Friday, August 31, 2012

Book Beginnings on Fridays - Lost Man's Lane

Ever since my fortunate - or shall I say unfortunate? - connection with that famous case of murder in Gramercy Park, I have had it intimated to me by many of my friends - and by some who were not my friends - that no woman who had met with such success as myself in detective work would ever be satisfied with a single display of her powers, and that sooner or later I would find myself again at work upon some other case of striking peculiarities.

Lost Man's Lane, A Second Episode in the Life of Amelia Butterworth by Anna Katharine Green

You may read more Book Beginnings at Rose City Reader.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Bon Appétit! by Jessie Hartland

46. Bon Appétit!
the delicious life of Julia Child
by Jessie Hartland
juvenile nonfiction, 2012
eleventh book for the Foodies Read 2 Challenge 2012
library book ten
finished 8/25/12

This gets my Letters from a Hill Farm award for the most fun book I've read! Wonderful, wonderful story and illustrations of Julia Child's life. There is such a joie de vivre that comes from every page. There's humor and warmth that feels to this reader much like the humor and warmth which were the essence of Julia, and of the marriage of Julia and Paul Child. It is a perfect book for a parent or grandparent to share with a child who is interested in cooking. I think especially of Les who posted pictures of her food-appreciating granddaughter.

This is an ideal book. Really. Jessie Hartland brings Julia Child alive in words and drawings for a younger generation. I so loved it. All the pertinent facts about Julia's life are here.

Meeting the love of her life

Meeting the second love of her life

Meeting Avis DeVoto through letters

And writing THE book

This book is filled with the sunshine and vitality that emanated from Julia herself. Not only is it a great introduction for children, but it is an informative book for we adults as well. If you haven't read any of the biographies or letters, this is an excellent place to begin learning about just who this woman was.

Bon Appétit is an offering for the Foodies Read 2 Challenge.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Today's poem by Robert Louis Stevenson

To Any Reader

As from the house your mother sees
You playing round the garden trees,
So you may see, if you will look
Through the windows of this book,
Another child, far, far away,
And in another garden, play.
But do not think you can at all,
By knocking on the window, call
That child to hear you. He intent
Is all on his play-business bent.
He does not hear; he will not look,
Nor yet be lured out of this book.
For, long ago, the truth to say,
He has grown up and gone away,
And it is but a child of air
That lingers in the garden there.

A Child's Garden of Verses
Robert Louis Stevenson

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Losses in the cooking and literary worlds

I've just learned from the Lucindaville blog that Marion Cunningham has died. Her obituary is here. You may remember that I wrote about her book
Lost Recipes last year. I so admire her determination in trying to reintroduce the idea of real food, with real ingredients, and people sitting down together to eat that food. She is seen here, on the left, with Alice Waters.

And I read last night at The Children's War blog that the writer Nina Bawden died. The addresses of two online obituaries may be found there. I have read only one of her books, but it is a very special one because I bought it in England when our family went there in 1992. It is called Keeping Henry. She is perhaps most famous for Carrie's War which was also a television presentation now available on dvd. The fantastic fiction site lists all her books.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Book Beginnings on Fridays - The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken

Stripped down to his undergarments and tweed Sandown cap, Vish Puri stepped onto his wife's old set of bathroom weighing scales. He watched with apprehension as the needle jerked violently to the right and settled on 200 pounds.
"By God," the detective muttered to himself. "Two extra pounds are there. She is going to kill me - certainly if not totally."
He tried lifting one foot off the pressure pad and shifted his weight to see if it made a difference. It didn't.
"Well, nothing for it," he said with a sigh, stepping back onto the floor.
Puri checked that the bedroom door was locked, picked up the scales and turned them over. He removed the bottom panel, exposing the crude mechanism inside. Then he squeezed the pressure pad between his knees. When the needle reached 196, he jammed a wooden peg into one of the cogs.
The scales could now register only one weight: 196 pounds.

The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken by Tarquin Hall

You may read more Book Beginnings at Rose City Reader.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Jack 1939 by Francine Mathews

44. Jack 1939
by Francine Mathews
fiction, 2012
finished 8/8/12

The story of second sons is legendary. The first son, the heir, is supposed to be stable, serious, dutiful. He doesn't get into 'obvious' trouble. His escapades are mostly hidden. But the second son is freed of the older brother's responsibilities. PG Wodehouse makes mention of the useless second son (he was a third son, himself). No wonder they are a little wild. What have they got to lose? No one expects anything of them. I've been thinking about this subject ever since I finished reading Jack 1939, and here we are today with a modern example, Prince Harry's 'adventures' in Las Vegas.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born two years after Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Jr. Joe was not only his father's namesake, but the golden boy, of whom great things were expected. When he died in 1944, Jack was supposed to carry on in his brother's footsteps. But before Joe's death, Jack was the playboy, the ladies' man, the callow lad who wasn't taken seriously. He was also extremely ill with a mysterious ailment, and almost died. Francine Mathews does a wonderful job telling the reader about young Jack, and though the book is fictional, there are many truths and facts within the made up story. We are now all pretty jaded when it comes to looking back at our former President. So much unseemly information has come out about him in the years since his death in 1963. Jack 1939 gives the reader a chance to see this earlier Jack, the boy who was shown no love or warmth by his mother, and whose father set the poor example of manhood that so many later Kennedys lived by. We feel great sympathy for the person who didn't expect to live very long, and so lived life with a fearless verve.

In Jack 1939, one man recognized what Jack Kennedy was capable of, and that was the President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Though the director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover didn't have a good word to say about him, Roosevelt
never relied on a single source of information. He knew more about Jack than Hoover or his files would ever hold. Jack might be sick and his record might be checkered, but he was one of those rare souls completely at home in the world. … He was much more interested in the ways Jack didn't conform to type. His love of risk. His analytic brain. His need to argue. His willingness to ditch the pack and go it alone.
He summons Kennedy to a private meeting. Roosevelt wants Jack to be his eyes and ears in Europe. In those days there was no spy network. Roosevelt tells Jack that
"We tried to get a network started once, after the last war when the whole Bolshevik thing blew up, but a horse's ass of the Grand Old School declared that Gentlemen do not read each other's mail, and as a result the spies were sent packing. We're heading into a hurricane now with our ears plugged and our eyes closed."
There is a horrible killer at large who leaves a carved spider on the skin of his victims. There is a woman Jack becomes fascinated, even obsessed, by. These are but two characters who are expertly drawn by the author. We also meet Jack's real younger brothers, Bobby and Teddy, and his beloved sister Kathleen who copes with her Catholic parents' disapproval of her love of an Anglican British man, whom she eventually marries (though not in this book). Had she and her husband not died, they would have become the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. There are wonderful interchanges between Jack and his siblings, and we see that their strong bonds make up for the love they lack from their parents.

Francine Mathews has an excellent 'author's note' at the end of the book telling what got her interested in writing about the young Jack. She mentions a scene from the book which was completely made up but that she thought was 'particularly fun' to imagine. And I think that is the right approach to the whole book. Let it be fun. Let it be 'Jack' before he became 'JFK' with the weight of the world upon his shoulders. Forget the President and the assassination, and enjoy the company of the young man at around the age his grandchildren (Caroline's children) are now.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy at his 1940 graduation from Harvard

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Today's poem by Elizabeth Yates

On Seeing Black-eyed Susans in a Field

The flowers look up into the skies
with wide brown wondering eyes.

Grasses wave,
roots grow deep,
winds brush low,
insects creep,
cicadas call
summer's song,
days draw out
warm and long.

Birds wheeling in low flight
see the field to their delight.

by Elizabeth Yates (1905-2001)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Quote du jour/Gustav W. Verderber

Travel broadens one's horizons, but if you look closely enough at the details of the natural world, travel may simply entail stepping out your back door.
Gustav W. Verderver

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Farm and Garden Report - August 18

From Wikipedia:
The cottage garden is a distinct style of garden that uses an informal design, traditional materials, dense plantings, and a mixture of ornamental and edible plants. English in origin, the cottage garden depends on grace and charm rather than grandeur and formal structure.

And that certainly describes the garden at Windy Poplars Farm.
Informal design - definitely. It is 'homely' in the English sense. Nothing really planned. If there's a space, we'll plant something there.
Traditional materials - this is surely true because we grow plants that have grown here since there were people on these acres. Nothing fussy. Just 'plain speaking' vegetables and flowers.
Dense plantings - probably too dense to some people's way of thinking.
Mixture of ornamental and edible - oh yes. Those hollyhocks I've raved about are between corn and tomatoes.

I took some photos which illustrate the 'friendship' between flowers and vegetables.

Tomatoes amongst the hollyhocks

You've already seen those panolas which fill the aisles between the raised beds. In addition to them, some mallow has popped up and grown very cozy with the zucchini leaves.

Yellow beans stretched out and tangled in the tomato plants - the bean flowers are pink and the tomato flowers are yellow. This was taken a while ago. Just today I pulled the beans down. Next year I'm going to plant fewer. I'm the only one who eats them, and I couldn't eat them fast enough this year. I think I'll plant them along just one of the bean poles, and plant sweet peas along the others. I didn't have any sweet peas this year and how I missed them.

I also have milkweed growing with spiderwort and globe thistle. All three have gone by now and need to be cut back. I'll wait till the milkweed pods 'pop' out the lovely silky down. I read the most remarkable information about milkweed here.

It has been an uneven year in the vegetable garden.
The failures: carrots and cucumbers. One carrot came up, and no cukes. Who knows why? And the peas were very spotty. We had only a couple meals of them.
All the raspberry plants died, and we have no idea what happened. It is a two-year cycle, and the dead old canes from last year were there, but no new ones came up. Same thing happened with the Queen of the Prairie out by the barn. There are mysteries in nature.
The successes: hollyhocks!
Potatoes that came from organic store potatoes that had sprouted in the warm weather. We put a few in one of the raised beds and got a lot of delicious potatoes. We've always bought organic seed potatoes through the mail, at quite a high price. We won't have to do that anymore!
Tomatoes have never grown so well or been so prolific. We started them inside, and used Chickity Doo Doo on the seedlings, and they just went to town!
Yellow beans - there were zillions. The poles Tom put up last summer stayed through the winds and snows of winter.
The best corn ever!

For the first time this year I planted Egyptian Walking Onions. If interested, you may read more about them, and order some here. We are leaving ours to grow this year.

We didn't get garlic planted last fall, but it has been ordered and will arrive in October.

For years we've had two peony plants. They've been on the blog several times. They are out by the terrace steps, and can only be seen if we are in that area. I've ordered six plants from White Flower Farm (one called Nancy Nora) and they are going in along the fence so we'll see them all the time. Peonies are so nice because the leaves are lovely before and after the short-lived beautiful flowers.

Years ago we decided to plant bushes alongside the kitchen garden area to draw more birds. We now have lilacs, honeysuckle, mock orange, and the tall William Baffin rose. The birds flit around all through the spring and summer, sometimes nesting in those bushes. Tom says he thinks of them as companionable.

The woodpile is coming along.

This is the log length wood which arrived last summer that we didn't use up in the winter. We also use trees from our own land that have blown down, or that are safe for Tom to cut.

This is a pile of 'junky' wood to be used first when the weather cools.

Just as, 'in the midst of life we are in death,' so in the midst of summer we are in winter. When you live here, and burn wood, you have to prepare in the warm season for the colder season.

And I can't end this without more hollyhock photos. We love these flowers.

This is a little blurry, but can you see all the pollen on the bumble bee? Happy bee.

And I don't need to pick flowers for the house when this is the view I have out the kitchen door!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Out of Nova Scotia Gardens by Marie Nightingale

43. Out of Nova Scotia Gardens
by Marie Nightingale
cookbook, 1997, 2008
second book for the Canadian Book Challenge 6 - Nova Scotia
tenth book for Foodies Read 2 Challenge 2012
finished 8/5/12

This is another book sent me by my old email group friend. I wrote about the first one, read for the 2nd Canadian Challenge, which I never finished. I have high hopes that I will be have greater success in the 6th one.

I sat down one early August day and read through this whole book. I can't imagine a more perfect cookbook for vegetable gardeners or for eaters of summer produce. There is a chapter for each vegetable with information about it, a few recipes, and a history of that particular vegetable. For example - have you ever wondered where the nickname 'spuds' for potatoes came from?
In the nineteenth century, when potatoes were considered by many to be unfit for human consumption, a group of Englishmen formed the Society for the Prevention of Unwholesome Diet and did their best to ban the vegetable from English dining tables. SPUD, has endured.
However, I read online that this is false, and that it really comes from the name of a tool used to dig them. I guess urban legends have been around a long time.

The author has a piece on rutabagas and turnips.
I'm going down hard when it comes to turnips. Or rutabagas. Or Swedes. That's because I grew up calling this winter root vegetable a turnip. For the last three decades, the Department of Agriculture has struggled to clarify its name (and, perhaps, its image). While there has been some success in renaming the turnip, it certainly adds to the confusion for Nova Scotians of my generation.
Each vegetable chapter includes a 'Chef's Corner' which highlights a Nova Scotian chef.

Marie Nightingale is a well-known food writer, who has written for the Halifax newspaper, The Chronicle Herald, and was the food editor for Saltscapes magazine. She has written other cookbooks, including Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens, which just this past March was one of the top five best selling nonfiction books in Nova Scotia. Pretty good for a book first published in 1970!

There are many recipes I look forward to trying in future summers, but for today, I decided to take some of my rhubarb out of the freezer and make these muffins. I also added a few frozen strawberries just because I love the way rhubarb and strawberries go together. We had them with salad and fresh baked corn for supper. Perfect!

Rhubarb Muffins

1/2 cup (125 ml) lightly packed brown sugar (I used white)
1/4 cup (50 ml) butter, melted plus 1 tablespoon (15 ml) (also melted, and set aside)
1 egg
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla
1/2 cup (125 ml) buttermilk

3/4 cup (175 ml) diced rhubarb (I used 1/2 cup rhubarb and 1/4 cup strawberries, both from the freezer)
1/2 cup (125 ml) coarsely chopped walnuts

1 1/4 cups (300 ml) all-purpose flour (I used mix of whole wheat pastry and white)
1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) baking soda
1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon (1 ml) salt

1/4 cup (50 ml) granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon (3 ml) ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375ºF. (190ºC)
Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin pan (I used cooking spray. Be generous with this; some of mine were a bit hard to get out without breaking apart)

Combine the brown sugar, 1/4 cup (50 ml) melted butter (cooled), egg, vanilla, and buttermilk in a large bowl and beat until blended. (I used KitchenAid mixer)
Stir in rhubarb and nuts.

Sieve together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Fold into rhubarb mixture until just moistened.
Spoon the batter into muffin cups, filling them about two-thirds full.
Set aside.

Combine the saved out 1 tablespoon (15 ml) melted butter, granulated sugar, and cinnamon.
Sprinkle on the muffins, pressing lightly into the batter.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until the muffins spring back when pressed gently.
Serve warm.

These muffins are out-of-this-world terrific! I could have eaten all twelve easily at one sitting.

On a little note at the front of the book my friend Mary Jane wrote:
This one fairly screamed "Nan!" when I saw it.
And that is the truth! I love this cookbook, and will use it often.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Julia Child's Chocolate Mousse

On this 100th anniversary of her birth, I decided to make Julia Child's chocolate mousse. This recipe holds a very special place in my heart. In the old days there were no repeats of television shows, there was no way of taping a program, and there were no videos or dvds to be had. Which meant that if you liked a recipe on a tv show, and the only cooking show in town in those days was Julia's, you had to write really, really fast as she was cooking and talking.

You can see by my printing on the front that I was still in my previously mentioned 'ee cummings phase.'

When you open it up, you see five sides of paper in Tom's writing. On the first page, those are my notes on the side. 'This makes 6 small custard cups - not full cups. Double - 8 full custard cups.' (which as you will see wasn't true today. who knows why, but today I got 8 quite full cups without doubling)

You may click the photos to see more clearly.

This is the beauty of handwritten recipes and cookbooks with notations. No iPad can ever duplicate the joy of a long-ago handwritten note. There is room for both in the world, but it would be a sad loss if a 'machine' took the place of the history which may be found in old cookbooks and recipe boxes.

My notes (which I didn't even write on the recipe because I know them so well):
used salted butter because that's what was in the house
didn't have any cream of tartar
didn't 'melt' the sugar
and I don't put the egg yolks and sugar mix in a 'pan of hot water.'

Chocolate Mousse was so new in those days that we still referred to it as we first heard it, 'mousse au chocolat.' Now it is as familiar to all of us as chocolate ice cream. There's another recipe here on the blog that is a bit different from Julia's.

Just before I began making the chocolate mousse, I heard Bob Spitz on The Diane Rehm show. He is the author of the new biography of Julia called Dearie. It was a wonderful interview, and you may listen here. At the end, Diane read an email from a woman who overheard a mother tell her child at the Smithsonian exhibit of Julia's kitchen, 'this is a holy place.'

You may have seen this adorable picture which is on google today.

There are some great tributes on the PBS site. And PBS also offers entire programs of The French Chef here.

To end my little celebration of the birthday of this wonderful woman, I'd like to share a video someone put together for the occasion, set to an inspired choice of music - Sweet Child of Mine by Guns N' Roses.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Kilmeny of the Orchard by Lucy Maud Montgomery

42. Kilmeny of the Orchard
by Lucy Maud Montgomery
fiction, 1910
first book for the Canadian Book Challenge 6 - Prince Edward Island
Nook book 15
finished 8/5/12

After reading almost half of a novel, and the first page of another before quitting them both, it was such a relief to fall into the words of Lucy Maud Montgomery - the peace, the slowness, the quiet of an earlier time in a beautiful rural locale.

The story begins with a college graduation ceremony (in April) in Nova Scotia. Eric Marshall has always done exactly as he should growing up, and is now perfectly groomed to go into the family business. This is not a duty for him but a pleasure. He tells his doctor friend, David
But ambition, man! Why, I'm full of it - it's bubbling in every pore of me. I mean to make the department store of Marshall & Company famous from ocean to ocean. Father started in life as a poor boy from a Nova Scotia farm. He has built up a business that has a provincial reputation. I mean to carry it on. In five years it shall have a maritime reputation, in ten, a Canadian. I want to make the firm of Marshall & Company stand for something big in the commercial interests of Canada.
Though Eric seems the ideal young man for any woman, he has shown little interest in anyone.
"… if the future Mrs. Eric Marshall exists in the flesh I haven't met her yet. I haven't even started to look for her - and don't intend to for some years to come."
Eric's mother died when he was ten. She was much beloved by both father and son, and is the model for all women for the son.
"When a man has had a mother like mine his standard of womanly sweetness is apt to be pitched pretty high…."
A professor says of him,
I am afraid Eric Marshall will never do one quixotic thing, but if he ever does it will supply the one thing lacking in him.
Eric receives a letter from a friend who has become ill. Larry is a teacher at a country school on Prince Edward Island, and needs someone to step in for him while he takes time off to recuperate. It will be for only a week in May and the month of June. To lure Eric, he writes
Of course, this little north-shore farming settlement isn't a very lively place. The rising and setting of the sun are the most exciting events of the average day. But the people are very kind and hospitable, and Prince Edward Island in the month of June is such a thing as you don't often see except in happy dreams.
I'd be sold, wouldn't you? And Eric agrees to oblige.

There is a foreshadowing remark made by his father before he goes. As parents always do, the older man warns his son not to get into any 'mischief.' When Eric says there isn't much likelihood in the little place where he's going, his father says,
"Probably the devil finds as much mischief for idle hands in Lindsay as anywhere else. The worst tragedy I ever heard of happened on a backwoods farm, fifteen miles from a railroad and five from a store."
And so the stage is set. The reader wonders whether romance or dark adventures will happen to this young, kindly, impressionable yet practical young man.

Although the scenery is achingly beautiful, Eric is indeed bored … until he visits an orchard one lovely evening.
… three long rows of trees with green avenues between, each tree standing in a wonderful blow [literary meaning - state or period of flowering] of pink and white.
The charm of the place took sudden possession of Eric as nothing had ever done before. He was not given to romantic fancies, but the orchard laid hold of him subtly and drew him to itself, and he was never to be quite his own man again. He went into it over one of the broken panels of fence, and so, unknowing, went forward to meet all that life held for him.
And then there came
a strain of delicious music, so beautiful and fantastic that Eric held his breath in astonishment and delight. Was he dreaming?
A young woman appears and then runs off in fear. She is the loveliest woman he has ever seen.

Shall I say more? If I do, I fear it will tell too much of this beautiful story. It has the feeling of a fairy tale; a reminder of a sleeping beauty in the woods, a woman, while childlike and innocent, has secrets that even she doesn't know.

I've read many of the Anne of Green Gables books but nothing else by Lucy Maud Montgomery until Kilmeny of the Orchard. I found it quite wonderful. This is the great gift of ebooks - that these older books are being brought to a wide reading public who may not know they exist. For free, or for 99¢ we can go back in time and read what people were reading in the early days of the twentieth century. It was a pleasure to read a book that presented such a love story. Though there are obstacles to be surmounted, and old troubles to be faced, love really can prevail. Not a bad message for those days, or our time.

The name Kilmeny comes from a poem by James Hogg. You may read the whole poem here though I had some trouble with some of the Scottish words. I think the gist of it is that the girl, Kilmeny was pure and untouched by society. She was taken away, her life ruined, and she died. Please do correct me if I'm wrong. Montgomery's Kilmeny does not die, but when we first meet her she is a young girl completely free of outside influences.

A potato field on the north shore of Prince Edward Island

I read this for The Canadian Book Challenge 6

Sunday, August 12, 2012

First Corn

And then all attention is riveted on the corn patch. ... For three glorious, hedonistic weeks we will dine on it nightly. We rush it from field to pot to table in under ten minutes.
The Country Kitchen, chapter from In Deep
by Maxine Kumin

Our 'three (I hope it is that long!) glorious, hedonistic weeks' began today! Five years ago I wrote that we no longer boil corn, but bake it according to The Nero Wolfe Cookbook. Out of this world delicious!!