Monthly Archives: January 2014

FINDING COOKBOOK TREASURES AT THE LIBRARY

I love cookbooks. On this trip to the library I found some treasures. Each book is different in terms of content and organization. Though some are classified in a genre other than cookbook, each is about food.

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Blue Plate Special: An Autobiography of my Appetities. By Kate Christensen (2013)

This book is a literary memoir. According to the flyleaf, she unpacks her life in this book. Food figures prominently. She is a well-known novelist. Blue Plate Special has been praised by many. Some call it some of her best writing. She lives in Maine. She grew up in Berkley and Arizona. Likely the food connections will reflect these locations. Should be interesting. I look forward to spending more time with this book.

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Daniel: My French Cuisine. By Daniel Boulud. Essays by Bill Buford. Photographs by Thomas Schaur. (2013)

I didn’t check out this large, heavy book and carry it to my car along with quite a few others because of the French Cuisine title or this chef. I have enjoyed a previous book by Bill Buford detailing his extensive cooking adventures. I’ve always wanted to read more. Here’s my chance.

Part II of the book is titled Iconic Sessions. Here the reader finds Buford’s essays. I couldn’t decide which essay to read first. All of the dishes were out-of-the-ordinary, even unheard of, and extremely complicated. None were anything I would be reproducing. Most did not look particularly appetizing in the colorful photographs. Finally I chose Pot-au-Feu. I thought I had some idea what might be explained.

I know that Buford’s writing can transport me to first class kitchens. I want to go there. And in fact, it happened. I went to the history and hearth of French cooking in this essay. The trip was most enjoyable. Now, I’m ready for another essay, no matter the food.

The next section I would read is Part III, Daniel At Home. He cooks regional menus at home representing different French areas. Alsace is one province represented. The food looks wonderful, tasty and somewhat familiar. At the end of the book are basic recipes of one kind and another: sauces, stocks, short ribs. There is a helpful glossary of culinary terms. Part I of the book gives recipes in several categories from Restaurant Daniel along with essays by Daniel, e.g. Daniel on Cheese.

Endless enjoyment awaits. This is a book to keep one pleasantly occupied for hours.

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Growing a Feast: The Chronicle of a Farm-To-Table Meal. By Kurt Timmermeister (2014)

Mr. Timmermeister, chef and restaurateur, farms on a small plot on Vashon Island in Washington’s Puget Sound. Readers follow the farm-to-table trail as he prepares a feast for twenty friends. I’ve read two chapters so far. I love it. It is readable and interesting. Of these books, it is the one I am most likely to read first and most likely to read cover to cover. It calls to me. Our shared farm experiences is one of the reasons.

It’s hard to pin down the genre of this book. It might be called a farm memoir. It is clearly a non-fiction book about growing and preparing food. West Coast readers, please note. This is at least the second cookbook I have featured on the blog about food raised in your part of the country. You are not to be neglected. First you could claim the peaches and now an entire meal.

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The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year In Holidays. By Ree Drummond. (2013)

I find this book as promising and successful as her previous two cookbooks. I own and use both. I’m not a holiday cook, but the recipes sound as scrumptious as advertised. Informative and inviting photographs are also beautiful and heart-warming. They feature how-to prep pictures, finished products and her beautiful home and family.

I feel I must have this cookbook. Here are some recipes I look forward to preparing:
Eight-Layer Dip (how about Super Bowl Sunday?)
Blackberry Margaritas
Caesar Salad (croutons, garlic, parmesan and anchovies––all items Jerry likes. Well, he doesn’t know he likes anchovies.)
Chocolate Strawberry Cake (I seldom make cakes. This is for Father’s Day or Fourth of July.)
Ree’s Favorite Pasta Salad

I’ve not even paged half through the book yet. WOW! This is the book I’m most likely to buy.

And now back to reading about a feast two years in the making. Next up a chapter on making cheese. Or maybe, I’ll browse more of Ree’s wonderful pictures. What about Bill Buford’s essays? Sounds like Blue Plate Special is on my back burner.

FIVE TV DRAMAS THAT FEED MY FICTION HABIT

There are times when it seems that TV drama is the fiction fix I most enjoy. Oh, I haven’t given up books, but I love good TV fiction.

The fave five of the moment:

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Downton Abbey
The Crawley Family and their servants are having quite a time. Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess still gets many of the best lines. This week episode four of the new season made the Sunday night hour fly by. Has a television show ever made time disappear so quickly? I suppose so, but….. Some may think Downton is turning into a soap opera. What do you think? And, what does it mean to call the show a soap opera? Since Homeland turned the plot pages with such convincing speed, perhaps other shows would like to emulate that kind of plotting. Downton is ripping along. A few pages of the script may be torn along the edges, but I care about the characters and I care what happens next. And the housekeeper, Mrs. Hughes, isn’t she a wonder?

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The Good Wife
I don’t expect an argument when I say this is some of the best writing on television. Everything about the show is terrific. And now that the lead character Alicia Florrick played by Julianna Margulies has started a new firm with Matt Czuchry’s character Cary Agos, the lawyers are more combative than ever. And keep your eye on investigator Kalinda. What will happen next for her?

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Top of the Lake
This mini-series from Sundance last year is available on Netflicks. I have watched about half of the episodes. Golden Globe best actress winner Elizabeth Moss is stunning in the lead role as detective Robin Griffin returning to her hometown in a remote part of New Zealand. The cinematography of New Zealand is frightening in its beauty and ability to suggest danger. The series is a bit raw for me, but so far I’m sticking with it. Small-town secrets can be irresistible.

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Treme
The final episode of the four year HBO series wrapped about a week ago. New Orleans, the music and the people will no longer be part of my regular TV viewing. The series depicts life after Hurricane Katrina. I recommend this if you like to get to know a place and you enjoy more leisurely story-telling. The creator and producer of The Wire also did this show. He knows how to get under the skin of a place and tell its story.

Nashville
Callie Khouri writes this show. It debuted in 2012. Last week seemed a bit slow. Maybe we need a chance to catch a breath before the plot plunges on. Music is a big part of the show. Both Connie Britton, who plays a fading country music star, and Hayden Panettiere, who is a younger star, create characters that are fun to watch. Over the last couple of years, the show has been recognized for acting, music, editing, and costumes. I don’t feel too guilty for enjoying this show.

And there is more to come.
True Detectives is a new series with SAG Award winner Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson on HBO on Sunday night. After the movie, Catching Fire, I’m a Woody Harrelson fan. I haven’t had a chance to see this new series yet. Sunday nights are crowded. This show has been getting lots of positive buzz in the press.

House of Cards opens the second season on Feb. 14. The Kevin Spacey character Frank Underwood is vice president. Last season Robin Wright gave tremendous performances as his wife. All thirteen episodes will be available.

I also look forward to the return of Orange Is the New Black, on Netflicks.

What is your favorite TV fiction fix? Tell us about it so we won’t miss it.

READER INTERVIEW

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READER INTERVIEW WITH NANCY SCHAEFER, MICHIGAN READER
Conducted January 15, 2014

Note from Paulette: I’m always interested in what readers are reading or hoping to read. Here’s the first reader interview. This is likely a frequent feature of readeatlive.com

Tell us what you are reading these days.
I’m reading Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks. This is a selection of our neighborhood book club. Belonging to a book club is delightful and has broadened my reading experience.

Do you have a favorite book of the past year?
Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin and Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

What books would we be surprised to find on your shelves?
Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy.

Do you have a favorite author or two?
Dorthea Benton Frank and Sharon Kay Penman. I love Penman’s Welsh stories.

What book that you read this past year was a disappointment and why?
The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar. It took a long time to get into it, and its descriptions of conditions in India. If it hadn’t been a club selection, I wouldn’t have finished it.

What writers would you like to invite to lunch?
I would invite Anne Barrow who wrote The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I have reread it four times. And, I would invite Dorthea Benton Frank who writes stories set in South Carolina’s Lowcountry.

What book is in the waiting-to-be-read category?
Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson.

What helps you decide what to read?
Book Club Selections, browsing in bookstores, and reading lists in the newspaper.

Do you have a favorite genre, or not?
Yes, I like both fiction and fact, especially stories set in the Lowcountry, and English and American History.

What will you read next?
I plan on obtaining Ken Follett’s newest book.

From Paulette: Nancy tells us that more often than not, she enjoys “feel good” books that don’t require a lot of thinking. Like most readers, she can speak her mind. Thanks so much Nancy for sharing your reading interests with other blog readers! I loved this peek into your reading life.

VISIT MALAPROP’S BOOKSTORE/CAFE

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I have discovered a most captivating place: Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café. It’s located at 55 Haywood Street in Asheville, NC. It’s large, locally owned and one of the finest such establishments I’ve ever encountered. This is the kind of bookstore where I could easily spend all day.

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Inside the store, everywhere my feet and eyes travel, I meet a new section. Books are organized in groups. Easy-to-read signs give the information I need. There’s Staff Favorites, Banned Books, Award Winners, Regional books, Book Club Books, Notebooks and such materials for readers and writers, Staff Favorites, Self-sufficiency and Farming, as well as such usual sections as History, Fiction, Memoir, Biography and on and on. The Cooking shelves and the Children’s corner easily capture my attention. These pictures show how easy it is to be distracted by a new and even more interesting group of books. At first I dash from one spot to another.

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Alsace and other staff are friendly and helpful. They search for books of interest to me, and they find them. My husband enjoys a delicious Danish Pastry and some good conversation at the café.

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I heard about this place from Michigan friends. One couple told me I must see it and took me there when a group of us were in Asheville last year for a wedding. I couldn’t wait to get back. Other friends had made a special trip to Asheville to hear the author Mohsin Hamid (The Reluctant Fundamentalist) speak. Both the place and the speaker provided them with a most memorable experience. After their encouragement, I made time for a visit while traveling last week.

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Did I buy books? Yes, I did! The Good Lord Bird by James McBride, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra, The Orphan Train by Christine Baker Kline, A Reader’s Book of Days by Tom Nissey, and a writer’s notebook. And I wanted to buy more.

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Do make a stop in Asheville whenever you are able. If you can’t get there soon, you are in luck. Their website is helpful and interesting. www.malaprops.com

One can search and shop books and peruse upcoming events of surprising variety. They feature local and nationally known authors. Learn about an interesting variety of book clubs. Don’t miss their recommended reading, newsletter and other information.

You’ll love having this amazing bookstore on your radar.

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LOVING THE LOCAL SHRIMP AT SALT WATER COWBOYS

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Local shrimp, tender and sweet, is one of the joys of St. Augustine, Florida. These winter days shrimp boats parade along the horizon on the Atlantic Ocean. Some of the local restaurants are smart enough to serve this local fish in a variety of ways.

Salt Water Cowboys is one such restaurant. The building brings to mind a fishing shack; it settles among the salt marshes along the intercoastal waterway. Inside, Old Florida atmosphere abounds. This past week with some Cowboy Lemonade spiked with vodka and other good stuff to warm us up, we ate one of the most delicious shrimp dinners ever.

A very congenial waiter soon set before us the essentials of an Old Florida Shrimp Feast. We didn’t gaze at the beauty of the dishes long because everything was dive-right-into-it inviting. The aroma of the Oysters Dondanville smothered in garlic butter and vermouth flavored bread crumbs had us pushing aside the Cowboy Lemonade.

Soon the true comeback dish at Saltwater Cowboys arrived. As the waiter said, “If this salad ever left the menu there would probably be a riot in protest.” He placed before us a salad of crisp romaine on a cold plate topped with thin rings of red onion, apple slices, walnuts and raisins and draped in the most delicious creamy tangy dressing you will ever eat. (I have tried to reproduce it, but mine is never as good as Saltwater’s.)

The shrimp! Oh-My! The light crispy shrimp was perfectly prepared, butterflied, tender and tasty. My handsome companion ordered and enjoyed 3 Way Shrimp. Creamy Red Pepper Shrimp Sauce topped the crab-stuffed shrimp. The Barbequed Shrimp were broiled, and he had light, crispy fried shrimp, too. The trimmings were all delicious.

Helpful, friendly service is the norm here. Hot is hot and cold is cold. No rushing. At least this week, Salt Water Cowboys had it all. If Cracker Cooking means delicious. This is the place to find it. They serve chicken, fish, ribs, and other local good food. And, believe me, the shrimp is outrageously good!

Check their website: saltwatercowboys.com

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MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH EATING

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MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH EATING: LESSONS IN FOOD AND LOVE FROM A YEAR IN PARIS
Author: Ann Mah
Publisher: Pamela Doman Books, 2013
Genre: Non-fiction food and travel
288 Pages

Guest Blogger: Susan Carter

Ann Mah is a journalist and lifelong foodie; a Francophile who was raised in Southern California, graduated from UCLA & married a member of the US diplomatic corp. When he receives an assignment in Paris, she feels like her dreams have come true and plans the wonderful time they will spend eating and delighting in all that the City of Light has to offer. Shortly after their arrival in Paris, her husband is called away to Iraq for a year and she finds herself alone in a new city.

Loneliness begins to overcome her so she develops a new plan, which centers around her love of food. She decides to delve into the signature dishes of the various regions of France, traveling, interviewing and discovering the history behind some of the country’s best- loved dishes.

Lucky for us, she put her year into a book so we get to travel with her, meet a variety of French women & men and (almost) taste the dishes she researches. She includes an authentic recipe for each of the dishes and has made the instructions easy enough for a novice cook.

Ann’s style of writing is that of sitting at a table talking with a friend and it’s hard to think of her as anything else by the time you finish. She learns and shares a lot about herself, life, the French and food during her year on her own. Her food descriptions will make you hungry (except, possibly for the andouillette) and anxious to travel to France to experience the food first hand and relive some of the history.

The book is very easy reading and highly recommended for any foodie or Francophile as it’s truly a delicious French adventure.

From Paulette: Thanks to Guest Blogger Susan Carter for sharing this interesting and informative review of a book I’d like to read. Wouldn’t you?


MISSING MISSISSIPPI

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Men We Reaped
Author: Jesmyn Ward
Publisher: Bloomsbury, 2013
Genre: Memoir
251 pages
Source: Personal Copy

Sometimes, the people and the place that are home call to us over and over again. The ties that bind are very strong. We long for the gifts that are our own when we live in that place and among those people.

So it is for Jesmyn Ward. In this arresting memoir, she shares her love for her home, a love that transcends hardship and grief, racism and addiction. She reaches deep inside herself to remember and to discover her Mississippi life. She is able to write in a way that draws readers into her life to help us understand where she has lived and how she is able to show respect for family and community she loves so much, in spite of the difficulties they must endure.

Even as a little girl living in the Oakland, California area with her mother and father, she yearns for the beaches, the heavy wet air, and blowing sand. When she attends college at Stanford and graduate school at the University of Michigan, she misses Mississippi with an intensity that is hard for a Northerner to understand. Whenever she can, she hurries home to be with her family and friends, to sweat in the weighted air or to stand in the hot sun. Home, family and friends are lifeblood for her.

Through this yearning for the land and people she loves, she tells her story. Her home-town on the Gulf Coast is a beloved place, no matter how poverty and violence have slashed and begrimed it. She tells the stories of her family and some of the men she grew up with. These stories include tragic deaths and wonderful strength that rises up to protect and expose. Her mother’s strength and her own are amazing. But it is her brother’s unexpected death caused by a drunk driver that is the most heartbreaking of the sorrows she faces. And yet, she finds the strength to become a writer.

There is so much to understand and to admire in this book. Her tribute to her mother tugs at the heart. “Without my mother’s legacy, I would never have been able to look at this history of loss, this future where I will surely lose more, and write the narrative that remembers, write the narrative that says: Hello. We are here. Listen.” (her italics)

Descriptions of the people, the places, the happenings are so beautifully and respectfully rendered, yet real and truthful, the reader can only catch her breath in wonder. Often Jesmyn Ward describes an ugliness that is everyday life for some of our American neighbors. It is a sad wakeup call asking us to pay attention to what life is for some of our brothers and sisters in our wide and great country.

All of us need pay attention to Mississippi. This writer moves us with her stories. She makes us miss the place she so loves, and what it could be and might become with our support.