The Book: JOY OF COOKING. Plume trade paperback reprint, 1973; 14th printing. Poor condition. Front cover is torn off, pages are age-browned and food-stained, spine is badly bowed and creased, book is held together by a rubber band. Owner's signature on front flyleaf.
First read: Who knows?
Owned since: 1983 (this copy)
I do have a spiffy hardcover copy of the revised edition of JOY OF COOKING, but I will not give this one up until it crumbles. For one thing, it includes recipes the revised version doesn't have; for another, it was a Christmas gift from my parents; for yet another, its markings and stains are a history of my adventures in cooking.
Weirdly, the book falls open naturally to a page in the vegetable section, on tomatoes and turnips. I don't care for turnips, and have never cooked them; the recipe I used here was one for stuffed tomatoes filled with onions, a long-ago disastrous attempt at a vegetarian dinner. What a mess that was... although in retrospect, it was so hilarious I'm tempted to try this recipe again. What I wound up with was stewed tomatoes with onions and brown sugar, and it tasted pretty good on egg noodles.
I have baking to do for tonight's show, slightly purgatorial since the temperature's hit the mid-70s and I still don't have an air conditioner. Time for the old reliable "Quick Oatmeal Cookies," p. 657, which can be made and baked in under an hour.
What I've Read These Weeks
I've been busy, I've been distracted, and I've been terribly disappointed with quite of lot of my recent reading. That might be me, or it might be the books; I can't say. Anyway, here are a few of the highlights and lowlights.
Christa Faust, MONEY SHOT. Hard Case Crime's first female author delivers classic pulp, the story of a semi-retired porn actress who's the target of a murder plot for reasons she doesn't know. Great stuff.
Ian Fleming, CASINO ROYALE. I was sure I'd read this in middle school, but recognized almost nothing of it. James Bond is a cold creature, Ian Fleming's much too fascinated with sexual torture, and the misogyny of this book made me gasp.
Sebastian Faulks, DEVIL MAY CARE. Ian Fleming's estate hired Sebastian Faulks to write another James Bond book "as Ian Fleming," and he did it: all the misogyny, lifestyle porn, tedious details of upper-class amusement, and sexual torture of the original! But it feels like homework, a James Bond paint-by-numbers kit without a shred of joy. Bleah.
Vivian French, THE ROBE OF SKULLS. Now, this was more like: a young-adult romp about the evil Lady Lamorna, who needs to pay for a new dress and devises a most nefarious plot to extort the money from the local royalty. Gracie Gillypot, escaping from her wicked stepfamily, manages to thwart the scheme. Ingenious and joyful, with perversely happy endings all around -- even for Lady Lamorna.
Joshua Kendall, THE MAN WHO MADE LISTS. A biography of Peter Mark Roget, the inventor of the thesaurus. Polymath and obsessive, Roget turned to his lists as solace for the catastrophes of his life. Unfortunately, what we get here is not much more than a list of the events of Roget's life and the people he knew. Despite novelistic narratives of conversations between Roget and his family members that seem weirdly disconnected from the rest of the book, we never get any sense of Roget's interior world, or even his objectives.
Ron Hansen, EXILES. Ron Hansen is such a beautiful writer that it almost hurts to read him, knowing I will never come close to that level. EXILES is the story of Gerard Manley Hopkins's great poem "The Wreck of the Hesperus," moving back and forth between Hopkins's own story, those of the five German nuns who died in the wreck, and the nightmare of the shipwreck itself. I am always astonished by how much Hansen manages to cram into such compact tales; this book is less than 200 pages, and gives us Hopkins's world better than a 700-page biography could.