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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 – well, I hope that’s not wishful thinking. They both lead very busy lives, so we’ll see.

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 (from Carolyn):

I wrote up a post about this book: Most Spectacular Restaurant in the World: The Twin Towers, Windows on the World, and the Rebirth of New York by Tom Roston. Go read the full write-up if you’re interested. The book is a complete history of the famous restaurant on the 107th floor of one of the Twin Towers. It tells a detailed chronology of its inception, and all the various  parts that had to come together every day, three meals a day, plus some, to make a mammoth food machine run. I have no background in the restaurant biz, but found the story very interesting. Would make a great gift.

Also recently finished The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish. The book goes backwards and forwards in time, from the 1600s in London with the day-to-day lives of a group of Jews (who had to be very careful about how they worshiped) to current day as an old house is discovered to hold a treasure-trove of historical papers. The story is mostly about a young woman, educated, a Jew, who is the scribe (in secret) to an aging religious leader (in a time when women would have been verboten to hold such a position). And about her own curiosity about her religion and how she eventually begins writing letters (using a male pseudonym) to various Jewish leaders abroad, questioning their religious beliefs. The book is extraordinarily long – not that that kept me from turning a single page! – and complex with the cast of characters from the 1600s and the cast in today’s world of highly competitive experts analyzing the ancient papers. Altogether riveting book. Loved it from beginning to end.

I’m forever reading historical novels. The Lost Jewels: A Novel by Kirsty Manning is a mystery of sorts, going back in time in London in the time of aristocrats and their jewels (pearls, diamonds, gems of all kinds) sometimes made it into the hands of the digger or a maid. Then to current time as a young woman tries to ferret her family history and particularly about some old-old jewelry that they can’t quite figure out – how the grandmother came to have them. Fascinating tale.

Not for the faint of heart, Boat of Stone: A Novel by Maureen Earl tells the true tale of some misplaced Jews at the tale-end of WWII who ended up on Mauritius, held captive in a woe begotten prison. It’s about Jewish history, about relationships, and certainly a lot about the starvation and mistreatment (and many died there) of this boat load of people who never should have been sent there. So very sad, but it has bright and hopeful moments toward the end when many of them finally made it to Tel Aviv, their original destination.

Colleen Hoover has written quite a book, It Ends with Us: A Novel, with a love story being the central theme, but again, this book is not for everyone – it can be an awakening for any reader not acquainted with domestic violence and how such injury can emerge as innocent (sort of) but then become something else. There is graphic detail here (was it really necessary? not sure of the answer) so if you don’t like that sort of thing, you might want to pass on this – or else skip by those details when you read it. Women have been victims in so many ways for so many centuries, and it’s hard to read that it’s still a common thing in today’s society.

Barbara Delinsky writes current day fiction. Coast Road is really sweet story. Jack (ex-husband) is called away from his career to care for his two daughters when his ex (Rachel) has an accident and is in a coma. Over the course of weeks, he spends time with his daughters (he was an occasional dad). He also spends a lot of time at his ex’s bedside, getting to know her friends. Through them he learns what went wrong in their marriage. I don’t want to spoil the story. I liked it a lot.

Christina Baker Kline has written quite a story about Tasmania. You may, or may not, remember that my DH and I visited Tasmania about 10 years ago (loved it) and having read a lot about Botany Bay and the thousands of criminal exiles from Britain who were shipped there as slave labor in the 1800s. This book tells a different story. The Exiles: A Novel. This one mostly from a few women who were sentenced to Tasmania. There is plenty of cruelty on several fronts, but there is also kindness and salvation for some. Really good read.

Erin Bartels wrote quite a complex story in The Words between Us: A Novel. We go alongside a young girl as she goes to high school, trying (somewhat unsuccessfully) to be anonymous (because her mother and father are both in prison), taking on a fake name. She meets a guy and they share a bond of reading and some romance. Years go by and she’s now owner of a failing independent bookstore (and married, or separated) and suddenly begins receiving a used book (that she recognizes) every day from a different place in the country. A message for sure, but where will it lead? Yes, it’s a romance. Lots of introspection going on. Enjoyed it.

Marion Kummerow wrote an amazing WWII novel. Not Without My Sister. If you don’t like concentration camp stories, pass on this one, but it’s very riveting, much of it at Bergen-Belsen. Two sisters (17 and 4) are separated at the camp. The story switches back and forth between the two sisters’ situations, and yes, the horror of the camp(s), the starvation, the cruelty. But, even though I’m giving away the ending . . . they do get back together again. The story is all about the in between times. Excellent book.

Nicolas Barreau’s novel Love Letters from Montmartre: A Novel  is very poignant, very sweet book. Seems like I’ve read several books lately about grieving; this one has a charming ending, but as anyone who has gone through a grave loss of someone dear knows, you can’t predict day to day, week to week. “Snap out of it,” people say, thinking they’re helping. This book is about a young man, who is a young father also, loses his beloved wife. He’s barely functioning, trying to get through a day, taking care of his young son. And visiting the cemetery (the one in Montmartre, Paris). There are several peripheral characters (his son, a neighbor and best friend of his departed wife, a good fellow friend too, plus a young woman he befriends at the cemetery). Before his wife’s death she asks him to write 33 letters to her after she’s gone, and to put them in a special box hidden in the cemetery monument. And that begins the story.

Another very quirky book, that happens to contain a lot of historical truth is The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World: A Novel by Harry N. Abrams. Set in Japan just after the tsunami 10 years ago when 18,000 people died. At a private park miles away, some very special people installed a phone booth, with a phone (that didn’t work) at the edge of the park, and the survivors of the tsunami began wending their way there to “talk” to their deceased loved ones. Very poignant story.

As you’ve read here many times, I marvel at authors who come up with unusual premises for their books. This one Meet Me in Monaco: A Novel of Grace Kelly’s Royal Wedding. And yes, it IS somewhat about Grace Kelly’s wedding, but most of the novel is about a young woman perfume designer, Sophie, who accidentally rescues Grace Kelly from the relentless photographers who hound her every move.

No question, the most quirky book I’ve read of late, a recommendation from my friend Karen, West with Giraffes: A Novel by Lynda Rutledge. Back in the 1930s a small group of giraffes were brought across the Atlantic from Africa to New York, destined for the then-growing San Diego Zoo. The story is of their journey across the United States in the care of two oh-so-different people, both with a mission.

Also a kind of quirky book by Beth Miller, The Missing Letters of Mrs. Bright. Picture a middle-aged woman, slogging through life with a not-very-attentive husband, grown children, and one day she decides to leave. Completely. Packs up and leaves.

Katherine Center’s book, Things You Save in a Fire: A Novel is certainly vivid. There aren’t very many women firefighters out there in the world – this is about one.

Riveting story of post-WWII- Japan in Ana Johns novel, The Woman in the White Kimono: A Novel. About a young Japanese girl who falls in love with an American serviceman.

Also read Rishi Reddi’s novel, Passage West: A Novel with a very different take on the migration of Indians (East India) to the California agricultural lands east of San Diego during the 1920s and 30s.

Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but the Mary Morris book, A Very Private Diary: A Nurse in Wartime tells the true day to day life of a young Irish girl who becomes a nurse, in England, France and Belgium in the midst of WWII and immediately after the war.

Could hardly put down Krueger’s book, This Tender Land: A Novel. Tells the harrowing story of a young boy, Odie, (and his brother Albert) who became orphans back in the 30s. At first there is a boarding school, part of an Indian (Native American) agreement, though they are not Indian. They escape, and they are “on the run.”

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.

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 black woman in the South. Into a town (that probably doesn’t exist) that prides itself on being light-skinned blacks.

What a book. The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel by Marie Benedict. A novelized biography of Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress.  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, and the second in current day as a group of friends purchase a crumbling chateau. 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. 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. It’s about her journey and escape to America.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice joins the Horseback Librarians in the rural south.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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, who becomes a shepherd. Not just any-old shepherd – actually a well educated one. He knows how to weave a story.

 

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 Uncategorized, on May 27th, 2021.

Refreshing spring side-dish salad with Asian flavors

This is a post from Karen.  Back in 1976 when I was 9 our family and a number of others on our block hosted high school students from Japan.  Some of the students were game to host a potluck with dishes from their hometown.   Minoru was staying with our neighbor and he put together a dish his mother would make.  He enjoyed its simplicity and fresh spring flavors.  We enjoyed it so much, my mom made a  point to get the recipe from him.

It would be over a decade before we ventured into sushi, but our family has fully embraced that as well.  My dad and I even took a class on making sushi.  My son was 3 when I took him for his first taste.  He was starving after his Tae Kwon Do “Tiny Tigers” class and right across the street was what would become his favorite sushi bar, so I walked him in and let him order off of the picture menu.  He picked Ikura, which is the sushi topped with Salmon roe.  I had not ordered that personally because it was a texture I wasn’t into, and fishier than I chose to venture. I didn’t think I should be ordering something I grew up putting on the end of my fishing hook to catch trout!  I was about to stop my son from ordering it, but then told myself that I shouldn’t censor or bias his food choices just because they might not be mine.  Who knows, he might like it.  And guess what, he did!  I asked him what he liked about it and he told me, “It tastes good and I like the way the balls pop in my teeth!” For the next two years that was always the first thing he ordered.  The owner and the sushi chef were so delighted to see this American kid enjoying their sushi instead of asking for buttered pasta that they made a point to spoil him rotten and ensure that his parents brought him back, which we happily did for many years before we moved.  But I digress, back to the Harusame Salad and 1976:

Back then we didn’t have rice vinegar as an option, so mom used apple cider vinegar.  We used regular white sugar at the time, but now I’ve tried alternatives and settled on palm sugar.  Whichever one you use, I make the sauce first so the sugar has time to dissolve. I have listed one tablespoon of sugar, but the original recipe said 1-2 TBS.  One works fine for me.  If you only have access to thick-skinned and waxed cucumbers I would go ahead and peel those.

Short on time?

I have also cut the noodles by picking up a hand full and cutting them with my kitchen scissors directly into the bowl.

I have experimented over the years with different vegetables and proteins.  I was out of ham but had chicken.  And when I was out of cucumbers I used red bell pepper or carrots.  But I always stuck to Minoru’s premise that everything should be uniform in size, roughly 3″ lengths for the noodles, vegetable, and protein.  Once it is done, it’s all I can do to wait and give the flavors a chance to meld for at least 30 minutes.  It doesn’t last long after that because we all love it so much.  I do make a point to use chopsticks when I eat this.  They hold onto the noodles better than a fork can. I also use it up within 1-2 days.  Otherwise, the cucumbers get soft, releasing more of their liquid and ultimately diluting the flavor.

What’s good:  Very easy, fresh flavors, great texture between the crunch of the cucumbers and the chew of the noodles and ham.

What’s not:  It disappears too fast.  Will get watery and dull if not eaten within a couple days.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Harusame Salad

Recipe By: Minoru, a Japanese Exchange student that stayed with our neighbors in 1976
Serving Size: 8

1/4 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce, low sodium
1 tablespoon sugar — I use palm sugar
150 grams Saifun Bean Threads — dried bean noodle package, softened and cut in roughly 3″ lengths
1 large cucumber — or 1 large Japanese or English Cucumer or 2-3 Persian cucumbers cut in matchsticks.
6 ounces ham slices — Black Forest or Canadian bacon works, cut in matchsticks
Garnish: toasted white sesame seeds, chopped green cilantro, onion or chives
Additions: red bell pepper, seaweed, tofu, carrots, shredded egg omlette, chicken

1. Mix together rice vinegar, soy sauce and sugar and set aside.
2. Set noodles in a deep dish and cover with boiling water, let stand about 20 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water, drain well and chop into 3″ lengths. Place cut noodles in mixing bowl.
3. Cut cucumber and ham into 3″ matchstick pieces and add to bowl with noodles.
4. Give sauce a final stir and pour over noodle mixture, toss all ingredients to mix well.
5. Let chill in refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving.
6. Use within 2 days.

Per Serving: 129 Calories; 4g Fat (25.0% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 20g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 13mg Cholesterol; 448mg Sodium; 3g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 14mg Calcium; trace Iron; 152mg Potassium; 51mg Phosphorus.

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  1. hddonna

    said on May 30th, 2021:

    This looks delicious–I’ll be sure to try it! I wonder if the e-mail list got dropped when Carolyn changed the blog over to its new platform–I have not been receiving e-mails about the new posts, and I see I’ve missed all of them after the corned beef one. No time to read them tonight, but I’ll catch up soon! Nice to meet you, Karen!

    Nice to meet you too Donna!
    Regarding the e-mail list, since moving the blog to a different platform, the feed for email subscribers wasn’t working correctly. It’s now been fixed, at least we hope, so you should be getting notifications in the future from “follow.it”.
    So glad the Harusame looks good to you, I hope you enjoy it as much as my family does!…Karen T

  2. Gary K

    said on May 31st, 2021:

    Hi, Karen:

    I’m so happy to see you helping/taking over for ‘Cuz’ Carolyn!

    GaryK

    Hi Gary,
    Thanks so much. We are having fun!…Karen

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