Sunday, July 21, 2019

Books, Always

I no longer read books with depressing realism; I did when I was younger but now have to be selective.

In the novel No Trumpet Before Him, by a favorite author of mine Nelia Gardner White, the main character questions the effect some literature may have on college students.

"Baudelaire may have genius. But this is a sad world--do we need Baudelaire to make us more sad?"

After more conversation about the problem of finding good literature that also gives hope to the human spirit, a depressed young man who has returned from serving in World War II says, "Name ten poets who are geniuses and who have hope."

The man answers, "Well we have Frost and Dickinson and Whitman--among our own--and Eliot--there's Auden too. I could name ten, if you liked."

How do you feel about this? We can't have censorship over what others read but do you too find that you have to watch what you choose to read? 

I read so many classic books as a teenager and young adult--as a senior in high school I discovered Russian classics and devoured them--and I don't regret it as it stretched my mind. Back then I could read about the social problems of the ages and I don't recall it leaving me in despair. Now they do so I just can't read books that make me despairingly sad.

Of course there are sad parts in books I read. I even bawled when Father Tim's dog Barnabas was missing in one of Jan Karon's later Mitford novels and I realized he had gone over the Rainbow Bridge between two books, but that's different. 

What I cannot read anymore are books themed on abuse of any kind. And now I turn, more often than not, to older books on my shelves. In thrift and antique stores I look for gentle mid-century books. 

When thrifting, a dust jacket can sell a book to me. Sometimes I'm glad I bought it, sometimes not.

Would you have picked up this book? I couldn't resist it. Charlotte and Dr. James by Guy McCrone made me want to read all of his books set in the UK. The dust jacket flap proclaimed the book to be "a cheerful, busy book of many happenings" and it was. And just right for me at this stage of my life.

So Well Remembered by James Hilton was one I only got a few chapters into and put it aside for later. How could I not love any book by the author of Goodbye, Mr. Chips and Random Harvest? So I'll try it again someday.

Birthright by Lettie Hamlett Rogers is one I'll pass on for now too. Reading a few chapters made me realize just how uncomfortable I am now with the South of the 1950s I grew up in. A South I naively didn't see at the time, was indeed insulated from, but that I recognize now as unbelievably wrong is pictured in this book as a young schoolteacher tries to tackle the animosity that desegregation arouses in the community. 

 The Golden Journey by Agnes Sligh Turnbull is one I reread every few years as I do many of hers. There is a dreamy dining room in the book that I adored.

The mantel in the dining room was inscribed: Benedictus benedicat--May the Blessed One bless.

The curtains were changed for each season, the oak paneling was from England and scattered on it were carvings of squirrels, brownies, leprechauns, a pony. There was a special one of a monkey with his cap in his paws. And from the "chandelier above the gleaming table...crystals fell like a shower of iridescent raindrops."

This just goes to show that novels I'm likely to enjoy reading now must have a house that is almost a character itself. And of course, a good love story in the plot is nice too.

 The last two novels are the ones I chose this week at a local antique store when a coughing spell to top all coughing spells overtook me. I haven't read any of these two yet but the dust jacket flap of The Long Love by John Sedges begins: 

When Edward Haslatt asked Margaret Seaton to be his wife, he promised her that he would make their marriage the chief concern as well as the abiding joy of his life. He kept his pledge.

Now that sounds like a man worth reading about. I'll have to see if his wife proves worthy of that pledge.

Oh, my goodness--stop the presses! I just googled John Sedges and he was the pseudonym for Pearl Buck! And this was book one of her American Triptych including The Long Love, The Townsman, and Voices in the House.

I can't wait to start this as I love Pearl Buck and I'll be spending the last of my daughter's Amazon birthday gift card on the last two books in this series.

Here's a portrait of Pearl Buck that I love and used on a post here once for her birthday...

The last new (old) book, Kathleen Norris's 1931 book Second Hand Wife, I'll save for a proper mood to hit me, one where I want almost nursery fare. I think I have a few of her books left on my shelves but even in my teens her books were a little too formula for me. I loved her autobiographical Noon so we'll see if I like this book.

 The last book, shown above, was my choice with my daughter's larger Amazon gift card. I swooned over Jeffrey Bilhuber's The Way Home, but it deserves a post of its own sometime. Otherwise this post will be as long as Pearl Buck's triptych.

Have you ever read any of these authors, by chance? I know there must be some Pearl Buck fans out there. 

Have you yet found yourself having to coddle your sensibilities and censor your own reading material? 

And as always, what are you reading now? 

Friday, July 19, 2019

Once Again

Once again I've been a blogging dropout.

Why is it so hard to write that first post back once you've been absent a while? 

For me it's partly because I begin to wonder if my world is too small to be of interest to others? 

As I looked through pictures trying to think up a post, it seemed that so many of them were of food I had cooked. Why do I do that? It's not as if I were a food blogger or invented my own recipes. I guess it's just that I like to cook and take pictures of it. And I forget to take pictures of other things. 

I forgot to take even one picture of the beautiful hydrangea arrangement I made in RH's mother's amber glass bowl when it was at that perfect week in early July when many of the white blossoms had turned that perfect shade of green. Or of my house when it was all cleaned up for company. And then forgot to take pictures of our company.

I even forgot to take pictures of our darling granddaughters when they visited us for the Fourth weekend. Thankfully, their parents shared some of their own with me.

 Their father took the one above of both of them and their mother took this one below of little sister perched on our garden rooster. Oh my goodness, are they not adorable!

I did take a picture of their daddy with my own two babies.

 But completely forgot to get a picture of the girls' beautiful mother who helped me cook our 4th of July dinner. The Copper River Salmon with lemon, butter, caper sauce was delicious and here's a link to that recipe.

We didn't smoke the salmon outside the way we used to for so many years. The smoker is still in the barn waiting to be set up somewhere when RH figures out a place for it. He wants just the right spot as the bar was set pretty high at his outdoor kitchen in our picnic shelter at Valley View.

An outdoor cooking station here is something he's still mulling over. He did manage to finish installing the tiles on our larger patio this summer, with the help of a grandson. I must get pictures of that soon.

Now that I have managed to post again here at Across the Way maybe the next posts will come easier. Dewena's Window will have to wait longer. I'm going into my second week fighting a bad summer cold and after trying to ignore it in hopes it will go away, I think I'm going to give into it and take a few days to read and rest and maybe come up with some ideas for future posts.

One thing I know for sure is that I'm not getting back out in public again until I'm better. A trip to a local antique store two days ago where a coughing spell overtook me convinced me that they thought I had the Bubonic plague. 

I did manage to thrust two books at RH as I rushed out the door, gasping "pay for them."

The owner of this little shop did not say "Y'all come back now."

 My favorite part of fixing salmon is having leftovers to use up in delicious salads. Here was a simple one I threw together of arugula, chopped celery and scallions, the salmon and sliced warm boiled new potatoes dressed with a lemon/red wine vinegar, Maile mustard, S & P, and olive oil.

Oh my goodness, it was delicious! RH thought so too.

Even though not a food blogger I must post pictures of food I cook because it is such a big part of my small life. If I ever ride a camel in front of the pyramids of Egypt as a friend of mine did this summer, I will post pictures of that. Until then, you're stuck with my food pics!

As long as I can intersperse them with ones of our two princesses, maybe that will be okay? Because you know I like to see your food pics too. 

And next will be a post on some of my summer reading choices.

Remember when Oprah had a show episode called--

                            "Whatcha' cooking, Nashville?"

Where she surprised people on a street in Nashville on a Saturday by knocking at their door with her film crew?

I loved that show! I couldn't believe that only one or two families invited her in, most didn't. 

So I'm knocking at your door and asking "Whatcha' cooking, friends?   And whatcha' reading?"

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Again, Remembering M. F. K. Fisher

As today would have been the birthday of M. F. K. Fisher, I thought I would tell fellow fans about my most recent purchase of a book about her.

When I walked into a book booth at a huge antique mall in Nashville, this is the first book my eyes landed on. I pulled it out and discovered it was about my favorite food writer. 

Jeanette Ferrary had the privilege for twelve years of visiting Mary Frances in her home that she named Last House, sharing many simple yet marvelous meals prepared by her. 

Ferrary writes:

It wasn't the foods Mary Frances served that made an event of practically everything she did; it was her sense of ceremony, the moments before eating
anything, watching her rub the chicken. It was the first sizzle, the surprise of sun-yellow cornbread in a black iron skillet, the way the room filled with smells of sweet onions caramelizing. It was symphonic.
Jeannette Ferrary
Between Friends: 
M. F. K. Fisher and Me

[One Fourth of July decoration I still put out each year is the small oil painting of American flags I did many decades ago, inspired by Childe Hassam's wonderful paintings of Old Glory.]

I will confess right here that my cooking in the kitchen is not symphonic, never was, never will be. I am an awkward cook when anyone else is in the kitchen with me, uncertain even when alone, reading directions over and over. While I love to cook, my gift is not to inspire others with my cooking unlike  M. F. K. Fisher's gift that was exactly that.
She has inspired me over and over. I won't be making her recipe for this Gazpacho Salad for the Fourth tomorrow but I made it often last summer and will make it many times during the hot summer days ahead. It's that good, with all it's fresh chopped garden vegetables in it.

 What will RH and I have for this year's Fourth of July? 

My favorite 4th dinner is an old New England one that I began to copy after reading Frances Parkinson Keyes's old book Also the Hills: salmon, tiny new potatoes and fresh green peas. In years past when we had salmon for the Fourth we also had some kind of grilled ribs, smoked chicken, etc. for the meat lovers in the family. 

Here's a photo of me from my old recipe scrapbook where I served a whole Alaskan salmon, marinated in wine and herbs, cooked on RH's smoker, bones carefully removed by me. I remember wanting to preserve my creation but back in the early 1990s when this was taken I never dreamed I would one day be publishing pictures of food I made on the world wide web. 

Did you? Do you wish you had photographed all those magnificent meals pre-blog days? I do.

 We don't make a big grilled meal anymore to go with salmon for the Fourth. It's been years now since we had big family gatherings at Valley View. We're past doing it now and Home Hill's kitchen too small; children are grown and have their own 4th plans.

And that's okay. 

We probably won't even have our dinner in our outside dining room. Far too hot.

 But I will pick some of those hydrangea beauties for our table inside, and I'll cook a beautiful Copper River salmon for our dinner with a lemon caper herb sauce.

And maybe, just maybe, there will be a few other people joining us here for it. 

All this to say that RH and I are going to have some special company for the 4th weekend! I'll be getting ready for them to come and enjoying them while they're here and will be visiting my blog friends when company goes home, when I'll be resting Sunday, toes up.

I'll look forward to seeing what everyone who celebrates this special holiday cooked and decorated. The Fourth of July never fails to thrill me, the decor, the music, and I'm A Yankee Doodle Dandy on television and the Capitol Fourth on PBS and Boston Pops playing the 1884 Overture if I can find it. The last few years I haven't been able to. Anyone out there know what channel it's aired on? Surely not only local Boston stations now.

 I love it all but especially the food!

I still think that one of the pleasantest of all emotions is to know that I, I with my brains and my hands, have nourished my beloved few, that I have concocted a stew or a story, a rarity or a plain dish, to sustain them truly against the hungers of the world.

A quote from M. F. K. Fisher in
Between Friends: 
M. F. K. Fisher and Me
by Jeannete Ferrary

What are you eating for the Fourth if you celebrate it?

Do you go to a parade? Decorate like crazy? Watch Yankee Doodle Dandy? Every single year?

Happy Fourth of July -- and Happy Canada Day! 

[7/12/19: After a text from my sister asking for my salmon recipe, I'm linking here to it. ]