A Great New Food Memoir: Only In Naples

Only In NaplesOnly In Naples:

Lessons In Food and Famiglia From My Italian Mother-In-Law

 

Are you one of those people who likes to read cookbooks like a novel? When you travel, do you like eating the food that locals eat? Then I have a book for you: Only In Naples by Katherine Wilson. The book is an ode to good eating. Every chapter will make you hungry and you’ll stop worrying about excessive calories—even while eating them. Let me share the basic outline of this book:

Katherine Wilson, an American, had just graduated from college and was ready for her traditional “year abroad.” She could only find a three-month internship at the American Consulate in Naples. She took it, loved Naples, and expanded her trip into a year-long stay. What prompted Katherine to stay was being immediately cocooned into the famiglia of the Avallones. Specifically, it was Salvatore, her future husband, but another strong pull was Raffaella, her future mother-in-law, and the amazing Neapolitan food she makes.

Although the book is considered a memoir, that is completely woven around the story of traditional food. Some of the chapters are titled with one of the food dishes that are lovingly prepared and enjoyed. That food then highlights events within Katherine Wilson’s experience. Examples are O Ragu, Pasta e Fagioli, Eggplant Parmesan and Rococo Cookies and Eggnog.

I want to give you a flavor for how much fun this book is to read. Here is the beginning of the directions for making “rushed” ragu. (“Rushed” only takes three hours vers the normal ten hours.) Please not this ragu dish bears no resemblance to that little jar by the same name.

“First put an apron on, and don’t think of removing it until you’ve turned off the stove. When the ragu starts to spit, it rakes no prisoners. Get a pot that is not only wide but tall. (The height is important when the sauce spatters—Raffaella is worried about your kitchen as well as your clothes.) Dice thwe onion and pur ir in the pot with olive oil.

Non ti detto di accendere ancora. She hasn’t told you to turn on the flame yet, so keep your pants on.”

See what I mean? It’s like sitting with your grandmother at the kitchen table as she explains all the secrets to her favorite dishes. Yes, she might think you’re dense enough not to know to put on an apron. The entire book is very conversational. I definitely feel as if Katherine Wilson is one of my friends.

The single over-arching principle I took from reading Only In Naples is that food is something to completely immerse yourself into. We should enjoy preparing it and smelling it and looking at it and carefully tasting it, then talking about it. In other words, we should completely immerse ourselves into the food we consume. Isn’t that what we “foodies” do?

Highly recommended. You won’t want to miss this one.

P.S. I listened to the audiobook version which was read by the author who has a background in theater. Very well done.

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I’m linking this post to Weekend Cooking. You can find more Weekend Cooking  posts at Beth Fish Reads.

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Book Review: What You See by Hank Phillippi Ryan

What You SeePlacing myself in the world of Jane and Jake makes me smile. I don’t smile about the fact that what consumes them for all the hours I’m with them is the death of someone. No, I smile because these are enjoyable people to be with. They are both intelligent from a general perspective. They are also intelligent in the ways of their respective careers – and they have an in-born intuition about people. It’s good.

The death in What You See is a tough one to investigate. There is a stabbing victim with no id and another guy severely beaten with no id. All of this occurred right in front of Boston’s City Hall with lots of tourists and others snapping pictures on their cell phones. Surely someone got a picture of the killer.

Detective Jake Brogan is sent to investigate and Jane Ryland, journalist-between-jobs, is sent to interview witnesses and take videos. She’s sent by the news director for Channel 2 as part of a job interview. Jake and Jane know their relationship causes a conflict of interest when they find themselves working on the same case. It’s something they are struggling to resolve.

Jane’s life is complicated even further when the daughter of Jane’s sister’s finance comes up missing. It is assumed she was abducted by her stepfather. Jane’s sister begs for Jane’s help. With a cop for a boyfriend, maybe Jane can get special help. It’s a crazy couple of days. Jake actually works constantly on all of these ases with no sleep for close to 30 hours!

This story, which I listened to, is very fast-paced. It’s told from the point of view of about five different people. There’s a lot of internal dialogue, which I like, as well as external dialogue. It’s amazing how the action is played out via that dialogue. It’s a solid mystery that kept me guessing to the very end. Well, actually, I did figure out the missing child thing – just not the murderer.

It’s a pleasure to read Hank Phillippi Ryan’s novels. (This is now my eighth one.)  She’s a very smart writer. After all, she didn’t win all her awards for nothing! You can’t go wrong grabbing a book in the series. They do stand alone, but why would you want to? Start at the beginning. (See the series list below.)

Note to Hank Phillippi Ryan: Please don’t dawdle getting the next book out. That little teaser on the very last page of this book was a doozy. It has me wondering: What’s next?

The Other Books In This Series (Click the title for my review):

The Other Woman
The Wrong Girl
Truth Be Told

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Wondrous #344

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.

This year’s presidential race has, if nothing else, been great for word-nerds. Those of us who are always searching for Wondrous Words have only to read the political news for a good supply. Political writers are scouring their dictionaries and thesauruses to find their gems.

I’ve been keeping a list. Some I have already shared with you such as demagogue, nihilistic and sine qua non. Just this week I found a couple more:

misogynist: a person who dislikes, despises, or is strongly prejudiced against women.

xenophobe:  intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries.

I suspect that “my little eyes” will spy a few more before the season is over.

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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

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What Am I Reading? Only In Naples

I am almost done reading Only In Naples: Lessons In Food and Familia From My Italian Mother-In-Law by Katherine Wilson. It’s the story of a young woman who went to Naples for a three-month internship. And then, she meets a guy, falls in love and never goes home. Along the way she developed a passion for food.

Here’s how the story begins:

Only In NaplesChapter One
Pizza

When Salvatore sputtered up in his tiny red Fiat for our first meeting, he was over twenty minutes late. The car looked like a tin can and sounded like it was on its last legs. It spat a steady stream of exhaust, and I started to cough. Salvatore responded with two short honks of his horn and a big smile,

It was the first pt;’≥≥ime I was meeting this guy, and he was twenty minutes late. What was that?

 

What do you think?

Would you keep reading?

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 Book Tour Stop: Journey To Munich by Jacqueline Winspear

Journey to MunichYou would think that by the time I got to the twelfth book in a series it would start to become a little weary, a little thin. What a lovely surprise it was to read Journey To Munich, and find a full and interesting plot with some new characters and a new angle on detective work for Maisie.

I’ve really enjoyed this Maisie Dobbs series. It’s been fun to follow Maisie’s progression from housemaid to nurse to psychologist to detective and on to business owner. I’m grateful to the author for allowing all of us to see the growth in those skills and the changes in her personal life. We’ve come to know the people that are important in Maisie’s life and then, of course, there is the travel to other countries. It’s been a great experience.

Although the series started in 1929, in Journey To Munich we are now up to early 1938. It’s still pre-World War II but, in England, there is much concern about what is happening in Germany. As the story opens, Maisie is asked by British Secret Service to take on a special assignment for them.

Great Britain is eager to bring home an important industrialist who is being held in Dachau prison. Germany will only release him to a family member. The wife is bedridden and the daughter has been recently killed in a car wreck. They convince Maisie to pose as the daughter. Fortunately, Maisie is given a disguise to make her look like the daughter, quick but good training and an opportunity to immerse herself in speaking German.

Maisie has quite the adventure in Munich. There are a few surprises for Maisie, more than what she expected. As you can expect, the people of Germany are on edge. There’s not much friendliness and it gave me some things to think about. The book does, however, end on just the right note.

After reading so many books set in World War II, it was a nice change to look at pre-war Europe. I’m sure the next book or two in the series will take us right on into the war. That’s okay. I trust Jacqueline Winspear to take us gently into that war through Maisie’s experiences.

I strongly recommend the Maisie Dobbs series to you. If you haven’t read any of them, start at the beginning with Maisie Dobbs. It won the Agatha Award for Best First Novel. And then, just keep going. You’ll enjoy them. This is a quality series.

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Thanks to the publisher for my copy of the book and to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to be a part of it all. To see other stops on the book tour, visit the schedule here: Journey To Munich Tour

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Two Iffy Books

I just finished reading two books that I consider “iffy.” I can’t exactly recommend them to others without some qualifiers. It’s not that they make for bad reading. They don’t. Both are actually very well written. It’s just that I feel compelled to use the “if” word. Stay with me and I think you’ll see what I mean.

Mad Woman UpstairsThe Mad Woman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell is set in modern times. It involves a young American woman attending Old College in Cambridge. She is treated a differently because her last name is Whipple. Samantha Whipple is believed to be the last living member of the Bronte family. Strange things appear to happen to Samantha because of her famous relatives. A woman who is head of the maths department is a little off and also seems to hate Samantha; Samantha is assigned to a handsome tutor who’s also a little off, and old books show up mysteriously in her room. Every person, every event in the book is related to one or all of the Bronte sisters. This would probably be an excellent story IF I were a Bronte fan. I’m not. So, IF you are a fan of Charlotte, Anne or Emily, then I can recommend this book to you.

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters is a beautiful, well written and well received novel. It’s been on best seller lists and on numerous award lists. It’s historical fiction set in England in the 1920s. I should have liked it, but I didn’t. I just can’t suggest it without Paying Guestsqualifications. The main character, Francis, and her mother are in such dire straights after the war. All the sons in the family were killed and the father died leaving their finances in ruin. All that is left is their very grand house in the suburbs of London. Their only solution is to accept boarders, or as they call it, paying guests.

A young couple moved in and everything changed. First it’s the uncomfortableness of having strangers in your home. The husband made Francis feel uncomfortable, but the wife does not. In fact, Francis, a closet lesbian, falls in love with the wife. About half-way through there are some catastrophic events that occur that are really quite tragic. I thought the story petered out after that.

Read The Paying Guests IF you are okay with sad and somewhat depressed characters, a lesbian love story and gruesome thrillers.

I know that others enjoyed both of these books, so please read other reviews about these two books. I’m sure it’s just me.

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Wondrous Words #343

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 encountered a new form of meeting new-to-me words this week. It happened Monday at Toastmasters while we did a fun Table Topics exercise. (Table Topic is a part of the meeting where members take part in short extemporaneous speeches.)

When a member was called to the front, the person in charge gave him or her a weird word to define. The words were all so weird that no one knew what they meant so it was a chance to be creative and make up a definition. It was a great chance to ad lib our way through a one-to-two minute speech.

Here are a couple of the words we tried to define:

gorgonize:

The member’s creative definition:  “The sound you hear at a drive-through speaker after you give your order. It sounds like this: “sg*x@lsg#gi%em#$mm!!” After a couple of those exchanges, you just have to drive up to the window and really order.”

That’s not right? Okay, what does gorgonize really mean? To turn into stone; to paralyze with one’s gaze.

ktenology:

The member’s creative definition:  “This word means the science of environmental change from the perspective of wild animals around the world”

What does ktenology really mean? It’s the science of putting people to death.

That was a lot of fun to do. Try it out at your n ext gathering of friends and/or family.

All the words came from The Dictionary of Weird Words.

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Okay, 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

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What Am I Reading? Journey To Munich by Jacqueline Winspear

There seems to be a lot of buzz out there about this book. I’m seeing it featured in almost all the major book places. At first I was surprised as this is the twelfth book in the Maisie Hobbs series. And then I began reading the book. It’s good, very good. I’ll tell you about it next Monday (the 18th) as part of a TLC Book tour.

Here’s the first paragraph:

Journey to MunichCHAPTER 1
Holland Park, London, February 1938

The day was bright, the air crisp, with sunshine giving an impression of imminent spring, though as soon as a person ventured out from a warm, cocooned indoors, a nip in the chill outdoors soon found its way to fingertips and toes.

Maisie Dobbs—as she preferred to be known, though she was now the bearer of a title through a marriage cut short—opened her eyes and decided it was mid-morning, given the way the sun was shining through a crack in the curtains. No one had disturbed her, no one had come to her room with breakfast or tea, though she supposed Priscilla would bring a tray soon, afraid to leave her friend alone and awake for that long.

What do you think?

Would you keep reading?

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 Good Food Book: New York in a Dozen Dishes

New YorkOne of the best parts about visiting new places is tasting new foods and/or visiting new restaurants. It’s been ten years since I was last in New York City and I doubt I’ll be there anytime soon, but when I saw this little gem of a book at the library, I snatched it up.

In the 70s the author left grad school in Wisconsin and moved to the East Village. The area was in decline so the rents were low. Since Robert had little money he soon discovered that the best and least expensive entertainment was the local food scene. He began touring the five boroughs of New York City looking for food made by the most recent immigrants. And then he began writing about it.

The book is filled with a baker’s dozen of essays devoted to various foods. It is an international list of special foods. Here are the chapters:

  • Pizza
  • Egg Foo Yong
  • Clam Chowder
  • Thiebou Djenn
  • Pastrami
  • Masala Dosa
  • Fried Chicken
  • Pambazo
  • Barbecue Brisket
  • Guy
  • Pho
  • Scrambled Brains
  • The Black and White Cookie

Each essay analyzes the food, gives a little history, tells you some of the best places to find that dish, and then he gives us a recipe with plenty of tips. Five of these dishes were completely new to me. How can I lived this long and not know them? There is so much in this world I have yet to explore. For an old Foodie like me, this book was educational and thus exciting.

I’ve come to expect full-color, close-up, mouth-watering photos in the food books I read. There are none in New York in a Dozen Dishes. I didn’t even think of it until after I’d finished the book and was describing a dish to a friend. What makes the difference in this book? It’s good old-fashioned word usage. Robert Sietsema is so accomplished at using his words that he created pictures in my mind. I could see the dishes! Isn’t that amazing? It is in today’s food world.

This is a great book for someone who lives in or around New York or someone who is planning a visit. Of course, Foodies could read it just for the fun of it the way I did.

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I’m linking this post to Weekend Cooking. You can find more Weekend Cooking posts at Beth Fish Reads.

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Posted in B+, Foodie's Reading Challenge, Weekend Cooking | Tagged , | 12 Comments

Come Meet Two Female Senators

I love following politics and the workings of government. I really do. Always have. But, as many have already said, it’s tough this year. For me this is the craziest year I’ve seen in a very long time. The impression many people have is that the whole thing is non-functional and that all politicians are bums. I often think that too, but then the saner side of me disagrees. Something must be getting done and they can’t all be bums. What about the women in Congress? I decided to take a closer look at two of the female leaders in the Senate.

Elizabeth WarrenThe first woman I looked at was Elizabeth Warren. Her memoir, A Fighting Chance, made me lift my arm in the air and shout “Yes!” several times during the course of the book. I also cried, laughed out loud, and shook my head. I feel as if I’ve met this woman before. She was raised in similar  circumstances. She didn’t start out as a law professor at Harvard. She had lots of things to overcome before she got there. Now I understand why she is so passionate about fighting for the issues of the middle class. Best of all, I have to say that, by the end of the book, Elizabeth Warren made me feel positive and hopeful. Here’s a few details from the publisher’s blurb:

“As a child in small-town Oklahoma, Elizabeth Warren yearned to go to college and then become an elementary school teacher—an ambitious goal, given her family’s modest means. Early marriage and motherhood seemed to put even that dream out of reach, but fifteen years later she was a distinguished law professor with a deep understanding of why people go bankrupt. Then came the phone call that changed her life: could she come to Washington DC to help advise Congress on rewriting the bankruptcy laws? . . . She came up with the idea for a new agency designed to protect consumers from predatory bankers and was denied the opportunity to run it. Finally, at age 62, she decided to run for elective office and won the most competitive—and watched—Senate race in the country.”

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Amy KlobucharThe second woman I looked at was Amy Klobuchar. I heard her interviewed when her book, The Senator Next Door, first came out. She was so charming and funny and smart that I got the book immediately. It felt like I already knew this woman. Like me she was raised in a middle class family in the Midwest. I was amazed at how hard she always worked. The senator spent a lot of time in her book talking about her various jobs and the things she has been able to accomplish. I found it fascinating, but I shook my head at the many long days she puts in. (The woman flies home to Minnesota nearly every weekend in addition to a long week in Washington D.C.)  What is her passion? It’s proving that things can be accomplished and problems solved by bringing opposing parties together. That’s a very tough task these days. Go Amy!  Here’s a few more details from the publisher’s blurb:

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar has tackled every obstacle she’s encountered–her parents’ divorce, her father’s alcoholism and recovery, her political campaigns and Washington’s gridlock–with honesty, humor and pluck. Now, in The Senator Next Door, she chronicles her remarkable heartland journey, from her immigrant grandparents to her middle-class suburban upbringing to her rise in American politics.

I felt so much better after “meeting” these two women. I actually listened to both of these books via audiobooks. The Senators each narrated their books which, in my opinion, made them much more powerful. I heard the passion and other emotions in their voices.

If you also have been feeling negative about this year’s political craziness, I’d like to recommend reading both or at least one of these books. They are both well written and are well worth the time to read or listen to.

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