Saturday, March 08, 2014
The poetry of speech.
In The Master Butcher's Singing Club Louise Erdich masterfully spins a lyrical tale, weaving a few fragments of the familiar into an amazing story that spans two continents and begins in 1918. It takes the book's characters on their journey through two World Wars and slightly beyond into the early 1950s. It is a tale of strength, skill, family secrecy and murder, music and love.
In Germany, an exhausted Fidelis Waldvogel returns home from fighting at the end of WWI to fulfill a promise to his dead best friend. He has pledged to take care of Johannes' fiance Eva Kalb, whom he finds with child. Fidelis is a strong man, both physically and in moral fiber. This powerful man has a tenderness of heart and a great capacity for love. He marries Eva and begins dutifully raising the boy. He also possesses the gift of a family trait, a beautiful, rich tenor voice. To provide the new family a brighter future, he travels to America with a valise containing a few personal belongings, an assortment of finest quality handmade sausages and his collection of knives to serve him in his trade as a butcher - also a family tradition. Once in the states, selling the sausages takes him as far as Argus, North Dakota where he secures a job with a local butcher. With the devoted help of Eva, he eventually saves enough money to start his own business.
Delphine Watzka has been a traveler for many years and returns to Argus with her companion Cyprian Lazarre. The two have a small sum of money they have saved from working as traveling performers with a balancing act. Argus does not hold fond memories for Delphine. Upon her return she discovers her father Roy living in a drunken state, their home in shambles. As she and Cyprian begin to work uncovering the layers of filth from the home, they discover the decaying bodies of a small family trapped in the basement. In reporting the crime does she endanger her father's freedom? Is he connected to their death? His drunkenness has clouded his recollection of facts but he maintains his innocence.
Having been ordered to stay in town by Sheriff Hock, Delphine seeks work. The Waldvogels now have a steady business in their own butcher shop and four boys. Delphine is candid about the circumstances as to why she must remain in Argus and Eva hires her. In working closely together the two become devoted friends. This sets the stage for the story that unfolds.
Secrets abound. Who is the murdered family in Roy Watzka's basement and how does a red spangled dress relate to the crime? What is the truth about Delphine and Cyprian's relationship? Not to mention the heartache she's endured her whole life, wondering what had happened the mother she has never known - a mystery that looms large to her. What will become of the Waldvogels when Eva becomes ill?
Louise Erdrich's grandfather's photograph graces the front cover of the book that is in our system. As she states, this is a work of fiction but this tale of German American immigrants and the Native Americans of that area, bespeaks her own heritage. It has served her well as inspiration for such a wonderful tale. The gift of her voice, though not conveyed through song, is heard loud and clear with the same poetry of words used in her storytelling.
Other books by Erdrich that you might enjoy are The Plague of Doves, set in the off reservation town of Pluto, North Dakota and The Last Report of Miracles at Little No Horse, another equally compelling tale of the secret life of Father Damien Modeste.
Friday, March 07, 2014
Murder on the Rocks
by Allyson K. Abbott
Mackenzie "Mack" Dalton owns and runs Mack's Bar in Milwaukee. She has been running the bar on her own since eight months ago when her father was murdered in the alley behind the bar. The crime was never solved. Now Mack has found the body of his girlfriend in the same alley. Both Mack and the lead detective think the deaths are linked. But the detective also thinks one of Mack's friends or regulars is responsible. When the detective finds out Mack has a secret weapon he puts her to use.
Mack was born with Synesthesia (click HERE for link to the Wikipedia description). It is an actual and rare neurological condition where the person might hear colors, or feel, taste, or see sounds.
There is a rather large cast of characters but they are easy to keep straight as they are all very well drawn. The pacing is smooth and the mystery plays fair with the clues. There are recipes at the back of the book for some twists on standard cocktail drinks.
The second book in the series is Murder With a Twist due to be released August 5, 2014.
Allyson K. Abbott is the pseudonym for Beth Amos. She also writes under the name of Annelise Ryan.
Under the name of Annelise Ryan she writes the popular Mattie Winston series.
The first three in order are:
Frozen Stiff which is also available as a downloadable ebook.
Thursday, March 06, 2014
Laidlaw has put together an amazing cookbook. Never have so many bakeable options been so gorgeously arrayed in sinful masterpiece. Her book is peppered with profiles of willing bakeries across the country. Despite the fact that most baked goods in cookbooks are considered sweet and sugary, Laidlaw includes savory treats like pretzels, quiches, potpies, and cheesy herb turnovers.
Are these easy recipes? Not exactly. Williams-Sonoma assumes you have a general understanding of baking as well as a plethora of patience. Read each recipe carefully. Many include extra prep time, or a secondary recipe (such as cake and icing). Happily, Laidlaw is available to walk you through step by step.
Need more comfort food ideas? Check out Saveur : the new comfort food : home cooking from around the world for more tips and ideas. Or try Southern Living comfort food : a delicious trip down memory lane, to revisit the classics.
Wednesday, March 05, 2014
Mary's English born grandfather, William Randolph came to America in 1672. He and wife Mary (n.e. Isham) established the Randolph name to be synonymous with Virginia gentility. She and Thomas Jefferson are both descended from William Randolph and other connections with our third president are numerous. The Randolphs also intermarried with neighbors and cousins (the Lees, Byrds, Carters, Custises, Carys, Washingtons and Jeffersons) thus becoming an even greater part of the fabric of other illustrious Virginia families.
Mary, known as Molly, was born in 1762 at Tuckahoe, the family's plantation on the James River where her orphaned father was raised by Peter and Jane Randolph Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson's parents. She married her cousin, David Meade Randolph in December of 1780. Her cook book was first published in 1824 without her name, as it was common for ladies to not have their name appear in print. It recorded what every cook should know to be able to manage a home economically and use ingredients at hand to prepare delicious meals.
With unexpected guests coming often and staying long periods of time, wine and other spirits flowed, there was dancing and other amusements and their guests ate well. Breakfasts were great meals. At noon, the main meal of the day boasted several different kinds of meats alongside other accompanying dishes. A popular term of the day, the groaning board adequately characterizes the typical sideboard or serving table with the plenitude of food it held. There was something for every palette to be followed by teas in the afternoon. Supper was usually a much lighter, cold meal served before bedtime to help stave off pangs of hunger through the night. This meant that there was constant household activity required to prepare all that food and a great necessity for frugal culinary practices in order to make the most of what was at hand.
The Virginia Housewife shows us that Mary was an educated lady. Not only in the book sense but skilled in what we would consider today, farm to table management. The book fully demonstrates the scope of her wisdom from picking vegetables during the peak early morning hours to practices for curing various meats and the art of the charcuterie of pork to eliminate waste. Careful instructions on how to dress a turtle, other wild game as well as instruction for employing skills to make almost everything that graces your table from scratch are represented in her book.
Between the pages 28 through 33 there are recipes devoted to producing one of Mary's plantation dinners already translated with modern day measurements. The recipes that follow appear as originally written, including everything from daily dishes, preserving produce, making various vinegars, cordials and liquors for consumption as well as other household items. I found it very interesting to see vast variety of fish that were popular in the day. Many are still offered at our seafood counters but I have never had sturgeon. This once prolific fish was so common to have been served often on the colonial table. Today however, conservation efforts are in place to insure its survival as a species and it has been placed on the endangered list. Should it make a comeback, I now know where to go for a source on how to prepare it, whether it is to be baked, in steaks and cutlets or for pickling it too.
You will find this book interesting if you are visiting the many local historic homes of Virginia Beach such as the Francis Land House built in 1805 and Ferry Farm Plantation House circa 1830 because they would have been applying the same household and culinary practices that Mary Randolph detailed in her cookbook. Other homes in the area that predate Mary's cookbook such as the Adam Thoroughgood House built in 1719 and the Lynnhaven House, circa 1725 would also been using similar skills and preparing similar dishes. This book would make an interesting accompaniment to study foods that would have been prepared during their day. Don't miss the upcoming Gathering of the Guilds being held at the Francis Land House on April 5th from 10 AM to 4 PM. To find more information on historic homes of the area visit their website or phone the Department of Museums, 757-385-5100 for their calendar of events as well as the touring schedules.
website. They are to be featured in the Historic Garden Week on May 1st, 2014.
Tuesday, March 04, 2014
The Mac and Cheese Cookbook: 50 Simple Recipes From Homeroom, America's Favorite Mac and Cheese Restaurant
by Allison Arevalo and Erin Wade
Most of us grew up having macaroni and cheese with dinner. And, for most of us, it probably came out of a blue box with the "cheese" a powder in a packet. While that will always be a source of comfort food sometimes you want something that is a little more, well, grown up.
All the recipes start with a bechamel sauce that they call their mac sauce. Sounds scary and fancy but is really just milk, butter, flour, and salt. It is super easy, doesn't take long, and the book even has step-by-step photos. The mac sauce recipe in the book makes 3 cups of sauce and can be made ahead and kept in the fridge. The problem I had was that almost every recipe only uses 2 cups of sauce. So I adjusted the recipe to make only the 2 cups of sauce needed.
For 2 cups mac sauce:
2 cups milk
5 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
5 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt or 1/2 teaspoon table salt. (May need to adjust to taste.)
Just follow the recipe instructions in the book.
I have made the Classic Mac in the pot on the stove and also the baked version. Both were very good.
Some of the other recipes that I have bookmarked to try are the Smoky Bacon Mac, Mexican Mac (which has my favorite chipotle chiles in adobo sauce and chorizo), Crab Mac, and Macximus (a Greek version with feta and spinach).
In case all this cheesy, pasta, goodness is too much for you there are two more sections at the end of the book with recipes for side dishes and desserts. One of the recipes in the side section is for Watermelon in Fresh Lime Syrup. If you have never had this you should do yourself a favor and give it a try. It is another easy recipe with just watermelon, lime, water, and sugar. It is light and oh so refreshing on a hot summer day.
Other books you might find interesting:
Melt: the Art of Macaroni and Cheese by Stiavetti, Stephanie
The Comfort Food Cookbook: Macaroni and Cheese, Meat and Potatoes: 104 Recipes, from Simple to Sublime by Schwartz, Joan
Another great resource for recipes is Zinio, This is an online service provided by the library where you can download and read current issues of some of the most popular magazines. A few of my favorites are: Every Day With Rachael Ray, the Food Network Magazine, and Taste of Home.
Click HERE for a link to the Virginia Beach Public Library Downloadables page. On the downloadable page you will find a link to instructions on how to set up your free Zinio account.
Or you can click HERE for a direct link to the VBPL Zinio page with a listing of all the magazines that are available.
Monday, March 03, 2014
Whalen, author of the popular blog FoodinMyBeard.com and owner of Café Burrito, is no stranger to unique food combinations. His blog features recipes such as chocolate risotto or Persian burritos. In Stuffed, Whalen turns his attention to doing exactly what the book title suggests. He becomes, in essence, a mad scientist, bent on world domination through gastro-experimentation. No recipe is too outrageous, from mac and cheese chile rellenos to avocado eclairs to tamale ravioli. Some sound insanely delicious, such as a loaded potato pierogi, but others like the spaghetti wrapped shrimp make me wonder “why bother?”
This is not a cookbook for amateurs. Most recipes involve a certain amount of prep time, or assume a comfortable familiarity with the kitchen; for example, Whalen makes sure that all pasta recipes start with is own recipe for pasta dough. Are the recipes worth it? Definitely.
Stuffable foods not doing it for your comfort level? Check out Southern Plate: Classic Comfort Food that Makes Everybody Feel Like Family by Christy Jordan for classic cuisine, or popular chef Alex Guarnaschelli’s book Old-school Comfort Food: the Way I Learned to Cook, which is also available as a downloadable ebook. If you need something more specialized, Vegan Diner: Classic Comfort Food for the Body and Soul by Julie Hasson is also available in print and electronic format. There are many healthy comfort food options. Check out our catalog for more suggestions.