Friday, March 23, 2018

March Reading and Old Diaries

I love combing through my six bookshelves for a good book to read and Elizabeth Goudge's The Scent of Water is one I reread with much pleasure recently. That one is worth a whole blog post, someday.

As many books as I have, a trip to Goodwill always ends with me finding a few books I haven't yet read, and Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris, and Open House by Elizabeth Berg came home with me this month. 

I thought I would like the Harris book as much as I did the movie from her Chocolat. I didn't--it was dark and depressing and Johnny Depp wasn't in it--but finished it as it was well written.

Berg's book was good, what Berg book isn't? Open House was an old one I'd missed, a fun read of a woman who discovers that her husband leaving her is not such a bad thing after all.

There came a day this winter when I had to break down and order some new paperbacks, rare for me when I can get them at Goodwill for 99 cents. But I was in the mood for something I hadn't read before and it needed to be something lite and fun and something to do with food.

Amy E. Reichert's The Coincidence of Coconut Cake and The Simplicity of Cider filled the bill. I'll be watching for more of her books. I loved the cider book, partly because of its setting in Door County, Wisconsin where blogger Angela of The Parisienne Farmgirl has recently moved. This was a good love story too, but all the details of the heroine in her craft cider business was fascinating. I always like stories where the work people do is woven into the plot and this was accomplished beautifully in The Simplicity of Cider.

If you like chef centered novels, The Coincidence of Coconut Cake is a good one for you. I'll skip trying the recipe for coconut cake in this book because my mama's recipe for it with lemon filling is the Bomb. But I do want to duplicate one meal in the book, where friends are gathered outside for a grill meal:
An hour later, the four of us sat at the patio table laden with the sliced pork, mojo sauce, black beans, cilantro lime rice, and grilled peppers and onions.
Hello! That meal is calling my name. But will Lou find out that the restaurant critic who was responsible for her business going south is the same man she has fallen in love with? Will she forgive him?

I saw that ending coming, naturally, which is not a bad thing, not to me. I no longer have to be shocked in a book or in life, and I much prefer a happy ending after some twists and turns.

What I most liked about Amy E. Reichert's books is that they are set in Wisconsin. I am now in love with Wisconsin! 

I turned to a different kind of reading material the other day--my old journals. I pulled out a dusty one from 1992 and began in March. Humor me, will you, while I go back 26 years?

In March of 1992, my sister had just found out after what seemed like a very long wait that she did not have breast cancer, news that made her family very very happy. 

This made me think of a dear friend who has recently gone through the same wait to be given the same good news. And today a dear family member was given an all-clear on a CT scan.

I am clapping my hands here!!

March gives out good news and it gives out bad news, as all months do.

On March 17, 1992, the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires was bombed, and there was also an attack on a group of high school students in Israel where two students died by sword and others were injured.

I recently posted about Anti-Semitism. Will there ever come a time, short of Heaven, where we don't wake up to hear more horrifying news on television? From places you expect and in places you used to not expect it to happen?

Aren't people ever taught to play nicely as children anymore?

In March of 1992, Zack counted over 200 daffodils in bloom in our yard. Okay, I admit it, I sure do miss all my spring bulbs at Valley View. This past autumn neither RH or I were emotionally up to planting bulbs at our new house. We hope to this year.

In March of 1992, my sweet corgi Tex and I spooked five deer in our woods, and we had just watched, for the first time, The Long, Long Trailer with Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz during our Friday family pizza and a movie night. And laughed our heads off. Almost as much as we did when we first watched Home Alone. 

Those were lovely years, when Friday nights meant pizza and a movie and kids at home with us, before they were old enough to play on the basketball team on Friday nights, before Friday night became Date Night.

I think I've moved on but sometimes I wonder. I miss them and I miss the sweet corgi who was there with us.

In March of 1992, we went to our friends' house one night for a steak dinner and Scattergories. Our friends are no longer here on this earth.

In March of 1992, we awakened two mornings with snow and ice on the daffodils--mother nature replayed that scene here this March of 2018, twice. It was a beautiful sight here last week when I opened the kitchen door to find light snow had fallen on flowering trees around the pond.

In March of 1992, I had just called all males with strong backs inside to completely switch the furniture in two rooms, our dining room and living room. Years later we switched them back again. Hey, I've been rearranging rooms since I was 14 years old. And six decades later I'm still doing it, and still calling on all strong backs in the family for help.

Two weekends ago when we had family here for supper, between supper and dessert RH called two sons and a grandson to my bedroom to move my bed. I could not believe how they did it--four men went to each corner and LIFTED my king-size bed in the air, over the top of other furniture and placed it on the opposite wall.

They earned their pecan pie for dessert!

I've warned RH that when I stop rearranging rooms is the day he needs to order my tombstone. It's not going to happen until then. However, I think I'm beginning to have found my sweet spot in this house and there won't be as much furniture rearranging from now on. But I can't promise anything.

I do know that there are big goings on in the backyard that I'm so excited about. It's moving along slowly after the first five days of intensive work by RH. Then came bad weather interruptions and now the Cold Bug of Guinness World Records to hit him. Hoping he's better when our son comes here after Easter to help him continue his latest project.

Here's a tiny preview of Phase I, Bree-Bree checking out what dad's done so far:

Another project is planned sometime, I hope. Seven boxes of flooring have been sitting under my dining table for almost three months now, awaiting installation in my kitchen. You may not can tell from this picture because who notices a floor when our daughter-in-law and granddaughter are so dang pretty, but our kitchen flooring must have come from leftover tiles used in a school hallway, and their condition gets a failing grade.

But that will surely happen someday, I hope. It took 14 years, from 1990 to 2004 at Valley View, for RH to add on a brand new kitchen.

Fourteen years from now, 2018 to 2032, might find me beyond caring--or knowing--whether I have a new floor in my kitchen. Let's hope it happens before I turn the boxes under my dining table into Lincoln Logs for visiting children.

With an hour to spare the other day before my annual opthamologist appointment, RH and I stopped by another Goodwill and I found three books that had my name on them, figuratively. Truly, when these things happen I know it was meant to be.

Here's the one I'm reading now, only 30 pages in so far, but I am enjoying it so much.

David Grayson said this about March: "The key virtue is endurance." I know that people in the Northeast section of the US have been called upon for that virtue during March of 2018. I hope that some good books have made it easier.

Happy reading and happy journaling,

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Ruth Reichl's Food Cart Curry Chicken

Two more weeks until spring and baby, it's cold outside--

                                       and a little snow this morning!

After Christmas I pull out the few pieces I have of Mikasa Black Forest, Made In Japan, found at Goodwill years ago, along with some white bowls, a white French platter, and smaller white Spode plates and these are what I use during January, February and early March.

I introduced you to Ruth Reichel's special oatmeal in my last post but I love so many of her recipes in Ruth Reichl, My Kitchen Year.

I love everything about this book except how difficult it is to make it stay open while I'm using it. Please, publishers, give us cookbooks that will open flat!

My favorite recipe in this cookbook is Reichl's Food Cart Curry Chicken that she came up with because of her love of it sold from carts in New York City.

"The entire city smells like curry.
Passing the fourth halal chicken cart,
I can't resist.
Spicy, tangy, irresistible."

While I've never been to New York, our son lived there several years, bittersweet years, falling in love with NYC even while his first marriage fell apart. There above is the moving truck that RH rented to help him move back to Tennessee, sitting outside his apartment. Some days seem dark because you can't see the blessings ahead for you. And someday, he hopes to visit NYC again, this time our beautiful new daughter-in-law with him!

When I sent this photo to blog friend Amy, her husband immediately knew the location. Very cool address (read $$$), very cool place, NY. If I ever went I might never get into a restaurant after sampling all the amazing food sold right on the streets.

I've made this recipe three times this winter. So very good!

And such an easy meal. I prepare and marinate the chicken after breakfast and finish cooking it in minutes that night.

There are three pans on the stove.

Rice cooks first and stays warm, chicken saut├ęs next.

I plan this meal when we've picked up organic spinach at Costco. It cooks last, in a jiffy.

Instead of the mayonnaise and Greek yogurt condiment the street carts serve with the chicken curry, I use my cucumber dip.

I'm not a fan of yogurt and I use this dip with all kinds of seafood too. (An English cucumber chopped fine, stirred into softened cream cheese, sour cream and a little mayo, chopped scallions added, some dill weed and lemon juice.)

Another of Reichl's recipes I love is her Crisp Lemony Baby Yukons. I fixed those one night with some oven-baked chicken and curried carrots from The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook. They are delicious!

Ruth Reichl, My Kitchen Year is not just a good cookbook, it's an inspirational journal of a year of many challenges in Reichl's life. I love visiting with Ruth in her kitchen!

Before I say goodbye on this 8th day of March where snow has been causing a lot of trouble in the Northeast, a note to those who read my post on A Silver Golf Trophy and Prejudice. I did find a copy of the book Gentleman's Agreement and loved it! I added to my post, here.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Good breakfast to you!

Some mornings are just plain old tough, aren't they?

I've had them, you've had them, even Ruth Reichl, editor of Gourmet magazine for ten years, has had them. 

She was in Seattle promoting a new cookbook when called to immediately return to NY, no reason given. There she found out, along with her staff, that Gourmet was finished--

                               on her watch.

That upset me to no end when I heard it, I who had read the magazine for decades, but it devastated Ruth.

"And so I did what I always do when I'm confused,
lonely, or frightened:
I disappeared into the kitchen."

I won't go into the long story here but last Friday evening at about 5:15 p.m. our beautiful darling Mason got out a gate left open and disappeared.

About 19 terrible hours later we found him, soaked to the skin, a muddy mess, scared to death, but alive and well.

I don't remember what RH and I had for breakfast on Saturday morning while Mason was lost, something grabbed before heading back out to comb the neighborhood again and then home to make waterproof posters for the street.

But Sunday morning dawned full of sunshine and rejoicings
because our Mason was home with us again.

After feeding Mason and Bree their special breakfast of chicken livers and broth--they had both had dental surgery the Monday before and were on soft foods--we thought about our own breakfast. 

And we craved comforting oatmeal. Ruth Reichl's Butter Toasted Apricot Oatmeal. We didn't have any apricots but golden raisins were fine instead.

"Butter-toasted oatmeal,
rivers of thick cream,
brown sugar.
Fresh orange juice;
Such fragrant hope."

On this first day of March, I'm thinking of a dear New Englander friend who has recently moved to North Carolina and been shocked to find pork chops, of all things, on the breakfast menus of restaurants in her new hometown.

Here's a little breakfast menu I found that early New Englanders would have eaten, girlfriend, by another New Englander:

"On these icy mornings we like a good breakfast.
I think with nostalgia of the early Americans 
who lived in this house.

I know what they had; they had pie!
Good, robust, flaky, rich, spicy apple pie.
Aside from this they ate only
ham, eggs, pickles, cheese, sausage,
pancakes and sirup and,
for Sunday, codfish balls."

Gladys Taber
The Book of Stillmeadow
the March chapter

Mason and Bree and I wish you all a March of 
good breakfasts,
whether it's oatmeal or pork chops or codfish balls!