Monthly Archives: March 2018

See What I Have Done


32508637.jpgThere’s something about the Lizzie Borden story that is intriguing in its gruesomeness. This book confirms that I just don’t know who killed Andrew and Abby Borden. Lizzie of course, seems the likely candidate, and behaves strangely enough, a sort of child-woman, as depicted in the book. If the book can be believed, there was a reason why everyone around her tried to shield and protect Lizzie, which is why Emma, her older sister has just as much motive, if not more, to kill her father and stepmother. Lizzie always got what she wanted, including a grand tour trip to Europe, that Emma desperately wanted to do herself, but her father insisted on sending only Lizzie. When Abby first joined the Borden family after Lizzie and Emma’s mother died, she indulged Lizzie, by giving her extra sweets the knowledge of which she and Lizzie kept from her father, who didn’t approve of such indulgences. Emma knew about this, and distanced herself emotionally from Abby, while Lizzie called Abby “Mother” early on. I’m not sure at what point she began calling her stepmother Mrs. Borden, an obvious move to distance herself. The most sympathetic character is Bridget Sullivan, the maid. Just a girl when she left Ireland, she had little comfort in “golden” America. She was hard-working and discreet, doing her job while trying not to judge her employer and his family, in spite of being miserablein their odd little household. I’m assuming that the character Benjamin is fictional, because I haven’t found anything about him specifically, just that there had been a strange man around in the days before the murders. This was an interesting take on the Borden affair, and will perhaps draw more visitors to the bed and breakfast in Fall River that used to be the Borden  homestead.

THE BEAUTY: Bridget Sullivan’s family. What a loving bunch, and her neighbors, too. Back in Ireland, when Bridget grew tired of being groped by yet another grubby estate master, she was dismissed without a recommendation, because she stood her ground against him. She was running out of options, this last position was her third so she made the decision to move to America. She invited all her family and neighbors to her “American wake.” And what a wake it was! Food and mulled wine, song and dance, fiddle and drum, flute and cruit. In spite of the expense, Bridget’s father arranged for a photographer to record the event. While they stood for him, trying not to move, Nanna said, “I’ll die before this photograph is taken,” causing everyone to laugh and the photographer to stamp his foot in frustration and had to take the photograph again. Bridget kept that photograph in her room as a poignant reminder of what she’d left behind – community. As to the wake part, after partying for hours, the keening started. Bridget lay on the sofa as each of the guests approached to say goodbye and that they hoped to see her again. Beautiful, and sad.

THE FOOD: I think part of the Borden family’s problem was mutton. They ate mutton stew for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The pot sat on the stove all day long in the hot summer! I think I might be moved to murderous thoughts, anyway, if all I had to eat was mutton stew. So my sights turned to Bridget’s farewell party in Ireland, and there I found my food: soda bread. Having just celebrated St. Patrick’s Day, my husband was not happy with any of the store-bought soda breads he tried. “Not enough caraway!”

Caraway Soda Loaf

3½ C of all-purpose flour
½ C  sugar
4 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
¼ lb cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1⅔ C raisins
3 tsp caraway seeds
3 large eggs, at room temperature, divided
1 C buttermilk*
*If necessary, you can substitute buttermilk with a half cup of plain yogurt mixed in with a cup of plain milk and a tablespoon of white vinegar.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter a 9×5 inch loaf pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using your fingers or a fork, work the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Stir in the raisins and the caraway seeds.

In a medium bowl, whisk two of the eggs to combine. Whisk in the buttermilk. Pour the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

The dough should be neither too wet or too dry, so if it is a little too dry to work with, add a little more buttermilk. If too wet, add a little more flour. Place the dough lonto a lightly floured work surface, pat into a loaf and put in the prepared pan. Don’t overwrok the dough. Beat the final egg to mix and brush the top of the loaf with it. Using a sharp knife, cut a ¼ inch deep lengthwise slash down the middle of the loaf leaving a 1-inch margin at either end.

Bake the soda bread in the middle of the oven until well browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Check the loaf at 45 minutes. If the toothpick doesn’t come out clean and the crust is really brown, tent foil over it and  cook another 5 to 15 minutes. Turn the loaf out onto a rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Quick breads like this, which rely on baking soda for leavening, are generally best eaten soon after they’re baked.

I forgot to take a picture of the loaf before I froze it in slices. My husband said it was the best Irish soda bread he’s ever had, and he’s old, so he’s had a lot!




The Radium Girls


UnknownI was so moved by this story, I hope I can find the words to explain why. There are no spoilers. The jacket clearly says what the book is about. Soon after the discovery of radium by the Curies in 1898, it became the most valuable substance on earth. It destroyed human tissue, so it was put to use battling cancerous tumors with remarkable results. It could restore vitality to the old. Very rich people drank radium water as a tonic, spending as much as $3700 (current equivalent) a glass. Entrepreneurs were scrambling to find lucrative applications of the wonder element. The radium girls were a part of the industry that provided luminescent clock faces to clock companies. The paint, called Undark, was invented in New Jersey and was a combination of radium and zinc oxide. Using very fine brushes to paint the tiny numbers on the dial, the radium girls dipped the brush into the paint, then put the brush between their lips to form a narrow, pointy tip before applying the paint to the dial. With such demand from the public for watches that could be read in the dark, and promising military contracts for luminescent airplane dials, the industry quickly boomed. This story is about corporate greed’s ability to trample on human dignity, ignore ethical and moral responsibility in order to feather the bottom line. The human casualties were legion in this book. I will focus on just one, an emblem, a standard, of what these women suffered simply because they were doing their job. Of the many luminaries in this story, Catherine Wolfe Donahue embodies the heart and soul of this tragic drama, and yet, the book is only marginally about her. All the women take center stage.

In 1922, Catherine Wolfe was a shy 19 year-old looking for work at the promising new Radium Dial Company, across the street from her church, St. Columba in Ottowa, Illinois. She felt very fortunate to get this well-paying job. Her training included learning the “lip, dip, paint” method described above. Soon, she became very good at it, and her status in the company rose. She  married Tom Donahue and thought her life coudn’t get any better until her first child was born. But instead of better, Catherine started feeling poorly. She began walking with a limp, and experienced pain in her hip that wouldn’t go away. Later, her jaw began to ache. She felt so much pain, she couldn’t properly take care of her baby. Other young girls at the factory were developing varied symptoms of disease, too, but repeated visits to local doctors yielded no diagnosis and no relief from the pain. Newspapers were beginning to report about radium poisoning in New Jersey, so Catherine and other afflcted girls, unable to get a diagnosis in Ottowa, turned to Chicago where they finally found a doctor who was able to diagnose their disease: radium poisoning. Armed with a diagnosis, and an occupational connection, Catherine, and girls at other similar plants attempted to get compensation for their job-related diseases. Rufus Reed, Catherine’s boss, told her “I don’t think there is anything wrong with you,” as she hobbled slowly to meet him. Radium Dial’s official response was “Nothing even approaching {these}symptoms has ever been found.” There were innumerable lawsuits where the defense lawyers lied, their witnesses lied, company executives lied, and it was glaringly obvious that not only did they know that radium was hazardous to life, they flagrantly put full page ads in the newspapers claiming that radium was safe.

I have given a brief summary of the ordeal of one woman, but when you read this book and hear the multiple stories of pain and suffering, it is overwhelming. And yet women, many women, like Catherine, fought through their pain and through sheer will, stayed alive to seek justice.

The trial against the United States Radium Corporation began in January of 1928. The Prosecution rested its case at 11:30 AM on April 27. Markley, the lead lawyer for USRC asked for a conference off the record. When the judge  returned, he announced that the hearing would be adjourned until September. Some of the girls might not even be alive in September! Their lawyer immediately found two lawyers to switch their court dates with him, bringing the hearing up to May. USRC was not happy with this and said that it would be impossible for them to proceed in May as their experts were going abroad for several months. Norman Thomas, a social politician who was referred to as the social conscience of America, declared that the case was a “vivid example of the ways of an unutterably selfish capitalist system which cares nothing about the lives of its workers, but seeks only to guard its profits.”

Kate Moore has written an incredibly complicated tale that weaves historical fact with character development worthy of a novel, to not only maintain interest, but to educate and enlighten the reader about this important piece of our history.

I have departed from my normal format and have left out beauty, because it was overshadowed by pain and suffering, making it impossible to find any beauty other than the tenacity of the women who fought to have the corporations acknowledge their culpability in denying the disease and failing to support their sick employees. As for food, again, many of the women in the book couldn’t eat because they had lost teeth and some even had lost their jawbones. To include food in this post just didn’t feel right.






coverMrs. May is a widow, having lost Henry in the distant past. Even though she always felt like an outsider in their company, she continued her involvement with Henry’s cousins, Kitty and Molly, and recently became swept up in the drama of a hastily planned wedding for Kitty’s grandaughter, Ann. Mrs. May (Thea) describes herself as “quiet, pleasant, rather dull, but infinitely reliable.” She also thinks of herself as Mrs. May. Early on in the book, she’s constantly longing for the solitary peace of her own flat when she’s visiting Kitty or Molly. When Kitty asked her to host Steve, a member of the wedding party, she immediately said no, but then quickly came around, because she is, after all according to her own description of herself, “infinitely reliable.” We eventually learn what caused Thea to become so passionless, so unadventurous, but that didn’t stop this reader from yelling at her (in my head, of course)  to take a risk, do something different, bust out of your routine, meet people – anything to lift her out of the torpor that also became my torpor reading about her life.

It’s obvious that Brookner is also a visual artist as well as a literary one. She pays attention to light the way an artist would. The following passage comes near the end of the book, and it was here, finally, that the narrative grabbed me and quickened the pace of my reading.
“That night, in her dreams, she had a vision of what she understood to be Heaven, or the next world. It took the shape of a field full of folk, some sauntering absent-mindedly, some merely taking the air, on a sunless afternoon. The light disappointed her: she would have expected splendour, but here everything was reassuringly banal.”

Things looked up at the end with the last word, “we.” You might recall from a previous post that Will Schwalbe said, if you want to know what a book is really about, read the last word. This last word is hopeful.


The passage  above continued:
“The setting appeared to be Hyde Park, although there were factory chimneys in the distance. This latter detail, and the self-absorption of the walkers, were faintly reminiscent of a painting by Lowry, although as far as she could see no work was being done.”

This is a painting by Lowry called “Going to the Match.” I couldn’t find the one that is described in the book, so I picked this one because I liked the movement and feeling of excitement in the air.

Brookner further described her vision of heaven:
“There had undoubtedly been an impression of truthfulness, of almost unavoidable dullness, about her glimpse of Heaven. It was the dullness that made it convincing.  It was an English Heaven, framed precisely to satisfy the expectations of those who had grown up in a Welfare State, sparse decent people who wore hats and took healthy walks.”

Loved the idea that English heaven would be dull!


One lovely thing in this otherwise bleak book, is a memory Thea held of a woman she and Henry met at a cafe in Paris. The old woman charmed both Henry and Thea,  with whom she spoke everyday from the same table in the same cafe. Thea described her as a shapeless figure with her scarves and her hat, her mouth gleaming from her poireaux vinaigrette. When they parted company at the end of the week, the old lady said to Thea, “Que tous dos rêvese réalisent, as if she knew that the story was not yet over.” Her secret message was that dreams yet come true. When Thea recalled the woman years later, she wished to be “somehow taken under her wing, or to be admitted to the company of such astute and self-sufficient elders as she represented.” It was this recollection that had Thea considering changing the course of her life- becoming more like the Parisian woman, because what she represented was freedom from the desire to please. So of course, to commemorate this unstifling part of the book, I forgot about the puffs and the canapes from the wedding and wanted my own lips gleaming from my poireaux vinaigrette.

Steamed Leeks with Mustard-Shallot Vinaigrette

2 large leeks, cut into 2-by-1/2-inch strips
1 small shallot, minced
1 T Dijon mustard
1 T red wine vinegar
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
¼ C extra-virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 T chopped parsley

In a saucepan fitted with a steamer basket, bring 1 inch of water to a boil. Add the leeks, cover and steam until just tender, about 5 minutes, longer if leeks are large. Drain the leeks, pat dry.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the shallot with the mustard and the red wine and balsamic vinegars. Whisk in the olive oil and season with salt and black pepper.

Mound the steamed leeks on plates. Drizzle them with the vinaigrette, sprinkle with the parsley and serve. These are delicious with pork.




35133922The transformation that this woman underwent is astounding. Raised in a survivalist household, pretty much off the grid, the circumstances of her childhood were sometimes brutal, both in the physical environment and the way in which her parents raised their children. In addition, both of her parents were Mormons, but the type that strictly adhered to the Bible, which caused them to be outsiders, even in their own church community. Being a child, and never knowing anything different, Tara grew up sharing her parents’ beliefs. When one of her brothers left to go to college, Tara became interested in the things he was learning. He encouraged her to seek an education for herself. That was the good brother. There was another brother I seriously disliked, and couldn’t believe how easily he manipulated his parents, often to the detriment of the other siblings.  So when Tara attended Brigham Young University, her first time at school at the age of seventeen, it was against her father’s wishes, although he didn’t disown her. The transition was difficult because Tara continued to maintain her fundamentalist beliefs. It was the hardest though, on her freshman roommates because Tara’s practices (or lack of practices) offensive to them. So Tara led an isolated life that first year. To say that she is brilliant is an understatement. She got into BYU on a full scholarship never having attended any school!  When Tara went to Cambridge to study abroad for a semester, she read with Professor Steinberg for a month before writing an essay comparing Edmund Burke to Publius, the name under which James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay wrote The Federalist Papers. I started following Tara on Twitter so that I could ask her if she would ever consider sharing that paper with her readers. She said she doesn’t think she still has the paper! I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

THE BEAUTY: I chose this image not just for the beauty of the landscape, but for the beauty that an education brings to those lucky enough to have one. As a former educator, I truly believe that education broadens one’s world view, opening up the possibility to understand differences and recognize that there’s more that brings us together than separates us. This is the campus of Brigham Young University. The person that she was entering school was not the same person she became. Tara began to question everything she though she knew, ultimately putting her in a position to have to make the most difficult choice of her life.


THE FOOD: Tara was eating this dish at Aunt Debbie’s near Brigham Young University when she got a call from her mother, bearing news of the family.

Beef and Potato Casserole
serves 4

3 large white potatoes (1½ lbs),
pared and sliced very thin (⅛”)
1 T vegetable oil
1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)
1 large garlic clove, chopped
3 T all-purpose flour
1 10 oz packet frozen baby carrots, thawed, cooked to
just beyond al dente
1 14½ oz can whole tomatoes, broken into pieces
¼ C dry red wine or water
½ tsp dried basil
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp salt
½ C water
1 T butter, melted

In a 2-quart saucepan over high heat, bring potatoes to a boil in enough water to cover; cook 2-3 minutes until potatoes are crisp-tender. Drain, set aside.

In a 10” ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat add oil. Add beef and cook about 5 minutes until browned. Add onion, garlic and cook 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently until onion is softened. Sprinkle flour over mixture; cook stirring until meat is well-coated with flour. Add carrots, tomatoes, wine, basil, oregano, pepper, salt and ½ cup water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Heat broiler. Transfer contents of skillet to a broiler -safe casserole dish (Le Creuset stoneware is broiler-safe) and arrange potatoes over the beef mixture to cover completely; brush with melted butter. Broil 5-6 inches from heat source, 8-10 minutes until potatoes are golden.

IMG_4262Forgot to take a picture of the casserole dish, so here’s what an individual serving looks like. Very filling and delicious.


The Trouble with Goats and Sheep


81vBFBP-z2LHere is another book that’s been on my TBR list for awhile. Simon, of The Readers, loved it. I was a little unnerved by his comparison  to Flavia de Luce, because I didn’t enjoy the first book of that series at all, in fact, didn’t even finish. I think I was nudged into reading this now because Joanna Cannon’s new book (Three Things About Elsie) is on the Women’s Prize longlist. While I enjoyed most of the book, the ending was too pat, too quick, and ambiguous, although I did finally figure things out with the help of Goodreads. I also had trouble remembering all of the characters early on. Taking notes helped. The main character, 10 year-old Grace Elizabeth and her best friend Tilly, try and solve a neighborhood mystery during the very hot summer of 1976 in the East Midlands, England. They make their way through the homes in the estate under the guise of helping their neighbors in order to earn badges for Brownie Guides. One of the themes of the book is outsiders- those on the fringe of society, and how a community responds to them. There are many outsiders in the neighborhood, it’s just that everyone isn’t aware of it. When you talk about outsiders, you’ll also be thinking about social norms and codes of behavior, so that’s present in the book as well. People think that they know their neighbors, but everyone in The Avenue had a secret, and part of the plot is who knows what about whom. Some of the secrets are transparent, but many are alluded to and ambiguous. In this case, the ambiguity was kind of fun. I came to my own conclusions about the nature of those secrets based on the information I had about the characters.

Grace is an endearing and precocious child, who is trying to define herself and figure out what kind of person she will be. She’s not perfect, though, and I cringed and chided her (literally- “Grace, what are you doing!”) for some of the thoughtless things she said and did, but she is overall a likeable hero.

THE BEAUTY: You’ll have to draw your own conclusions about my choice for the beauty of this book, but the image below represents people coming together, and that’s beautiful. Read the book to find out more.

from the

THE FOOD: There were so many references to prepared foods and candy and pastry that I was googling my brains out. And biscuits! There must be a million different kinds of biscuits. These people eat a lot of sweets! (Quality Street chocolates, toffee fingers, Garibaldis, Milk Tray, and the ubiquitous Angel Delight, are just a very few.) I chose this recipe because it represents the beauty of diversity.

Indian Tea Shop Butter Biscuits
Serves: 40

½ C butter at room temperature
½ C confectioners sugar
1 C all-purpose flour
⅛ tsp salt
½ tsp pure vanilla extract

Sift sugar over butter and cream until light and fluffy.
Add the flour, salt and vanilla at once and mix until

Transfer the dough to a cling wrapped surface and make a
log. Cover it with cling wrap. Refrigerate the dough for an
hour. In the meantime preheat the oven to 350º.

Cut the dough into half inch thick cookies. Bake in a
preheated 350º oven for 22-25 minutes, rotating the pans
halfway through. When they start to brown, they are done.
They can go from brown to burnt very fast!

Transfer to a cooling rack for 15-20 minutes.


Tasty little buggers!

Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine


31434883What an endearing book. It took me awhile to warm to Eleanor, but when I did, her status in my literary hero catalogue ascended to join Don Tillman, Celine, Florence Gordon, and Veblen Amundsen-Hovda, to name just a few of my favorite literary iconoclasts. They’re all different, but share a unique view of the world that allows them to march to beat of their own singular hearts. Eleanor is a serial loner until a chance meeting with a co-worker changes her life. At it’s core, the book is about friendship, forgiveness, and finding one’s own way. Eleanor was very funny, although she didn’t usually intend to be. After assessing that the congregation in church were not enthusiastic enough in their rendition of a hymn,
Eleanor threw herself more spiritedly into the singing, and observed: “Quite a few people turned around to look at us, presumably because they had enjoyed our vocal tribute.”

Eleanor had a house plant that she loved, a parrot plant, called Polly, which was given as a birthday present in her childhood. Eleanor unashamedly admits that she sometimes talked to Polly. Another interesting thing about Eleanor is her computer password at work: Ignus aurum probat,” meaning “fire tests gold.” The rest of the Seneca quote is “and adversity tests the brave.” This is the perfect motto for her.

09a9ac91260127f221b7c636e6f46ae2                                Parrot plant

THE BEAUTY: When Eleanor was presented with a mylar balloon, she said, “What is it supposed to be? Is it … is it cheese?”


“It’s SpongeBob, Eleanor.” he said, speaking very slowly and clearly as though I were some sort of idiot. “SpongeBob Squarepants.”

“A semi-human bath sponge with protruding front teeth! On sale as if it were something completely unremarkable! For my entire life, people have said that I’m strange, but really, when I see things like this, I realize that I’m actually relatively normal.”


This was the perfect recipe for reasons that will become clear to you when you read the book.

Langues de Chat (Cat’s Tongue)
36 servings

9 T butter, softened
½ C white sugar
2 T white sugar
3 egg whites
1½ tsp vanilla extract
1½ C all-purpose flour
6 (1 ounce) squares semisweet chocolate, melted

Preheat the oven to 400º F. Lightly grease baking sheets.

In a medium bowl, cream together butter and ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons
sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg whites one at a time until batter is light
and fluffy. Stir in the vanilla. Mix in the flour just until blended. Dough will
be a little stiff.

Using a cookie press or a pastry bag with a medium star tip, press dough
onto prepared baking sheet into 3-inch lengths, like a ladyfinger.

Bake cookies in preheated oven until straw-colored, about 10 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack.

When cookies are cool, dip one end of each cookie in melted chocolate
and place on wax paper until chocolate hardens. (I had to use twice as much chocolate to coat all the cookies.) Store in a cool place.

*Note: After making these, I have decided never to pipe again, unless I can find an online tutorial or someone to teach me how to use a pastry bag. I never remember having a problem with the old fashioned pastry bag that you had to clean after each use. I used a disposable bag first, and had to give up because the dough wouldn’t come out the tip, and the bag was forming goiter-like bulges that threatened to explode! So I switched to a non-disposable bag and still couldn’t get the dough out.  Next, I put the dough in a plastic storage bag and cut off the tip. No luck with this method either, so back to the disposable bag. Without a tip on at all, I was able to make the sloppy cookies you see pictured below. Also, this recipe was very messy: the kitchen had dough everywhere and I had it in my hair, my eyebrows, my fleece and who knows where else? Though not beautiful, they were delicious at tea time with a blizzard roaring outside. Knock wood, we still have power, although the storm reportedly has hours to go.




Human Acts


9781101906729_custom-09e6ad1e3217bac59bccfb1a0545714d4abc8f8b-s500-c85 I put off reading this book because I had heard that it was filled with brutality, but I was finally drawn to it because its Goodreads rating is 4.28. It was difficult reading, and I skimmed some of the more graphic violence. It’s very similar to many of the books I’ve read in the past year about man’s inhumanity to man. The difference however is that I cared more about the characters in the other books than these characters. From what I read in the introduction by the translator, Deborah Smith. “Born and raised in Gwangju, Han Kang’s personal connection to the subject matter  meant that putting this novel together was always going to be an extremely fraught and painful process. She is a writer who takes things deeply to heart, and was anxious that the translation maintain the moral ambivalence of the original, and avoid sensationalizing the sorrow and shame that her hometown was made to bear.” I’m trying not to feel shallow in my reaction to the book, but for me, it’s the emotional attachment to the characters that makes all of the historical horror urgent and intolerable, and meaningful.

On the other hand, Kang tackles a very important question in a thoughtful and sensitive way and that is, of all the variety of human acts that are performed daily, why are we as a species, so prone to brutality, cruelty and violence? I find it difficult to believe that the desire for power is the answer. And maybe I’m kidding myself, and that under the right circumstances I, too, could perform one of these heinous acts, but I don’t feel a connection to that at all.

An artist’s job is to report or illuminate all variety of “human acts,” with the goal of bearing witness and ultimately, change. But why is change so slow? Why can’t we as a country recognize and admit that racism is very much alive and well and embedded in our culture? How many more books need to be written until real change happens?

The book succeeds in raising important questions, and is just one more example of a world that is both beautiful and cruel.

THE BEAUTY: Since violence is the primary image that comes to mind when I think about this book, I needed to find something to completely counteract that. I first looked for pictures of beauty in the natural landscape, and they were abundant, but I kept coming back to images of the temples. What Buddhism represents is the antithesis of the cruelty described in the book. It’s interesting to think about the first precept,  “resolve to refrain from destroying living creatures.”

Gwangju Democracy Bell

THE FOOD: In a chapter called “The Prisoner, 1990,” the prisoner spots Kim Jin-su, whom he had known in prison. It was late at night and the prisoner was making his way home after a long night of drinking. Kim Jin-su, also drunk, was eating a bowl of hangover soup. It’s really a thing! Apparently, Koreans are known for their capacity to consume alcohol. They drink twice as much of their cheap rice wine (drink of choice) as Russians drink vodka. And, according to the article I read, Americans are lightweights in the drinking department, consuming way less per week than either the Russians or Koreans.

Hangover Soup 
Serves 4 to 6

2 heads of baby napa cabbage (about 1 pound each)
3 T of doenjang (soy bean paste)
2 T of gochugaru (chili paste)
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 T of soy sauce
1 T of sesame oil
¾ C of bean sprouts
½ C of sliced zucchini
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 Korean red chili pepper, thinly sliced
1 Anaheim chili pepper, thinly sliced
5 C of beef stock

Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Fill a large bowl with ice water and set it nearby. Blanch both whole cabbages for one minute, then drain and drop them into the ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and cut each into 2-inch pieces.

In a large bowl, combine the doenjang, gochugaru, garlic, soy sauce and sesame oil. Add the blanched cabbage, bean sprouts, zucchini, scallion and chile peppers and mix well. Allow to marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes.Transfer the contents of the mixing bowl back to the emptied blanching pot and add the stock. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower to a simmer for 10 minutes. Serve.


I could tell this might not be pleasing to my palate when I smelled the soy bean paste, and that, indeed, was the case. My husband wasn’t home when I finished making the soup, so he wanted to warm a bowl for himself later. When he smelled it, he decided against it. I think this is an acquired taste.

Never Let Me Go


cover-never-let-me-goThis is my first Ishiguro. I don’t know why it has taken me so long to start. Recently  I googled something like ‘which Ishiguro should I begin with?’ so when this title came up, I immediately put it on hold at the library. I also read that I shouldn’t read any reviews, or even the blurbs on the book itself, to go into it completely blind about its content. I’m so glad I did that. It was interesting trying to connect the dots without any hint of where the narrative was headed. I might try that more often with other books. In the end, this wasn’t what I expected from this author, but I wasn’t disappointed, just surprised. The writing was understated, so much so that I really didn’t pay attention to it, but it was very easy to read. Having finished reading it four days ago, I find that the details haven’t dimmed at all in my memory. I’m still very much connected to Kathy and Tommy and Ruth and their story. The central theme that impresses me now is what does it mean to be human?  Ironically, I had just finished reading Han Kang’s Human Acts, which asks the same question, but in a completely different context, loosely based an historical events.

On a completely different note, Ishiguro is British, so there were references that I  didn’t get. My favorite was when they crossed the street at the pelican. I’ve been to London several times, and never heard that expression. A pelicon (note the spelling) is a blend of other words. Pedestrian light controlled crossing. There are also panda, Pegasus and toucan and puffin crossings!


While the three protagonists were at Hailsham, their boarding school, they heard repeated references to Norfolk, the lost corner of England. In the students’ minds, this quite literally meant that all the things people lost wound up in Norfolk. There was a particularly sweet moment that Tommy and Kathy shared in Norfolk, when they visited years laters as adults, out on their own. To say more would spoil the story.

Beach at Mundesley, Norfolk, showing coastal erosion, England.
The town they visited in Norfolk was unnamed, but it was seaside, had cliffs, and some quaint shops, so I chose Mundesley after looking at photos of several other seaside towns.


When Tommy, Ruth and Kathy left Hailsham, before they began their donations, they lived at a place called the Cottages with people who were slightly older than them, and had attended a different boarding school. One of the women, Fiona, made a huge stew, to feed the small crowd who lived there. Here is a crockpot version of a beef stew that is so convenient to prep when you use frozen vegetables.

Beef Stew
Serves 6
Cooking Time: 9 to 11 hours on Low or 5 to 7 hours on High

2 C frozen chopped onions (or 2 onions, minced)
3 T tomato paste
2 T vegetable oil
1½ tsp garlic powder (or 6 garlic cloves, minced)
2 tsp minced fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1 C low-sodium chicken broth, plus extra as needed
1 C beef broth
8 oz. baby carrots
¼ C soy sauce
2 T Minute tapioca
2 bay leaves
3 lbs. beef steak tips
Salt and pepper
1 pound frozen roasted potatoes
1 C frozen peas

Microwave onions, tomato paste, 1 tablespoon oil, garlic powder, and thyme in bowl, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened, about 5 minutes; transfer to slow cooker.

Stir chicken broth, beef broth, carrots, soy sauce, tapioca, and bay leaves into slow cooker. Season beef with salt and pepper and nestle into slow cooker. Cover and cook until beef is tender, 9 to 11 hours on low or 5 to 7 hours on high.

Transfer beef to cutting board, let cool slightly, then shred into bite-size pieces. Let stew settle for 5 minutes, then remove fat from surface using large spoon. Discard bay leaves.

Microwave potatoes with remaining tablespoon oil in bowl, stirring occasionally, until thawed and warm, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir warm potatoes, shredded beef, and peas into stew and let sit until heated through, about 5 minutes. (Adjust stew consistency with additional hot broth as needed.) Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.