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There was a 'M*A*S*H' episode in which all of the characters were asked what books they had brought with them. Amidst all of the traditional answers of 'the Bible', 'War and Peace', etc., I loved Hawkeye's answer best: "The dictionary; all the other books are in there." And so they are.
Hmmm, me and books! I persist, much against the advice of everyone, in hauling my books with me. They've moved from the U.S. to Ireland to Andorra to France. They go where I go. Even the trashy, cheap dime-store novels. I'll forgive almost anything – but do not, I repeat, do NOT loose a book that I loan to you.
Why? For the simple reason that I am not rich enough to keep me in new books. I read too much. Always have.
Fortunately I am quite happy to re-read….many times. Re-reading old books is like visiting old friends: you know what to expect but it's enjoyable nonetheless.
My Reading: I'll read just about anything: cereal boxes, junk mail, magazine ads…I do, of course, draw the line at instruction books, except as last resort. I generally do not read books written in the first person – just a quirk. Like many others, I read the classics when I was younger. I spent one summer reading Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, Virgil's Aeneid, and Greek plays: Euripides and Aristophanes (don't you just love the way those names role off the tongue?) - interspersed with with 'young romances' and Plato. (I could do the romances at the rate of one a day so I needed something to sink my teeth into).
In order to get an 'A' in English at the high school I attended I had to read 60 books per year from the list of authors being discussed. No problem! I usually read twice that.
Currently I'm reading legal and murder mysteries, science fiction (Jordan's Wheel of Time series is good for someone like me – so far 12 books of around 1000 pages each, complicated and no where near being finished), plus anything else that gets recommended by anyone. I once reread all of my books, in alphabetical order. Don't say it!
One more thing, lest you think I laze around the house eating bonbons and reading all day: I read for 30 – 45 minutes every day while I ride my exercise bike and another 30 minutes or so before bed. I read magazines in the car.
How many books do I own: I have over 200 of the 'classics' that I've collected over the years, over 200 cookbooks (1 of 4 cases in the photo), and probably 1,000 other assorted paperbacks and hardcovers of all genres.
Last book bought and read: a Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka. Did I mention that I also love humor? This book is hilarious. I also have all of Bryson's….
Five meaningful books:
Winter in Madrid by C. J. Sansom. I know nothing about WWII (or the Great War, for that matter). I should say I knew nothing. I'm learning. This is a powerful book written about the the winter of 1940, with Franco flirting with Hitler and Britain standing alone. Well written, compelling, haunting.. and a great story!
The Time-Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. One of a few books that I finished and immediately started reading again. There are so many layers to explore, and the author does a wonderful job of giving us a peak into the characters but leaving plenty of room for our own imagination to fill in the gaps. What if….
Replay by Ken Grimwood. What if you could do your life over but retain all of your current knowledge? The main character has a heart attack at 40 and wakes up in his college dorm room, in his college body but with his 40 year old mind intact. He knows who won the World Series and which stocks are going through the roof. Can he prevent the assassination of JFK (no, but he prevented Oswald from doing it, a guy named Smith does it instead)? What if….
The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio. Ten young people, running from the Black Death tell stories to entertain themselves, 1 each every day for 10 days; each having a theme: 100 stories. Written in the mid 1300's it's a collection of funny, bawdy, tragic, romantic and degenerate stories that give a wonderful, often hilarious insight into medieval life.
the curious incident of the dog in the night-time by Mark Haddon. A fascinating, humorous and insightful peak into the mind of an autistic boy. It was a revelation as to what it must be like to live without understanding emotion; to not grasp why other people do what they do – unless it's logical, of course. Christopher (main character) has to solve a murder mystery (of a dog) worthy of his hero Sherlock Holmes.
Do I have to stop? Yeah, or I'd go on for the rest of the day. Now, whose bookshelves would I like to explore… I will tag Lydia, Blue Zebra, and Tanna… and any and every one else who wants to play.
What's on your shelf?
Butternut Squash and Ham Risotto
This is based on a recipe from the cook book 'Risotto'. As always, the end result should be creamy, smooth, almost soup-like, never stiff.
1/2 cup plus 2 tbs Arborio rice (Carnaroli or Vialone Nano)
1/2 cup dry, white wine
2 – 2 1/4 cups chicken stock
1 cup shredded butternut squash
1 tbs butter
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese – freshly grated (about 2oz, 60gr)
Heat chicken stock and keep hot over low heat. Finely chop onion and tomato. Peel butternut squash using potato/vegetable peeler. Cut it in half the long way (blossom to stem) and remove seeds. Using large holes on grater, shred part of the squash until you get 1 cup. Wrap the remainder in film and refrigerate. In medium saucepan heat butter over medium-high heat. Add onion and tomato, sauté 5 minutes. Add squash and sauté 5 minutes longer. Add rice and sauté stirring, for 2 – 3 minutes until rice has white center. Add white wine and stir. Start condimenti. When wine is almost absorbed add a 1/2 cup of stock, stir. When stock is almost absorbed add another 1/2 cup and continue adding 1/2 cup at a time and stirring. Before the last 1/2 cup taste a few kernels of rice. They should be just 'al dente' – slightly resistant to the tooth but fully cooked. If more stock is needed add it 1/4 cup at a time and waiting until almost completely absorbed. At this point risotto will be thick but not stiff – there will still be visible liquid and it will not hold its shape on a plate. Add the Parmesan and the condimenti, stir well, pour into a bowl or risotto platter and serve immediately. It will continue to absorb liquid and the leftovers (if any) will be quite stiff.
1 slice, 8oz (250gr) baked or deli ham
12 – 15 fresh sage leaves, half that number if the are large – more than 2" (5cm) long 1 tbs dried
1 tsp olive oil
Cut the ham into bite-size pieces. Heat olive oil in nonstick skillet. Add ham and sage and sauté until ham is lightly browned. Turn heat to very low and keep warm until needed.
Note: The first photo is right after I poured it into the risotto platter; the second is on my plate – with a side of butternut squash. As you can see it quickly absorbed more stock so if I had not taken it off heat or added the last bit of stock it would not be so lusciously creamy… Trust me, you'll be glad you did (says the spider to the fly; cackle, cackle)