Book Of My Month

Once there was a time when I would pick up a book and read it feverishly from cover to cover. Now I have a backlog of things I want to read but couldn’t find time for them. I think it was because I was busy blogging and reading other blogs. Now that it’s almost impossible to find interesting personal blogs – or even personal blogs at all – I’m planning to get back into it again. This is more of a promise to myself than a public declaration of a resolution.
Here’s my January book:


Capote written by Gerald Clark.

Apparently, this is the definitive Capote biography and definitive is right up my alley. I was toying with the idea of finally reading the definitive John Adams biography but I think Truman might be a little more interesting. Also, I’m tired of waiting for the next installment of the definitive biography about LBJ. If there even is one. Oh, goody – there is!

Anyway, I’m picking up a book again because I don’t have the skill to make a video featuring Hillary’s face pasted onto a cartoon figure as Shuffle Off To Buffalo plays in the background. Because she is a criminal and even the corrupt Obama minions in the “Justice”department will no longer be able to ignore it. Bye Felicia.

A Dreary Day Brightens Up Considerably

Rainy day blah blah blah so I gave cleaning a weak stab yada yada yada and then I started thinking about my favorite book of all times Make Way for Lucia, which is the complete Lucia/Mapp & Lucia stories by E F Benson. The old boy produced only six of these vastly entertaining novels before he died in 1940. If you don’t know them, these stories revolve around social one-upsmanship between two strong female personalities in a small village in England c. 1930s. And they are hilarious.

castLeft hungry for more, I’ve reread these novels many times. Imagine how delighted I was to come across the PBS TV adaptation back in the 80s. I’ve just (within the last year) re-watched that again via Amazon Prime. Apparently, there are other enthusiasts as passionate about these characters as I am, but they seem to be in England – the Friends of Tilling Society and so on.  It’s been pretty rough on me all these years going around announcing that things were tarsome and no one ever recognized that I was doing my Georgie Pillson imitation. Once I came across a  blogger* who wrote about raising Buff Orpington chickens and named her newest ones Mapp and Lucia so that was a bit of thrill for  a while.

Anyway, today I discovered that there’s not only one but two! authors who have continued writing stories for the characters. Amazon reviewers say that Tom Holt captures the characters perfectly and don’t so much recommend these books as they swoon over them. I am going to display caution about this and only order the first one because I read the excrescence that was the authorized sequel to Gone With The Wind and I do not wish to live through another experience like that one. There’s another author that has written a series of 3 books continuing the Mapp & Lucia stories but the reading public is slightly less enthusiastic about this set.

As if that weren’t enough, what do you suppose I found next? There’s new TV version of the M&L stories that began broadcasting in the UK at Christmas this year.  I may faint. In general, I’m not a fan of piracy but I might consider it in this case as opposed to waiting 2 years for it to show up on American TV.

It’s still raining out there and there’s not much going on in here but overall, this has been a very big day for me.

* Took a spin through the ‘net and the site is still active and I’m sure many of you already know this site because it’s and it’s a genuine blog and  I don’t why why I ever stopped following it. Situation corrected.

Book Report: Gloria

Gloria by Keith Maillard

I chose this big fat book based on a comment made by someone I occasionally read on the internet. I like big fat books in general and this one is about an intelligent socialite at the end of the 1950s who would rather do graduate work at Columbia University than get married when she finishes college as she is expected to do. This sure did seem like it had the ponytail for an interesting and smugly self-satisfied read. Looking at women’s lives and limited choices  back then from a modern viewpoint and judging them by modern standards (said the modern woman who couldn’t think of anything to be after high school except a teacher or a nurse) seemed like just the thing to finish off reading season on the deck.

It’s filled with descriptions of clothing and shopping; make up and making out, descriptions of long lingering kisses and multiple, inventive and varied descriptions of ejaculated semen and where it lands. Did I mention that the author is a man? Did I have to? Also, there’s lots of references to poetry. And dreams – an endless stream of recalled dreams. (I don’t listen to people who recount their dreams in real life and I’m certainly do enjoy reading about them.)

My customary reading style is to open a book, get deeply involved and then shut out the world until the book is finished – an indulgence which is difficult to maintain when you have a husband who wants to talk to you and a job that demands 10+ hours a day. But I managed.  I could hardly wait  to get up in the morning and start reading while the coffee brewed. I took the book out on the deck with me before I started my workaday and then opened it again when I was done for the day. I read it at the beginning of cocktail hour and while my retired husband prepared supper for us. (There’s your modern woman right there.) I hate to quit reading by the clock and much prefer to stop at a chapter end or at least a break in the narrative.

I always have and always will crack the spine of books that I am reading because that is how I roll. I usually buy hardcover because of the stitched binding. The glue that holds paperbacks together cannot withstand my reading style.

But something happened today. After the morning inspection of my little lemon tree, I settled into my deck chair despite the dampness and brisk temperature. I got up to page 489 and was in the midst of one more description of the elaborate procedures involved dressing for dinner at the country club and I thought to myself what would happen if I just stopped right here? And so I did.

And do you know what happened? I did not feel compelled to start reading again. I realized that I was bored. And so I am giving up on the book right now and will return to the other one that I started which did not bore me I just didn’t get around to picking it up again.

So would I recommend this book? That’s a big N. O.




Cook The Books

I bought two vegetarian cookbooks for my daughter.

Still Life With Menu Cookbook by Mollie Katzen

still-life-with-menuBack in the day when I was escorting my kids, one of the other mothers at the school bus stop knew Mollie Katzen and the original Moosewood  collective people. Apparently allegedly, there was bad blood over that first Moosewood cookbook allegedly and Millie Katzen split away and went out on her own allegedly. [Ed. note – sentence edited to add a enough allegedlys so that there is no basis for litigation. It was just bus stop talk, Mollie’s lawyers, I didn’t say it I’m only repeating it a few decades later. Is that a crime?]

Anyway, if that was the case, then Mollie was right to strike out on her own vegetarian food enterprise. Her recipes are doable, appealing, non-pretentious and anyone can prepare them. I just picked up the 1994 Still Life With Menu from my favorite used book emporium Abe Books for a dollar. I used to occasionally watch her first cooking show on TV. She developed the recipes, cooked them, hosted the TV series, and played the theme song on the  piano. For her cookbooks, she supplies the artwork – her own slightly off-kilter pastels. They’re annoyingly not-quite-right even though she takes the trouble to add shadows. Stand down, Mollie and stick to the food.

burn!! !

I love to buy used cookbooks. Sometimes they have little scraps of paper tucked between the pages that hold hand- written recipes that flutter down into your lap. It’s like a message from the past. OR the notes in the margins done by the former book owners. There were no noted and just a single note in this book. “Terrible!! !” declares the former owner with such passion that she had to come back and add a third exclamation point.

When I first get hold of a used cookbook, I like to let it fall open. That tells me the most  viewed recipes of the former owner. This one fell open between Thai Garlic Soup and Pad Thai. Odd choice since there are so many better choices here. The person who was looking for Thai recipes would have been better off with the next book.`

All the the recipes are set out within a menu so that you (novices) never have to wonder what to serve with a  recipe that catches your eye. Here’s the Vegetarian Thanksgiving:

  • Pesto and Peppercorn Torta
  • Raw Vegetables and Crackers
  • Cranberry Relish/Salad with Oranges, Apples and Sunchokes
  • Corn-bread Stuffed Cabbage with Mushroom Brandy Sauce
  • Sweet Potato Surprise*
  • Wilted Spinach Salad with Garlic and Hazelnuts
  • Chocolate Pecan Pie

* [Ed. note – text from the book with the italicization of the warning words by me] ” Pureed sweet potatoes are combined with fresh ginger and sweet spices, plus several surprises. The effect is delicious but subtle and your guests will have trouble identifying all the ingredients.”

Except for the hard-to-identify ingredients int he Sweet Potato Surprise, that doesn’t sound so bad. The recipes are grouped along with a preparation countdown, serving style suggestions and all the recipe ingredients are laid out against a pink background, separate but next to the recipe itself. This way you can easily  run down your shopping checklist to see what you already have and what you need to get.


nice job with that artichoke shadow, mollie

I do like the overall  lay of this recipe collection and I think I’ll hang onto it for a while before I pass it on. It doesn’t look like its going to take too long to cook my way though the “200 plus” recipes here. Some of the recipes are sauces or accompaniments for the main recipe so kind of cheating with the recipe count there folks, but that is a minor point to me.

samwSundays At Moosewood Restaurant by The Moosewood Collective

Before you ask, let me tell you that the Moosewood Collective is “a group of 18 people who rotate through the jobs necessary to make a restaurant work. They plan menus, set long-term goals and wash pots.”  Allegedly take that, Mollie.


Right on the back of the book jacket, the theme of the book is laid right out: Sundays are ethnic day at Moosewood.  The book itself is hard to handle. It’s a thick stubby thing only 7 1/4” x 9 1/4” compared to Still Life’s 81/2” x 10 3/4” which lays flatter when open for reference during recipe preparation.. There are no pencil marks whatsoever on my copy but some pages are dog-earred.  No grease spots or other spatters either. The first place this copy falls open is in the introduction. Evidently, someone found frequent opportunity to refer to Whiskey for Breakfast. (I say “evidently” here because I am trying to break my dependency on using the word “apparently” and also because I heard Tamra Barney unwittingly misuse it when she was trying to display her superior vocabulary skills during a verbal beatdown of another OC housewife. Allegedly.)


The previous owner must have owned this book during cold weather because every other place that it falls open or has a dog-ear is a soup recipe ( plus Transylvanian Eggplant Casserole). Look at this mess of a soup below.

talk about your carb-loading!

In my professional opinion, even a healthy person with a normally functioning pancreas would have a 2 hour postprandial glucose level of 375 after a bowl of this.  I am definitively making this as soon as the weather drops below 70 degrees because challenging my own pancreas is right up my alley.

For some unknown and unexamined reason, I want to complain about this book and criticize it but I can’t. I’m digging it. The reason I looked into this book in the first place was a recipe for spinach polenta  on the restaurant website. It is a well-known fact that I am A. Fool. for polenta.

(I would like the record to show here that the WordPress spellchecker did not recognize polenta and suggested that I change it to either tadpole or placenta. This is where we are in America in 2013.)

There are 2 sections here which qualify as “mid-eastern” – “Armenia and the Middle East” and “North Africa” – but I dare not show them to Mr. Sami for fear of head-explosion and a big lecture on how the Lebanese don’t know how to cook for shit and how anything from Morocco should not be allowed in any mid-eastern food discussions. I was mildly excited to see Vegetarian Lahma Bajeen  here until I read the tofu-heavy ingredient list. I think I’ll stick to the original meaty version but maybe that’s just me and my personal history with How To Make Your Own Tofu.

There’ s a lot more recipes in this book, more blather but less artwork than Still Life. There’s no question that the Moosewood Collective members are strongly influenced by their proximity to the grad crowd from nearby Cornell University and Ithaca College. I love how they have Southern United States listed as it’s own ethnic group. Bias much?

Famous Ladies From The Past – Part 1

Caroline Kennedy Listen, I’m no fan of Caroline Kennedy. Life’s cruel fates have distilled all that Kennedy drive, all that Bouvier style, all that citizenry love and expectation down into this bag of human disappointment:

How does one say “ya know” in Japanese?

I finished the J.B West memoir and the underlying  message is that the work of the White House staff goes on no matter who lives there and once families change, the transition is total and complete. Plans are made between the incoming First Lady and the chief usher before moving day so that when the new family enters the building for the first time after swearing in, their possession are in place and the private living quarters are all set up and ready for them with no trace of the previous family whatsoever. After the Kennedy assassination, Jackie asked Lady Bird for a favor – to let the nursery school on the third floor continue until after the  Christmas holidays. That way the transition for Caroline and the 19 other children would seem more natural than just stopping things the day the Kennedys moved out. Lady Bird agreed and that brings us to this sad passage:

Except for a few sentimental servants, she was generally ignored. Lynda and Luci were the new Princesses.

That must have been tough for a little kid – her position slightly off-center in the spotlight came to a sudden end along with everything else and the one home she knew was now a lonely place where she was ignored. She was unfriended in RL at age 6.

This is the saddest passage in the entire book.

Famous Ladies From The Past, Part 2 – Barbara Piasecka Johnson
Famous Ladies From The Past, Part 3 – Annette Funicello