Thursday, April 26, 2012

CRY into the WIND - Othello Bach, Author

This delicately flavored dish is a winner every time. Unlike regular spaghetti, this dish is light and so tasty that no matter how much you make, every bite is eaten. If you make it for friends and neighbors, be sure to hand them the recipe at the same time; otherwise, they will hound you to make it for them again and again.
Author Othello Bach 

FIDEO – (Mexican Spaghetti)
Pronounced: Feh-they-o

1 c. stewed tomatoes, slightly chopped
2 c. chicken broth
1 c. water
1 pkg. Fideo vermicelli (found in Mexican food section of market)
1 onion, minced
1 can chopped green chilies
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Garlic to taste

Brown vermicelli in a small amount of oil. Add garlic, chilies, onion and tomatoes. Stir in 2 cups of broth plus 1 cup water. Simmer 8 to 10 minutes, until vermicelli absorbs liquid, but do not let it cook dry. Serves 6.

Option, for complete meal: add 1 chicken, boiled and cut into bite sizes pieces.

CRY into the WIND – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; and A Book and A Dish
‘The shovel of the backhoe came down and for the next several minutes, the stranger dug a trench in the field. When he had finished, a gaping hole about six feet wide and twenty feet long lay before us. The pile of freshly scooped dirt called fiercely to my 8-year-old brother Thurmond, who couldn’t stay out of it. He tried to run up it and only slipped and slid because it was so loose. The rest of us simply stared. When the digging was finished, the man drove the backhoe onto his trailer, hopped into his truck, and pulled it up next to ours. He and Daddy unloaded our headboard and dresser, set them on the back blade of the backhoe, and tied them in place with rope. Without another word, the stranger climbed into his truck and slowly drove on down the road. Momma didn’t even try to blink away her tears. Eyes wide open, fixed on the trench, the tears flowed, uninterrupted. She didn’t even look away when Daddy said, “I’ll be back later with a tarp.” Clinging to Gordon, her skirt whipping in the wind, her hair blowing curls around her head, she just stared. Don and Mason glared at Daddy. I was six and had no idea what was happening and didn’t understand their menacing faces. Daddy turned and left. As the truck’s engine faded into the wind, I realized that I was looking at our next home, and I couldn’t have been more pleased. This was a thousand times better than living in the truck. In fact, as far as I could see, this was the greatest place anyone could live. Like rabbits! Sliding into our house and burrowing beneath the earth.’
CRY into the WIND is the childhood/teenage life of author Othello Bach. She was the oldest girl and the middle sibling of seven. When her father wasn’t crating them up and running from the landlords he was out drinking away his week’s earnings while she, her brothers and sisters and mother fended for themselves. The ‘home’ described above was one he created for them in a field. He never lived in the hole in the ground but spent his time in town going from bar to bar and woman to woman.
Tragedy is something Othello as well as her siblings grew up with and knew very little of anything else. The ultimate disaster hit when their mother died and the kids were put in a orphanage in Oklahoma and then another one later in Texas. The trials and tribulations experienced by not just these kids but other kids in the same situations is something I could never have imagined. From the abuse - sexually, mentally and physically – while living with their father, to the same abuse in the orphanage, I personally don’t know if I could have handled it. It took and takes a very strong person to endure what these kids went through. In CRY into the WIND, Othello tells and expresses it all, allowing you to feel not just her own pain but the pain of the other children too. She takes you through the lives of those who made it and those who didn’t. My question is – how can anyone make it under the circumstances these kids lived through?
I’ve never read a book quite like CRY into the WIND. It took me back to my own childhood when I was in 1st grade. We had a student, much like Othello’s and her brothers and sisters. He came from a very poor family and it showed in the clothes he wore and the shoes he didn’t wear because he had none. I can remember feeling so sorry for him. He had six toes on each foot and the other kids called him a freak, telling him he should be in a circus. The teachers weren’t much better. They allowed the kids to make fun of this little boy. Me? I just stood back and did nothing. Now I feel bad for not trying to either befriend him or stand up for him.
CRY into the WIND shines a lot of light on the way life of the poor was like in the 40s and 50s. Is it still like that today? Most of us will say no but I bet if we really opened our eyes and took off the blinders we might discover that some things never change. Read the book. It will make you more aware of your surroundings as it has me.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Ocean and the Hourglass - Dan O'Brien, Author

Traditional Beef Stew
(An O'Brien favorite)
3 lbs boneless chuck roast, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 tbsp vegetable oil 
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp freshly ground pepper
2 yellow onions, cut into 1-inch chunks
1/4 cup flour
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup red wine
3 cups beef broth
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp dried thyme
4 carrots, peeled, cut into 1-inch slices
2 stalks celery, cut into 1-inch slices
3 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut in eighths
fresh parsley to garnish (optional)

On medium-high heat, add the vegetable oil to a large heavy pot (one that has a tight fitting lid).
When it begins to smoke slightly, add the beef and brown very well. Do in batches if necessary. Add the salt and pepper as the beef browns. Once browned, remove the beef with a slotted spoon set aside. Add the onions and sauté for about 5 minutes, until softened. Reduce heat to medium-low, and add the flour and cook for 2 minutes stirring often. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add wine and deglaze the pan, scraping any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. The flour will start to thicken the wine as it comes to a simmer. Simmer wine for 5 minutes, and then add the broth, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, and the beef. Bring back to a gentle simmer, cover and cook on very low for about 1 hour. Add potatoes, carrots, and celery, and simmer covered for another 30 minutes or until the meat and vegetables are tender. Taste and adjust seasoning. Turn off heat and let sit for 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with the fresh parsley if desired.

The Ocean and the Hourglass – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish

“What kind of book is this, Mr. Thompson?” his voice cracking as he asked. “Open the cover, Nicholas.” Nicholas met the librarian’s gaze and the old man’s trustful not restored his confidence. Opening the cover, the thick black hand cover gave way to cream-colored sheets that did not smell of musk or salt. They were blank. “The book is empty?” Nicholas was now thoroughly confused. The librarian, however, seemed utterly amused by the situation. “That is why there are rules, Nicholas. The book alone cannot work without the hourglass. And of course, it will not function with the imagination of one as special as you are.” “I don’t understand.” “Let me explain,” offered Mr. Thompson as he rose from his chair. Clasping his hands behind his back, he resembled a lecturer preparing to give a speech. “There are five rules to using the Book. They must be followed as I lay them down…
“The first rule is that you must always read the book alone. Never tell anyone that you have the book nor let anyone read it.”
“The second rule is that you must always read the book with the hourglass. Never are you to activate one without the other. Disaster lies in that course.”
“The third rule is that when reading the book you must never lose track of either item. If you were to be reading and the hourglass was lost, then you too would be lost. Keep both together.”
“The fourth rule is to always read the book as you wish it to be read. Never lose hope in the story, for you will be lost if you do.”
“The fifth and final rule is as important as the others, even more so if you believe as you should. You must never stop believing in heroes, Nicholas. You must believe with all your heart that good will prevail, that heroes will triumph no matter the odds.”

Nicholas Miles was from what has become such a common state of being for so many young boys and girls. He is being raised by a single mother who works hard but enjoys the bottle a bit more than she should. He has also become the punching bag for the bullies within his school. One morning, after his usual confrontation with these boys, Nicholas just couldn’t bring himself to go inside the school. This time the boys had torn his favorite comic book in half tossing it on the wet ground. Nicholas’ hero was the Mariner and the destruction of this book was the destruction of his comic book friend. With no money to replace the book, the next best place was the library where he could read until his heart was content as he enveloped himself with those who cared… the heroes of the oceans of a world far, far away. What he never dreamed of was Mr. Thompson introducing him to the very old, very special book and the hourglass which he had stored deep within the library waiting for that special person to come along. This book allowed Nicholas to write his own story and live it as it happened. Only he could create the beginning and the end and only he could decide the effect his decisions would have upon everyone involved in his story.
The Ocean and the Hourglass is one of the deepest books I’ve ever read. It awakens the reader to right and wrong in says that I personally have never give thought to. You may ask the question “what is right and what is wrong?” Easy answer? Maybe but “who interprets what is right and wrong?” We all know the 10 commandments, which are cut and dry in definition – aren’t they? What about the gray areas? Can we tell black lies, white lies and gray lies? Or are they all lies? Can we kill people to benefit the masses and it be ok? Are there black killings, white killings and gray killings or again are they just all killings? Are the killing wrong if they will save more then they kill? Are we in our current position by choice or by events and chance? Do events really play a role in the choices we make? As I said, The Ocean and the Hourglass is a deep book of thought. It started out as what I expected to be a children’s book but boy was I wrong as I got deeper and deeper into the thoughts it evoked within me.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The President Has Aids - Joan Meijer, Author

Shai Holzharts Curried Chicken
(I knew Shai back in the '60s. She was a Jewish Indian dancer and wonderful woman....She served this with rice and vegetables and was gracious enough to share the recipe. - Joan Meijer, Author)

12 pieces skinless chicken breast
1 pint sour cream
1 cup heavy cream
1 stick butter
1 cup slivered almonds
4 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon white pepper
2 teaspoons salt

Stew all together until the chicken is completely cooked all the way through and falling apart  about one hour.

Thicken gravy with
1 tablespoon corn starch
mixed in 3 tablespoons cold water.

Serve on large platter of white rice decorated with lightly steamed broccoli....Serves 6

The President Has Aids – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish
Sure glad nothing bad happened to you, Sir,” Metcalfe said, easing the older man back against the comfort of the leather seat. “Press’ll eat it up,” Ripley laughed. “I bet it’ll help my poll numbers.” He coughed and a gout of frothy, bright red blood spilled down his chin and a spread in a widening stain over the front of his light blue shirt. The look, on Metcalfe’s face was that of pure horror. He rapped on the window between the front and back of the limo, “Bill! Eagle is down. Eagle is down.” The President looked confused. Even though he was aware of the codes in which his Secret Service spoke, he could not figure out what was happening. He knew he was Eagle, but he wasn’t down. Down meant trouble and he wasn’t in trouble. “Hand me a tissue would you Joel?” Harris Ripley said, preoccupied with the fact that he could feel something like spittle running down and tickling his chin. Annoyed at being soiled, he dabbed at his chin with the tissue. Blood smeared across his jaw, but he was still unaware that he had been shot.
Harris Ripley is the president of the United States. While leaving a the Washington Hilton Hotel after giving a speech to the UAW, a lone gunman opens fire at Ripley as well as several others within the group protecting him. Secret Service Agent Joel Metcalfe literally throws Ripley into the limo and lays on top of him acting as a human shield. But unknown to Metcalfe nor the President, it’s too late. The President has been shot and neither realize this until after the limo pulls out heading for the Whitehouse.
Political reporter David McLaughlin was at the Hilton for this disastrous event in history but instead of being in a position to report he was in the nearest bar and had no idea as to what was taking place right before him. Instead of firing him, McLaughlin’s publisher moved one of his most brilliant reporters to the Obit section where he runs into Dr. Reginald Hotchkiss. Dr. Hotchkiss is not only the husband of McLaughlin’s ex-wife and step-father to his daughter but also a doctor of hematology. He has requested that McLaughlin call him later. He has some disturbing news that he feels must be made public. The meeting never takes place. Someone gets to Hotchkiss before McLaughlin.
The name The President Has Aids is a giveaway as to what the story builds up to but… the build-up is worth the read even if the title does give it away. The events and actions that take place to cover up the fact that The President Has Aids keep the pages turning. But who is behind this action? Is it the Vice President? The Surgeon General hopeful? The President’s wife? Or is it the President himself? And how did the President contract Aids? I had my own suspicions and couldn’t wait to see if I was right.
The President Has Aids is a very well written book that kept me hanging on to every word.

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