The Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story With Recipes by Luisa Weiss

Luisa WeissThe Wednesday Chef is a food blog begun by Luisa Weiss back in 2005. She started her blog as an effort to work through all the boxes and folders of her clipped recipes. (I think most cooks can identify with that. I sure can.) The project, the blog and Luisa grew during the years ahead. Luisa soon found herself with enough material for a book and someone who wanted to publish it.

MyBerlinKitchenMy Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story With Recipes is actually a food memoir of Luisa’s life from toddler-age and up to her marriage to her husband. It’s called a food memoir because Luisa sees most of her life’s events as being associated with food. Luisa was born in Berlin to an Italian mom and an American dad, so right away she was exposed to multiple dishes.

Luisa’s parents divorced when she was young. She moved to the Boston area to live with her father, but traveled back to Berlin for holidays and summer vacations. Her parents tried to make her growing-up years as normal as possible, but my heart ached for the little girl who was always trying to please others before herself, and was always homesick. Luisa found her “happy place” in the kitchen, primarily the German kitchen. As she grew up, the kitchen is where she felt most at home.

I want to thank my daughter Candice who pushed me to read this book. She is a big fan of The Wednesday Chef and Luisa’s books. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Luisa’s story in conjunction with hearing about all the food she loves. Luisa’s food tastes range from German to Italian to French and on to the international flavors she learned about while living in New York City. She’s the kind of cook who eats a restaurant dish and then goes home and tries to duplicate it. She’s not afraid to go to the farmer’s market and pick up strange fruits and vegetables. She’ll experiment with a variety of cooking methods as well as herbs and spices.

I listened to the audio version of the book. It took 7.75 hours to read the book and I think it was the hungriest 7.75 hours of my life. Luisa Weiss writes so descriptively about food that you can’t help but see, smell, and taste the food she’s talking about.

I have to tell you that I do have a sort-of German connection to this book. My grandparents on my dad’s side were immigrants from Germany. I never thought of the food I ate at their house as being “German” except for one dish my grandmother made occasionally as a treat for my grandfather. If it had a special name, I never learned it. She just called it Sausages and Kraut. I love the dish and try to make it the way she did. But, I have to say, it’s a favorite of my non-German husband. As a tribute to My Berling Kitchen, here’s how I make the dish:

Sausages and Kraut

Kraut 1Gather together these items:

  • two firm apples (I usually use Granny Smith or Fuji)
  • a pat of butter – about a hefty tablespoon or so
  • brown sugar – about a tablespoon or so
  • a jar of good quality sauerkraut – about two to three cups (home-cured is best)
  • five or six good sized pork sausages, brats or kielbasa
  1. Core and slice the apples so they are about half-inch slices.
  2. In a skillet, melt the butter. As soon as it is melted, add the apple slices
  3. Cook the slices until they are soft, but still hold their shape.
  4. Add the brown sugar and stir until the apples are coated with the sugar. Keep cooking the apples until they are soft, but still hold their shape.
  5. Drain the sauerkraut according to how much juice you desire. I don’t drain it completely, but I don’t like my dish swimming in juice. Add the kraut to the skillet.
  6. Stir together the apples and the sauerkraut.
  7. Place the sausages on top of the apple and kraut mixture. Put a lid on the skillet.
  8. Remove from the pan and eat when the sausages are hot.

Kraut2

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This post is linked with other food related posts at Weekend Cooking.

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

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Book Review: A Murder Is Announced

Murder Is AnnouncedAs many of you know I am in the middle of this project to read all of Agatha Christie’s novels in publication order. Finally I have reached the books she wrote in the 1950s. I don’t know what it is about them, but they seem to be lighter, not quite so grim as they were during the war years.

This stor feels like an odd party. It has a boatload of characters, practically all the major residents of the small town of Chipping Cleghorn. So many people are involved, primarily because of a very unusual announcement in the local newspaper:

A murder is announced and will take place on Friday October 29th, at Little Paddocks at 6:30 p.m.”

Everyone, including Miss Blacklock the owner of Little Padock, say they did not put the advertisement in the newspaper. No one knows what is going on. Is it some sort of party game? There is a lot of speculation, but of course, they wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Soon, after everyone gathered at Little Paddocks, the lights went out, several gunshots could be heard and. yes indeed, someone was dead. Who is this dead man? Was he the intended victim? What was the motive? With all the lights out, how can we know who did it?

Thus begins a fairly complicated fictional murder investigation, but one that is well known. It’s one of the best examples of how an Agatha Christie story can be woven and twisted into a triple-pretzeled plot. Not until the very end did I have any inkling as to the who, why and how.

For me, the best part of this novel was the re-entry of Miss Jane Marple. I like it when she enters a case. She’s not really a detective, just a good amateur sleuth. However, I have to tell you that ex-Commisioner Sir Henry Clithering disagrees with me. The Detective Inspector assigned to the case, Dermot Craddock, was lamenting the fact that he didn’t have enough insider information on Chipping Cleghorn. Sir Henry told him about Jane Marple, describing her this way:

“She’s just the finest detective God ever made. Natural genius cultivated in a suitable soil. Remember that an elderly unmarried woman who knits and gardens is streets ahead of any detective sergeant. She can tell you what might have happened and what ought to have happened and even what actually did happen! And she can tell you why it happened!’

By a stroke of luck Miss Marple was visiting one of her friends nearby and was persuaded to help the police. She is able to gain personal information in the same way you and I do — we simply “chat-up” people in an unassuming old-lady fashion. We make statements on the condition of people and life-in-general and then begin asking subtle, but targeted questions. Soon all but the most wary start to spill the juicy gossip and personal details. Sometimes I am amazed at what perfect strangers tell me, so I have no doubt about Jane Marple’s success rate.

It takes a lot of conversation and mulling over to finally arrive at a suspect. A few more people are murdered during the process and there is a great deal of terror and confusion in this small community. Everyone, including me, is shocked when the killer is revealed.

There is no doubt that this is one of Agatha Christie’s top stories. I have only one slight complaint. After the killer is revealed I thought she took way too long explaining how everything happened. Once the killer was exposed, I could figure out the rest. That’s a very minor glitch for me. All the twists and turns in the story and putting together all the little details is what makes this story the equivalent of working out a complicated jigsaw puzzle. It was extremely satisfying.

 

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Wondrous Words #357

WWWEvery week word-lovers post new words they’ve discovered while reading. It’s called Wondrous Words Wednesday and was created by Kathy at Bermuda Onion’s Weblog.

While reading A Murder Is Announced by Agatha Christie I found this word:

collieries:  “Three collieries idle.”

CollieriesCollieries is a British term for coalminers. A painting depicting men leaving a UK colliery at the close of a shift.

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That’s it for me this week. I hope you found some words worth celebrating. Feel free to join Wondrous Words Wednesday. Be sure to visit Kathy for the details.

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What Am I Reading? A Murder Is Announced

I’m still working my way through Agatha Christie’s novels. A Murder Is Announced is one in which the elderly Miss Jane Marple plays a leading role. She’s my favorite “amateur detective” in all of Dame Christie’s novels. This story is a slow-starter as you can see by the opening paragraph.

Murder Is AnnouncedBetween 7:30 and 8:30 every morning except Sundays, Johnnie Butt made the round of the village of Chipping Cleghorn on his bicycle, whistling vociferously through his teeth, and alighting at each house or cottage to shove through the letterbox such morning papers as had been ordered by the occupants of the house in question from Mr. Totman, stationer, of the High Street. Thus, at Colonel and Mrs. Easterbrook’s he delivered The Times and the Daily Graphic; at Mrs. Swettenham’s he leftt The Times and the Daily Worker; at Miss Hinchcliffe and Miss Murgatroyd’s he left the Daily Telegraph and the New Chronicle; at Miss Blacklock’s he left the Telegraph, The Times and the Daily Mail.

What do you think?

Would you keep reading?

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firstparagraphEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile By the Sea shares the first paragraph of a book currently being read. Feel free to join the fun.

 

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A Look At Some Quilts

Quilting has been a passion of mine for decades. Sadly, my eyes can no longer see well enough for me to make my own quilts. But, it is such a satisfying hobby that I still want to observe  beautiful quilts made by others. Here are a few I’d like to share with you.

Library QuiltI spotted this quilt at my local library just this week. A group of new quilters took a class at the library. They each made a square, then put it all together, and had it quilted/stitched together. I like all the various sports represented in their colorful ensemble. It’s hanging right next to the new do-it-yourself-checkout machine.

IMG_1269.JPGI often spot beautiful quilts at museums, particularly the ones that celebrate pioneer life. The quilt above is hanging in the Lewis and Clark museum in Oregon.

IMG_1184.JPGI found this quilt in the Homestead Museum in Kansas.

IMG_1183.JPGAlso at the Homestead Museum.

Some quilts, I believe, are true works of art.

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I’m linking this post with others who participate at Saturday Snapshot located at West Metro Mommy Reads. For more information, visit the website.

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An Excellent Audiobook: Faithful Place by Tana French

Faithful PlaceFaithful Place represents an area in the inner city of Dublin, Ireland. It’s a street of old houses made into apartments and primarily lived in by the poor, or people on the “dole.” Frank Mackey grew up crammed together with his parents and four siblings in one of those apartments. His parents and younger siblings still live there.

Those growing up years were so distasteful to Frank that when he was 19, he and his girlfriend Rosie made plans to run away together. Frank waited late into the night for Rosie, but she didn’t show up. Figuring he’d been stood up, Frank took off and never looked back.

Frank worked hard to support himself. He eventually became an undercover detective with the Dublin police. Frank would not go home again until the day, fifteen years later, when he learned that Rosie’s suitcase was discovered in a vacant house in Faithful Place. It had been jammed up into an old chimney. So where was Rosie?

The discovery of the suitcase is just the beginning of the story. It is shortly followed by the dead body of Rosie. She didn’t stand him up after all. But, what happened to her? The homicide cops don’t want Frank interfering in their case, but Frank can’t help getting involved. After all, he knows all the suspects intimately and he has the most to lose.

This was an extremely enjoyable story. The best part was getting to know the characters. Frank was my favorite. He was so flawed, yet I couldn’t help rooting for him. He had a short temper, was somewhat devious, but at the same time a great dad to his nine-year-old daughter. Since the story was written in first person with Frank as narrator, it was, of course, easy to see everything from Frank’s point of view.

The second thing I loved about this story was the rich Irish language throughout. Tim Gerard Reynolds, the Audio Reader and the voice of Frank Mackey, spoke in a contemporary Irish lingo and seemed to be a man around 30 who has seen his fair share of horrid things, but still maintains a crisp sense of humor. I thought Reynolds’ voice was a good match for this story.

Faithful Place was a top-knotch read. The story was a well-plotted mysytery with the addition of superb characters. Hearing Frank tell his story through the voice of Tim Reynolds truly made this book a wonderful experience for me. I’m calling Faithful Place The Best Audiobook of the Month.

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Wondrous Words #356

WWWEvery week word-lovers post new words they’ve discovered while reading. It’s called Wondrous Words Wednesday and was created by Kathy at Bermuda Onion’s Weblog.

I read a great interview with Ruth Bader Ginsburg this week. I greatly admire this woman and am anxiously waiting in the library line to read the latest book about her: The Notorious RBG by Irin Carbon. During the interview Justice Ginsburg used this new-to-me word:

troika:   “I know abortion cases are very hard for him, but he was part of the troika in Casey.”

Troika has two meanings. One defines troika as a Russian vehicle pulled by a team of three horses. That really doesn’t fit this sentence. I believe Justice Ginsburg meant this second meaning: a group of three people working together, especially in an administrative or managerial capacity.

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That’s it for me this week. I hope you found some words worth celebrating. Feel free to join Wondrous Words Wednesday. Be sure to visit Kathy for the details.

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What Am I Reading? Faithful Place by Tana French

This week I’m featuring a book in the Dublin Murder Squad series – number 3. Yes, I did it again. I grabbed a series book and started in before reading book number 1 (or 2, in this case). Oh well, it doesn’t seem to matter in this book. I’m actually listening to the audiobook version and it is excellent. It’s narrated in a beautiful, yet on-the-street Irish accent.

Here’s the first paragraph from the first chapter:

My father once told me that the most important thing every man should know is what he would die for. If you don’t know that, he said, what are you worth? Nothing. You’re not a man at all. I was thirteen and he was three quarters of the way into a bottle of Gordon’s finest, but hey, good talk. As far as I recall, he was willing to die a) for Ireland, b) for his mother, who had been dead for ten years, and c) to get that bitch Maggie Thatcher.

What do you think?

Would you keep reading?

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firstparagraphEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile By the Sea shares the first paragraph of a book currently being read. Feel free to join the fun.

 

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Can I Offer You A Glass Of Lemonade?

Back in the “olden days” when we thought we were “frugally sophisticated” one of my favorite summer drinks was something we called Yellow Fever. It was a mixture of vodka, lemonade and 7-Up. I liked drinking these while lying on a chaise lounge with a good book. They tasted like the perfect. delicious lemonade one should drink on a hot summer afternoon. It was very easy to just keep drinking those things. And then the vodka would hit and I could barely get out of my chaise lounger. Ohh, those were the days.

Now that I’m not so worried about being sophisticated (I’m still hanging on to frugal), I am much more fond of regular lemonade. These days lemonade is very easy to have since there are so many forms of lemonade in glass jars at the grocery store. And, they still sell those little frozen containers in the freezer section — Open, pour the frozen slush into a pitcher, add 3 cans of water and stir. Easy.

LemonadeBut every once in a while I like the good old-fashioned way of making lemonade — the one with real lemons. Honestly, it’s not that hard. You make a sugar/water syrup and squeeze the juice out of five or six lemons. Fill a glass with ice and pour the combined ingredients over the top. I’m not sure why I don’t do it more often because the flavor can’t be beat, especially to a lemon lover.

I came across a recipe that will help you understand the steps of Real Lemonade, if you are interested. It came from Minotaur Books as part of their promotion for Louise Penny’s books. The inspiration for the recipe came from the author’s fourth book, A Rule Against Murder.

“All year Gamache’s mouth watered for the homemade Manoir Bellechasse lemonade. It tasted fresh and clean, sweet and tart. It tasted of sunshine and summer.”
—A Rule Against Murder

HOMEMADE LEMONADE

Makes 5 to 6 tall glasses lemonade
• ½ cup (101 g) granulated sugar
• ½ cup (120 ml) water
• 6 ripe, juice lemons, or as needed
• Still water, club soda or sparkling water as needed (about ½ cup/125 ml) per serving
1. Bring the sugar and water to a simmer, stirring, over low heat. Remove from the heat and continue stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Pour the simple syrup into a heatproof jar with a lid (a canning jar works well). Cool to room temperature.
2. Meanwhile, squeeze the lemons; there should be about 1 cup juice. Squeeze 1 or 2 more if you think the juice isn’t tart enough or if you like lemonade with a little kick. When the simple syrup is cool, pour in the lemon juice and refrigerate until well chilled, for at least 4 hours and up to 2 days.
3. To serve: Fill a tall glass with ice. Pour in about ⅓ cup of the lemon juice mix. Top up the glass with about ½ cup still or sparkling water. Serve very cold.

I hope you’ll give this a try. If you want, you could add a splash or two of vodka to a glass and call it Yellow Fever. Be careful, however, as it can sneak up on you. Happy Summer too all in the northern hemisphere.

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This post is linked with other food related posts at Weekend Cooking.

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

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Book Review: This House Of Sky by Ivan Doig

This House Of SkyAlthough I’ve read many of Ivan Doig’s novels which in turn has made him one of my favorite authors, nothing made me feel closer to the man himself than reading This House Of Sky. Yes, I know it’s a true story of his life, yet it was way past real. I felt as if I was right there beside him all the way. His beautiful descriptive language not only helped me see the landscape, but it made me feel a wide range of emotions from sadness to anger to elation to frustration to hope.

I did not want to let the book end. After closing the last page I sat for a few minutes, taking deep breaths and dabbing at my eyes. Then, very deliberately I turned the book over and started again at the beginning.

Ivan Doig’s story actually began with the last breath of his mother who died on Ivan’s sixth birthday. Her death left Ivan and his father, Charlie, on their own. The next few years would find Ivan in various schools and with various babysitters during the day. Charlie and Ivan visited local saloons at night. The two struggled through their grief until finally Charlie decided they had to make a change. He did the last thing in the world he wanted to do — he call his mother-in-law.

Bessie disliked Charlie back when her daughter first started dating Charlie. She forbid her to marry Charlie, but they married anyway and left Bessie out of their lives. Charlie didn’t care much for Bessie either, but he knew he needed her help in raising Ivan. Charlie sent for Bessie and she came. They worked out a tentative truce for the sake of Ivan and then, gradually, they became a true family.

All of these events took place in the 1940s and 50s along the Montana side of the Rocky Mountains. Charlie’s expertise was in ranching — both cattle and sheep. He worked hard, long hours to do whatever necessary to deliver stock to the buyers. Often it was backbreaking, heartbreaking work in the most extreme weather conditions. Bessie and Ivan added their labor to whatever contract Charlie had made. Bessie was an excellent camp cook and Ivan helped out in any way he could, even as a boy.

The experiences of Ivan and his family are truly amazing. I recognized examples of Ivan’s real-life drama that he incorporated in many of his novels. For instance, in Bartender’s Tale we see the young boy, Rusty’s perspective as he goes into his father’s saloon. Ivan’s life with his father and grandmother was so dramatic that I see why he was able to fill fifteen novels with rich examples of their daring Montana life.

I highly recommend This House Of Sky to readers who love stories set in the West, lovers of rich memoirs, and anyone who has read even one Ivan Doig novel. I’ve also suggested the book to writers. Ivan Doig’s descriptions and poetic language will inspire you.

Posted in A+ Books, Memoir, Western | Tagged , | 4 Comments