Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wonderous Words Wednesday

Wonderous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme at Each week, we talk about a new word that we have come across in our reading and what it means. I am new to this meme, but I love the concept, because I get to mingle with other bloggers while improving my vocabulary...self-improvement AND playing(!)

I am reading "Les Miserables." One of the passages tells about a group of young men that run around Paris and all of the trendy places that they go. I was interested in the trendy restaurants and so I started to look them up to see whether any were still there. When I "googled" the passage, another translation of "Les Mis" popped up! The passage had been about the best place in Paris for roast chicken, but this new passage called it "spatchcocked chicken!"


What on earth is a spatchcocked chicken, I wondered. Do be honest with you, I thought that it sounded vaguely obscene... I looked it up, and it is a way of butterflying chicken. I found an excellent video that provides a "how to."

By the way, I found ANOTHER dish that translated differently while I was doing my search and I am going to cook it and and talk a little more about Les Mis this weekend, if you want to cruise back by and see pics of my French cooking creation!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Feature and Follow Friday

RULES To join the fun and make new book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules: >

1.(Required) Follow the Follow My Book Blog Friday Hosts {Parajunkee & Alison Can Read} 2.(Required) Follow our Featured Bloggers 3.Put your Blog name & URL in the Linky thing. You can also grab the code if you would like to insert it into your posts. 4.Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say "hi" in your comments and that they are now following you. 5.If you are using WordPress or another CMS that doesn't have GFC (Google Friends Connect) state in your posts how you would like to be followed 6.Follow Follow Follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "HI" 7.If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the Love...and the followers 8.If you're new to the follow friday hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog! >

Q: Activity!!! Take a picture or describe where you love to read the most... >

A: I am cheating a bit...I'm going to show you what is GOING to be my reading spot when the weather gets better. Otherwise, you just get a pic of a boring bed or couch - very run of the mill...
Yep..the balcony! Its going to be great! Here is another pic from on the balcony up in the pines.
And here is the song that gives you the flavor of reading on the balcony...even though I am not in Georgia...its the "moonlight through the pines" part :)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

"Food Path: Cuisine along the Grand Trunk Road from Kabul to Kolkata

Look! Brahmins and chamaars, bankers and tinkers, barbers and banias, pilgrims and potters - all the world going and coming. It is to me as a river from which I am withdrawn like a log after flood. And truly the Grand Trunk Road is a wonderful spectacle. Rudyard Kipling in "Kim" >

Reading the book, "Food Path: Cusine along the Grand Trunk Road from Kabul to Kolkata" by Pushpesh Pant transports you to an exotic place. It is a colorful, beautiful book - full of pictures. As the title implies,the Grand Trunk Road starts at Kabul in Afghanistan; crosses Pakistan; and goes through most of northern India almost all the way to Bangladesh. According to the book, the man behind its construction was Sher Shah Suri. He usurped Humayun, the son of Babur (founder of the Mughal dynasty 1483-1530). To supply all the travelers, of course, there are places to eat all along the Grand Trunk Road. The book takes us along for the ride and we get recipes at every stop. I was so excited that I cooked the very first recipe out of Kabul, as follows:>

Chppal Kebab >

Beef, minced (keema) 1 kg/22lb Eggs 2-3 Coriander (dhaniya)seeds, coarsely ground 3 tsp/6 gm Pomegranate seeds (anaar dana), coarsely ground 2 tsp/6 gm Dry red chilis (sookhi lal mirch), coarsely ground 3 tsp/6 gm Salt 1 tsp/3 gm Onion, finely chopped 2 cups/250 gm/9 oz Tomatoes 2-3 Green chillies, finely chopped 2-3 Cornflower 2-3 tbsp/20-30 gm Vegetable oil for frying 1 cup/250 ml/8 fl oz
Make scrambled eggs with 2 eggs and slightly beat the other one. Keep aside.
To make scrambled eggs, heat 1 tsp oil in a pan; add 2 whisked eggs and stir lightly for a minute. Remove and use as required.
Mix all the ingredients together (except oil) including the eggs.
Divide the mixture equally into 10-12 portions and shape them into flat round kebabs. Heat the oil in large frying pan; fry the kebabs, a few at a time, on medium heat. Cook until both sides are browned. Remove and drain the excess oil on absorbent paper towels. Serve with mint chutney.
My evaluation: Well, these don't look as good as they tasted. They are too lumpy! I think that I "chopped" instead of "minced." I have had these before and they were smoother. In Florida, we had an Afghan family down the street and they made kabob feasts for us sometimes. Mine did not look like theirs! Having said that, these tasted great! The scrambled egg and pomegranate seem like odd ingredients to use with hamburger, but they really worked. This (pictured) was my dad's plate and he ate these and then all the broken ones. Also, I served mine with yogurt instead of chutney, because that is what I had on hand. >

After leaving Kabul (and finishing our kebabs), the book takes us through the Kyber Pass and into Pakistan - first stop, Peshawar. "Peshawar is the quintessential frontier outpost - landing stage and watering hole for caravans for centuries." pp. 22 >

We travel through Pakistan and come to Ralwalpindi. "This was the city that Alexander the Great passed through on his way to the Indian heartland." pp. 30 Here the book shares recipes for Roasted Leg of Lamb and Spicy Lamb Chops. In traveling along the Grand Trunk Road, we witness a unique phenomenon, Pakistani Truck Art. The book has cute little pictures of bright, colorful Pakistani Truck Art scattered among the text.
We travel through Lahore and cross the border into India. First stop, Amistar, for Chicken Cubes Flavored with Fresh Fenugreek. "Amritsar, the city, literally translated as a pool of nectar, derives its name from the sacred tank that surrounds the beautifully serene Golden Temple - the holiest shrine for the Sikhs." pp. 54
(As an aside: The Golden Temple - focus here on the reflection in the pool - reminds me of something from Salman Rushdie's "The Enchantress of Florence." Here is the quote, "... the glowing lake below the palace-city looked like a sea of molten gold…" I am a huge Rushdie fan because I think that his books are like fairy tales for grown-ups. It is no surprise that he is from this exotic locale.) >

The "Food Path" book continues on; taking us through all of northern India, all the way to the Bangledeshi border. We sample Spicy Quail, Dal, Paneer, and many other
dishes. There is not space here to explore all of India! But, this book really is an exotic escape! I recommend it.
I am linking this article through "Weekend Cooking" at Bethfishreads (push button in my right hand column(!)) and with "Cookbook Sunday," at Couscous and Consciousness! The

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

"And the Ladies of the Club"

The Flood of 1913 is the worst natural disaster to hit Ohio in recorded history. "And the Ladies of the Club" tells about the disaster and how the people of the small fictional town of Waynesboro (based upon 'real life' Xenia, Ohio) face the disaster and re-build in its aftermath. When I got to the flood chapter in the tome, I could relate. Look what we have right off of the fire escape in the apartment where I have been staying in Loveland, Ohio...its a bit hard to make out the words - its been out in the elements for 99 years(!)
The old brass sign shows the 1913 high water mark, and one from the 1950s (a plasic sign!) can be seen below it in the second picture. The lower sign is right about at my face level, so say about 5 feet off the ground. So, I would estimate the 1913 line is at about...8 and a half feet or so! >

"And the Ladies of the Club" spans the time period between 1868 and 1932. So, it was about a lot more than just the flood, but I wanted to tell you about that first because I love it when the lines blur between real life and 'book life!' >

The book starts when our two main protagonists, Anne and Sally, are asked to join a ladies club. The civil war has just ended and they are young girls just graduating from a local women's college. They accept and start going to club meetings once a month. Anne marries a man that she has been interested in for some time, while Sally is swept away by the handsome civil war veteran, Captain Rauch, and marries him. >

Captain Rauch adds depth to the story because he is very involved in Republican politics, and we learn about what is going on nationally based upon what he is doing. I probably learned somewhere along the line in school that most of the presidents after the civil war were Republicans, many were from Ohio, and were civil war veterans. But learning about it in the context of the story it all makes more sense and I retain it more. >

I also learned how southern Reconstruction was used as a political bargaining chip and essentially traded away. You know, I never before understood how the north had beat the south and the slaves had been freed, but they had NOT really been freed. All that bloodshed, and the slaves were not given full rights for another hundred years...this book helped me to understand the big picture because I saw what was going on in the Republican leadership from the viewpoint of a character that I knew and cared about. >

The same goes for the assassinations of Presidents Garfield and McKinley. I KNEW about those, but "living" day to day with the people of Waynesboro in the context of the book made me understand what it was like in the country when that happened. >

Likewise, the book spans the WWI time period. Of course, the setting is Ohio, but we see who enlists from Waynesboro and what becomes of them, and how the waiting is for the "folks back home." >

Lest you think that this is a book about politics, rest assured that there is a lot of well-written human interest in the book as well. Anne and Sally's kids and the daughter of another "lady of the club," get involved in a very engrossing love triangle. And, we get to see Anne and Sally go from essentially girls to being the grand matrons of the club as old women. >

We learn a lot about the families, children, and grandchildren of the members, and that is a great segue to introducing you to the author who is herself a club lady descendent, Helen Hooven Santmyer. Ms. Santmyer was 87 when the book was published in 1982! They say that she checked the papers every Sunday to see whether it was still at the top of the NY Times best seller list. I think she did a great job on this 1300 page book! I give it 4 out of 5 stars! >

I read this book to further my "War Through the Ages Challenge," "Historical Fiction Challenge," and "Chunkster Challenge" goals. Press the buttons in the column to the right and see what these challenges are all about! They are a lot of fun and very motivational!

Friday, February 17, 2012

"Islands in the Stream"

Islands in the Stream by Ernest Hemingway

I am a huge Hemingway fan. My parents were actually introduced to one another by a mutual friend who was a Hemingway scholar. So, I feel as though I owe Ernest my LIFE(!)

His book, "Islands in the Stream" is one of the posthumously published ones. I really liked it - five stars. Knowing what I do about his life, it seems to be very autobiographical. As the book starts, his protagonist, Thomas Hudson, is living on Bimini. He is a painter. His three sons - one with his first wife, and two with his second - come a visit him.

I know that Hemingway also had three children from his first two wives. In addition, when Thomas Hudson reflects in the book, you see that he now knows that his first wife, "The Paris Wife," (if you will) is the one that he always loved. And, I think that this may be true of Hemingway, as well.

The first section of the book is entitled simply, "Bimini." Hudson plays with the kids, fishes, eats, paints, and drinks this concoction that he developed. Hemingway keeps mentioning it. Thomas Hudson's drink of choice consists of coconut water, lime, angostura bitters and gin. By the third or fourth time that the drink was described I was FORCED to go out and gather the ingredients.

When I got back to my book, I sipped/swigged along with Hudson and enjoyed the rest of the book.

The second section is called, "Cuba," and the third is called, "At Sea." I cannot tell you too much about what happens in these two sections without creating spoilers. But, I can tell you that the flavor is tropical. It is a great summer read, but also a great winter read if you are up for a little armchair traveling.

I can also mention that the in the section called. "At Sea," Hudson is hunting German U-boats in the Carribean(!) Did you know that there were U-boats in the Carribean during the Second World War?!?! Seems a bit close for comfort...but, I did independently verify that that did indeed occur. So, the third section, in addition to the wonderful tropical vibe, also has good action and adventure.

Below, are some shots of my "Islands in the Stream" cocktail being concocted:

Try to find coconut water that has 'pulp.' The pulp is little cubes of young, soft coconut. I tried to take the final picture of the drink so that you can see the coconut. Also, I do not have any measurements because there were none in the book. Just mix it like you like it! Although Hudson says that the angostura should make the drink look "rusty." So, you need three good 'glugs,' I think.
This post was written as part of Weekend Cooking, a weekly meme hosted by Beth at Beth Fish Reads. 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 head over to Beth Fish Reads, grab the button, and link up anytime over the weekend. (The button is on your right...)

I am linking this post to Novel Food at I was sooo excited when I stumbled across their concept! They put together blog posts of food derived from novels that have been cooked up and photographed by bloggers all over the net! You should check it out!

Finally, I am uploading this song for you. It has nothing to do with the book; but, I know this is what you thought of when you read the title! (If you are my age!)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Les Miserables and Beethoven

As you know, I am doing the Les Miserables readalong with a fellow book blogger named Kate at (I am still having trouble putting hot links into my posts. If anyone know how and they have time to comment, PLEASE do. It is easier to get to her site if you click the Les Mis button to the right.)

I am about 30 or so pages in and I have another Literature and Music Pairing (see my previous postings on this). I like to listen to classical music that "goes with" whatever I am reading so that I can really immerse myself in the experience. I call these literature/music combinations "pairings," like food/wine pairings.

So, I figure that Les Miserables and Beethoven's 3rd Symphony "go together." They are from the same time and place. Beethoven's Third is a great, great piece of music. It is often credited with kicking off the "Romantic Period" in classical music - between 1825 and the First World War.

Les Miserables and Beethoven's Third are both masterpieces from the early 1800's. Both are loosely related to and impacted by the French Revolution and Napoleon (though Les Mis is not directly about these subjects).

Here is what Wiki says about the connection between Beethoven's Third and Napoleon:

According to Beethoven's pupil and assistant, Ferdinand Ries, when Napoleon proclaimed himself Emperor of the French in May 1804, Beethoven became disgusted and went to the table where the completed score lay. He took hold of the title-page and tore it up in rage. This is the account of the scene as told by Ries:

“ In writing this symphony Beethoven had been thinking of Buonaparte, but Buonaparte while he was First Consul. At that time Beethoven had the highest esteem for him and compared him to the greatest consuls of ancient Rome. Not only I, but many of Beethoven's closer friends, saw this symphony on his table, beautifully copied in manuscript, with the word "Buonaparte" inscribed at the very top of the title-page and "Ludwig van Beethoven" at the very bottom. …I was the first to tell him the news that Buonaparte had declared himself Emperor, whereupon he broke into a rage and exclaimed, "So he is no more than a common mortal! Now, too, he will tread under foot all the rights of man, indulge only his ambition; now he will think himself superior to all men, become a tyrant!" Beethoven went to the table, seized the top of the title-page, tore it in half and threw it on the floor. The page had to be re-copied and it was only now that the symphony received the title "Sinfonia eroica."[4]

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Food Rebels, Guerrilla Gardeners, and Smart-cookin' Mamas"

"Turn stones into bread, and mankind will run after thee like a flock of sheep, grateful and obedient." The Grand Inquisitor

I picked up Food Rebels, Guerrilla Gardeners, and Smart-cookin' Mamas at the library because I am on a gardening kick (well, so far it is a reading about gardening kick...). Imagine my surprise at finding the above excerpt from Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov in it!

This post was written as part of Weekend Cooking, a weekly meme hosted by Beth at Beth Fish Reads. 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 head over to Beth Fish Reads, grab the button, and link up anytime over the weekend. (The button is on your right...)

The author, Mark Winne, is using the parable called "The Grand Inquisitor" from The Brothers Karamazov to make a point about food. In the parable, the Grand Inquisitor (from the Spanish Inquisition) arrests Jesus(!) He says that Jesus should have taken care of people more by giving them bread (See the above quote.) and taking away their free will. People should have been made to trade freedom for bread.

The author interestingly uses this parable, touching on it throughout the book to talk about the struggle between as he calls it "Big Food" and local, sustainable food. Big Food is comparable to the Grand Inquisitor who would take care of people and at the same time make a lot of their decisions for them. Big Food is the giant food producing and food selling companies.

The book tells us that Big Food employs agricultural practices that are bad for the land, water, and air, and involve the inhumane treatment of workers. Furthermore, Big Food sells foods that are not healthy and pushes for trade agreements with foreign countries that are detrimental to the health of their citizens. This part of the book reminded me of the book Fast Food Nation, which I read a couple years ago. That book described these abuses more graphically (and appallingly) than this book.

The book contrasts this with anecotes about programs that promote local gardening, such as Maurice Small's efforts to bring small pocket gardens to Cleveland's vacant lots. There are anecedotes about Austin Texas' Sustainable Food Center This is a picture from their website. They teach nutrition and healthy cooking at a grassroots level.

Basically, the book is about food democracy versus food totalitarianism. As the production and distribution of food falls into the hands of bigger and bigger farms and companies, there are fewer and fewer people at the very top - in charge of our food supply. But, if you produce and/or cook your own food, or if you buy from a farmer's market and know your producer then you are still close to the source; and many small producers increases food choices and food sources.

I like the idea of knowing what has gone into my food and having some direct control over its supply since food is, of course, vital to life.

And, as for the Parable of the Grand Inquisitor, at the end, Jesus walks over to the Inquisitor and kisses him, and the Inquistor lets him go free. Scholars have debated the meaning of this. Our author thinks that it means that Jesus and the Inquisitor both know that Christ and his gift of freedom of choice will win over the Inquisitor and certain bread at the high cost of giving away one's freedom. Mankind will chose freedom and will take his chances finding his own bread.