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Food and Personalities   2 comments

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I enjoy reading titles on bookshelves. I want to know what people are reading; it’s a question I frequently ask. Similarly, I like to know what my friends and family have to eat when they go to a restaurant, host a dinner or are dinner guests. That’s why when a dear friend sent me a copy of What She Ate by Laura Shapiro it was perfect in so many ways because of the content and it’s such a thoughtful expression of friendship.

Shapiro’s book is subtitled Six Remarkable Women & the Food that Their Stories Tell. These are not women that necessarily first come to mind. There’s no Julia Child or Alice Waters among them. While they’re fascinating, the half dozen Shapiro profiles are engaging for a number of reasons, some because they are familiar and some because they are not.

Only one, Rosa Lewis, a London caterer during King Edward VII’s reign, has a direct link to food or cooking. The others are Dorothy Wordsworth, Eleanor Roosevelt, Eva Braun, Barbara Pym and Helen Gurley Brown.

There is as much about the women’s relationship with food as a reflection of the eras in which they lived. Braun, for example, was more interested in maintaining a slim figure than eating. The foods she ignored, riches only available to the Nazi elite, further highlight that regime’s cruelty.

At times, though, Shapiro gets bogged down with too much detail. Overall, this is an intriguing look at those she researched with food at its heart.

What She Ate
Four Bookmarks
Viking, 2017
307 pages, including notes and index

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Get Lost   Leave a comment

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Watch Me Disappear is disappointing. Sorry. There’s no hemming and hawing on this one. Yet, I read all 300-plus pages waiting for some redeeming elements. Some surfaced only to quickly fade. It wasn’t exactly a slog, but it was far from a nice walk in the woods.

There is a hike, though; at least references to one, which is part of the story.

Jonathan and Billie Flanagan, with Olive their 16-year-old daughter, live in Berkeley. By all appearances they’re a happy family. He’s a workaholic for a hi-tech publication, Billie is an out-doorsy bon vivant, stay-at-home mom occasional graphic designer with a past, of course. Olive is a bright introvert at a private school.

The narrative follows the grief-stricken father and daughter dealing with the presumed-dead Billie who, nearly a year earlier, goes missing while on a solo backpacking trek on a section of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Jonathan quits his job to write a memoir about Billie, the love of his life. Interspersed among the chapters are pages Jonathan has written. They reveal as much about him as about Billie. Meanwhile, Olive begins having visions of her mother offering hints as to her possible whereabouts. Thus, the two begin separate searches to find the missing woman.

Part of the problem with Janelle Brown’s novel is that it’s predictable; the few surprises are just that, too few. It doesn’t help that Olive is the only appealing character or that the ending – and this reveals nothing – is very tidy.

Watch Me Disappear
Two-and-a-half Bookmarks
Spiegel & Grau, 2017
358 pages

The Nos Gotta Go   Leave a comment

ludivine sign

Usually, it’s the company shared while dining that makes the meal. Food is the magnet, and should be more than just sustenance, but good conversation can hide numerous food/service flaws. This was the case at Ludivine in Oklahoma City. The chow wasn’t bad, but couldn’t compete with the camaraderie.

Also, we were told “No!” a lot.

ludivine drink

The restaurant prides itself on farm fresh, or at least locally-procured, ingredients. It’s a small menu with intriguing cocktails, most had references to The Beatles. For example, the Fixing the Hole: Rye whiskey, lemon, egg white, club soda and ice fill a glass, which contains a smaller empty glass into which blackberry-thyme shrub is poured. It’s fun and tasty. A request for gin instead of rye generated the first No, as in no-can-do – or more aptly, no-won’t-do.

In addition to a regular bill of fare, which apparently frequently changes, a chef’s tasting menu is offered. The most enticing course was gnocchi. I hoped to have corn chowder, not on the tasting menu, with the potato dumplings. Nope. Again.

ludivine marrow

There were a few other negative responses from our server, but we had some positive elements on the plates we did order. The roasted bone marrow was as fatty and decadent as one could want and served with plenty of crostini.

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Besides the drink, the creamy corn chowder was my favorite. For the money, the Waygu steak disappointed. Thankfully, chimichurri saved the meat.

ludivine waygu

Ultimately, the meal was enjoyable thanks to my friends.

Ludivine
Three Plates
805 N. Hudson Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK

Mas Que Tacos II   Leave a comment

Among the surprises during a recent visit to Mexico City was the variety of food. I should have known that cosmopolitan Cuidad de Mexico (CDMX) would be well-represented by cuisines from around the world.

Pizzas Nosferatu has virtually no inside seating, but it’s fun to sit outside with an unobstructed view of the gourmet pies being made. The joven who took our order was friendly and, indeed, young. The thin-crusted pizzas are served on round slabs of wood. The beers available next door were astounding in the quality and variety. We enjoyed the namesake Nosferatu with spinach, ricotta, herbs and fresh ginger. The Henry with pepperoni, onion and tomato was also tasty.

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Pulled pork and smoked brisket are not foods I associate with Mexico. Now I know better. I can’t wait to return to Porco Rosso Roma. The different spins on beans (spicy frijoles) and onion rings were a treat. Sorry no photos. Next time, though.

We enjoyed breakfast at trendy Delirio Monica Patino. Here the traditional molletes (thick slices of toast topped with melted cheese and beans) had a twist: Greek olive tapanade rather than a tomato-based salsa.


My pesto at Trattoria Giocovanni was a lighter version than what I had in Italy, but the lasagna was pure Italiano.

mexicocityfish

White, mild fish, at Contramar, was exceptional both in its presentation and flavor. Half was coated with a red dried chili rub and the other half with a parsley rub. The tuna tostados and the desserts rivaled the entrees.

mexicocitydesserts

 

 

Digging Up the Past   Leave a comment

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When reading a mystery I want to be surprised; I also want to reach the solution on my own. This might seem contradictory, but it’s my benchmarks for a good thriller.

Both were achieved in Fiona Barton’s The Child. I was pleased to be right. Of course, it took most of the book to fit all of the pieces together, but I did. Rather than feel disappointed once I suspected how things would end, I was proud of my sleuthing abilities.

Three main characters move the story: Kate, a journalist intrigued by the discovery of an infant’s skeleton when an old house is demolished; Angela, whose infant daughter was kidnapped from the maternity ward more than 40 years ago; and Emma, a middle-aged woman with secrets, including a teen pregnancy. Emma’s mother, Jude, has a pivotal role in the novel’s progression.

Kate is convinced there’s more to the story than the gruesome discovery at a construction site. Meanwhile, Angela’s begins to hope that she will finally have an explanation of what happened to her daughter. Emma fears that her past has literally been uncovered. Meanwhile, Jude has no interest in looking in the rear-view mirror and dismisses Emma’s anxieties as part of the strained relationship between the two.

Through Kate, the author methodically reveals the heartbreaks and fears each woman has suffered in their respective lives while fitting together the ways in which they’re all connected. If intrigue isn’t enough, there’s also a bit of science thrown into the mix.

The Child
Four Bookmarks
Berkley, 2017
365 pages

Mas que Tacos Part I   Leave a comment

It might be a cliché, or at least an exaggeration, but it seems as if there’s a taco stand on every corner in Mexico City. While the made-on-the spot, hand-held typical street food is fresh and tasty, there’s much more to the cuisine than what you’d expect. Nonetheless, this post will focus on what comes to mind when thinking of Mexican food – beyond tacos.

Cabrera mole

Mole is one of my favorites and I had it twice. Both were the dark, Oaxacan versions that were rich, smooth and blended the sweet with the savory. However, my preference was for Cabera 7’s rendition. Although, it was beautifully plated, the chicken arrived cold and had to be sent back to the kitchen. When it did arrive with the proper temperature, it was exceptional. House-made, fresh corn tortillas and white rice helped absorb some of the sauce so none of it went uneaten.

cabrera music

The other mole was at Sanborn’s. This ubiquitous chain has everything: clothing, accessories, a pharmacy, shoes, a restaurant and more. The mole here was too sweet; it lacked the balance that’s the hallmark of the dish. It’s a department store, afterall.

Burritos are less common in Mexico than you might think, but Ensalada y Burritos Gourmet demonstrated what many fast-food burrito chains lack: an abundance of flavor. My thick burrito was packed with pibil, a colorful, more savory-than-spicy version of pulled pork, with rice and black beans.

We did venture away from the standards, but that’s for another post.

Cabrera 7
Plaza Luis Cabrera 7, Cuauhtémoc, Roma Norte,
06700 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico

Ensalada y Burritos Gourmet
Coahuila 125,Roma Nte.,
06700 Ciudad de México, D.F.,México, Mexico

Lost and Found   Leave a comment

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I lost my library card.

It’s one of my most important forms of identification. I’ve held in my hand far more often than my driver’s license or my passport.

I knew the card was easily replaceable, but I’ve had this particular card for 27 years. Before that I had the one issued to me when I was in high school, but I had to relinquish it when I changed my last name. I was attached to the card as much for the length of time it’s been in my possession as for the access it’s provided to feed my imagination and my intellect.

I’d removed the card from my wallet just before a trip out of the country; I knew I wouldn’t be checking out any books in a Mexico City library because I suspected it wouldn’t be accepted anyway. One of my first stops upon returning home was to my local branch. Fortunately, my license was accepted as alternative ID for the book I wanted. Yet, I worried. I couldn’t remember where I’d placed the card.

purse spew

I went through my wallet multiple times; I ransacked my purse – just in case. I searched drawers, underneath piles of papers and books. I ended up organizing the clutter around my computer.

I wondered if I’d left in it the car. I hadn’t. I rearranged more untidiness. I opened one more drawer.

The next best thing to finding something that’s been lost is that sometimes it results in a little bit of cleanup.

library card