Salt

An excellent history of salt beginning in early China and weaving through ancient Rome, Israel, US Civil War, US Revolutionary War, Italy, France, Sweden, Hawaii, Ghandi’s India, Liverpool, Bahamas, Poland, Salzburg, Avery Island, San Francisco. The story also touches on the Morton Salt Company buying up little saltworks and becoming the world’s largest salt company. “When it rains, it pours.” Salt is ubiquitous and often overlooked as an important facet of life. Animals (humans included) would die without salt.

Some fun facts about salt:

  • the word salary comes from the Latin salarius, of salt. Roman soldiers received salt as their pay.
  • olives were experimented with for centuries before it was found that soaking them in brine (salted water) made them edible
  • Avery Island (home of Tabasco sauce) sits on a salt dome
  • a Carlsbad, NM salt mine is being prepared to contain nuclear waste that will remain toxic for 240,000 more years
  • in the 1970’s, emergency oil reserves were stored in salt domes around the Gulf of Mexico
  • in the early 17th century, the Polish salt mine was used to entertain visitors: the walls, ceiling, floor, chandeliers and statues in the mine were all made from salt.
  • The World Health Organization & Unicef urged salt producers to add iodine to their salt to prevent goiter, a thyroid gland enlargement.
  • in 18th century England, anchovy sauce became known as ketchup, which derives its name from the Indonesian fish and soy sauce kecap ikan. Ketchup became a tomato sauce in the US, as tomatoes are native to America.
  • soy sauce originally was fish fermented in salt, or jiang. In China, soybeans were added to ferment with the fish and in time fish were dropped from the recipe, resulting in jiangyou, or soy sauce.

Continue reading “Salt”

The God of Nightmares

Hooray for Paula! Once again her words leave me feeling light and happy.
Shortly after news of her father’s death, Helen escapes the confines of her early life. She leaves her mother and upstate NY and travels to New Orelans to bring her aunt Lulu back to NY to help her mother run the cabin business. In New Orleans, Helen falls into a trance of soft humid Southerness, where she meets her future husband Len, and her close friend Nina. Also Claude, the gentleman who prefered boys, who ends up dead beneath the Dueling Oaks. And Gerald and Catherine, the couple with whom Helen boards. Gerald a poet who was beaten by his Cajun neighbors for exposing their way of life to the world. Lulu’s drunkenness and divorce from Sam Bridges, with whom Nina has an affair. Nina describing her life as ‘floating by’, and drinking from the “Colored” fountain out of mild defiance. Part 1 is full of violence and chaos, yet leaves no blood on your mind.
Part 2 fast-forwards 20+ years to the 1960s when Helen and Len are living in NYC and renovating her mother’s old house after her death. Helen runs into Nina in the city, then mentions it later to Len, who acts strangely and admits to having been involved with Nina back in the day. Ends very sweetly with Helen waiting for Len to wake up from a long sleep.

Continue reading “The God of Nightmares”

Consider the Oyster

mouth watering prose about the joys of oysters. I have an undeniable craving to make an oyster loaf… M thinks I’ve lost it. Oyster stew anyone? She tempts me with her descriptions of the tastes. I’ve been reading this one on the bus every day this week and have caught myself licking my chops as I read.
Update: now finished with this lovely short glimpse into the head of a gourmand. I don’t even like the taste of oysters, yet MFK has me dreaming of gulping down raw bodies along with their liquid. I will be reading every book I can find that MFK has written: it is too much of a treat to my soul to pass up.

Continue reading “Consider the Oyster”

Blueberry Muffin Cake

ingredients:
* 1 1/2 c. sifted flour
* 1 t. baking powder
* 1/2 t. salt
* 1/2 c. margarine
* 1 c. sugar
* 2 eggs
* 1/3 c. milk
* 1 t. vanilla extract
* 1 1/2 c. blueberries, floured
Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. In large bowl, cream margarine and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and beat well. Add flour mixture alternating with the milk. Mix extremely well; the more you beat, the better the cake. Fold in vanilla and the floured berries. Pour batter into well greased 8 x 8 x 2 pan. Sprinkle with sugar (mixture?). Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until center tests done.

Birds of America

Enjoying Mary McCarthy’s words… just stumbled across a section where one of the guests at Thanksgiving dinner is a vegetarian, and she trotted out her usual dialogue, and it was perfect, especially the focus on having to repeat herself three times at dinner with everyone asking the same questions. Peter is a freak but still loveable. Yea!
I finished this one today– McCarthy is an excellent writer and I’m about to dive head first into the rest of her work. The Paris/overseas section of the book was much more interesting than the American section; and the juxtaposition of both sections seemed a little forced.

Continue reading “Birds of America”

Expat

The unifying theme in this collection of women’s writings of living abroad is missing home. All of them yearned for the return to the US, with its sensible procedures and 24 hour groceries. While this idea was interesting in the first 20 essays, it became tedious toward the end. Yes, you live abroad and miss certain familiar things like Taco Bell or no smoking in restaurants. Blah de blah de blah. This theme was so prevalent that I wonder if the editor of the book asked each author to flesh the “missing home” idea out in each essay. If so, boo. If not, it’s a little strange that every one of these ladies brings it up. Still, useful information on coping with the change to life abroad, with the mysteries of plumbing and smallish cooking devices. There were some great stories in here, but overall they were lost in the swirl of sameness.

Continue reading “Expat”

Where we stand

Hmm. Maybe I was not in the right mood to read this. Because I did not find much of value in this tract on class and race. Luckily, my friend (whose book I was reading) had underlined the good parts, so I could just skim ahead until I found a good section to read. We had exchanged books: I gave her Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich and she gave me Where We Stand. I think she came out ahead even though I hadn’t underlined any of my book.
The one useful section was when bh wrote about how class would come to the forefront for the middle class when housing became more and more unaffordable. Other lessons: make a budget and stick to it. Don’t go crazy on material things. Live simply.

Continue reading “Where we stand”

The widow’s children

Seagull imitations, drunken hotel gatherings, family deception. Paula Fox has mad skillz in the writing department. Clara’s mother, Laura, is in town with her drunken hubby Desmond, on the eve of their cruise’s departure. Clara meets them in their hotel room where they’re joined by Laura’s brother Carlos, and her good friend Peter Rice. Alma, Laura’s mother, has passed away that afternoon, but Laura refuses to tell anyone until later that evening, after freaking out and running through the streets getting soaked. Peter is called up to the unenviable task of letting Carlos and Eugenio know that their mother is dead. Clara is not to be told, but Peter relents and tells Clara about her grandmother’s death. Ends at the funeral, where Peter’s mind floats away gently into the good night. This book could easily be reduced into a three act play.

Continue reading “The widow’s children”

Organizing from the inside out

I need to read these type self-help books every five years to remind me of what is missing from my reading life the other four years. Ack. Absolutely nothing is missing. Here are some of her tips to help you get organized:
Plan
Attack
Keep it up
Ok, and then there’s:
Sort
Purge
Find homes for stuff
Put in containers
Maintain the clean
This book could be boiled down to one powerpoint slide. But then, of course, we’d be missing the interspersed tales of clutter control that her “clients” experienced. Wow, “Charlotte W.” needed some file folders to get her organization system working? (This is incredible stuff.) “Maria M.” ran out of storage space, so she placed some items in off-site storage and promptly forgot about them. (Pass the Valium, please) Avoid this book and all others of its ilk unless you are completely buried under mountains of paper and have no idea about how to trash the things you don’t need.
Advice that I live by: If you haven’t used it in a year, toss it out.

Continue reading “Organizing from the inside out”

Gig

It’s a shame word.com is now defunct, if this collection was anything like their webzine. Fantastically edited interviews with hundreds of people about their jobs: what they liked, what they hated, what made them get up in the morning every day. The huge range of possible careers opened up before my eyes, making me reconsider my current job situation. I’m an organized person into spiritual and mental clarity, therefore I could be a clutter consultant! The enormous variety of people interviewed was staggering.

Continue reading “Gig”