by Elyse on July 12th, 2012
Jennifer Reese has wallsful of cookbooks and in part to justify their existence came her blog, tipsybaker.com. When Reese found herself unemployed in 2008 she wanted empirical data to support her economic choices, “taking into account the competing demands – time and meaning, quality and conscience, budget and health – of everyday American family life.” She spent time raising chickens, all kinds of vegetables and a couple of children. From the blog and the data emerged this well-written, funny and surprisingly compelling book. Which foods and drinks are worth making from scratch from important perspectives: How much of a hassle is it to make, and if it’s a big hassle, is it worth the experience…at least once? How much does it cost to conjure it up compared with purchasing it at a big grocery store or Whole Foods or some other healthy food store?
Lest you think this is a dry, fuddy-duddy kind of book, know that Reese is smart, modern, funny, and tells it like it is. Yes, there is science – after making baking powder by sifting 1 part baking soda with 2 parts cream of tartar (another science altogether) and comparing it with Clabber Girl double acting baking powder, the resulting cookies tasted the same, but the homemade baking powder made sprawly less cakey cookies. This chemistry lab resulted in Jennifer’s decision to purchase aluminum free baking powder such as the Rumford brand going forward. And there is math, 2.5 pounds of Camembert costs about $9.00 to make. Purchasing this much cheese in Reese’s neighborhood would cost about $50.00. “Even if you blow it and lose your whole investment in this cheese, it’s not a big one.”
There are 120 recipes in Make the Bread, Buy the Butter ranging from breads and spreads to desserts, having people over to duck eggs, junk food to canning. There’s a short list of resources in the appendix. It’s worth taking a gander at the book just to see what’s worth making and what’s worth buying. It’s worth lingering over the book because it’s funny, well-written and informative.
Spoiler alert: make the frankfurter rolls, buy the hamburger buns.
by Elyse on April 20th, 2012
Books about Writers
Books about Libraries
Books about Writers’ Libraries
This lovely little book, edited by Harvard English Professor Leah Price, is delightful in a number of ways. First, it’s smaller than the average book at 8″ x 5.5″ or so. Second, it has images and lots of white space, perfect for weary eyes at the end of a day. Third, the images are books on bookshelves. Fourth, it has lists of books.
Price asks a group of writers these questions: How much do you mark up your books? How far back does your collection go? What books were not on the shelves that you permitted us to photograph (wink wink nudge nudge)? Do you use an e-reader?
And then there are the bookshelves themselves. Some super organized in lovely custom white cubes (Rebecca Goldstein and Steven Pinker), and some overflowing and outgrowing readymade wooden bookshelves (Edmund White).
But the ultimate delight is what’s on those shelves. I found myself peering at every title, rotating “Unpacking My Library” for optimum snoopability. The photographs, although just two-dimensional, have the quality of a third dimension; you can nearly put your hand on each title on the shelf. You can nearly touch the space between titles. You can nearly take each book down and discover its contents for yourself.
Each writer also offers a top ten list of books from their shelves with a photograph of each cover on the recto page.
This book is like taking high tea, without the crumpet but still delightful.
by Elyse on May 8th, 2007
For a long time I didn’t look forward to Saturdays the way I used to. Way back in the day, Channel 9, now one of those mega channels, showed Creature Features at around 9:00 am. But I was just biding my time until Sherlock Holmes came on at around 11:00. There were a bunch of movies, including Sherlock Holmes and the Spider Woman, Sherlock Holmes and The Voice of Terror, and Sherlock Holmes in Dressed to Kill. They were in black and white, smart, and captivating. I got a little older and I read Arthur Conan Doyle’s (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes) stories. Later still I lived in London and made sure to visit 221B Baker Street straight away. And then all was fallow on the Sherlock front. But wait. A few short months ago I heard about a series of books by Laurie R. King. Mary Russell, a 19 year old English/American orphan Jewess meets a beekeeper in the English countryside (The Beekeeper’s Apprentice), who just happens to be Sherlock Holmes. Mary becomes his apprentice, his partner, and yes, his wife. Each of the King books, A Monstrous Regiment of Women, A Letter of Mary, The Moor, O, Jerusalem, Justice Hall, The Game, and Locked Rooms has a case that must be solved. We witness the more human side of Holmes, not a 7% cocaine solution, a dirge played on violin, or even a meerschaum pipe. I always wanted to know more about what made Sherlock tick and Laurie King, through her wonderfully realized character, Mary Russell, has done just that. This series of books is really well written and has quite an authentic sound in my mind’s ear. I look forward to Saturday mornings now just like I did in my childhood. Then it was movies. Now it’s this series of books. It’s only Tuesday.
by Elyse on April 17th, 2007
I have to admit that I never watch the Ghost Whisperer. It’s a CBS show on Friday nights at like 7:00 or 8:00 pm. That I know this should give you a tiny bit of insight into my social life. Oh, that’s right, we’re not talking about me. So, ostensibly, this chick sees dead people. She’s known as a ghost whisperer. I say pshaw to whispering to dead people. Talk to the creatures who never talked to begin with.
There’s the book by Nicholas Evans, The Horse Whisperer, which was a pretty good, fast read, about a teenager who has a horseback riding accident in which her good friend dies, and her horse, Pilgrim, has post-traumatic stress disorder. The movie version of the Horse Whisperer , is pretty, but not so good. Robert Redford is our titular protagonist and seems to have a way of communicating, not just with damaged horses, but with damaged people, too.
Cesar Millan, known as the dog whisperer in K9 circles and elsewhere, has a book, Cesar’s way : the natural, everyday guide to understanding and correcting common dog problems , and an extremely popular television show on the National Geographic Channel called Dog Whisperer . The opening sequence of the show shows Cesar rollerblading while holding the leads of about 30 dogs. Maybe 15. I’ve only seen New York dog walkers handle that many leashes at one time. Cesar’s method for communicating with canines is to exercise them, discipline them, and love them — in that order. The pooches make miraculous behavior changes in only 30 minutes.
Okay, back to me. Maxine, my black standard poodle, is turning 77 on Friday. That’s 11 in dog years. I think we have mental telepathy. I know everything about her. I know all of her body language. She knows what I’m thinking as soon as I think it. My method for communicating with her is to love her, love her, and love her – in that order. And I’ve whispered "Maxine is the greatest puppy in all of the land, that is right," into her ear every day she has been in my world.