Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wouldn't you be tempted by a first edition hardcover?

Yesterday I had to appear in court in an iffy neighborhood and while I was not afraid my car would be stolen, I decided I'd better bring my GPS with me to the courthouse (my brother had his stolen from his locked car a couple months ago). Busy planning what I was going to say to the judge, I gathered my things, put on my suit jacket (pale turquoise with elbow sleeves worn with black skirt), and when I saw it was close to 9, I began to dash. THEN I realized there was a hardcover copy of Betsy and Joe by Maud Hart Lovelace, with dust jacket, clearly visible in the car to any passer-by! Of course, a hardcover Betsy-Tacy is much more valuable than a Tom-Tom! Torn, I hesitated but forced myself to hurry on to the courthouse, and luckily no one tried to break into my car while I was engaged in my legal career. Thank you, Maud, for keeping an eye on my car from the Great Library in the Sky. . .

I saw some very odd outfits on the women lawyer in this particular courthouse. One was wearing an innocuous pants suit but with thick fluffy socks (in August!) and patent leather loafers. One was wearing a sleeveless dress, no jacket - she would have been scolded at my summer law firm in NJ which did not permit bare arms. Another, similarly without a suit jacket, wore a blue and white striped button down shirt, hanging down towards her knees, not tucked in, and reminded me of the shirts I borrowed from my father for smocks in elementary school art class. I was somewhat abashed because the skirt I was wearing was shorter than I had realized - I was signing emails to the partner in charge of the case as "Perry" but I felt more like Ally McBeal. However, I was a radiant vision and veritable legal role model compared to these others!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Books and Libraries

A story in the Boston Globe about a 77 year old chess maven described how he taught himself to play from books at the library during the Depression. One day he found a note from another player: “'Neither duffer, nor master,' the note read, and included a telephone number. It was an invitation to play, in an era when games were hard to find," and they subsequently played many times.

Of course, it reminded me of the famous scene in More All of a Kind Family, in which Jules leaves a note in Ella's library book so he can meet her! The kind librarian sees the book is on the wrong shelf (I think the girls hid it because they'd already checked out their weekly quota) but decides not to interfere with young love. How I loved these books! I checked them out repeatedly from my elementary school library, and now own a complete set (although not all are in the oversize format I grew up with).

Libraries play an important role in the lives of this poor but dignified family. In the very first book, Sarah, the middle sister (and eventual author of the series) has lost a book and the librarian realizes that paying to replace it would cause the family great hardship but they are proud and won't accept charity, so she provides a very modest replacement amount. Just as those on the Lower East Side used the library to escape from their troubles our current economic times have resulted in increased usage in libraries all over the country, despite the drastic cuts in services and hours.

I've attached a link to the All of a Kind Family Companion.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Nancy Pembroke's Vacation in Canada

"Let's go shopping this morning," proposed Nancy at the breakfast table.

"Shopping?" said Jeanette in surprise. "I didn't know you meant to buy anything. What do you need?"

"Oh, I need heaps of things, but I'm not going to get them. Shopping doesn't necessarily mean buying; I mean just go through the shops and be 'interested' in things."

from Nancy Pembroke's Vacation in Canada, Margaret Van Epps, 1930
While I loved the above quote, it was one of few high points in this book. Because Nancy was an unappealing heroine, whiny and selfish, this was a very tedious book except for some unusual and intriguing sightseeing expeditions (which kept me reading, although I put it aside several times over the last few months). It was very interesting, however, that the author spent a lot of time - in the voice of Miss Ashton, the family friend Nancy and Jeanette are traveling with - describing Catholic traditions with great respect and in more detail than is typical in this type of series.

Miss Ashton, "[a] Protestant herself, at least in that she was not a Catholic, she belonged to no particular church; but she respected the religious beliefs and customs of all with whom she came into contact, and was interested in knowing something about them.

"I don't know, of course," she continued, "what your feelings are toward different religious beliefs, or toward customs which are strange to you; but I do want to give you a bit of advice. Don't be so narrow-minded and willfully ignorant that you condemn everything you do not practice yourself. Read, study, observe, converse calmly with all kinds of people. Understand, intelligently if not thoroughly, everything in the world that you possibly can. Get the true explanation of all kinds of things, not the false, superficial notions most people are satisfied with. Don't be afraid of information, or lazily indifferent about acquiring it. You don't need to adopt every idea or belief; but at least know them. There is no real education possible otherwise."

Pan-Roasted Corn and Tomato Salad

I wish one of my sisters would cook this for me! Or Mark Bittman himself, of course. I have eaten with him but never eaten anything he prepared.

From the NYT:

1/4 pound bacon, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
4 to 6 ears corn, stripped of their kernels (2 to 3 cups)
Juice of 1 lime, or more to taste
2 cups cored and chopped tomatoes
1 medium ripe avocado, pitted, peeled and chopped
2 fresh small chilies, like Thai, seeded and minced
Salt and black pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, more or less.
1. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it begins to render fat; add onion and cook until just softened, about 5 minutes, then add corn. Continue cooking, stirring or shaking pan occasionally, until corn begins to brown a bit, about 5 more minutes; remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes. Drain fat if you wish.
2. Put lime juice in a large bowl and add bacon-corn mixture; then toss with remaining ingredients. Taste, adjust the seasoning and serve warm or at room temperature.
Yield: 4 servings.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Perfect Burger

My sisters and I are in search of the perfect burger. This article from the NYT and this from the Washington Post don't really provide enough recipes to help us. I wonder if I should pack my Worcestershire Sauce and bring it with me? What is the real secret? What do you suggest?