Let's start today with The Finished Book Pile.
We have If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This, a collection of short stories by Robin Black.
Her conversational little stories grew on me. Black writes about quiet people, many of them aged and broken down. Mostly, I remember Jean, hiding her stroke-affected arm in a fancy-scarf sling, claiming it's some small injury. Her daughter has come home for a few days. Is she home to help out? Or is she up to something else? What are those odd night-time noises?
It's not the most memorable book, but it has some nice moments. Minimal cow patties.
Next up, The Saucier's Apprentice by Bob Spitz.
You know, you go to the big downtown library and you pick your book off the shelf. You take it to the front desk and hand it to the girl who works there. Now these library types are quiet people who don't always look you in the eye. They put up with their low-paying jobs because the love being around books, love handling them. They love books more than they love people, I'm pretty sure. It's a not-quite-human experience, this passing your book back and forth and bleeping it through the check-out scanner.
But I gave The Saucier's Apprentice to the girl and her eyes lit up just a little bit and she peeked out from her quiet, withdrawn face. "Best title ever," she said, as she cracked a tiny smile.
And a darn good read. Mr. Spitz's life ran aground. Being a man who loved to throw dinner parties for his friends, what better way to soothe his sore soul than to send himself to a few cooking schools in Europe? With every delightful turn of phrase, the reader travels along with him as he and another man turn the act of making souffle into a contest of manhood; as a snooty French chef refuses to teach Spitz anything until Spitz shows he can make a decent omelet (guess how many omelets it takes); as an American expat woman introduces Spitz to the art of cooking rabbit.
Spitz can't do it. To him, they're bunnies, soft and adorable, with cute long ears. But the woman goads him further by taking a jar off the shelf, pulling out a dark and ominous object and making him eat it. Find out for yourself what it is.
Spitz includes his cooking-school recipes. I don't plan to try them, because he and I are not the same kind of cook. He likes simple, local ingredients, and improvisation. I like sure-bet formulas and don't get the vapors from ingredients like Velveeta and ketchup. However, I loved reading about chefs who flick the pan just so and the omelet slips out perfectly. Or they push the knife just so and the meat pops right off the bone. I loved reading about people who sat on terraces in what sounds like the most beautiful scenery on this earth and said, "MM-MM-MM" as they ate marvelous things.
Which brings me to our recipe for this installment:
Something Special Salad
I could not stop saying, "MM-MM-MM" while I ate this.
I've told you before that I just can't think of things to put in salads. Somebody has to tell me exactly what to add. I know that the rest of you don't have that problem, judging by the salads that you bring to my house.
Unless you're stealing your ideas from elsewhere, like I do. After all, stealing ideas is what we're all about here at Bye-bye Nesquik, no?