One last blog entry for 2007! Sorry I missed sending out a blog last week. Like all of you, we've been busy and on the move over the holidays. I'll give you some of the highlights of our trip to LA along with our usual reports.
We had a great visit with Jexy, Joe and Jacob. We arrived on the 20th in time to pick Jacob up from kindergarten at the Odyssey Charter School and then spent a little time there with him on Friday morning. He is thriving there and we are so impressed with the kindergarten program.
I'll talk more about some of the food highlights but I did want to mention a couple of special things about our trip. On Saturday, Jex and I stopped in to visit her friend, Christine Moore's fabulous new candy and pastry shop called Little Flower Candy Shop in Pasadena. Christine is a highly regarded pastry chef and candy maker whose flavored marshmallows and caramels can be found in the finest shops. Christine just opened up her own retail shop earlier in December. If you're lucky enough to be in the area, be sure and stop in for a cup of coffee, a sweet treat and a visit with Christine. Even if you don't live in California, you can enjoy these delectable morsels by ordering online from www.littleflowercandyco.com.
We had a "field trip" on Sunday to the Skirball Cultural Center to see the Noah's Ark exhibit. What a fantastic experience! We all enjoyed it so much. If you're ever in LA, with kids or not, the Skirball Center is a must-not-miss! http://www.skirball.org/.
I read The Wholeness of a Broken Heart by Katie Singer - this is a first novel and is a warmhearted and sentimental look at a multigenerational Jewish family from their beginnings in the Old Country to their eventual settlement to Cleveland. I am so drawn to books like this - there's a strong sense of the familiar as I relate to these different family member.
From Publishers Weekly
Singer's first novel brings fresh energy, style and perception to a familiar formula as she traces four generations of Jewish women from Eastern Europe to modern America. Young writer-teacher Hannah Fried is disturbed and mystified when her doting mother, Celia, suddenly and brutally rejects her. She seeks an explanation from her grandmother Ida, her estranged father, and photographs locked in an old trunk in Ida's attic. Family history begins with two great-grandmothers: Channa, for whom she was named, and Leah, a Latvian peasant girl married to a widower with five children. Leah's daughter, Raisl, saves her brother Moshe from the czar's army by sleeping with a Cossack who helps Moshe escape to America.
He becomes Moe, a successful, cold-hearted businessman, married to Ida, who cannot prevent him from abusing their daughter, Celia. Celia, in turn, grows up emotionally disconnected to all except her own daughter, Hannah.
Maternal love, sacrifice, the breaking and mending of family ties, loss and reinvention A common themes in Jewish sagasAare woven together here in personal narratives, including heart-wrenching passages from Channa's stillborn daughter, Vitl, and Leah's ghost. The individuality and authenticity of each voice springs from Yiddish proverbs, old country syntax and an endearing practical idealism. Singer even captures with precision the varied multicultural voices of Hannah's writing students.
Well-defined characters, emotion (but not sentimentality) and compassion (not pseudo-psychology) set this account of the survival tactics of Jewish families apart from similar tales. Focusing on mother-daughter and grandmother-granddaughter relationships, Singer has written a novel filled with authentic human feeling, humor and hope.
Joe and Barbara talked about Frank McCourt's third memoir, Teacherman, during Christmas dinner and then Cass mentioned it as a book that inspires her as a teacher. I've added it to my list of "must-reads".
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. This final memoir in the trilogy that started with Angela's Ashes and continued in 'Tis focuses almost exclusively on McCourt's 30-year teaching career in New York City's public high schools, which began at McKee Vocational and Technical in 1958. His first day in class, a fight broke out and a sandwich was hurled in anger. McCourt immediately picked it up and ate it. On the second day of class, McCourt's retort about the Irish and their sheep brought the wrath of the principal down on him. All McCourt wanted to do was teach, which wasn't easy in the jumbled bureaucracy of the New York City school system. Pretty soon he realized the system wasn't run by teachers but by sterile functionaries. "I was uncomfortable with the bureaucrats, the higher-ups, who had escaped classrooms only to turn and bother the occupants of those classrooms, teachers and students. I never wanted to fill out their forms, follow their guidelines, administer their examinations, tolerate their snooping, adjust myself to their programs and courses of study." As McCourt matured in his job, he found ingenious ways to motivate the kids: have them write "excuse notes" from Adam and Eve to God; use parts of a pen to define parts of a sentence; use cookbook recipes to get the students to think creatively. A particularly warming and enlightening lesson concerns a class of black girls at Seward Park High School who felt slighted when they were not invited to see a performance of Hamlet, and how they taught McCourt never to have diminished expectations about any of his students. McCourt throws down the gauntlet on education, asserting that teaching is more than achieving high test scores. It's about educating, about forming intellects, about getting people to think. McCourt's many fans will of course love this book, but it also should be mandatory reading for every teacher in America. And it wouldn't hurt some politicians to read it, too.
Website of the Week: www.thefaithclub.com - this is the site based on the book, The Faith Club: A Muslim, A Christian, A Jew by Ranya Idliby, Suzanne Oliver and Priscilla Warner. I haven't read the book but I heard one of the authors on a recent interview and was so intrigued by the story of these three women from very different cultures and traditions who come together in search of peace and understanding.
Podcast of the Week: Jackie recently recommended the American Public Media's Speaking of Faith broadcast with Krista Trippet. It is available as a podcast and the most recent one features Naomi Rachel Remen, author of that wonderful book, Kitchen Table Wisdom. http://speakingoffaith.publicradio.org/podcast/podcasthelp.shtml
Vocabulary Word of the Week: Resolution
Middle English resolucioun, from Anglo-French or Latin; Anglo-French resolucion, from Latin resolution-, resolutio, from resolvere
1: the act or process of resolving: as a: the act of analyzing a complex notion into simpler ones b: the act of answering : solving c: the act of determining d: the passing of a voice part from a dissonant to a consonant tone or the progression of a chord from dissonance to consonance e: the separating of a chemical compound or mixture into its constituents f (1): the division of a prosodic element into its component parts (2): the substitution in Greek or Latin prosody of two short syllables for a long syllable g: the analysis of a vector into two or more vectors of which it is the sum2: the subsidence of a pathological state (as inflammation)3 a: something that is resolved
synonyms see courage
Cooking and Dining Report:
One of the highlights of our California trip was a visit to the brand-new Whole Foods in Pasadena - Jack, Jexy and I spent a couple of hours there on Friday, including lunch at one of the many "restaurant" options right in the store. Pretty amazing place with lots of wonderful options for creating outstanding meals.
Another interesting stop was to the Home Girl Cafe for breakfast one morning. The history of this place is quite interesting. It is one of the ventures of Home Boy Industries, begun by Father Greg Boyle in East L.A. where Jexy and Joe work at Roosevelt High School. Father Greg has been hugely instrumental in providing support and opportunities for at-risk young men and women in the neighborhood. We went to the new cafe near Chinatown which is a very attractive and inviting space. Unfortunately, we had some major service issues which were hard to overlook but we would certainly give it another chance. Check out the website for Home Boy Industries - http://www.homeboy-industries.org/index.php
One of the meals that we made was Giada de Laurentiis' Cioppino - an Italian stew chocked full of fresh shellfish from the Whole Foods seafood department. This is so impressive and surprisingly easy. It would make a great New Years Eve or Day dinner. We served it with a Caesar Salad and a loaf of Ciabatta bread - nothing better! http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recipes/recipe/0,1977,FOOD_9936_32499,00.html
Christmas Eve - we shared Cincinnati Chili with Jexy and Joe's friends - we made it with ground dark meat turkey this time and it turned out great - the recipe is posted on the November 5, 2006 entry of the blog. Go to http://cookinandbookin.blogspot.com/ and search for Cincinnatti Chili.
Christmas dinner was a traditional turkey done with a dry salt brine - delicious and moist - we used the technique that the LA Times recommended last year. We did a very tasty dressing (outside the bird) with a recipe for Ciabetta Stuffing with Chestnuts and Pancetta from Giada de Laurentiis - http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recipes/recipe/0,,FOOD_9936_29172,00.html
Wishing all of you a very healthy and happy 2008. I plan to keep on blogging and hope you'll continue to enjoy as well as contribute to these entries and pass them on to your friends. I'm excited about an opportunity I have been given to review a brand-new cookbook put out by Workman Publishing. The book was waiting for me when I arrived home the other day and I'm hoping to try out some of the recipes over the next week. Check out their website http://www.workman.com/ - they publish a variety of books and calendars.