Weekend Reading

Wow, it has been a while since I did a “Weekend Reading” post hasn’t it!?

The Oxford American Annual Music Issue!!!!!!!!! My friend M told me their CD is amazing. p.s. check out this playlist from the Southern Foodways Alliance!!!

It is all I can do to remain calm about the December 18 opening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. PLEASE let this film from a galaxy very, very near be good, it looks good!! Trailer here. And hey, my screen crush Oscar Isaac is in it so obviously the casting is good!

I have been going to bed early! The days being short and all I find myself getting into bed by 9. According to this site I could stay up 45 minutes later and get a full night of sleep.

Made these delicious (!!) pumpkin brownies – the chocolate ganache about sent my sugar-deprived body into overdrive. Good thing brownies freeze well – or so I have been told.

And a little from me on Paris.  It was with great trepidation I agreed to watch the recording of HBO’s Last Week Tonight host John Oliver’s brilliant/scathing monologue slamming the attackers. I was not prepared to laugh, but his cursing his full throttle let it all out brilliance was beautiful and needed. Screw those spineless assholes. In all his satirist glory he had this and much more to say:

‘And third, it is important to remember, nothing about what these a**holes are trying to do is going to work. France is going to endure, and I’ll tell you why. If you’re in a war of culture and lifestyle with France, good f***ing luck.

‘Because, go ahead, bring your bankrupt ideology. They’ll bring John-Paul Sartre, Edith Piaf, fine wine, Gauloise cigarettes, Camus, Camembert, madeleines, macaroons, Marcel Proust, and the f***ing croquembouche!

‘You just brought a philosophy of rigorous self-abnegation to a pastry fight my friend, you are f***ed.’

No one is taking what happened lightly, but folks even my friends in Paris are finding a way a reason to laugh at something and are forging ahead sitting in cafes and taking in the air outside. In the weeks and months and likely years ahead we will be confronted by acts of evil by ignorant, cowardly imbeciles who are led by selfish, ugly bastards in high towers who kill out of greed and ego and nothing at all resembling religious freedom or whatever crap they are spewing. I am writing out of honesty as much as anger. I have met military commanders who have stated terrorists oftentimes cannot read the Quran and instead of having religious propaganda on them they have pornographic paraphernalia. Yes, really honestly. There is much more to be said, but this is not the place and I am not the person. So, on this Friday one week after the attacks on Paris and Lebanon and elsewhere I simply say Mon amour et de sympathie a mes amis. We stand together so says all the nations all the people who have shown their support of the people of Paris. Our hearts beat as one.

Images from the blissful week I spent last fall in one of the most culture-rich, beautiful, delicious cities on the planet.








Honey for Sale

Folks, my little bee business is growing!  The Honey Exchange in Portland, Maine is selling my honey! This is the second year I have had a big enough harvest to sell and thanks to the Exchange’s owners – Phil and Meghan Gaven – I am learning all the ins and outs of what is needed to sell honey. Eyeballing for instance only goes so far and that’s not far enough for getting all the jars of honey (and there are many) to oh say have the same amount of honey in them. Common sense? I guess not. So, I bought a scale. Then there are the labels – not just what it is (pure raw honey), but where it is from and weight. Little, but important details that make the honey legal to sell and shelf ready for Phil and Meghan. *You are supposed to have your contact information on the label, but I am thankfully able to get away with The Honey Exchange being the point of contact – I am a bit of a private person and strangers calling up to order honey would (a) freak me out a little and (b) take up way too much time…

My uber talented designer friend J made the labels up = I do not have to use those boring store bought ones that read the same or purchase blank labels and write in the info – my handwriting is not for the faint of heart. Besides, this way I was able to put a favorite quote and some information about my beekeeping on the label – that stuff I love to share.

My friend and honey client Winky Lewis then took the prettiest pics of some honey I dropped off on her doorstep the other day – something else I love to do – egg and honey deliveries!!  To all those friends who have said sweet things about the honey and to all those who have purchased some from The Honey Exchange THANK YOU SO SO MUCH FOR SUPPORTING LOCAL!!!!!!!!!!!! ox


Inspiration for the Week


LATE for the weekend post – Inspiration for the Week (or next week if you read over the weekend)

Somewhere along the way many of us were told stories to frighten us into obedience. Means to protect us, they tie us down. I look to those who LIVED and are LIVING and I want that life of adventure and learning. I have no intention of doing so many things, mostly because I can’t, but there are so many more someone else or the younger me might have thought I can’t but what I really meant was I won’t. I left that “won’t” on the trail a couple years ago when I boarded my first flight to Africa (technically Istanbul en route to Africa). I want my child self, the one who had no fear of swimming in rivers with snakes, falling down and getting bloody, of climbing things, of being the best version of me.

So, I have fallen madly in love with Africa and will fight my fears of flying every single time I return – because I can, because I must. And, next summer I will challenge the physical me by trekking in the Tetons in Wyoming (with an experienced guide, I’m not trying to relive “Wild” and I do have climbing experience).


A couple quotes that inspire me to continue walking, continue thinking positive thoughts, continue trying to be that best version of myself while seeing the world.

As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives. – Henry David Thoreau

The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the motherfucking shit out of it.
― Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

And this quote, which I believe there is much misconception of – Twain (I want to believe) is encouraging us to travel not only abroad, but to open our eyes our minds to different communities to expose ourselves beyond our commutes our neighborhoods….

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” —Mark Twain


IMAGES: Top – photographer unknown, climbing Tetons. Bottom – me in Masisi Territory in North Kivu region of Democratic Republic of Congo October, 2015.

Sam Chapple-Sokol and Culinary Diplomacy


Culinary Diplomacy (as defined on Sam’s website) is the use of food and cuisine as instruments to create cross-cultural understanding in the hopes of improving interactions in cooperation. That’s an academic way of saying using food to get along with people, to talk with people and to get to know them better.

Sam is a research consultant and culinary diplomat and has worked on academic courses at American University and George Washington University, as well as for Le Club des Chefs des Chefs the Club of Chefs of Heads of State. When I met Sam he was finishing up a gig as a pastry chef at The White House. Now he lives in San Francisco, another great international food city in America.

When we talked last, Sam had just participated in a panel on culinary diplomacy at the IACP conference (the International Association of Culinary Professionals not to be confused with the other IACP – the International Association of Chiefs of Police).

Sam has always cared about food. He grew up cooking with his parents (his mother took Chinese cooking classes, his dad practiced home cheesemaking), who encouraged him to be adventurous in the kitchen. While never thinking about it as an academic pursuit, he was interested in the role of government and food. When getting his Masters at Tufts School of Law and Diplomacy, he took one diplomacy class and on whim asked the professor if he could write his final paper about how food and diplomacy are related. The professor encouraged it, and he soon came upon the work of Paul Rockower (who introduced us years later).
*Paul focuses on gastrodiplomacy (for brevity purposes how the “common” people like you and I connect via food, not diplomats or national leaders). Here is a link to one of his articles – he’s a great writer and mind. Enjoy.

Back to Sam…he came across some chefs including Bill Yosses, the recently retired White House pastry chef.  Ultimately he found little on the subject. Further motivation to learn and talk about the subject of culinary diplomacy.

Sam stays informed via Google news alerts for “culinary diplomacy” and Twitter. He believes the subject is becoming more and more accessible. Referencing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s engagement earlier this spring with the US State Department’s Culinary Diplomacy program.


Sam shared a recipe with us from his time in Somaliland where he made friends with a couple of women who started a café – Canadians who arrived before the civil war, left, and went back when things were safer. They serve Somali food, but also American-Canadian food.

Bariis Iskukaris (Somali Rice with Spices) – recipe found on The Somali Kitchen blog.

Our conversation ended with the idea of how fascinating disapora culinary diplomacy is – when you have not grown up in the place you are originally from what food is home to you?

**For those interested, following is Sam’s letter to The New York Times on Culinary Diplomacy and the 2015 World Fair pavilion:
Next year will bring Expo 2015, which is set to take place in Milan, Italy with the theme “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.” It is an important and timely topic around which to center the Expo, in part due to the current social popularity of food – see for example the explosion of television, social media, and publications devoted to the topic – and more importantly, due to the heightened attention paid worldwide to issues of nutrition, agriculture, and food sovereignty. Countries and companies are going into high gear to prepare for the Expo, anticipating the opportunity to show off on a global stage. 142 nations and regions, representing 88% of humanity, plan to be there.
The theme and location make Expo 2015 a site ripe for culinary diplomacy. I’ve defined it as “the use of food and cuisine as an instrument to create cross-cultural understanding in the hopes of improving interactions and cooperation,” or more colloquially as “breaking bread to win hearts and minds.” Every nation and region with a pavilion is being given an extraordinary chance to showcase its unique contribution to the world’s cuisine, as well as its own approach to solving global hunger. From Switzerland’s towers of non-replenishing Swiss food products showing the effects of consumption on supply to China’s focus on “super rice,” each pavilion will reflect its nation’s culinary heritage while also focusing on the theme of “feeding the planet.”
The United States, for its part, has submitted a proposal for its pavilion, “American Food 2.0.” A partnership between the James Beard Foundation, The International Culinary Center, and the American Chamber of Commerce in Italy, the pavilion will be built on the pillars of diversity and responsibility. Its stated goal, according to a White House Press Release, is to “use state-of-the-art digital media and other novel approaches to showcase American leadership and innovation in global food security, agriculture, and cuisine and lay the seeds for enhanced trade and investment between the United States and Italy.” The pavilion itself will take the form of an iconic American farm building – a granary – and will lead visitors around the 50 states on a journey “from farm to table,” to discover “the rich cultural, scientific, and culinary tapestry” that makes America America. There will also be food trucks, central to the new American culinary landscape, traveling throughout Milan to increase the range of the pavilion.
Not much else has been publicly announced about America’s offering at Expo 2015. The current plan is a very strong start. I applaud the planners’ intention to touch on culinary tradition from each of the 50 states (though I assume it will stay away from the snarky generalizations propagated in Deadspin’s much-circulated ranking of each state’s food highlights). Focusing on the recent return to the ages-old concept of “farm-to-table” will show off American culinary values of the 2010s, including our newly rediscovered appreciation for farmers. Food trucks, too, though maybe seen as a fad, are an important aspect of the current culinary landscape.
Beyond the strong start, though, I look forward to seeing more thought put into planning. It would be fascinating, for example, to encourage American states to interact with Expo-goers more directly, thereby engaging in paradiplomacy. Paradiplomacy refers to the engagement by sub-national areas – regions, states, cities – in international public diplomacy efforts (see here for a longer discussion on the concept from political scientist Stefan Wolff).
Encouraging states to show off regional barbecue varieties, agricultural uniquities, and historical preferences, as well as various approaches to feeding their own and other hungry people, would go far to display our richly nuanced nation whose culinary and agrarian differences greatly surpass the sum of its parts. Although the plan does include the intention to highlight each state, my worry is that seeing states through a national filter will bring out only stereotypical takes on foods, instead of more rich local narratives being broadcast. American food, we know, is not hegemonic – and we shouldn’t portray it as a single entity.
This is also an opportunity to take a critical look at some of the American food trends that have gone global. While many Americans may not be particularly proud of the far reach of McDonald’s, KFC, and Starbucks, it may be fascinating to look at each of these American food institutions’ origins – and their spread. Why are Americans deeply associated with burgers and fries – where did this dish come from? What is the history of fried chicken, and its unique place in American culinary tradition? What of the first, second, and third waves of coffee appreciation, and where does Starbucks fit into that? Furthermore, how does America’s coffee consumption affect the economies of coffee-producing nations, and can we work to make that relationship more equitable? It would be enlightening to investigate these questions through a critical lens, as long as we don’t mythologize and aggrandize (or, gasp, get sponsorship from) the multinational chains in question.
A final idea. We are a nation of immigrants, generations of whom have come to the US and brought ingredients, recipes, and techniques from their homes. Expo 2015 presents an opportunity for us to look back and draw the connection between new and old worlds; through stories and tastes, visitors could discover their own nation’s impact on American cuisine. Furthermore, showcasing the cuisine of indigenous Americans, like the work of the brilliant Mitsitam Café at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, would teach Expo-goers about traditional American foods, about which most people, including Americans, know unfortunately little.
These are just a few thoughts on where the American representation at Expo 2015 could go. We will see how plans change when different cooks start stirring the pot, including which corporations choose to foot the $45 million bill. The US Pavilion at Shanghai Expo 2010, with sponsors including Pfizer, Boeing, and PepsiCo, was generally regarded as a poor representation of our nation. Let’s try to do better this time, and show off something our country does well: food.

Bookends: My Fall Reading List


On my nightstand: (PIC above)

Dracula waiting for me


The Moviegoer by Walker Percy – The book beat out J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey for the National Book Award in fiction in 1962. That’s more of an FYI than the reason to read it, but it really is that good. It tells the story of Binx Bolling – think Southern Don Draper – coming of age in New Orleans around Mardi Gras. Dysfunctional, irresponsible, immature – that’s Bolling. The kind of guy Percy would write the line “Toward her I keep a Gregory Peckish sort of distance” for. However, it is his aunt Emily and depressed cousin Kate who are the standouts to me. I paused when Kate says to Bolling “Have you noticed that only in time of illness or disaster or death are people real?”

March by Geraldine Brooks – a novel that retells Louisa May Alcott’s novel Little Women from the point of view of the absent father, Mr. March, who has gone off to the Civil War. The chapter “A Wooden Nutmeg” is devastating – recalling March’s days as a peddler and the time he spent with the Clement family. All is fine and well until it is not – the grievous times of slavery in the US. This New York Times review nails it…

(PIC – copy of Dracula on my bed in hotel in Rwanda)

Dracula by Bram Stoker – A surprisingly fitting read while I was in Africa, considering not long after I arrived I was told the politicians are sucking the blood out of the people. Yes, like vampires. No, not really, but they are killing them. It made me realize Dracula could fit anyone’s mold of what is most wrong in this world from anti-semitism (Nosferatu) to AIDS (Francis Ford Coppola’s film version).

Filmmakers have interpreted Stoker’s 19th-century gothic novel in their own way, but none have told the story as I believe Stoker intended it – as he wrote and to some extent lived it.

Stoker spent the bulk of his life as an assistant to the actor Henry Irving, the leading actor of his era who owned the Lyceum Theatre in London. Stoker’s life, it has been pointed out to me, was spent observing the marginalized and memorizing words. At the time he wrote the book, Ireland was primarily rural, there was widespread poverty, and Catholicism reigned. Secret organizations had begun using violent tactics to get the British out. Through this, Stoker was an Irishman living in England where the Industrial Revolution was in full swing. Surely Stoker was aware of the heinous living conditions of those living in the tenements (slums) and the population of street children. The lawlessness and filth of the streets, the grandeur of the rich, the drama in the theatre – when you take into account the history of the day and what he saw WOW now look at his story.

Count Dracula may be based on Irving, but I want to know who Dr. Van Helsing was based on (he has always been my favorite character). Is there any chance his friend Sir Arthur Conan Doyle influence him? Imagine Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Van Helsing sitting down for a cup of tea!

*I’ve assumed to this point you are familiar with the novel – the story. If not, here are the basics….

The story of Count Dracula’s attempt to relocate from Transylvania to England is told in an epistolary format, as a series of journal entries, telegrams, newspaper reports, ship entries, and letters. These items interestingly enough are not always in the correct chronological order – as if Stoker wanted the reader to participate more fully in the telling of the story.

My favorite portion of the book are young Jonathan Harker’s journal entries detailing his voyage from Munich to Dracula’s ruined castle in Transylvania. His notes about the meals he eats, which recipes to get for his bride Mina Murray, the passengers he meets, the green hills he passes by, the wolves of the night, Dracula’s study…

The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty – This one has been on my list for a while. It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1972. Welty knew the south as well as or better than anyone, and of course she is a masterful writer. I am more familiar with her short stories, treasures each one.

The story is told by Laurel Land, a Mississippian living in Chicago, who travels home to comfort her father “the Judge” in the hospital. His second wife, Fay, a clueless wit, is there helpless. That Welty is as fair with her pen as she is to Fay is a testament to her talent as a writer to hold just enough back and to be honest her knowledge of those women in the south unworthy to be southern women. The Judge dies, Fay falls apart, and Laurel – a widow herself – must take accord of everything happening and find it within herself to survive the next few days and move healthily on.

Deliverance by James Dickey – Where to begin. I live two houses down from a home/place/neighbor I refer to simply as “Deliverance” – a crazy (truly), loudmouthed, foul-mouthed, man who lives in a shack sans utilities with a selection of homemade birdhouses worthy of the kind of those disfigured cannibalistic mountain men in horror movies. Did I mention he lets of fireworks during the day randomly and cuts wood at dawn? I don’t hate him, but I wouldn’t be sad if he were evicted either – who pays his taxes?? His existence inspired a friend to challenge me to a one-month book club reading Deliverance. Well, I had seen the film (so good, so disturbing), so I read the book. However, I read the article on the making of the film in my favorite magazine Garden & Gun first. It made reading the book that much more of an experience. Don’t think I need to read it again and certainly not seeing the film again. They are both good, but …

Wondering about the book – well, just think what could go wrong with four city slickers heading down a river through unchartered territory in redneck country.

Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne – A science fiction novel published in 1864 about a German geology professor, his son, and an Icelandic J.J. Watt follow a cryptic message miles across the globe and down, down, down into an underground world.

I grew up on Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, watching the film every year at the Smithsonian with my dad. Glad I finally made time for this book.


Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed – I had zero interest for absolutely no reason in seeing the film or reading the book, then I watched the film on TV three times. Well, only once all the way through. It happened to be on and as is the norm aside from when football is on, there was nothing else on and I just felt like some TV. Anyhow, I obviously enjoyed the film enough to keep watching it over and over and then read the book. Actually, I saw the film, began reading Tiny Beautiful Things, and then read Wild. I read Wild in one day. I loved it. Not because it is incredibly well written or a truly great original story with exceptional characters, but it is real and was exactly right for me at the time and her story as told by the imperfect her is about reaching farther and harder than you ever thought you could or would.

Essentially, a 26-year-old orphan (her mother has passed away four years earlier) straps on some too small boots and then some sandals and duct tape and walks a bulk of the Pacific Crest Trail. About as unprepared as one could be (though less so than as indicated in the film) to take on something that huge (her backpack nicknamed “Monster” symbolic of the actual emotional weight she is carrying). I marvel at her bravery and arrogance, but more at the former. The miles humbled her. The blood and bruises becoming her badges of honor.

“If your nerve, deny you – go above your nerve” – that’s so Strayed and why I adore her. That and because she carried with her copies of As I Lay Dying by Faulkner and Dubliners by James Joyce with her.

Hop, skip, spin, done. Those four words and the questions Who would I be if I did and who would I be if I didn’t got her through the miles. I want to see what they can do for my life as I continue to reach as inspired by Strayed.

(PIC – left my copy of Wild on the shared bookshelf in hotel in Rwanda)

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed – Select letters and responses from the then-anonymous online columnist while at the online literary magazine The Rumpus. Her message – reach hard in the direction of the lives we want. Real, blunt advice – the kind you never find.

Istanbul Food Shopping and all that Honey



I just got back from two weeks in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was extraordinary and surreal and sad and exhausting. On my way home – such a loooong journey – I stopped off in Istanbul for 24 hours, where a local food writer was my escort for a day.

More about the whole trip and Istanbul soon, but for now…a brief post on an experience I cannot stop buzzing about from Istanbul.

We took a ferry from the (European side) old city on the Bosphorous to the Asian side and walked up to the neighborhood where the locals food shop. Stalls overflowing with fish, fruit, pickled items, olives, breads, grilled meat, and cheeses. AND…honeycomb so much honeycomb. OH, and you can try before you buy – it’s encouraged! How salty is this olive, that one…please keep tasting go the shopkeepers.

I knew from my last visit that Turkey is the land of sweet sweet honey.  It’s in a frame of comb on the breakfast table and between layers of Phyllo dough (= irresistible). Supposedly not much of it is exported. What I found interesting during this visit and last is, however, how much African honey is sold in Istanbul shops.

In one shop the salesperson ogled over images on his mobile of the hives in my backyard. We talked honey for  a little bit and I tasted some of his finest.

Here are pics from the neighborhood and a couple of honey shops I visited…











Honey Update


hopguard two

Now that we’re into September it’s time for beekeepers in New England to begin treating for mites – Varroa mites – a beekeeper’s arch-enemy.  Superman has Lex Luthor, Batman the Joker,  Captain America Red Skull and X-Men Magneto. Our tiny enemy also goes by the name Varroa destructor. Basically, it’s a vampire mite with a preference for drone brood – but they’ll take what they can get.

The University of Kentucky’s description of what they do and how they do it: A female mite will enter the brood cell about one day before capping and be sealed in with the larva. Eggs are laid and mite feed and develop on the maturing bee larva. By the time the adult bee emerges from the cell, several of the mites will have reached adulthood, mated, and are ready to begin searching for other bees or larvae to parasitize.

I lost a hive to Varroa mites my first winter and that was enough for me. By treating in the fall I prevent infestation. I use HopGuard, a natural (mostly natural anyhow) and safe treatment that will not hurt the bees (obviously). Granted, the fact that you need should to wear gloves while applying it is a bit off-putting.

The University of Georgia’s description on how to use (with my edits):   For control of varroa mites, a maximum of three two applications per year (6 5 strips) per ten-frame colony may be placed in the brood chamber. *Strips are to be placed only in the brood chamber (not the honey super). The folded strips must be opened and hung over a center brood frame with one-half of the strip on each side of the frame. Apply at a rate of one strip per five deep combs covered with bees in each brood chamber. Strips must be placed hanging between frames, and within the colony cluster, and not laid on top of the frames. Leave the strips in the colony for four weeks. Retreat, as necessary, up to three times per year. Application timing (usually during spring, summer of fall) should be based on the levels of varroa mites observed in the colony. **I can’t see a reason to treat more than one time a year (twice in the fall), unless maybe it’s a short or just mild winter and hot summer. A hardy winter is a beekeeper’s friend with momma nature helping kill off excess insects…

*You only use in the brood chambers – not in honey supers = the honey not already harvested will not be affected.

Now that we’ve had the icky part, let’s get to the good one!! The four hives at my home and two I maintain in Portland should bring me about 90+ pounds of honey this year!! My friend J is going to help me make the prettiest labels so the honey will be sold at The Honey Exchange in Portland.  I am also happy to sell jars directly to folks I know/see around town. Folks this is DELICIOUS honey.


hive in town

hanging out



Bookends: My Late Summer Reading List


On my nightstand:
Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne and The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe. I will have to let you know about both in a future post.

All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren – I saw the not so great 2006 film eons ago (note, the 1949 film won the Academy Award so probably more worth checking out). The book is infinitely better. Man can Warren write!!  The novel justly won the Pulitzer Prize in 1947.  It is rated as one of the greatest novels of the 20th century by Modern Library. Set in the 1930s South, it describes the dramatic rise to power, as state governor, of Willie Stark, aka Boss – one of the greatest characters of any modern day novel. Boss is loosely based on Louisiana Governor Huey Long.

Southern Provisions: The Creation and Revival of a Cuisine by David S. Shields – this book was wisely recommended to me by my friend Don Lindgren, owner of Rabelais Books in Biddeford, Maine. It is dense with information regarding America’s quintessential cuisine.


The Good:
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee – I placed an advance order for this book with one of my favorite independent bookstores in Maine. I feel good about supporting them, I don’t feel good about supporting the publisher and what I believe is elder abuse.  Let’s set things straight. No way do I believe Harper Lee intended for this book to be published. She wrote it for herself and maybe at one point planned to publish it and did not and then the publisher swooped in told everyone she was on board – only for us to find out later (too late) Lee was deaf and blind at the time and her protective sister had passed = she was absolutely taken advantage of. Her first novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, is the treasure readers seek out and find but a handful of times in life. The book speaks to you if you let it if you know how. To Kill a Mockingbird means everything to me and Go Set a Watchman doesn’t really get going till about halfway through if at all. And yes, there is the racism. I will say this – Atticus Finch is found to be flawed, but I do not believe he is a racist so much as a victim of his geography and time. His story is very complicated and very simple and this post is not the place to delve into it – and frankly I don’t believe I have the right. That the great Finch could ever be seen as weak I think was too much for Lee. Please do NOT buy this book. Check it out of the library, borrow it from a friend. Do not support the publisher. Ms. Lee did not mean for it to be released. Show her and Mr. Finch some respect. Sadly the book will sit on my shelf a reminder of sad times and advantageous people with none of the vision or great character Lee had.
What about quality? Check out what reviewer B.D. McClay wrote “What about quality? Did Lee’s editor, Hohoff, cut down a work of great literary genius? No. Watchman is an undeniably bad book, structurally unsound, with no real plot and not even a real ending. It shows everywhere the signs of having been written by a person who thought primarily in short stories (as Lee had up until that point). It has long and awkwardly inserted digressions into childhood that are meant, I think, to provide its thinly sketched Maycomb County with some texture, but instead just feel dropped in from some other book.

Light in August and As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner – Absolute brilliance. Without a doubt, this Nobel Prize laureate from Mississippi, was one of the greatest American (not just Southern!) novelists ever.  He turns storytelling on its head. He creates his own rules and let’s things happen – they pour out – the words – his words – sing. It is a wonderful thing to read Faulkner.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain – Yes, I finally read this classic novel about boyhood in 19th century rural South. Finally. Even after checking a copy out of the library it took two renewals before I finally sat down and read it in two days. The illustrations are a delight.

Sweetwater Creek by Anne Rivers Siddons – One of my first trips back to the library I picked up the three books Siddons had written in the last decade (about the time I stopped reading her books for no reason, having read and loved everything she’d written up to that point). I love this book. It reminds me of her early works. Emily Parmenter is the epitome of a strong Southern ARS gal and the South Carolina low country sparkles. It may be a bit of a formulaic coming-of-age story to some, but not I am guessing to any Southern belle.

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo – Inspired by the Chinese ghost stories she read as a child, Choo sets her novel in 19th-century Malacca, the British colony in what is now Malaysia. A beautiful young poor woman (cue Jane Austen) is asked by her opium-addicted father if she would like to become a ghost bride. Thus begins her adventure into a world of evil spirits and not-quite-human heroes.  I so enjoyed this book I picked up a copy of Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio, a collection of several hundred supernatural Chinese tales – some of which inspired Choo.

The Witching Hour (First in series of Mayfair Witches Saga) by Anne Rice – I almost listed this in the “bad” section, but the first half was really good – so… The nearly 1,000 page novel tome spans several centuries and multiple generations  in the lives of the New Orleans based Mayfair family.  Each generation is cursed by a protective spirit. You’ve got enormous wealth, beautiful architecture, crazy people,  the roaring Twenties, incest galore, sailing…. It’s a good summer beach or snowy winter read.  Note, by the ending I was DONE. Definitely not reading the other two books.

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald – READ IT!!! Check out the NYT review here.  All I am saying. A gift to readers.

Superstorm: Nine Days Inside Hurricane Sandy by Kathryn Miles – Well written! I found myself fascinated by weather folk and learning about Superstorm Sandy in a completely different way. Read it!!

The Bad:
Burnt Mountain and Off Season both novels by Anne Rivers Siddons – my favorite Southern novelist needs to put down the pen.  The former I found unreadable and the latter I enjoyed all the way till the end. Trust me, just Google “ending of Off Season” for the rants. I have loved reading tales by Anne River Siddons since a stranger who knew just enough about me to know I would love Siddons gifted me her copy of Colony (a marriage of South Carolina’s Low Country and the coast of Maine), That this endowment happened while on a schooner sailing across Penobscot Bay in my young(est) adulthood only amplified my affection for Siddons writing.  She has gifted us Southern gals with so many wonderful tales. I want her to walk away the extraordinarily classy woman she is before things get worse (as in these two novels).

Primates of Park Avenue by Wednesday Martin is an indulgent boorish read the NY Post calls a bunch of lies – and fyi I believe them for once.  The publicist of this book calls her Dian Fossey (without actually knowing anything about her) and Martin thinks of herself as a Jane Goodall – AS IF! What I get for turning to In Style Magazine for my  airy summer read.


I recently came across lists of things people think other people their age need to realize. I am not one of those people who opens up a journal the beginning of November and creates a list of what I want to accomplish in the next 360 some odd days. Rather, my realizations and the tasks I set forth for myself are more campaigns than events – beliefs formed and gradually played out. Some happen while sitting in a sunny window at a coffee shop with a friend, others driving (usually caffeinated) deeper into the woods. Wherever and whenever your changes/plans/resolutions come I wish you strength as that is more often needed than luck.

You can’t redo the most important moments in life. So do them right the first time around.

If people aren’t adding to your life, they’re taking away from your life.

If your life is easy, then you’re not trying hard enough.

Your religion isn’t any better or more righteous than anyone else’s. It’s just a different version of the same theory.  **I read this and think it’s something to ponder and discuss at length. On principal I agree, but there is so much I am ignorant of when it comes to different religions. Overall regardless I try to practice respect not judgment.

People are mostly made by nurture, not nature.  **Really think about that and where your nurturing came from and comes from. I find myself telling those I love – taking care of yourself is humanness and kindness not selfishness. Selfishness is something ugly, but nurturing is beautiful.

Most of the foods we eat shouldn’t even be labeled as “food.”

Being physically and mentally active  are often the differentiating factors between being happy and being miserable.  **Read anything, take classes in person or online, run, ride a bike or a horse, swim, walk don’t take the elevator. A lazy mind or body is such a waste.

If you love them, tell them. A shocking number of individuals never get that chance.   **I read this one and WOW WOW. I did this once. Had my heart broken. Lived through it and am stronger and in a better place for it. Maybe next time if I am brave enough again there will be a happier ending.

Change is always possible. Your life is your story, write the future chapters for the best possible view of yourself. The person you believe you can be.

Blame only gets you so far. Responsibility will take you home. Accept that sometimes you are the problem.

Now, right now – we all do. This is for you dSK (my best friend/positive inspiration) You need to stop stereotyping.  And while we’re at it judge a whole lot less if at all.

And then there’s this one.  If you can’t have fun without drinking, then you probably have a drinking problem.  **I recently realized I really don’t like drinking alcohol. The occasional whiskey – when it’s really, really good sure – but in general the gin and tonics I used to love just make me feel sick.  When I go out I’d prefer to drink fizzy water and enjoy the conversation and food clearly.


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about this blog

About Me Sharon Kitchens and Delicious Musings. Welcome and thank you for visiting my blog. I write about all the things I enjoy - Culture, Food, Photography &Travel. Read more on my about page.


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