I thought How to Cook a Wolf would be full of interesting post-hunting recipes. Not that I had any intention of hunting, dressing, or cooking a wolf, but what the heck: M. F. K. Fisher has entertained me so far, I thought I’d press on.
The more accurate but far less interesting title would be How to Cook When the Wolf is at Your Door. Written in response to wartime rationing (after WWI, and revised – in the edition I’ve read – after WWII, this is a book on food for those in severe need of economizing. There are rather more references to canned mushroom soup than I’d’ve expected, and the admission that home-baked bread may cost more than store-bought loaves (but that the difference in flavor and healthiness is vastly worth the few pennies difference). As with all the books of Fisher’s I’ve seen, there’s much more narrative and description than recipe-as-set-of-instructions. This is as it should be. What a cook needs is inspiration and confidence.
This is definitely of interest to the frugalistas among us, – for the chapter titles alone.
Father and Son – a Nativity Story
I made a setting of Elsa Barker’s poem, The Vigil of Joseph
- and I have a bit of a feeling that Geraldine McCaughrean and Fabian Negrin have seen that poem too. This short book imagines Joseph’s “stern, sweet thoughts” with grace and beauty (and with lovely illustrations rather than tricky harmony). Unlike my song, which remains as open-ended as the poem, this book offers a highly satisfying conclusion to Barker’s Joseph-question, “What am I, that God has chosen me?”
Highly recommended, particularly if you are, or know, an adoptive parent.
- but, again, only because I don’t have a child in the family with whom to share it.
Room for a Little One
Good heavens, what lovely illustrations. The cynic says, “oh, yeah, another story where the animals can talk on Christmas night,” but this is sweet without being cloying, simply written and thematically rich, and plays nicely off the prophesy of the lamb and lion lying together.
Snap this up at an after-Christmas sale if you can, and put it away for the next new reader in your life. (Perhaps I should take my own advice!)
The Beasts of Bethlehem
A collection of deceptively light verse, each poem from the perspective of an animal (or insect) that might have inhabited the stable where Jesus was born. (I say deceptively light because many of the poems are more serious than their clever rhyming might suggest.) Somebody’s done a musical setting of these poems, but I don’t think I’ll do another (even though, full disclosure, I picked up the book thinking it might be fun). The poems are too short for my purposes – many just four or eight lines – and most of them only vaguely make sense if you don’t know the title before the rest of the text; there’s none of that, ”’I,’ said the donkey” sort of thing here.
Very nice, though, and if I had a reason to own such a thing (e.g., a child in the family) I’d probably snap up a copy.
iPhone – the Missing Manual
Herself wants an iPod. She needs a reliable cellphone. We’re no longer under contract to Sprint. So why not? Besides, it’s a Pogue book. It’s very entertaining, and will be very useful once we get to the AT&T store. Or the Apple store. (Or Walmart?)
Ah, well. Although I think there were a couple I missed along the way, I’m still gonna be 5-10 under.
38. Consider the Oyster
This was obviously written in a time when shellfish was cheap and plentiful. I probably won’t try most of these recipes, for reasons of budget or spousal intolerance of various ingredients, but a lot of them seem very interesting. And, as ever, Fisher’s writing is witty, urbane, delightful, and makes me think I’m just barely smart enough to keep reading. It’s as far from a “cookbook” as one can imagine.
Robert B. Parker’s new Spenser novel, Rough Weather is an easy, quick read, full of everything you like about Spenser and a little bit more. About a hundred pages from the end, I saw a major plot twist coming, but the direction it twisted once it arrived took me appropriately by surprise. Which, I guess, is what it’s supposed to do.
A collection of haiku by Billy Collins. Its perfect title? She Was Just Seventeen
Oh, the poems are fun, too. Snarky, self-referential, writerly, jokey. But, really. That title…
Since Ruth Reichl and Alton Brown both say M. F. K. Fisher is worth reading, I thought I’d take a stab. This one’s dense, not unreadably so but very clearly of a different time. It seems almost Victorian in the use of language. That the subject is food – its enjoyment and preparation – makes it seem all the stranger. Enjoyably so, though.
According to a Fisher-appreciation website, this one is her “first book, but probably not the first one to read.” Now they tell me.
Bob Greene’s When We Get To Surf City is delightful, touching, funny, and full of sun, sweat, beer, and cholesterol.
Invited by a musician in Jan and Dean’s touring band to come to a concert, Greene develops a long-standing friendship with the musicians, and ends up becoming a member of the group himself. It’s hard to tell how much time he spent with the band over the course of each of the many summers chronicled here, but it was clearly time enjoyably spent. And, as a result, the time reading his account is well-spent, too.
Greene got himself into a bit of a pickle a few years back with a sex scandal; accordingly, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about him in this first-person narrative. Clearly, the time he spent with Jan and Dean (and, later, with the Surf City All Stars) pre- and post-dates those events; any personal or professional problems he had along the way aren’t mentioned.
I’ve never been a fan of the surf-music sound, but I admit that this book kinda makes me want to tune to an oldies station. Or, better still, to learn three chords on the guitar.