Craughwell, Thomas J. Thomas Jefferson’s Creme Brulee: How a Founding Father and His Slave James Heming Introduced French Cuisine to America. Quirk Books, 2012.
How I would love to step back in time and follow Thomas Jefferson around! I just find him to be such an interesting character. I definitely agree that he is the most cerebral of our founding fathers. Despite Benjamin Franklin’s eye for invention I find that Thomas Jefferson was more downright curious. He wanted to learn all that he could about the world around him.
But, enough of that. Onto the book review: This was a disappointment. I honestly expected the subject matter to match the title of the book on several different points. For starters, the obvious one – food (specifically bringing French cuisine to America). I didn’t see enough supporting evidence to believe that it was Thomas Jefferson who actually introduced the cuisine to America. Only a small handful of recipes prove that recipes like macaroni and cheese were introduced. Then there is the subject of James Heming. James Heming might have been the one who did all the work – taking the culinary classes, practicing the recipes at Jefferson’s elaborate dinner parties, and training the next cook to take his place so that he might experience freedom, but it is on Jefferson Craughwell focuses the most. Even then the focus isn’t primarily on his bringing French cuisine to America, it was on everything else.
Happy freakin’ New Year!
I am making the resolution to clean up the blogs from 2011. In reviewing everything I read through the year I am noticing some that didn’t get tagged properly, some that weren’t put into the right categories and, horror upon horrors, one that didn’t even get published! WTF?! By all counts I *think* I read 65 fiction titles, 25 nonfiction titles, 12 Early Review/Librarything books, 2 for-fun books and 9 poems. This is, of course, cheating because I included the “attempts” as finished. As promised, I did get at least 50 pages into each failed read.
So, what about 2012? I am still off the reading schedule but have come up with a temporary plan. Kind of like when the plane breaks down and you realize you have to drive to your destination. Think “Trains, Planes & Automobiles.” You need a new map. No, wait. That line was from “Tommy Boy.” Wrong movie. Anyway. So, here is the plan of attack for January 2012:
J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit or There and Back Again and finish The Gravedigger’s Daughter by Joyce Carol Oates. That’s it. Not a crazy ambitious reading list for such a long month, but I’m taking one road at a time and not mapping out the entire journey like I usually do. This is a different year so I’m looking forward to reading a little differently as well.
Happy New Year!
January 2010 was all wrong. I put many other activities ahead of reading. Knitting- mom’s blanket was falling apart so I took some time to fix that (as well as add new trim). I also started a new blanket of blue and white. Haven’t figured out why I’m making this one at all. I think it will go to the island because we certainly don’t need another blanket! Working out – been walking & running on the treadmill withe some regularity, as well as weight training and a little yoga. Cooking – been getting back to making real meals which need more time…Bad television – I’ve become addicted to the addict shows: Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, Hoarders, and Intervention. I seem to identify with the misfits a little too well.
So, having said all that – reading wasn’t my highest priority. Behold the (ahem*) ‘finished’ list:
- High Five by Janet Evanovitch ~ in honor of female mystery month (whatever that means).
- The Semi-Attached Couple by Emily Eden (*) ~ in honor of the book lust of others (again, whatever that means).
- The Hole in the Universe: How Scientists Peered over the Edge of Emptiness and Found Everything by K.C. Cole (*) ~ in honor of January being the “start-over/clean slate” month.
- Echo House by Ward Just ~ in honor of Ward Just’s birth month.
- In Search of Robinson Crusoe by Timothy Severin (*) ~ in honor of National Geographic month.
- Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin ~ in honor of Mr. Franklin’s birth month.
- Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Goethe ~ in honor of letter writing month.
- The Little Friend by Donna Tartt ~ a behemoth of a book with an unsatisfying end.
For LibraryThing and the Early Review Program I finished Nothing Right, a collection of short stories by Antonya Nelson. If you are looking for quick snapshots of dysfunctional family life, this is the book for you!
* Sad to say, I didn’t get into these books enough to finish them. I did my 50 page rule and called it quits.
Jaffrey, Madhur. An Invitation to Indian Cooking. New Jersey: Ecco Press, 1999.
I have to start off by saying I love Madhur Jaffrey’s cookbooks. I own several and all of them are well-organized and beautifully illustrated (or have gorgeous photographs).
An Invitation to Indian Cooking might have been a more accurate title had it included the subtitle Getting to Know Indian Cuisines and Ingredients because Jaffrey not only invites you into the world of Indian cuisine she also includes history lessons and ingredient explanations in addition to recipes. While her tone is conversational I found it to be a little didactic at times. Her claims that Americans, on the whole, don’t know what well-prepared rice tastes like is one such example. Another drawback to An Invitation to Indian Cooking is its out-of-date information. Basmati rice, Jaffrey recommends, is readily available at specialty stores. That may have been true in 1973 when her first cookbook was published, but I expected the reprint to have some updated information. I also find it hard to believe that out of 50 states only 12 have stores that carry authentic Indian ingredients.
But, having said all that, I love the recipes Jaffrey includes in her first cookbook. I like her attention to detail and her comparisons between American and Indian products. For example, Jaffrey points out that American chicken is more tender than chicken purchased in India, therefore traditional Indian cooking techniques would not work well on an American-raised bird.
“The chicken available in American markets is so tender that it begins to fall apart well before it can go through the several stages required in most Indian recipes” (p 86).
If you are ambitious enough to make several Indian recipes at the same time Jaffrey includes a series of different menus to try.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called, “India: a Reader’s Itinerary” (p 125).
I have to admit the Other Blog is now getting the juicier stuff. The writing about running has leaked into a more psyche-driven state full of meltdowns and murmurings…whereas this side of writing has been more about books. Not being about to write throughout the month of May and not wanting to write in the month of June has had it’s disadvantages, for sure. I think the end result is a bias towards books. Maybe this is what I wanted all along. The other blog is getting the heartache stuff, the mind spewing stuff. I don’t know if this a temporary thing or if this site was meant for reviews or what. Maybe it’s my way of going underground again…like I did with ThatSpace’s blog. Uprooted and transferred when the traffic got too heavy. Maybe I don’t want my insanity to be that transparent, that troubling for anyone else but me. I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that I have gotten too cryptic on this side. Book reviews are more honest and more open than anything else…on this side. My rants have been saved for the other side. It’s been interesting to watch.
So. I guess I am saying this blog is slowly becoming a book blog…I’ll save the breakdowns and broken blogs for the other side. It seems saner that way…and in a way, safer. Not sure why I think that way, but there it is.
I caught up with an old friend recently. Hunched over humongous burritos we hurled hilarious stories at each other. Catching up on each other lives, getting caught in the laughter. How is it possible I let weeks and weeks turn into months before seeing this person, I don’t know. I couldn’t get over how hard I laughed (to the point of tears) or how easily we bantered.
“What do you mean ‘winking at you?’” I asked, astonished.
“I mean, wink, wink. Couldn’t miss it. It happened on four different occasions” came the reply.
“Winking? Not something caught in the eye?”
“Not a nervous twitch?”
“Not punctuating a funny story?”
“Not even talking.”
“Huh. Winking… At you.”
“Your best friend’s spouse was winking. At You.”
“That’s what I thought.”
“Okay. Here’s what you do: wink back.”
I’m bold to suggest such a thing. Flirting with trouble. Wink back? Yes. We sat over big burritos until our bellies were full. Watching the rain whip sideways we let it go. We had nowhere to be. Bring On the Rain. I was happy to be caught just to catch up.
I don’t care what anyone says. Summer officially started this weekend. To hell with the calendar. I’m ignoring the meteorologists, too. Summer wasn’t summer until the sun came out for more than an hour. For the first time in weeks I was able to weed the garden and the walk without dodging raindrops. I finally took up those giant prehistoric looks growths growing along side the driveway. I tackled the ground cover problem, too. Redistributing the gravel that has slid down the hill. This is Hilltop, after all. I moved rocks until my sun-bared arms ached. It felt good. I got in the pool for the second time this season and actually took a few strokes for the first time. Maybe I’ll learn to swim for real. It felt amazing. We got more of the back of the house painted. The gutter guys came. Progress is progressing.
Inspired by the weather I decided on a grill dinner. Pork marinated in lime, garlic, cilantro, and cumin. But, that wasn’t the best part of the mean meal. The salsa/salad was. Try this for yourself – play with the ingredients and measurements:
- black beans
- grape tomatoes
- grilled corn
- red onion
- chili powder
- red pepper flakes
- olive oil
- champagne vinegar
- sea salt
- tri-colored fresh cracked pepper
Throw everything into a big bowl and let marinate for a few hours. Any ingredient can be left out or substituted for something else. Think about it – red beans instead of black, how about rice? Vidalia instead of red onion, scotch bonnet instead of jalapeno, red wine vinegar instead of champagne…these switches aren’t a stretch, but the options are limitless. Then, to really blow your mind, there is texture. Mince everything small and you have a blended salsa, puree it and you have a killer sauce for grilled chicken. Leave it super chunky and sprinkle it with tortilla chips and you have a great side salad. Add lettuce and grilled beef (sliced paper thin) and there’s a whole meal. I love meals like this.
This weekend felt like a holiday. We worked around the house and enjoyed the sun. Grilled on the deck and savored sweet cherries for dessert. Danced around the living room to Coldplay drums. Later, from our living room window we paused a movie to take in the second fireworks display of the holiday. Bedtime brought a book to bed with me. But, before long my eyes grew too heavy. Sleep came easy. A perfect ending to a perfect day to good to keep.
My faith in marriage has been rocked. Everything I believed in previously is a myth, a lie, a mirage set up to hurt and disappoint and destroy.
What do you do when you marry with the understanding, the trust that what you are doing is forever and suddenly you find out it has been one big, humongous lie? The house with the heavy mortgage is really built out of cards, not love. Suddenly there is a big bad wolf at your door ready to huff and puff and steal your happiness away. Your 9-5 to support your loved ones was a waste of time. Working hard for the failing.
They say hurtful things like I Never Loved You. I Used You. I Have Been Waiting For Someone Else. Someone Else. All This Time. Ten Years Means Nothing To Me. I Will Get The Kids And The House. Mine. All Mine. Head spinning. Heart in a tailspin. Is there any way to pull out of this freefall? Is there a way to snap out of this stunned disbelief and wake from the nightmare?
Friends shake their heads in shock. Didn’t see this coming we all mutter. Who sides with whom? Rumors of the evil kind circulate among the unkind. Cocaine. Cheating. The accusations are so outrageous how could anyone not see it coming? It’s just right there if you know where to look.
Kisa and I look at each other differently. That thing we argued about yesterday seems so petty today. We tiptoe around our relationship like it is a sleeping child. What we once considered a rock is now a wispy, translucent spider’s web. What we once took for granted is back in consideration. We are considerate. Nothing lasts forever.
There was a reason I stood behind my veil and shook like a leaf. There was a reason why I kept him waiting at the alter. Kept him waiting, but didn’t leave him. I waited for the nerves to calm, the strength of love to flood my veins. In light of recent developments I can’t help but be reminded of that day I almost said I don’t.
We say no one saw this coming. Doesn’t matter. We are all in still in shock.
Or are we?
- Tell Kyle
- Bring on the Rain
- Erina Rose
- Miss You
- Oh Nashville
- On Your Way Down
- Goodbye For the Last Time
- No Such Fairytale
- Hold Me
- Sonnet #30
There is something about outdoor music, especially when the weather is perfect and the bugs are held at bay. People pull out snacks, snap open lawn chairs and spread out blankets, complete with coolers and cameras. Laughter bounces off conversations and excitement mingles with anticipation. We are ready for music. The Soul of Me cd release party was like this – a combination of family and friends getting together like a gigantic gourmet picnic in the park and the thrill of new music. Hugging and catching up between sips of wine and bites of food. A backyard oasis of tiny white lights and chocolate covered strawberries. And That Voice.
The above setlist is not from the cd release party. I wasn’t willing to spend my time writing each song down… in the dying light and approaching dark. Instead, this is the track list for Rebecca’s new cd, Soul of Me. Rebecca sang all the songs except “No Such Fairytale” “Goodbye for the Last Time” and “Hold Me.” I was relieved she didn’t sing “Hold Me” because I was ripe for a good cry and I didn’t need to be turning on the waterworks at that particular time! She did throw in some extras like a cover mix, an oldie from Memories of Their Love and a little something about Gene Simmons in her grocery store…
Side story: When Rebecca introduced Chris from ‘The Everyday Visuals’ there was a moment of deja vu. How do I know you? Where do I know you from? Do I know you or is my mind playing tricks on me? As Chris began to sing and tell stories the nagging thought I had seen him before simply would not leave my mind. Turns out ‘The Everyday Visuals’ played in the Boston Pop’s cafe the same night Natalie played at Edgefest (the ticket to Natalie got you in to see ‘The Everyday Visuals’ as well). TEVs were the band I could have seen had my family been interested in a little more music after Natalie…
All in all it was a great night and I wish I could have stayed to see Rebecca’s after-show antics! Maybe next time.
Who would have thought I would enjoy digging in the dirt so much? Hand me a house complete with a hoe and I’m a happy girl. Who knew? Every morning I find myself standing on the stoop, checking the vital signs of my transplants, keeping tabs on the roses. I pluck wilting blooms from the hanging planter, willing more flowers to take their places. Bring on the color. Every night on my way to check the mail I double check my geraniums. My fight-breast-cancer pink blooms. Check for bugs. Check for dry soil. Do you need anything, I ask them. Water? Bug spray? Food? There is peace in all this puttering and pampering.
In the middle rhododendron bush a mother robin had built a nest. I had a perfect view of her from my window. Over time as I watched her sit on her eggs I would myself just how many babies did she have? I spied every day, hoping to catch a glimpse of her skyblue family. They hadn’t hatched by the time I went away, but when I came home three loud mouthed, scrawny, bald babies squawked from their cozy perch. Strange how a family of common birds could fill me with such caring. I kept a careful watch over them until one day the nest was silent. Empty. The babies had flown. Or so I hoped.
Out in the back there is a spindly dogwood (“It’s a tree and a bush, sir.”) that I have been mothering. When my mother was in town we noticed a strange vine had wrapped its tendrils around its fragile limbs. Invasive and attacking, this vine was literally choking the life out of my dogwood. We, my mother and I, set to work with a fierce counterattack. Armed with sharp (pink!) clippers we chopped and slashed our way through the vines and freed the dogwood tree from captivity. Since then I have been diligent in keeping the vines at bay. I hack anything that comes near.
A good friend has a garden of herbs on her front steps. I envy her because she grows all my favorites: cilantro, italian flat leaf parsley and basil. Could I do the same? the thought crosses my mind nearly everyday. What about the cats? The rabbits? And someone said something about a wild boar…something I need to think about.
So for now I will tend to my dusty miller, my roses – trees, bushes and flowers. This garden that has brought me a different kind of relaxation, a separate peace, if you will. Who knew?
I ask a lot of my friends. I really, really do. Support this unsigned artist. Donate to my
run walk. Come to this new restaurant with me. Hear this crazy-azz dream I had. Calm me down. Pick me up. Givegivegive. It’s amazing the amount of love I asked for from my friends. It’s amazing how amazing my friends really are.
Why all this gushing? Not only did the great ones donate to my 60 mile, three day walk for Just ‘Cause, they rallied together to support Sean Rowe’s cd release of ‘Magic.’
We piled in the magic truck and bombed our way to Cohoes, NY. Laughing all the way, we weaved in and out of traffic and got there in record time. Just in time to miss just one song. We got there in time to catch ‘Jonathan’ and get caught up in the electric vibe. Sean sounded great and I couldn’t wait for every word. After waiting for brownies and a monkey-something-er-rather we got settled by the stairs. I think B had bathroom duty without realizing it. Crammed in I couldn’t see Sean but, I don’t need to see the man to hear the words and feel the sound.
After the first set my friend I have dubbed God (don’t ask) snagged spots at the top of the stairs for all of us. Great spot! The view looking out over the crowd was great. The sound was phenomenal. The fresh air from the back door was heavenly. The company was cool.
Wait. Let me talk about that for a minute. I always stress about bringing someone new to see unknown music. It’s always a gamble. I took someone to see sirsy a few years back. Virgin territory. She walked out halfway through the first set and never came back. So I worry. I convince someone to make the trek and maybe they’ll hate it. Hate me. Not so Sean night. B doesn’t know me all that well. Knows the music all that less. Maybe even knows Cohoes not at all. Not only did he subject himself to all that, he survived it all. He had good things to say about the venue, better things to say about the beer, and the best things to say about Sean. It rocked. He rocked.
But, back to Sean. He also rocked in all the right ways. I love the new version of ‘Jonathan.’ I say new because I’m used to the pared down, sparse and folky version of the song. This version builds in intensity that matches the lyrics and the passion. It’s perfect. In some ways it’s even better than the version I’m used to. ‘Trademark of Fools’ almost didn’t make it out of Sean’s mouth. Luckily, the motto is “the crowd is always right” and we got him to get it out. As usual ‘Wet’ wrecked me. Happens everytime. Having the fortress of friends around me really, really helped. Manda, your tissue delivery was well timed. I would have snotted Ruby if you hadn’t magically appeared!
I had to ask Sean for a setlist and here’s the laid back, way-cool answer:
hmmmm. i don’t know if i quite remember
duct tape man
you’re so real
blue grass baby
draw the line
vincent black lightning
trademark of fools
why i sing the blues
there is a man
my father’s name
the long haul
i may be leaving something out and some of the tunes i may have the order slightly wrong but i think this is pretty accurate. hope that helps. xo
Sorry this isn’t much of a review. Now that the album is out I want to sit silent and listen to it from start to finish. I’ll write something more Magic-centric then. For now, trust me when I say it is AMAZING!
I set up a blog page just for my donors. I guess I’m saying this here so I don’t have to explain my time there. Aside from the cd release party for Sean (already written but Sean just sent me the set list), I won’t be over here that much – except maybe for book reviews. I think it will be good for me to get away because this walk for Just ‘Cause has brought me to a better place.
I had to say no several times yesterday. What a weird concept. Usually I skirt around the issue, not wanting to come right out with not participating. How liberating, how honest to just say no. Not now. Nope. Why haven’t I thought about this before? Why haven’t I dared?
In the case of the work whiners it was easiest when I could look at the time and say we need to continue this tomorrow. My charges? To find out what makes some so damn inefficient. Easier said than done. No Grace under pressure. I had to admire this one administrator. In mid-sentence she was told she needed to be somewhere else. It didn’t ruin her day. It didn’t ruin her attitude. She was able to slide over to a new way of thinking. When I asked her how she managed she looked at me and deadpanned, “interruption is not a word in my vocabulary.” I love it. Word to the wise. Wise up.
It’s harder to say no to friends. I had plans to get together with someone who really means a lot to me. Yet, I need to stay on my training schedule. I couldn’t have done both successfully. It bothered me that the training won out. It bothered me to have to tell her no. After all, she is my inspiration. She is my hero. Yet, I put her off, hero or not. This is the way it had to be. No, I said. I need to train. Her graceful acceptance allowed me to walk nine miles. I got it done because I didn’t give in.
Later, an invitation to chat. Under any other circumstances I would have loved sparring with this flirty friend. He’s quick with the compliments and quicker with the innuendos. I love the sass. I love the challenge this conversation always presents to me. Who can be the most indulgent, the most daring? But, sigh of all sighs, I had to tell him and his innuendos no. I needed a warm bath and a hot cup of tea. As I let the water wrap itself around my tired legs I thought about this new no I seem to have. While I don’t necessary like it or want it, it works for now. For now.
For lack of something better to say, here’s something I never posted.
I don’t want to count today’s run for anything except a cemetery visit. After kisa and I got the driveway, porches and walkways cleared of snow it seemed ridiculous to hop on an indoor treadmill. The sun was shining a brilliant blue. Not a cloud in sight. Birds darted among the bushes. 18 degrees felt like 800 after shoveling. Perfect for a graveyard run. Or so I thought.
Here are the things I have forgotten about since my last ‘coil run’ (I’m talking about the coils runners wear over their shoes to avoid slipping on ice – love them!):
- coils “roll” on pavement
- coils slip in fluffy snow
- coils are perfect on icy ice
So, I tried to look for patches of ice to run on the entire time. It seems strange to say that, but it was true. The metal coils worked best when they could dig into the surface and hang on. Snow packed in between the coils and pavement just made the coils roll like springs. Running in snow was like running in very fine, very loose sand. My ankles grew sore and my calves tightened. Hell on the thighs, too.
I had completely forgotten what it was like to run outside in below freezing temps. Tears freeze halfway down the face despite feeling hot everywhere else. Snot starts to lodge itself like ice chunks. In the beginning, speaking of snot, I had a snot bubble that refused to pop. With every breath it grew and shrank like a giant bullfrog throat (crazy image, right? It’s true). It made me giggle until it started to freeze in my nose. Giggling turned to gross in a matter of seconds.
Running outside in the snow affords me the luxury in running in someone else’s footsteps for a while. Someone wearing coils like mine on shoes twice as big. For a while I could match his or her stride footstep for footstep and I fell into an easy rhythm. Then the packed snow ended and I lost my imaginary running mate. It was time for me to turn towards the cemetery.
Running up to the spot I spotted a man not wearing a coat…or a hat…or gloves. In this cold I had reason to worry. Instantly my heart began to race and panic threatened. We made eye contact, said hello and separated. Him leaving the graveyard, me going deeper into it. Remembering I had my phone with me I relaxed as the man continued to move further away.
On the way out I couldn’t believe my eyes. Mr. NoCoat was coming back. Panic was also back, so on gut instinct I bolted across the road and down a side street. I swear I watch too much crime television. I’m paranoid. Nevertheless I hated seeing the same stranger twice. Getting away from him was the only thing on my mind as I cut across another street and up onto a very public sidewalk. There I felt safe enough to slow back down to a breathable, less heart attack inducing pace.
I never did find Rick and Irene’s graves. The snow was too crusty for me to brush away. I never did see NoCoat again. I can’t count this as a real run. Emotions got the better of me. This would have been a 3.25 30 minute run had it not been for digging in the snow and trying to outrun my fear.
What exactly does that mean, blind faith? Is it stupid trust? Is it unknowing confidence? Is it naive hope? What does it mean to have blind faith in something you don’t believe in? Such are the questions. Where are the answers? I am too headstrong for reasoning.
You accused me of something so blind, so stupid, so unknowing and naive. Where was the faith? The trust? The confidence? The hope that I would never steer you wrong. To do you wrong is to do an army of people wrong. Don’t get me wrong, but an army of people more precious than what I mean to you. That might not be saying much, but that’s what I mean without saying too much.
I have given up trying to be meaner than how angry I really am. It’s like too sweet frosting on a cake made without sugar. The compensation just doesn’t cut it. Proportionally, it doesn’t make sense. At the end of the day I find myself not really caring. That’s not mean, just real. Why get fired up over something I have no fire for? It’s like the person who hates without knowing. Hating just because it seems like the
right easy thing to do. In the end, when it’s all said and done, was that hate worth anything to the hater? Not really sure. Wasted energy some would say. For a life too short, I would add.
What exactly am I trying to say? I’m not sure. Maybe I’ll never know. This is what came to mind when I thought about you. This is what popped out when I opened my mind to think. So, in the spirit of blind faith I say have faith no more. “Open up your eyes. See me for what I am. Cast in iron I won’t break and I won’t bend.” ~ Headstrong, 10,000 Maniacs. Words by Natalie Merchant.