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At My Grandmother’s Knee

By Gini Raineycookbook_junkie[1]

I just spent an hour or so looking through a recipe box that belonged to my Aunt Evie.  It’s one that I painted for her as a Christmas gift back in our leaner days – yellow with red strawberries and leaves twining around the lid.  When she died I received it back – along with a lot of her recipe cards that came from a lot of friends and relatives.  There is boxso much to be learned from looking through stuff like that.  For instance, I had no idea how many different ways she probably prepared eggplant!  With my uncle’s truck farm producing a wealth of that pretty purple vegetable, I know we ate a lot of eggplant during the summer, but it was always sliced, breaded, and fried.  Why, Aunt Evie’s eggplant recipes included spaghetti, casseroles, eggplant balls, and more.

Also, I noticed that many of her dressing recipes call for mineral oil.  I had no idea that mineral oil was consumable – or was that another name for cooking oil many moons ago? One of the recipes of my grandmother’s for a jello salad called for the jello combination to be “livery” before being stirred into the rest of the ingredients.  Gee Grandma, couldn’t you come up with a better description for the consistency? That one kind of left me cold.

hersheyI have a cookbook in front of me today, “Hershey’s 3 Books in 1” that was published in 2008 by Publications International, Ltd., and although it is filled with some mighty good recipes for everything decadent made with chocolate, I’m surprised that it doesn’t include a recipe that my Grandma made every Christmas.  It does have enough recipes, though, for cookies, confections, cakes, brownies, pies, & desserts, to make your teeth hurt from the thought of biting into all that yummy-ness!  With the holidays coming down the road like a Mac truck, this book would make a great addition to your “library” for go-to goodness.

Back to Grandma. Her recipe for Toffee Squares is timeless, and it always reminds me of the great relationship she and my dad shared.  My dad owned a tavern, so he bought a lot of stuff in quantity.  At Christmas his purchases always included a box of Hershey bars that he gave to Grandma, knowing that he would probably score some of her yummy bars.  He would also take her a bouquet of Sweet Peas (her favorite flower) every year on her birthday, as well as do a lot of other things to help her out.

But for her recipe, here’s what you need to do: cream together 1 cup butter, 1 cup brown sugar, and one egg yolk, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla.  Then stir in 2 cups of flour and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.  Now press this mixture into an 11 x 13 pan.  Bake at 325°, and when done, cover the top with Hershey bars and ¾ cup chopped nuts – Grandma used walnuts, but pecans will work just as well.  Let cool, cut into squares and store in a covered container.  These will also freeze well, so you can get a jump on your holiday baking if your family doesn’t eat them all before they hit the freezer!  Just enjoy, no matter what!

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BOOK REVIEW: Sentient Beings in the Kingdom of Bhutan

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Sentient Beings in The Kingdom of Bhutan by Laurie S. Chambers

By Gini Rainey

Chambers, who has spent over fifty years traveling the world seeking to understand the complexity of being human, has written a lovely book about the peaceful kingdom of Bhutan.  Located in the Himalayan mountains, Bhutan’s people have formed a unique relationship with the animals sharing their space in this beautiful area.

While the cover might lead you to think this is a children’s book, it is filled with the complexity of human/animal relationships.  In a place where all living things matter, Chambers has managed to capture the beauty of both the sights and principles of the Bhutanese and subtly implores that we all take on these loving and caring and grateful people.

And don’t be mistaken, there are at least three levels presented in her book.  One that appeals to the seeker of truth and peace, one that encourages the young child to live a life of appreciation and love, and one that captures the eye of the seeker of visual beauty.  This is not a book to be read straight through.  Rather, it would be a wise and intelligent thing to read each page for its own merit and value and digest and internalize the message that each one has to offer.

5 of 5 – Copyright 2019 – Balboa Press

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BOOK REVIEW: Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

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By Gini Rainey

Imagine, if you will, a shack in the middle of the backwater marshes of the Atlantic Ocean in North Carolina.  The setting is as raw as the story that Owens tells about the abandonment and coming-of-age of young Kya.

Left behind by her entire family at the age of six, Kya learns more about life and survival in a short time than most people learn in a lifetime.

Ms. Owens’, no stranger to the publishing community having several books in print, paints a world full of wonder and discovery as Kya explores the beauty of nature around her as she struggles to stay alive.

Living on the edge of a community that neither helps her nor understands her, she grows into a beautiful, highly intelligent young woman with the help of a young boy who was a friend of her brothers.

Expertly building characters you will come to either love or despise, Ms. Owens laces Where the Crawdads Sing with a hint of physical abuse, romance, and murder.

Owens has created a book that has everything necessary to keep the reader turning the pages to the surprise ending.

5 of 5 – Copyright 2018 – G. P. Putnam’s Sons

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Book Review: “The Orphan’s Tale” by Pam Jenoff

“The Orphan’s Tale” by Pam Jenoff

by Gini Rainey

Note to Self: when times are different and strangely sad, as the Shelter In Place time for COVID-19 has been, it’s not very smart to read a book that is filled with sadness and desperation.  That’s how I felt while reading this book.  While it was a very interesting and well-written book, I found I could only manage a chapter or two at a time.  It wasn’t until I was well into it that I realized that it was not necessarily the isolation from SIP that was depressing me, but rather, it was quite possibly a combination of COVID and this book.

Set against the backdrop of a small traveling circus in western Europe during World War II, The Orphan’s Tale is rich with all the pain and angst you might imagine from that time.  While going back and forth between the perspectives of Astrid, the Jewish star trapeze artist who had been married to a Nazi officer, and her apprentice Noa, a Dutch girl who was turned out of her home when she became pregnant with the baby of a German soldier, Jenoff weaves a gritty tale so intriguing and earthy that you will be able to hear the cries of the baby and smell the sawdust of the Big Top.

Jenoff manages to, not only touch on the character’s intensity of feelings but also to touch parts of my mind and soul that I found myself completely absorbed by their feelings, too.  This is definitely a book well worth the read.

5 of 5 – Copyright 2017 – MIRA Books

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