaning. Then a child enters the picture, a child that will become a focus for the remainder of the book. Through the war, and beyond. I cried several times, as will you, I suspect. What’s a constant is the descriptions of the place, a town called Upton, near Southampton. About the hills and dales, the flora and fauna, the rain, the mud sometimes, the flooding sometimes. But throughout, it’s about neighbors caring for neighbors, and about love. A must read. Would make a really good book club read.

William Kent Krueger wrote Ordinary Grace. From amazon: a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God. It’s a coming of age story.

Best book I’ve read recently. Not new. Called Follow the River: A Novel by James Alexander Thom. This one is also based on the history of a woman (married, pregnant) who was captured by the Shawnee, during the early settlement days east of the Ohio River, about 1755. And her eventual escape. I stayed up all hours to keep reading. The book was written from the many journals and writing compiled by her children. Her name: Mary Ingles. And it chronicles her 1000-mile trek in treacherous weather and over uncharted ground. What an amazing woman, and what a story.

A Column of Fire: A Novel by Ken Follett. It takes place in the 1500s, in England, and has everything to do with the war between the Catholics and the Protestants, that raged throughout Europe during that time, culminating in the Spanish Inquisition.

My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.). Resolute is what I’m discussing here. It’s fiction, but based some on a true story. Resolute, as a young girl from a privileged life on a plantation in Jamaica, was taken captive by slavers, eventually ended up in Colonial America. This book is the story of her life. The people she met, the men in her life, her children, and always about her indefatigable energy for life. Always hoping to return to Jamaica.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This is a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, the son of a farming family, who sabotages everything in his being regarding going to school and leaves as soon as he is able (probably about 8th grade, I’d guess). And becomes a shepherd. And at night, he read literature that he accumulated from his grandfather. And then what happens to him as he grows up. Riveting.

 

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 Lamb, on December 24th, 2020.

Lamb Curry with Nuts and Coconut Milk

Lamb Curry. Enough said. Photo Attribution

Long ago, when I was a teenager, my best friend lived a few doors from me. Linda and I were fast friends for all these years. Sadly, Linda passed away of pneumonia about 2 years ago. She was severely handicapped and lived most of her young life at home, being home schooled. She eventually broadened her world, learned to drive a specially outfitted van with hand controls and a lift/gate, attended her last year of high school at the one I attended too, then she attended college, had several jobs too. Her dad was a Navy dentist; Van was a stay-at-home mom to Linda and her sister Joan. Once in awhile Linda’s mother Van and her dad would entertain a big group of friends, and one of her favorite things to prepare was lamb curry. This lamb curry. (It was my first introduction to lamb, as my dad wouldn’t eat lamb. He wouldn’t eat chicken, either. So my mom was kind of stuck with pork, beef and only very occasionally some fish.) Anyway, as we got old enough to handle knives, Linda’s mom would recruit us to help prepare the condiments. And they are legion. Van usually served about 25-30 condiments. So our job was to clean, dry, mince, chop and put things in tiny bowls, covered with waxed paper (I don’t think we had plastic wrap back then) and carefully refrigerated or stacked on a large tray, ready to serve. Van always made the curry the day before – the flavors are so much better with an overnight chill.

Over the years I’ve made this dish a multitude of times, always for guests because it makes a lot, and usually I’d serve about 10 condiments. Lamb lends itself well to a curry style sauce. And it’s not difficult to make. I’ve just not made it since I’ve been writing my blog. No real reason. Hence I don’t have a photo of it and needed to use someone else’s (at top).

To cut to present day. A couple of months ago I was asked if I’d be willing to do a food oriented speech/talk and/or food demo on zoom, for my branch of AAUW (American Association of University Women), an organization I’ve been in since my 20s. First, it was discussed about Christmas cookies. Ho hum. And I’m trying not to bake them since I’m a family of one. My friend Ann, who was talking to me about this, asked if I’d cooked anything unusual recently. Oh, yes I had. That was the Food Cart Curried Chicken. And the Curried Shepherd’s Pie (click links in next paragraph). So I suggested I do a talk about curry. Ann thought that was a good idea.

I did some online research and wrote up my speech. Ann had hoped I could do a food demo on zoom, but with only 25-30 minutes to talk, I thought that was not feasible. Plus, lighting would be a problem (this was a nighttime zoom session). I ended up propping up my iPad a few feet away on the island, turned on the lights over my head, set up all of my props (various curry powders, and individual ingredients that go into them). And at the end, in talking about the two dishes I had made, the Food Cart Curried Chicken plus my recent Curried Shepherd’s Pie, I pulled them out of the oven and moved them closer to the iPad, steaming hot and tried to scoop up a big spoonful, so the guests could see how delicious they looked.

I talked about the history of curry – starting in India – then incorporating some of the surrounding countries, then into Japan (the Japanese fell head over heels in love with curry when it was introduced to their culture a long time ago). I talked about the Colonial Period in India, when British officers were running the country. About how they hired local cooks (usually men), and when they were transferred to a new station, sometimes their cooks with them, as well as the spice combination that cook used. At the new post, new British military families would be introduced to the curry of the last place, etc. Eventually curry made its way to the United States, probably to Savannah, or Charleston, and in the early decades of the last century, the south was introduced to a pivotal dish called Country Captain. I also mentioned my friendship with Kunda, my microbiologist friend, who taught me how to make Shrimp Khichdi, a favorite in her family. And about the gift Kunda made to me, a bag of her mother’s garam masala (also a combination of specific herbs and spices). Kunda’s family in India makes it once a year, it’s an all-day family work-party gathering, and one of her family usually flies to California to visit Kunda and that person is the courier of Mom’s garam masala.

You know, of course, that “curry powder” isn’t a powder made from a curry tree. Right? Curry powder is a combination of spices (also can be called a masala), and probably every curry cook has his/her own special mixture. I talked about the heat in curry (which can be mild to hot, to very hot). I’m certainly no expert on curry – I’m a white Anglo-Saxon female with Scottish, Irish, English and Welsh roots, but gosh, do I ever love curry. My speech went well, so many people told me. I went long – nearly an hour. There were numerous questions at the end, and then I got to eat my curry. Yum.

So here’s the recipe below.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Indian Lamb Curry

Recipe By: An old recipe from a family friend, Van Canon, c. 1955
Serving Size: 12

1 large leg of lamb
3 teaspoons salt
3 1/2 tablespoons curry powder — or more to taste
2 tablespoons ghee — or unsalted butter
15 ounces coconut milk
2 cups lamb broth — from the lamb bone
2 cups hubbard squash — peeled, chopped, or use acorn squash or eggplant
1/4 cup lemon juice
8 medium onions — finely chopped
3 whole garlic cloves — minced
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup evaporated milk
1 tablespoon sugar
8 medium Granny Smith apples — peeled, chopped
1/3 cup raisins — either black or golden
1/2 cup shredded coconut meat — unsweetened
For serving: fluffy basmati rice

1. Cut meat off the bone, discarding larger pieces of fat. Set aside the meat.
2. In a stock pot add water to cover the lamb bone and cook for a few hours, covered. You want to have at least 3 cups of broth. You may add some celery, onion and carrot to the mixture if you have it.
3. Cut the meat into bite-sized pieces. Sprinkle the meat with salt, pepper and all the curry powder and use your hands to massage the seasonings into all sides of the chopped lamb.
4. Melt ghee (or butter) in a large, heavy pot. Add onions first, saute over medium heat for about 10 minutes, then add garlic. Continue cooking for one minute only. Don’t allow the mixture to brown. Remove mixture to a bowl and set aside.
5. Add oil to the same pot and brown the meat in batches (if you crowd it, the meat will steam rather than brown). Once all the meat has been browned, add the onion mixture, coconut milk, lamb broth, evaporated milk and sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer mixture for about 30 minutes.
6. Add apples, squash, raisins, coconut, lemon juice, and cook for about 2 hours, covered. Taste for seasonings. This is best if made the day before and reheated. Serve with lots of condiments. Mixture freezes well.
CONDIMENTS: (this is a list of 30) in my order of importance: chopped fresh pineapple, coconut shreds, peanuts or cashews, chopped egg white and yolks, green onions, fruit chutney and crumbled bacon. Other condiments may include: chopped avocado, chopped celery, chopped green or red bell pepper, chopped tomatoes (no seeds), diced mushrooms, french fried onions (the canned ones), chopped black olives, minced candied ginger, guava jelly, toasted coconut, watermelon pickles, sweet pickle relish, canned mandarin oranges, chopped pimiento, sour cream (or yogurt), stuffed olives, capers, cocktail onions, golden raisins (plumped in warm water and drained), kumquats, fresh chopped papaya, sour cream or yogurt mixed with grated zucchini and lastly sour cream or yogurt with cardamom mixed in.
Per Serving: 308 Calories; 18g Fat (51.4% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 34g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 12mg Cholesterol; 711mg Sodium; 22g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 96mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 538mg Potassium; 136mg Phosphorus.

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