Wednesday Poem: Squash Under the Bed ~ Ofelia Zepeda

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Squash Under the Bed

There was always crooked-neck squash under our beds.
The space under the bed met the criteria of a cool, dark, dry place.
These large, hard-skinned squash with speckled, serrated,
green and yellow designs shared space under our beds
with new cowboy boots, lost socks, forgotten toys,
dust and little spiders.
The squash rested under there with our memory of summer.
Awaiting winter darkness.
With the cold weather, we split the hard skin and expose the
rich yellow meat inside, the bounty of large seeds entangled
in the wetness of their origin.
We saved the seeds for next summer.
We eat the soft, sweet meat of the winter squash.
We swallow the warmth of summer.

Ofelia Zepeda

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Wednesday Poem: T’was a Week Before Christmas ~ Sandra Lee Smith

week-before-christmas

T’was a Week Before Christmas

T’was a week before Christmas
And all through the house
Gift-wrap was littered, it
Even covered a Spouse,
Who sat forlorn in his old easy chair,
wondering if there was
An extra cookie to spare –
For cookies were baked
And filled every tin
But to eat even one
Would be considered a sin –
(Unless it was one that was broken or burned);
Decorations hung everywhere that you turned.

In the guest room presents were piled everywhere,
And trees were put up, not a moment to spare –
Twinkling lights and ornaments too,
But it will look pretty when we’re all through –
I’ve scorched all my fingers giving candy a test
And thought it was time that I had a good rest;
When out on the roof there arose such a clatter,
I dashed to the door to see what was the matter;
Up on a ladder, Grandpa swayed to and fro –
Trying to decide where the reindeer should go –
I was sure he would fall and smash all the lights
I shouted come down and we’ll fix it all right!

The dollhouse is back where it belongs
And hundreds of Cds play holiday songs,
Pork loin’s in the freezer and wood on the fire,
Eggnog in the fridge we hope will inspire –
But if not there is brandy, bourbon and port,
To serve every guest who is a good sport;
We’ll work at it all til we fall with a jerk
And let Santa get credit for all our hard work!

Sandra Lee Smith

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Review: Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris ~ Ann Mah

Mastering the art

When journalist Ann Mah’s diplomat husband is given a three-year assignment in Paris, Ann is overjoyed. A lifelong foodie and Francophile, she immediately begins plotting gastronomic adventures à deux. Then her husband is called away to Iraq on a year-long post—alone. Suddenly, Ann’s vision of a romantic sojourn in the City of Light is turned upside down.

So, not unlike another diplomatic wife, Julia Child, Ann must find a life for herself in a new city.  Journeying through Paris and the surrounding regions of France, Ann combats her loneliness by seeking out the perfect pain au chocolat and learning the way the andouillette sausage is really made. She explores the history and taste of everything from boeuf Bourguignon to soupe au pistou to the crispest of buckwheat crepes. And somewhere between Paris and the south of France, she uncovers a few of life’s truths.

Like Sarah Turnbull’s Almost French and Julie Powell’s New York Times bestseller Julie and Julia, Mastering the Art of French Eating is interwoven with the lively characters Ann meets and the traditional recipes she samples. Both funny and intelligent, this is a story about love—of food, family, and France.

5 Thumbs-Up

This book was a double delight for me to read, and took me a while to finish.  Not because it was slow-moving or plodding, but because at the end of each chapter there are recipes; recipes I just had to try out, ingredients permitting.

This is a novel, a travel book and a foodies paradise all rolled into the memoirs of the Author, and anyone who delights in reading any of these genres, either as a whole or separately will revel in this book.  The Author describes her love of Paris and how it came about, and the joy she felt at knowing they would actually be able to live there for a predetermined amount of time.  I fully related with her life of having to pack up and move every three years and, her excitement at going to a place that had been on her ‘wish-list’ for such a long time really spoke to me, as I am sure it will to every reader who lives a nomadic work connected lifestyle.

Like the Author, I am a Gallophile and love Paris.  This made it especially easy for me to fall into the book, and experience with her the sights and sounds of the city; remembering that same awkwardness of speaking French to a native.  Some of the areas she travels to outside of the city, I had not visited but through the skilful writing style of the Author I was there with her speeding through the countryside with my large baguette and wine bottle snugly secure in the back seat.  Into her memoir, the Author deftly weaves pertinent histories of the regions we travel with her to, and this just adds more flavour to those wonderful recipes.  This is a book that is both mentally and visually pleasing, not because it is jammed packed with travel and food photographs, but because the Author has described every detail of the year of the title with such depth, humour and courtesy, the reader has a clear image of what is taking place on the pages before them.

The recipes are delicious, and so easy to follow.  However, some of them require ingredients that may be difficult for the reader to come by depending on their location; do not be discouraged by this as there are plenty more that can be made with ingredients on hand and have you longing to travel to their region of origin.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves to travel, eat regional foods or just wants a good read with a little extra included.

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Paper and Pies

I know that National Book Lovers Day took place yesterday August 9, but I had a review that I just had to post on that day so I was unable to write about this.  Plus it was also an unofficial holiday for all us book-worms and this would’ve meant taking time out from my latest read to sit down and put a piece together.  How could I possibly do that?

Apart from reading I also love to cook, in fact it’s another passion of mine that very few people know about.  So I tend to get a little excited when I come across something that hits both of these loves in one shot.  I’m talking about food centred fiction, and if that fiction contains recipes, be still my beating heart!

In celebration of National Book Lovers Day, although belatedly, I’d like to share with you my top ten reads, not in any order of preference, for lovers of the printed word AND food:

Book cupcakes

Friendship Bread ~ Darien Gee;  About life and loss, friendship and community, food and family, this book tells the uplifting story of what endures when even the unthinkable happens.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café ~Fannie Flagg; As an elderly woman relays her dynamic life story to a friend in the throes of a midlife crisis, readers get to know the townsfolk of Whistle Stop, Alabama, and their many mysteries.

Like Water for Chocolate ~ Laura Esquivel; In Mexico, a repressed daughter forbidden to be with the man she loves learns how to affect her world via the food she serves to others. Recipes set the tone for every chapter.

Blackberry Crumble: A Culinary Mystery ~ Josi Kilpack;  Sadie accepts her first investigation-for-hire and travels to Portland, Oregon, at the request of a woman who has suspicions about her wealthy father’s untimely death; includes eight recipes.

The Epicure’s Lament ~ Kate Christensen;  Hugo smokes and cooks and sexually schemes and pokes his perverse nose into other people’s marriages and business; and he records these events as well as his mordant, funny, gorgeously articulated personal history and his thoughts on life and mortality in a series of notebooks complete with recipes.

Monsieur Pamplemousse ~ Michael Bond; An esteemed food critic and his trusty bloodhound, Pommes Frites, find themselves embroiled in mystery when they are served a man’s head on a platter. It’s the start of a light-hearted series set in France.

Chocolat (Chocolat #1) ~ Joanne Harris; Mayhem ensues when a newcomer opens a chocolate shop in a small French village. Soon the townspeople crave not only the delicious confections available to purchase but also the company of the eerily insightful shop owner.

World of Pies ~ Karen Stolz;  Roxanne is our guide through a life that has moments of tenderness, poignancy, sorrow, and great humour, as well as some pretty great baking moments (recipes included).

Pomegranate Soup ~ Marsha Mehran; Each chapter is loosely based around a new recipe that is made in the cafe where the story is based. Mostly Middle Eastern

Househusband ~ Ad Hudler; Lincoln Menner is finding out just how hard it is to be a woman. “When his wife Jo was offered her dream job, Linc supported her wholeheartedly, leaving his thriving landscape business in Los Angeles and moving to Rochester, New York.

So there it is.  The recipes that are contained in some of the above books are amazing and play a part in the novels as a whole.  Even without the recipes, all these books are well worth taking some time out of your busy lives to read.

Buon appetito!

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