Friday, March 10, 2023

Nineteen & The Nom Nom Shelf

This is the day (March 11) my beloved book blog "Blob" turns 19. We can't go out for drinks for another couple of years, but food figures prominently into our plans. As an appetizer, I'd like to take readers on a tour of my Nom Nom Shelf (pictured above) which is all my books about food.

From left to right:

The Betty Crocker Cookbook. 1978. Belonging to my mother, this is the first cookbook in which I ever took an interest. When I asked if I could keep it, she shrugged and said sure. Very much loved and duct-taped.

Favorite Foods From Das Edelweiss Restaurant. This is the last cookbook my mother ever bought. Das Edelweiss was a popular German restaurant in Warsaw, Missouri.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks Dinnertime - Ree Drummond. It's a lovely cookbook with beautifully photographed step-by-step recipes, but I tried the Panzanella recipe and it fell flat for me, so I haven't ventured into Pioneer Womanworld again.

Granny Pottymouth's Fast As F*ck Cookbook - Peggy Glenn. I learned to cook after I became an adult, so cooking and swearing have always been a team in my kitchen. My very favorite recipe in this book is "Chicken and Sweet Potatoes Get Married on a Ranch". An odd combination, but so easy and so delicious. 

The Wurst of Lucky Peach: A treasury of encased meat. - Chris Ying and the editors of Lucky Peach. How the sausage gets made all over the world. A fun read.

Fresh Off The Boat - Eddie Huang. I kept putting this book on the memoir and biography shelf, but it only felt right in with the other Nom Noms. Chalk it up to Eddie Huang's exuberance when he's writing about food.

The Tummy Trilogy - Calvin Trillin. Includes American Fried, Alice, Let's Eat and Third Helpings. I haven't read this yet, and I don't know why. As I understand it, Trillin was visiting diners, drive-ins and dives about 40 years before Guy Fieri. I've paged through The Tummy Trilogy and the writing looks luscious in all senses of the word.

Crying in H Mart - Michelle Zauner. This book also refused to live on the memoir and biography shelf. Zauner's evocative writing about shopping for and preparing and eating Korean food stirred up so many memories for me. I was nearly eating the pages.

Blood, Bones & Butter - Gabrielle Hamilton. I absolutely love chef origin stories; I don't know why I haven't devoured this book yet.

The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South - John T. Edge. I haven't read this book yet, either, but I'm sure I'm going to relish every word.

How to Cook a Wolf - M.F.K. Fisher. ABSOLUTELY LOVED THIS BOOK. I wrote an ardent review of it back when Blob was still in diapers. 

Let's Eat Korean Food - Betsy O'Brien. A helpful guide about the development of Korean cuisine, how to dine without thoroughly disgracing yourself, and a deep dive into dishes for special days and province by province.

Taste - Stanley Tucci. A delectable memoir served up with wit and a significant dash of irony. I paired this book with a viewing of Tucci's film Big Night. Sometimes you can't tell the difference between your heart and your stomach. With Stanley Tucci, you don't have to.

Tender at the Bone - Ruth Reichl. This is the first memoir I ever read that centered around food, and I've been hooked ever since. Favorite bit: masking a wild party just seconds before parents walk in with the innocent smells of breakfast.

The Best American Food Writing 2018 - Ruth Reichl, editor. My favorite food essays from this anthology were about a journalist who made a trip to the Pioneer Woman's stompin' grounds, Pawhuska, Oklahoma and the NBA's secret sandwich addiction (it was peanut butter and jelly).

Generation Chef - Karen Stabiner. I haven't read this yet.

A Taste for War: The Culinary History of the Blue and the Gray - William C. Davis. The first half of the book is a scholarly examination of how important food was to soldiers during the American Civil War. Many units lacked personnel who had any idea of how to prepare food at all, which led to some wild improvisation. In the POW camps, where starvation reigned, creativity was taken to a whole new sometimes grisly level. The second half of the book is actual recipes from these years.

Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals that Brought Me Home - Jessica Fechtor. I haven't read this yet.

Buttermilk Graffiti - Edward Lee. This book was so smart and thoughtful and intriguing. Edward Lee traveled to several cities around the United States where disparate communities lived near each other and investigated how their cuisines influenced each other. Interspersed with recipes. A feast for the mind.

American Cheese - Joe Berkowitz. I had so much fun reading this book! Berkowitz meets and falls in love with artisan cheese, and follows it everywhere. On a much smaller scale, I fell down my own cheesy rabbit hole, and this blog reflected that for several entries.  Highly recommended. 

Best Food Writing 2003 - Holly Hughes, editor. So many good essays, but my very favorite was "Cajun Pig Party".

Spam: A Biography - Carolyn Wyman. I'm not really a fan of it, but I enjoy reading about Spam. I love the layout of Wyman's book; it looks the way fanzines used to look. My favorite part was about the yearly Spam sculpting contests in Seattle. Sadly, these are a thing of the past.

Books on top:

Kitchen Confidential - Anthony Bourdain. One of my favorites across all genres. Audacious and hilarious. I really miss Anthony Bourdain.

The Joy of Cooking - Irma S. Rombauer. This is a facsimile of the first edition from 1931. The recipes, nearly a century old, seem antiquated, but they are short and easy to read. It would be fun if someone decided to take on the project of cooking all these dishes.

Not shown:

The Best American Food Writing 2021 - Gabrielle Hamilton, editor. I haven't read this collection yet.

As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto - Joan Reardon, editor. Haven't read yet; looking forward to dipping in.

That tour of the Nom Nom shelf made me hungry. It's time to eat, then read. In that order.

Happy Birthday, Blob!

EDITED TO ADD: I found another food book hiding in my collection. It was tucked away in a nondescript section of nonfiction. I will put it with the other Nom Noms. I'm gonna need a bigger shelf.

Eating To Extinction: The World's Rarest Foods and Why We Need to Save Them - Dan Saladino. Nonfiction. I got this book for my birthday, and haven't read it yet. Many books ask what the hell are we eating? Saladino turns the question on its head: What the hell are we NOT eating anymore? And why? The chapters are divided into food types (Wild, Cereal, Vegetable) followed with the featured foods and their locations. Saladino profiles the individuals around the world who are striving to bring the endangered foods back. He also discusses how the disappearance of these foods mean not only goodbye to tastes, smells, and methods of preparation, but also a red flag in regards to the health of the planet. I know I'm going to enjoy and learn while I'm reading this book.

Wednesday, March 01, 2023

February, 2023 Reading: Graphically Yours

Six books in February.  A very good reading month!

 Ducks - Kate Beaton. Graphic Memoir. Saddled with a load of college debt, 22-year-old Katie Beaton decided to leave her home province of Nova Scotia and go to work in the oil sands in Alberta. Although the pay is good, the environment is toxic -- often the only woman among numerous male coworkers, she's subjected to sexual harassment and worse. She gradually realizes that the toxicity extends to the damage her company is doing to the land. This book is brilliant. I've been a fan of Beaton's artwork since I read Hark! A Vagrant! when I was in Korea.

Spare - Prince Harry. Memoir. Audiobook. After having had his life story manipulated by the press since he was born, Prince Harry finally is having his say. Unfortunately, he's doing battle against a Hydra and probably always will. I found his memoir touching and horrifying and occasionally funny. I hope that one day he and his family can have some peace.

Last Rampage - James W. Clarke. True Crime. The story of killer Gary Tison's 1978 escape from an Arizona state prison with the help of his three sons. What the sons seemed to see as a family reunion takes a hellish turn as they come to see, too late, that they've actually unleashed a monster.  Disturbing. It's right up there with In Cold Blood.

Anne of Green Gables - L.M. Montgomery, Mariah Marsden. Graphic Novel. I actually liked this better than the novel. Instead of pages and pages AND pages of Montgomery's overly flowery prose, there are these beautiful drawings of Green Gables and Avonlea. The characters look like they jumped straight from the original source. I fell a little in love with Marsden's rendition of Matthew. Highly recommended. Many thanks to The Spawn for bringing this one home to me.

Hey, Kiddo - Jarrett J. Krosoczka. Graphic Memoir. Jarrett's parents bailed on him early in his life and he was brought up by his maternal grandparents. This graphic memoir is a beautiful tribute to them. His love and admiration is palpable; I grew to love and admire them myself. You don't want to sleep on this one. It's wonderful. Krosoczka is a new graphic artist to me and I'll be watching his work from now on with great interest.

The Year of Less - Cait Flanders. Memoir. Audiobook. Cait Flanders imposed a shopping ban for herself back in 2014, but the book isn't really about that. It's more of a memoir. It's also monotonous and repetitive as if she just stitched together a bunch of her blog posts. There are only two things I liked about this audiobook: Cait's Canadian accent, and her epiphany that much of her shopping was not for a real Cait, but an aspirational Cait. I'm guilty of this with books especially, so I could relate. I am planning to use the aspirational question  in the future as a rule-of-thumb.

What I'm currently reading: Oh my God. Too much. I'm still wending my way through Poison a few pages at a time. Ditto the Edward Hopper biography. I'm almost done with the final audiobook in the House of Wang trilogy, A House Divided by Pearl S. Buck. Now that March is here, I've got to get serious about Sooley, by John Grisham, which is the book club's (more about them below) next read, but wait! Somehow, I found myself on Twitter getting distracted by a 1938 novel called Young Man With A Horn by Dorothy Baker. A short work based on the life of virtuoso coronet player Bix Beiderbecke. I need a pajama day or two so I can get all of these done. Kind of hoping for a snowstorm.

Book Club Update: I went to the Tuesday afternoon group, and it was glorious. The conversation about the book never stopped; the participants crackled with intelligence. I'm never going back to Monday nights -- I'm home.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

January, 2023 Reading

 Nine books this month, which is a really good number for me. I can't take total credit; some of them were books that followed me into the new year.

Before I discuss those nine, here's what I'm in the middle of reading now:

Spare - Prince Harry. Memoir.  On audiobook. Of course.

Edward Hopper: An Intimate Biography - Gail Levin. Aren't all biographies intimate to some degree?

Poison - Susan Fromberg Schaeffer. Novel. It's a roman a clef with a weird Virginia Woolf vibe.

Here's what I want to read:

Ducks - Kate Beaton. Graphic Novel. It just arrived today via ILL. Squeeeee! I know it's going to zoom to the top of my reading pile, but when? Tomorrow? Tonight? As soon as I get off this computer?

Here are the nine for January:

1. Sons - Pearl S. Buck. Novel. The second in a trilogy following The Good Earth. Wang Lung's three sons are an interesting bunch, especially the youngest, Wang the Tiger, a soldier turned warlord. I'm eager to finish the trilogy.

2. The Man Who Invented Christmas - Les Standiford. Nonfiction. An examination of Charles Dickens and his most popular work, A Christmas Carol. I liked it, but it felt padded, as if it were really meant to be New Yorker article-sized rather than book-length.

3. Who Was Michelangelo? - Kirsten Anderson. Nonfiction.

4. Moloka'i - Alan Brennert. Novel. For several decades, Hawaiians exhibiting symptoms of leprosy were ordered by law to leave their families and go into an undetermined quarantine on the island of Moloka'i. This story follows the life of Rachel who is five years old when her symptoms first appear. I have mixed feelings about this book. I liked all the history of Hawaii, but felt the crashing weight of information dumps throughout. Brennert writes beautiful descriptions of the islands. The reader can really see their rugged beauty. The characters are mostly sympathetic and their rituals are presented respectfully and often movingly. My interest in learning more about Moloka'i was piqued. On the other hand, the prose style is a little clunky. The dialogue often seemed anachronistic and POV was all over the place, sometimes all at once. I wish that Brennert had just committed to doing this as straight nonfiction; I think the result would have been more satisfying.

5. Joan is Okay - Weike Wang. Novel. Joan is an attending physician who works in an ICU unit in New York City right about the time that COVID-19 is starting to make its frightening presence known. At times, the novel and the title character have a sort of flat affect, but then there's a good deal of sharp commentary. This is one of those novels I'm going to have to read again to fully absorb.

6. Opening the Road: Victor Hugo Green and His Green Book - Keila V. Dawson (author) and Alleanna Harris (illustrator) Nonfiction.

7. Demon Copperhead - Barbara Kingsolver. Novel. Basically, David Copperfield set in Appalachia during the opioid crisis. I never realized that Kingsolver and Dickens had so much in common. You don't have to have read David Copperfield to "get" Demon Copperhead, but it enhanced the experience for me. I suggest pairing those two books, or pairing Demon Copperhead with the nonfiction book Dopesick by Beth Macy.

8. Who Was Shaquille O'Neal? - Ellen Labreque. Nonfiction.

9. Starring Steven Spielberg: The Making of a Young Filmmaker - Gene Barretta (author) and Craig Orback (illustrator). Nonfiction.


A House Divided - Pearl S. Buck. Novel. The third book in the House of Wang trilogy. I got a quarter of the way in and had an audiobook malfunction. I'm hoping to get back to it after I finish listening to Spare.


I've been in my book group for a year now, and we just don't seem to meld, or click, or whatever you call it. Our group dynamic is chilly. We engage with the leader (who is the Outreach librarian) but there's no rapport among ourselves. It's painful and I'm frustrated.

I need to feel some sort of connection. As a last-ditch effort, I'm going to try the library's other book group, which meets a little earlier in the day. The leader said that this other group is 'harder to please' and 'complains a lot more', so I'm interpreting that to mean that they are lively and interesting, and that maybe discussions are a little more organic. Wish me luck???

Monday, January 30, 2023

It Was 30 Years Ago Today: My Reading Journal


[This post is dedicated to TEJ]

Thirty years ago, January, 1993, I decided to get serious about keeping a reading journal. 

Before that, there were a series of false starts. I played around a little with tracking my books by keeping lists not in a designated blank book but on the blank, back pages of random books. (What was I thinking? Writing in books?) Then I would forget which book! As a result, 1984 (the year) is almost lost to me. All I remember reading that year was The Good Earth,  In Love and Trouble, The Madness of a Seduced Woman, Heartburn, The Good Earth and Shiloh and Other Stories. I particularly remember the last one because an older gentleman in my book group had harsh words for the book and author. When I went to defend it I instead burst into tears as if I'd been personally attacked. Tears and snot flew. The boo-hoos rose like balloons.

 Fast-forward to 1990, when I kept a list on the back pages of Inside Oscar. Luckily, I stumbled onto the list several years ago and copied it to a notebook and into this blog.

1991 is easy; that was the year of Anne Tyler. Nothing but Anne Tyler novels. I pretended my boyfriend's family had been created by Anne Tyler. My dreams were Tylerscapes.

1992 is but a vapor. Poof.

1993 turned out to be the charm. Good times and bad, sick or well, sad or happy, employed or jobless, here or abroad, I have written down my reading. 

And now it's been Thirty Freaking Years. I used to envy people who had reading lists going back that far. Now I'm one of those people! Incredible.

If you track your reading, how far back can you go?

Wednesday, January 04, 2023

Book Bingo Blackout: School's In!

 Unruly Reader strikes again! Isn't this school theme worthy of at least seven complimentary words that border on worshipful?  I'm totally enthralled.

Unruly has a description of each category/school subject:

I can see myself acing this challenge and going to the head of the class then graduating with honors. My plan is to come back and add updates here every month, so watch this space.

January. Subject: Afterschool Special. Book: Demon Copperhead.

February. Subject: Chronicles. Book: Spare.

Sunday, January 01, 2023

2023 Reading Resolutions


Keep it simple. 

That's what I tell myself, but when I see a brand-new, unvarnished, pristine new year, something in me wants to get downright ornate with my resolutions. Read all the classics! Read your own shelves! Let your inner book snob take over! Don't read anything written before 1790! Don't read anything originally written in English!

I can never keep a whole list of resolutions, so maybe if I tell myself to read whimsically, I'll suddenly have a perverse need for structure.

Here are a few resolutions I'm pretty sure I can keep:

1. Read 62 books in 2023

2. Use the library.

3. Show the hometown bookstore lots of love.

4. Stay in the book group.

5. Continue posting to my beloved book blog, My Blob.

6. Oh, whimsically.

Regarding the above photo: This was the first draft of my 2023 resolutions. I thought I'd save it here, just to see...

Friday, December 30, 2022

2022 Reading: The Breakdown

Total # of Books Read in 2022: 71

 Fiction: 29

Nonfiction: 42

Audiobooks: 16

Graphic Novels: 1

Male Authors: 25

Female Authors: 46

19th Century Books: 1

20th Century Books: 8

21st Century Books: 62

Who Was...? Books: 17

Authors From Other Countries:

 10 (Canada, Spain, England, Germany, Australia, and South Africa)

Longest Book:

  Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath by Heather Clark 1,118 pages

Shortest Book: 

Who Was Chloe Kim? by Stefanie Loh  49 pages

You Go Back, Jack, Do It Again (Rereads): 

 The Thorn Birds, The Book Thief, Daisy Jones and The Six, The Good Earth, and My Year of Rest and Relaxation

Library Books: 52

Bybeeary Books: 14

Borrowed: 5


Midnight on the Orient Express, Resistance Women, and  Demon Copperhead

DNF & Good Riddance: 

Kings Row by Henry Bellamann. Rusty prose. Labored psychological stylings. I fled.

Give Me Back My Time: 

Comedy Comedy Comedy Drama by Bob Odenkirk and Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple


Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Utterly Delicious: 

Taste by Stanley Tucci, Home Baked by Alia Volz and Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

Pop Culture Thrills Galore:

  Everybody Thought We Were Crazy by Mark Rozzo

Jaw Hit The Floor Repeatedly:

  I'm Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy 

Better Late Than Never: 

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt  But really, I ask you: who but who sleeps on a book for almost THREE g0##@%& decades???

Yes, I Cried Buckets:

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner, Half Empty by David Rakoff and Red Comet by Heather Clark

Yes, I Was Pissed Off Enough To Jump Into The Book:

French Braid by Anne Tyler, Never Let Her Go by Ann Rule, True Biz by Sara Novic, and Red Comet by Heather Clark

Road Trip Yes Please:

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt (Savannah, Georgia)

Reading Hangover: 

Red Comet by Heather Clark and Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

Claustrophobic Flare-up: 

The Witches: Salem 1692 by Stacy Schiff 

Upraised Middle Finger: 

Who Was Ponce de Leon?  All those conquistadors, yuck.

Seriously Good Seriously Serious Fiction: 

The Leavers by Lisa Ko ,The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, and True Biz by Sara Novic

I Was Meta Cool When Meta Wasn't Cool: 

A View From The Harbour by Elizabeth Taylor

Favorite True Crime Reads:

The Murder Book by Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell and The Wicked Boy by Kate Summerscale


Constance Kopp from The Kopp Sisters series, Meridy Volz from Home Baked, and Marie de France (?)  from The Matrix

Favorite Pet:

 Desmond the cat from French Braid

Strangest Narrator:

 Death from The Book Thief

Bridge Books (started in 2022 but won't finish until 2023):

Poison by Susan Fromberg Schaeffer, Sons by Pearl S. Buck, The Man Who Invented Christmas by Les Standiford, and Edward Hopper: An Intimate Biography by Gail Levin

I'm starting to see splinters, so I think I've broken down 2022's reading about as far as it will go. Now, it's time to make some book resolutions for 2023.