Thursday, June 30, 2011

Sunset's Kitchen Cabinet Recipes

47. Sunset's
Kitchen Cabinet Recipes
Volumes One - Three, 1944
seventh book for Foodie's Reading Challenge
finished, 6/30/11

Recently I received an unexpected, and much appreciated gift from Andi, who writes the blog, In The Mood. In her note she said she's had them for many years, and 'it was time to pass them on.' Oh, how I love them. These are cookbooks which have been much loved and much used over the years. Just for fun I did a little search to see if there were any poems about old cookbooks, and I came upon this gem.

My grandma’s old cookbook is aged and forlorn.
The pages are grease stained, each faded and worn.
The spine is collapsed and the cover’s askew,

revealing, in no way, what this book could do.
A barrel of cookies, sweet, fresh lemonade,
roasts, casseroles, salads this ancient book made. It brought love and caring to both young and old,
delivering happiness not bought or sold.
Its owner and user breathed life to this book,
by sharing herself with each recipe cooked.

True gifts from her heart were delivered with love,
presented on earth for her Father above.
Her gentle, sweet kindness was blended with care.
A silent reminder that she had been there
to welcome your newborn…

to ease every ill…

true unselfish gestures of love and goodwill.
So don’t be deceived by the physical book,
but rather… rejoice in the wonderful cook.

Just cherish and honor each frayed, weathered page,

for pure, loving kindness has brought forth its age.
by Jane-Ann Heitmeuller

These books were all published by Sunset Magazine in 1944, and each volume contains an 'about the book' page which says:
For over fifteen years, leading homemakers of the Pacific West have submitted their favorite recipes to The Kitchen Cabinet, an illustrated recipe section in Sunset, the Magazine of Western Living. The demand from subscribers who had been collecting these recipes in scrap-books led to the publication of a portion of them several years ago in Sunset's Kitchen Cabinet Cook Book.
Now, ALL the The Kitchen Cabinet recipes printed over a period of fifteen years may be had in handy book form in a three-volume set. This book, Volume One, contains those recipes originally printed in Sunset Magazine from 1929-1933. Volume Two covers another five-year period, 1934-1938, and Volume Three contains the recipes from the magazine for the years 1939 through 1943.
The books are treasures to me. I love everything about these cookbooks. Each page offers recipes from real people, most of them called Mrs. so and so. There are little drawings, and there are meal plans.

There are occasional tips.

And sometimes the recipes

are accompanied by illustrated directions.

Here's one from Miss F.S. Ridgefield. Oven fries/potato chips from the 1930s!

I expect you'll be seeing many of the recipes in my letters as time goes on. For today, I made one from Volume Two called -

Graham Cracker-Apple Pudding

It comes from Mrs. R.E.W., San Rafael, California with her notes.

My husband declares he could eat one of these puddings every night of the week without growing tired of it! It is so easy to make that I am tempted to try out the idea.

1 cupful of graham cracker crumbs
4 medium-sized apples, pared and sliced
1/2 cupful of chopped nuts
1/2 cupful of brown sugar
Juice of one lemon in 3/4 cupful of water

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and turn into a well buttered casserole. Bake, uncovered, in a moderate oven (375-400 degrees) for 25 minutes, or until apples are tender. Serve hot with cream.

Here it is on the page, with a meal plan included.

Just five ingredients -

to make this delicious dessert which is more apple-y than for example, an apple crisp.

So, I asked Tom if he, like Mr. R.E.W. of San Rafael, could eat it every night, and he said, 'not every night, but it is very good!'

[note: please ignore hole in ceiling. This came from a leaking bathtub, and shall be repaired as we slowly work on our kitchen]

I read this for the Foodie's Reading Challenge. Please do go visit the page to find many, many excellent food-related books. You may click on the various categories under Margot's blog header photo.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

June with Gladys and Rachel

For more information on this yearlong reading adventure, please go to the first post.

As I began my reading, the honeysuckle off the porch was in full bloom and the locust flowers were just coming out. My porch swing offered a little nook in the midst of all this beauty. And as the month ended, the pink mallow is everywhere and the daylilies are just beginning to open. June is a month when so much happens outdoors. I've read only two books this month and I'm way behind in reading blogs that I love. Quite often I catch myself just staring at the beauty around me. Every day there is something new, something a little different in the flower and vegetable gardens.

Gladys' June chapter contains 25 pages and Rachel's, 30. Amazingly, they each begin with observations on the month's sounds . Gladys Taber tells us that 'this is the singing month.' And she goes on to say how it sings in color - the 'green countryside,' the pink, white, and red of the 'rambler roses,' and the 'deep tranquil blue' of the sky. Though the metaphor may be mixed, it makes perfect sense to me. Rachel Peden writes of the frogs.
At night now their chant is slow, steady, expressing contentment. It goes in the balanced rhythm you hear when a cow is being milked by experienced hands - one-two, one-two, straight into the bucket...'
These two women were much of an age - Gladys was born in 1899, and Rachel in 1901. Stillmeadow Daybook was published in 1955 and Rural Free six years later. Though Gladys Taber and her friend Jill live on forty acres in what was then quite rural Connecticut, they do not make their livelihoods from farming, while Rachel Peden's husband, Richard is a farmer raising cattle and hogs. In this June installment, Gladys' topics run the gamut from raising dogs to old houses, and books to world affairs. She has entertained the head of The Netherlands House of Representatives, and communicates with Ted Key, the creator of the Hazel cartoons.

Rachel Peden's June essays are all about the farm and nature, with musings on life along the way. There is a gentle humor which reminded me of E.B. White. She writes of milkweed, wild iris, finding a lost calf, and trying to pick the cherries before the birds get them.
When I went back the next day, the tree had been cleaned utterly. Not one cherry remained, either green, ripe, wormy, or bitten. It was a fine example of co-operative bird effort. But henceforth when somebody speaks of "eating like a bird," I want it explained what the bird is eating. A bird eating cherries eats like a glutton.
They each make mention of food. When Gladys muses about why a cowbird lays her eggs in other bird's nests,
I always end my thinking in confusion and decide to make a cheese soufflé for supper, as I understand that very well.
She notes 'we eat most of our meals outdoors now.' Rachel makes sour cream cookies, and writes of 'a picnic supper up in the north pasture.'

I'm kind of an anachronism, living my life in some ways as it was lived fifty or more years ago. As I read their June entries, I was filled with a kind of love for these two women. I don't have real-life models of countrywomen, and Gladys Taber and Rachel Peden offer this gift to me through their writings.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Quote du jour/from A Walk in the Clouds

Please visit Beth Fish Reads for food related postings.

My offering this weekend is a quote from one of my favorite movies. The photography is gorgeous, the story romantic, and the setting is so beautiful.

You know, everybody gives you advice how to grow old. And the doctors they say, Don Pedro, no chocolates. Don Pedro, no salt and no cigars and little brandy as possible. What the hell do the doctors know about the needs of a man's soul? Nada! Nothing.
Don Pedro Aragon played by Anthony Quinn in the 1995 film, A Walk in the Clouds

Don Pedro eating a chocolate!

Friday, June 24, 2011

An Old Captivity by Nevil Shute

46. An Old Captivity
by Nevil Shute
fiction, 1940
Kindle book - 26
finished, 6/9/11

This is one of the strangest books I've ever read. I can't imagine anyone reading it. Yet, I did. And I enjoyed it. There's just something about the way Nevil Shute writes that rivets me to the page, no matter what he is saying. An Oxford don wants to fly over Greenland and take pictures to see if he can learn who settled there long ago. He needs a flyer, and ends up hiring Donald Ross. The professor's disagreeable daughter decides she must go along to watch over her aging (not quite 60!) father. This will add weight to the plane, and the pilot must eliminate baggage to accomodate her 100 pounds. So that's the premise. The rest of the book is about how they get there, all the problems in flying and landing because of the weather. And then the pilot, exhausted from the constant work he must do on the plane, and taking sleeping pills, falls into a sort of dream state where he finds himself reincarnated back in time to a Viking. Sound interesting? I didn't think so. But it is. Why? I can't really tell you. We barely get to know these characters. They don't get to know one another, except at some point the girl and the pilot fall in love. Huh? How did that happen? Must be all that proximity with no other young people about. Do I recommend it? Yeah, but with reservations. This may help. If you read A Town Like Alice and didn't mind the rather in-depth sections on communications, then you might like this. Except that Alice had so much more going on. If you liked Trustee From The Toolroom, and didn't mind all the technical stuff, then you might like this. Except that book had good character descriptions. So, that's why this book really stands alone in my mind. But yes, I liked it well enough.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thrush Green by Miss Read

45. Thrush Green - first in the Thrush Green series
by Miss Read
fiction, 1959
second reading
finished, 6/2/11

Once in a great while, I find myself reading a book which is set at the same general time of year as it actually is in my world. But Thrush Green offered a special treat. I began it on the very day the story begins, May 1. The little boy Paul, awakens and says 'White Rabbits' for luck during the month. Tom has said, 'Rabbit, Rabbit' on the first of every month for as long as I've known him. Amazing. I've never heard of anyone else saying this.

I remember a feeling I had when I first read the Miss Read books maybe 20 years ago. I was quite amazed that a woman could write two different series, Fairacre and Thrush Green, both set in rural England, both peopled with schoolteachers and vicars and other villagers, and yet have such a uniqueness about each one. Then, as now, although I adore the Fairacre stories my heart lies more in Thrush Green.

Recently a dear blogging friend gave me the Thrush Green series, all in hardcover,

and I am so very grateful. Although I have read the whole series, the books were borrowed from the library, and I own only two in paperback. In my new set the first three books are compiled into one, while the rest are all single books. The only thing missing from the compilation is the wonderful illustrations by John Goodall. They are in all the other books. I referred to the drawings in my paperback copy of Thrush Green as I read along in my new book.

The very name of this book is magic. I think the song of the thrush is just about the sweetest sound in the world. You may hear it at this site. And green makes us think of the greening of the year, rebirth, as well as a village green. Perfect, just perfect.

May 1 is the day the fair comes to town. It stays just the one day, and Thrush Green divides this day into morning, afternoon, and night. There is talk that this may be the last time it comes to the village because the owner, Mrs. Curdle is planning to sell the business. This causes great dismay among the inhabitants of Thrush Green.

The village doctor, Doctor Bailey has suffered an illness, and comes to realize that he is not as young as he used to be and must hire an assistant. He hopes the young Doctor Lovell who has been helping out since he got sick will want to take on the job. His wife Winnie, one of my favorite Miss Read characters, keeps an eye on all the goings-on in the village and helps out wherever she is needed. There are the two maiden ladies, bombastic Ella and timid Dimity; terrible Mr. Piggott and his unappreciated daughter, Molly; Paul's aunt Ruth who is staying with her sister's family to recover from a broken engagement. We get to know Mrs. Curdle and her large family who work the fair, especially her grandson Ben who has taken a fancy to Molly. We learn that Doctor Bailey and Mrs. Curdle have a forty-year-old friendship. The scene between the two is among the most touching Miss Read ever wrote.

I fear someone unfamiliar with Miss Read's work may say, 'so what.' But this is the way stories used to be written. Regular people going about their regular lives. Nothing exotic. No childhood horrors. 'Just' a good, good book, plain and simple. The writing is engaging. The characters are interesting. Their lives are appealing, but not without the occasional heartache.

I remember reading a few years ago that visitors to Miss Read's part of the world, which is near Newbury in Berkshire, couldn't even buy her books in the local bookstore, and that the bookshop owners didn't know who she was. How very, very sad this is. I know it is the fate of many writers/artists to be unknown in their time, but it seems to me that Miss Read is much beloved all over the world. As far as I can find out online, she is still alive at the great age of 98! May she be in good health.

There's a wonderful photograph of Miss Read, whose real name is Dora Jessie Saint from the National Portrait Gallery. They don't want their images used, but you may see the picture here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Today's poem by Mary Botham Howitt

Summer Song of the Strawberry-Girl
by Mary Botham Howitt (1799-1888)

It is summer! it is summer! how beautiful it looks!
There is sunshine on the old gray hills, and sunshine on the brooks
A singing-bird on every bough, soft perfumes on the air,
A happy smile on each young lip, and gladness everywhere.

Oh! is it not a pleasant thing to wander through the woods,
To look upon the painted flowers, and watch the opening buds;
Or seated in the deep cool shade at some tall ash-tree's root,
To fill my little basket with the sweet and scented fruit?

They tell me that my father's poor - that is no grief to me
When such a blue and brilliant sky my upturn'd eye can see;
They tell me, too, that richer girls can sport with toy and gem;
It may be so - and yet, methinks, I do not envy them.

When forth I go upon my way, a thousand toys are mine,
The clusters of dark violets, the wreaths of the wild vine;
My jewels are the primrose pale, the bind-weed, and the rose;
And shew me any courtly gem more beautiful than those.

And then the fruit! the glowing fruit, how sweet the scent it breathes!
I love to see its crimson cheek rest on the bright green leaves!
Summer's own gift of luxury, in which the poor may share,
The wild-wood fruit my eager eye is seeking everywhere.

Oh! summer is a pleasant time, with all its sounds and sights;
Its dewy mornings, balmy eves, and tranquil calm delights;
I sigh when first I see the leaves fall yellow on the plain,
And all the winter long I sing - Sweet summer, come again.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Today's poem by Edgar Guest

Tom, Michael, and Margaret on the ferry to Prince Edward Island, June 1994

Only A Dad

Only a dad with a tired face,
Coming home from the daily race,
Bringing little of gold or fame
To show how well he has played the game;
But glad in his heart that his own rejoice
To see him come and to hear his voice.

Only a dad with a brood of four,
One of ten million men or more
Plodding along in the daily strife,
Bearing the whips and the scorns of life,
With never a whimper of pain or hate,
For the sake of those who at home await.

Only a dad, neither rich nor proud,
Merely one of the surging crowd,
Toiling, striving from day to day,
Facing whatever may come his way,
Silent whenever the harsh condemn,
And bearing it all for the love of them.

Only a dad but he gives his all,
To smooth the way for his children small,
Doing with courage stern and grim
The deeds that his father did for him.
This is the line that for him I pen:
Only a dad, but the best of men.

Edgar Guest
From, A Heap o' Livin' 1916

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Oven Fries a la Nicole

Please go over and visit Beth Fish Reads for more weekend cooking, and perhaps you will decide to join in.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend.

I mentioned this recipe when I wrote about Joie de Vivre, and this week I finally made these potatoes. You may know that I love potatoes. They are my top favorite food. And these looked so appealing in the book photograph that I just knew they would be great. And they were!

Oven Fries a la Nicole

My cousin Nicole is famous for her oven fries. These are a great substitute for deep-fried potatoes and everyone adores this dish. I always use Yukon gold potatoes for this recipe. Their taste and texture really make a difference in this simple dish. This serves 4.

10 cloves garlic, 5 smashed and 5 whole
3/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
Herbes de Provence (thyme, bay, rosemary, oregano)
6 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and kept in water to preserve color

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Mix the garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbes de Provence in a bowl.
Cut peeled potatoes in half lengthwise and make 3 to 4 wedges from each half.
Put potatoes in the bowl with olive oil mixture and toss to coat.
Arrange potato wedges on a sheet pan one by one so that the point of each wedge faces up and the rounded part is on the pan.
Cook in oven until tender and brown, about 30 to 35 minutes.

Well, first off, I had to look up what smashed garlic meant. First peel the clove. Then you take the flat side of your knife and using the heel of your hand, smash it down on the garlic clove. Then chop it roughly and use the knife again to press it firmly onto the cutting board and move it back and forth until you have sort of a mashed paste. I stopped before making the 'mashed paste.'

I didn't have bay or oregano, so used just thyme and rosemary. I used 1/2 cup olive oil instead of 3/4 which just seemed too much. I probably could have used even a bit less than 1/2 cup.

I used a 9x13 pan lightly greased with cooking spray.

I will try this with Yukon potatoes when I have them. This time I used what was in the house, some lovely red potatoes, which worked great.

As for the wedges, I've learned over time that roasted potatoes are best when the pieces are smaller.

Otherwise, they seem to take forever to cook. As it was, even with the smaller pieces, they took an hour to brown nicely.

These are some of the best potatoes I've ever tasted! They really are a good substiture for french fries. We've recently given up our fryer because, well, we ate them too often. They are irresistible to me (and to Tom). Happily, I've found this recipe which is almost as good, and much better for us. And don't these potatoes look absolutely wonderful?!

Friday, June 17, 2011

A morning ramble at Windy Poplars

Pictures taken out the east kitchen window, 7:30 am.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Farm and Garden Report - June 16

In just the ten days since I last wrote, flowers have gone by and others have come into their yearly spotlight. Every single day is a marvel, a once-in-a-seaon event. I go outside to view the beauty, or gaze out the windows as I go about my day. I like the surprising views I get from different vantage points. The maple hides most of the poppies from one window while from another that color dominates the whole scene. The bunches of iris everywhere look so amazing. When the rain topples some of the bleeding heart, I suddenly see a bit of pink among the daylily leaves, a promise of July color.

I have two William Baffin roses, bought because they were deemed good for my climate. They've lived up to the promise. They bloom and bloom and survive whatever the winter months offer them. I like the different colors.

I wondered if my iris was Japanese or Siberian, and so I looked it up and found:
Siberian iris have no beards and typical bloom in New England begins in late May or June. They have smooth, thin, grass-like leaves without the distinct rib that runs lengthwise down the middle of Japanese iris leaves.
Mine have no rib so are Siberian. We have them all over and they are such a beautiful color.

The Korean lilacs came and faded quickly with days of rain. They are not my favorite flower in looks or fragrance, but I grow them in honor of my South Korean born children.

Rosa rugosas by the barn - these are my favorites. They grow free here and live cozily beside honeysuckles and lilacs. I love this rather wild area.

The others on the hill near the kitchen door are slowly being overtaken by lupines which is what we wanted when Tom cut them all back. And the third area by the fence is slowly growing back. Tom had to cut them down after some snow and plow damage this winter. I think what we'll do is cut them back every fall, and let them grow up again in the spring.

The peonies are equally sublime and ephemeral. They change from day to day. I read a tip in the Old Farmer's Almanac Calendar:
A lit tea candle inside a peony blossom floating in a shallow bowl of water will release the flower's fragrance.

I can smell the sweet fragrance but only when I put my face quite close to the flowers. Later I saw the tips of the flowers had burned so I probably won't be trying this again. If you do, let me know if it worked.

There has this week been a wild turkey in the far north pasture where the animals rarely go to graze. The grass out there just isn't very good. And so this meadow grows - filled with wildflowers. And wild turkeys. First the strutting toms with their harems. And then the hens alone. And at last the hens and their babies. We began noticing this a few years ago. In fact those mothers were the first wild turkeys we had on our land. It was fascinating to watch the babies behaving much like human children. I remember a mother with three. Two hung close by her while the third was dashing off onto a rock. Tom's garden journal notes that last year at this time was the first spotting of babies. So far I've just seen two mothers, or the one alone, eating their way along for most of the day. Then they disappear, without me seeing them go, into the woods which are just the other side of the stone wall. In these woods for much of the spring, we would hear the gobble gobble (yes that really is the sound) of what we think is part of the mating ritual.

And speaking of babies, I wonder if there are any in the bluebird nest. I haven't heard any little peeps so I'm guessing they haven't hatched yet. That pair is so different from last year's. They are much calmer. I wonder if it is because they chose to nest in the box under the eaves rather than out on the telephone pole. Their home is much more protected, less exposed to weather and various activities. We still see them out a couple times a day, just sitting on the wire. We are quite sure now that there is just one nesting pair. No one is using the box on the pole. And we wonder where did the swallows go who used to come year after year and nest there.

As for the new 'farm' down the road, Margaret and Matthew have already picked radishes! The grass has begun growing. When I walk down, I hear robin song so my guess is there is a nest or two near their house. They are heading to Bar Harbor, Maine for a week and we get to take care of the adorable duckies!

As for the vegetable garden - check out this blur of color from the panolas (a hybrid mix of pansy and viola)!

Tom's mother gave me a few plants last spring and I soon took them out of the pots, and planted them in one of the raised beds in the vegetable garden. They spread last summer, lived through the winter, and are thriving! Great plant which I highly recommend.

We've had quite a bit of rain so every single thing is up, from potatoes to peas to beans. It is so exciting. The garlic scapes are just about ready for picking.

Poppies are impossible to photograph, at least for me. The photos make them look otherworldly, as if they are suspended in the air with no connection to their stems or the earth underneath.

And this one even shows a yellow color which is not there in real, as opposed to photographic, life.

Less than a month ago, the crabapple we bought last year was in full blossom,

and now there are little crabapples.

This most amazing time of year is about to draw to a close. We welcome summer, but really it can't compete with the diversity, lushness, green, and constant change of the springtime. Since March 20, we have gone from snow to mud to today's temperatures in the low-eighties. So much happens in the spring. We have to keep our eyes and hearts open so as not to miss a minute.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Capable of Murder by Brian Kavanagh

44. Capable of Murder - first in the Belinda Lawrence series
by Brian Kavanagh
mystery, 2001
Kindle book - 25
finished, 5/27/11

There is an excellent definition of just what a cozy mystery is here. Capable of Murder fits most of the criteria. I tend to shy away from cozies in general. Too often in my reading experience, the amateur sleuth is a woman who seems to be the modern equivalent of the old 'damsel in distress.' Belinda, the heroine of this book drove me crazy in the way she took chances and trusted people she didn't even know. I never understand why such women walk into situations that any normal thinking person would run a mile from.

Belinda Lawrence is a native Australian who moved to England several years ago. The book begins with Belinda reading a letter which just arrived from her Great-aunt Jane who lives in a small village outside of Bath.
Dear Belinda,
I would appreciate it if you would come down to the cottage this weekend. I have something of interest for you.
Yours, Jane Lawrence
Belinda hasn't visited her aunt except for when she first arrived in England. She didn't feel welcomed that first time and since then the two have communicated only through Christmas cards. So, this note intrigues Belinda, and she takes some time off work to go visit. On the train going down she has an encounter with a stranger, and he accidentally spills coffee on her. I thought her response was cruel and uncalled for:
You clumsy oaf, look what you've done.
And when he tries to remedy the mess, she says:
Stop that. You're making it worse. Why did you have to sit next to me, when you had the whole train to choose from?
Not the best introduction to a new heroine, is it? I thought her just as cranky as her relative presumably was. When she arrives at the cottage, she finds the garden untended and unwelcoming. A rat scurries past her. And the rain and thunder only add to the unsettling feeling Belinda has. She manages to make her way to the door, and after getting no response to her knocking and her calls to her aunt, she finds the door is unlocked. While she stands wondering whether to go in or not, a large bird lands in a nearby tree with its prey dripping blood down on the terrace stone. Quite a gothic scene for a cozy mystery. Belinda's quick temper is visible again when she says to herself that she wishes she had never come, 'while silently cursing her great-aunt.' She's angry because the woman invited her and then went away. This reader was thinking, maybe Great-aunt Jane just went out for some milk.

Well, of course she didn't go away and she wasn't doing an errand. Jane Lawrence is dead and has been for over a week. In this little village of only a few houses, no one had checked in on her in that time. The police surmise that she tripped on the stairs.

On her way home to London, Belinda notices that the date on the letter from her aunt is after Jane had died. And so the mystery begins. When she goes back for the funeral and meets with the lawyer she finds herself the beneficiary of quite an inheritance - a lot of money and the house. She moves in which I would never do.
It seemed to her that the light from the long room windows faded unnaturally into blackness so dense that the staircase vanished into a menacing and all-embracing emptiness.
I think there is an audience for this book, and this series. I've read some glowing reviews. But I'm not that audience. I couldn't seem to get over Belinda's personality and actions. I didn't care for the setting or the characters, though I did enjoy the historical connections with Capability Brown, the English landscape architect.

You may read more about the books here. Please don't be swayed too much by my response. As I noted, I am sure many people would thoroughly enjoy Capable of Murder, and would want to go on to the next books in the series.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Today's poem by Mary Oliver


The poppies send up their
orange flares; swaying
in the wind, their congregations
are a levitation

of bright dust, of thin
and lacy leaves.
There isn't a place
in this world that doesn't

sooner or later drown
in the indigos of darkness,
but for now, for a while,
the roughage

shines like a miracle
as it floats above everything
with its yellow hair.
Of course nothing stops the cold,

black, curved blade
from hooking forward -
of course
loss is the great lesson.

But also I say this: that light
is an invitation
to happiness,
and that happiness,

when it's done right,
is a kind of holiness,
palpable and redemptive.
Inside the bright fields,

touched by their rough and spongy gold,
I am washed and washed
in the river
of earthly delight -

and what are you going to do –
what can you do
about it -
deep, blue night?

Mary Oliver
from New and Selected Poems
Volume One

Monday, June 13, 2011

Fruit Pizza

This recipe comes from a parent-children-teacher cookbook from when my kids were in elementary school. It is very delicious and looks beautiful. I only make this in the spring or summer with whatever local fruits are in season. Right now it is strawberries!

Preheat oven to 350º F.

Cream together in the mixer:
1/2 cup soft butter
1/3 cup sugar

Add and mix well:
1 egg
2 Tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In a separate bowl, mix:
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder

Though you don't have to sift, I did because I like the way it smooths the ingredients, and just because I love using my sifter.

Add dry ingredients to mixer at low speed.
Press into a pizza pan, greased with butter.
Bake 10-12 minutes until golden. Mine cooked a few minutes longer than this.
Cool thoroughly.

Beat together until smooth:
8 ounces soft cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Spread on cooled crust and top with strawberries.

Each of the three components is wonderful - the shortbread-like crust, the smooth, sweet cream cheese, and the taste of fresh strawberries. Put them all together and you have a divine dessert.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Tom Rush - The Fish Story Song

With a graduation party last weekend, and dinner with Tom's parents plus a wedding this weekend, I haven't had anything to offer for Beth Fish's Weekend Cooking. But, we did see the wonderful Tom Rush this week, and he sang a delightful song about a fish, in which the fish doesn't get cooked!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Daughters-in-Law by Joanna Trollope

43. Daughters-in-Law
by Joanna Trollope
fiction, 2011
Kindle book - 24
finished, 5/24/11

I've read one other Joanna Trollope book called Other People's Children which I thought was excellent. She has her finger on the pulse of modern families, and does a really good job of presenting them in all their different varieties, without judgement. I think she's a wonderful writer. I really must read more of her work. I feel a bit of a Joanna Trollope marathon coming on, much like my Maeve Binchy one a few months ago.

This is a case of a book I almost didn't read. In the first chapter Anthony was ogling his future daughter-in-law at the church wedding. I thought, uh oh. I don't want to read about this. But I made myself continue to see if he acted upon his feelings or if those feelings were mentioned again. He didn't and they weren't. I just don't know why the author chose to even include this passage. The man was portrayed in the rest of the book as a good, kind, faithful husband so why put a rather negative impression in the reader's mind right at the start of the story?

Anthony and Rachel live an enviable life in the English countryside. They are happy together. He is an artist, and an art professor who has retired but still teaches one course. She has been the center of the family and her job has been cooking, organizing, gardening, keeping everyone together. Even as her three sons have grown up and moved away, she still has Sunday luncheons and celebratory occasions at the house. She thinks she does a great job, but behind her back her boys and their wives complain about her taking too much charge.

Although from the outside, I 'look' very much like her, in reality I am not at all. I let my children be. I don't insist on celebrating holidays or birthdays together. I do not pressure them to visit. I love my kids to pieces but I do not expect them to be my 'little ones' any longer. I want them to have their own lives. My main anxieties or worries are, as they have always been, concerned with health and safety - the only two issues I bring up with them if I am worried. My sense of self is not dependent on their wanting to be here, whereas Rachel's really is. She is a problem-solver as many women are and is unhappy when her solutions are not requested or required.
Rachel's mind and body thrived upon activity, upon practical and immediate answers to even intractable-seeming dilemmas, and, when she was thwarted of the opportunity to offer instant resolution, she found herself utterly devastated by her own helplessness.
When she finds her Sunday routine upset, Joanna Trollope bares this woman's soul to the reader.
... resentment she felt at being forced to have Sunday lunch in Shoreditch rather than at her own large and familiar kitchen table, she knew she couldn't trust herself to say anything of which she could subsequently be remotely proud.
The book fairly presented each character so the reader got to know and understand each one. There was just one false note - of a young man working at a nature reserve, who seemed to me to be an unnecessary addition to the book. He was more of a device than a person.

Daughters-in-Law could work as a primer for those of us who find ourselves suddenly and surprisingly with grown children. Where did the years go, and how do we cope? But it also serves as a guide to those children. Each son's marriage and lifestyle is different from the other, and from that of their parents'. We see how they are all trying to make their own lives. When the youngest boy Luke's wife wants to have his parents to their new home, he says,
"I have never had my parents to a meal. Not ever. In my whole life. We always went home, We went home to eat. That's what we did. Always."
And his new young wife replies,
"That's why it's worth making an effort -"
The reader is privy to conversations that as parents we do not ever hear. The young couple must work out which parents they visit and how often. It is an amazement to Luke that Charlotte, his wife, wants to tell her mother about her pregnancy before Luke's.

Sigrid, the wife of Ed, the oldest son tells Charlotte that Rachel
"... is as she is because no one ever opposed her, no one ever challenged her position as the only woman in a circle of men. But now she is having to learn something new, and she must learn to hold her tongue, and that comes hard with her."
It is lovely to see the 'children' connecting with one another, and getting together in one of their homes, without parents. For this is their future. And all children know this on some level - that eventually their brothers and sisters will be the family after the parents have died.

This is a book where people grow and change inside themselves. They think and feel as real people do. I really enjoyed Daughters-in-Law immensely, and learned a lot about both parents and adult children. It was fascinating, illuminating, and filled with wisdom and truth. I loved it.

My friend Kay wrote a wonderful entry about this book, and you may read it here.