When is a Comic a Graphic Novel?

Gather ’round class. Today’s topic is COMICS!

I'm not sure if I was the focal point of everyone's attention or the kingfisher who flew behind me every once in awhile.

I’m not sure if I was the focal point of everyone’s attention or the kingfisher who flew behind me every once in a while.

Sunday I gave a brief talk to my friend’s Salon Group about the difference between Comics and Graphic Novels. The talk was only about twenty minutes so this was not an in-depth investigation into the history of comics but more like a quick overview followed by Show & Tell.  I figured getting a little more mileage for my effort was in order so here, dear followers, is the basic difference between the two, with a bit of comic book history thrown in.

One thing I did discover in my research is that there is a lot of disagreement and a lot of different definitions but these are the ones I settled on. Comic books are basically periodicals. They are produced monthly or maybe bi-weekly. The action is the most important element because it progresses the story to the next issue, making you want to go back to the comic book store as soon as the next issue is released. Now comics as we know them, didn’t get their start till the 1030’s. Before that “comics” were the funnies you read in the newspaper, mostly on Sunday.  That’s what I’m showing above in picture #2, a book containing full-page spreads of Little Nemo in Slumberland from the New York Herald, circa 1901 -11.

Little Nemo in Slumberland 8-5-1906

Little Nemo in Slumberland by Winsor McCay 8-5-1906

These were amazingly detailed and colorful. Nemo’s adventures were fantastic but he always managed to wake up in the end. The only thing resembling a comic book as we know it came about in 1938 when a bunch of comic strips from the newspapers were put together in a book called “Fabulous Funnies”.

But then in 1939 DC Comics released Action Comics featuring this really strong dude by the name of Superman and he was a big hit.

erThis was followed by Batman in 1940 and then Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Archie and others in the early 40’s. The Golden Age of comics had begun and everything from war stories to detective thrillers to westerns started to appear in comic book form.

So we march on to the 60’s, early 70’s,
The Silver Age: Lots of superheroes like the Flash, Fantastic Four ( Stan Lee), Spiderman (Steve Ditko). I personally liked The Jaguar (’61), The Fly and of course, Flygirl! (’62) The Fly always got top billing even though she was just as strong and way cuter.

I wanted to be Flygirl!

I wanted to be Flygirl!

Stan Lee started getting into it around this time too. You know him today as the guy who shows up for ten seconds in all of the Marvel movies mainly because he is responsible for a lot of those characters like the X-men, Thor, Iron Man, Captain America and more.

Fantastic Four 1961: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby

Fantastic Four 1961: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby

Bronze Age: (70’s, 80’s) Small presses and Underground Comics, featuring anti-heroes like Elektra and much darker plots.

Elektra Assassin; 1986, Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz

Elektra Assassin; 1986, Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz

And from then (80’s) on to today, The Modern Age!

Now here is where things get hazy. Publishers started putting a series of comics into one edition. These editions had really nice paper, not that flimsy newsprint. Slick covers and even volume numbers. Basically they were creating trade paperbacks but they called them Graphic Novels and of course charged a lot more. I think the publishers thought they were legitimizing comics but many writers just saw it for what it was, a way to make more money and frankly the writers weren’t ashamed of comic books. My favorite quote is from Neil Gaiman, one of my favorite authors of comics, books, short stories, essays.

When told by a reviewer that he didn’t write comic books but rather graphic novels Gaiman said, he.. “meant it as a compliment, I suppose. But all of a sudden I felt like someone who’d been informed that she wasn’t actually a hooker; that in fact she was a lady of the evening.”

So, what indeed are Graphic novels? Well they are essentially books. They have a beginning, a middle and an end. The story is told primarily if not entirely in pictures. Granted, some modern “graphic novels” or “trade paperbacks” read that way as well because writers started getting savvy and wrote their comic book plots with editions in mind. But they still originally came out one issue at a time. One writer referred to them as “comic strip books.”

Examples of real graphic novels? Will Eisner is credited with using the term graphic novel for the first time on the cover of his book, A Contract with God and Art Spielgelman’s Maus pretty much defined it further and gave the term legitimacy.contrctmausOr how about the really true graphic novels by Lynd Ward? The stories are told entirely in woodcut prints, no words, no captions.

Cover and two pages from Wild Pilgrimage; 1932

Cover and two pages from Wild Pilgrimage; 1932

So class, your quick and dirty look into the world of comics is over. If you were here I’d let you look and even handle some of my favorites but alas, that is impossible. All I can say is, “get ye to a comic book store!” There are some really great storytellers and illustrators out there and you’re missing them all if you think they are “just comic books.”

Old and new, here are some I enjoy. Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter, The Dark Knight Returns ( Frank Miller), Akira, Sandman (Neil Gaiman), Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Get Jiro, Batman: The last Angel and Batman: Arkham Asylum.

Old and new, here are some I enjoy. Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter, The Dark Knight Returns (Frank Miller), Akira, Sandman (Neil Gaiman), Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Get Jiro, Batman: The Last Angel and Batman: Arkham Asylum.

Getting Ready for Dog Days

August is almost upon us and the forecast for next week is hot, humid, hot and more humid. Last year we bought an ice cream maker, not the old-fashioned crank type but a spiffy electric Cuisinart machine. We made some ice cream when we first got it but then we put it away and you know, out of sight, out of mind. A friend of ours also has one and served us ice cream one evening. Well, that reminded me of our machine. Now the danger of having rich wonderful ice cream around is fat and calories and how good they taste and how I don’t want to stop eating. That’s when I started searching out frozen yogurt recipes. Here’s one I’ve adapted from a site called, Once Upon a Chef. This original recipe called for strawberries which I tried first. And Curt has used guava, which was just okay. But the other day I tried raspberries. I also had two really ripe plums which I added to the mix.

This recipe is super easy. The only tricky part is you have to remember to put the freezer bowl and the paddle in the freezer about 24 hours before you plan on making the ice cream. Or just leave the bowl in the freezer all the time, then you can be a little more spontaneous.

Fruit of your Choice Frozen Yogurt (4 servings)

1 pound strawberries or raspberries or blueberries or peaches or anything or mix and match
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 1/2 cups whole milk Greek Yogurt
(For the strawberry I used whole milk regular yogurt and it came out fine. For the raspberry one I used part regular/part Greek.)

Combine the fruit, sugar, and lemon juice in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for about an hour until it is nice and syrupy.berryTake the raspberry mixture and puree until smooth. Since I am not fond of raspberry seeds I then strained this puree through a sieve. For fruit without seeds you can skip this step.

Push the mixture through a sieve using circular motions

Push the mixture through a sieve using circular motions

Combine the fruit puree and the yogurt in a blender and blend until smooth. Put this mixture in a covered container and chill in the refrigerator until very cold.yogurtOnce everything is cold, put the bowl on the maker, add the paddle and the cover and turn it on. Immediately pour the yogurt/fruit mixture into the bowl. Then just let it work. It takes less than 20 minutes. You’ll be able to tell when it is getting thicker. I stick a spoon in and try it along the way. For this one I also threw some blueberries in at this point.

Turn it on, pour in the mixture.

Turn it on, pour in the mixture.

Getting thicker, almost ready to take out.

Getting thicker, almost ready to take out.

Once it has reached the desired consistency, take it out and put it in a container and pop it in the freezer for a couple more hours. When you are ready to beat the heat, take out and eat. Yum! Boy, those raspberries have a rich color.bowlSo if you have been thinking about an ice cream maker, I say, go for it!!

BFFs

Last week I spent three fabulous days with two dear, dear friends from high school  (graduation: June 1967). We have been getting together on and off over the years either going out to Colorado to where Lynn lives or up here in Wisconsin with me or to Arlington Heights in Illinois, Audrey’s stomping ground. Last year we got together in Santa Fe, New Mexico and vowed that we would not let years go by before getting together.

Reason 1) We ain’t getting any younger.

Reason 2) We heard about the untimely death of one of our former friends.

Granted we had lost touch with Sue but it still was a shock to hear of her death in a car accident. In high school we used to be a “group” of five but Marie left us very early from a severe health issue. Then we were all working on marriage and kids and everything else that comes with life so we hadn’t even started to think about our mortality or getting together to celebrate old times, since those times weren’t that far in the past.

But hold on, this wasn’t supposed to get so maudlin. This year was our 2nd consecutive gathering and I was not going to miss it no matter what. That meant hobbling around on my arthritis riddled knees (coming up this fall: knee replacement ). So with drugs and a knee sleeve, I made it. Of course my besties sure made it easy. We held back on the walking (the tram around the Chicago Botanical Garden was great) and Audrey even had a small stool for getting into the back seat of the van. However the bag of frozen carrots I iced my knee with in the evenings might never be the same. The rest of the time we talked and ate, and laughed and drank, and talked and ate some more. Another year, solving all the problems in the world. We’ve all had our trials and tribulations, our health issues and setbacks, our joys and celebrations. It was good to share them. So I am ending here with some pictures that I know Audrey is going to kill me for posting. I subscribed her to my blog last week but I think I heard her say something about not wanting to see herself on it. Close your eyes Aud!!

Then: circa 1967. Looks like Aud and Lynn went to the same hair salon. Hmm, so that's what they did on those weekend outings without me.

Then: circa 1967. Looks like Aud and Lynn went to the same hair salon. Hmm, so that’s what they did on those weekend outings without me.

Now: circa 2016. Looks about the same to me except Aud and I have exchanged smiles.

Now: circa 2016. Looks about the same to me except Aud and I have exchanged smiles. (from left – Jeanne, Audrey, Lynn)

Another Turn of the Page: Hot and Now

“I always read. You know how sharks have to keep swimming or they die?
I’m like that. If I stop reading, I die.”
Patrick Rothfuss

tumblr_o6mue2D9qT1qzb5wzo1_1280After missing two months in a row (April and May), I am now making up for that by posting July’s books on the same day as the meeting. Yep, hot off this morning’s discussion. And I almost didn’t make it due to a doctor’s appointment that went long. Because of that I missed Rikki’s presentation on Jan Karon. In a short recap, Rikki told me she wanted to talk about the author of the wholesome Mitford and Father Tim books because Karon’s life was anything but stable or ordinary or wholesome. Briefly she dropped out of school at 14, got married (you could do that legally in South Carolina), had a baby at 15, two years later her husband was paralyzed from a gun accident and she was ultimately divorced and a single parent by 18. And it goes on from there. Sorry I missed it.

Since the table was packed with people (14) I have a lot of books to cover so I am going to get on that now. For your July reading pleasure:
july1. Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good by Jan Karon (2014) 511 pages. After five hectic years of retirement from Lord’s Chapel, Father Tim Kavanagh returns with his wife, Cynthia, from a so-called pleasure trip to the land of his Irish ancestors.

2. All Over Creation by Ruth Ozeki (2003) 432 pages. A warm and witty saga about agribusiness, environmental activism, and community. The author also wants you to learn about the evils of GMOs.

3. The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (2016) 340 pages. Two brothers, born fifteen months apart in Calcutta, India, are inseparable until the 1960’s when their interests begin to diverge. Udayar becomes a follower of Mao’s revolutionary politics but Subhash goes to America to continue his studies. A book you must stick with to discover how the lives of the two affect family and friends.

4. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver (2003) 400 pages. This book is touted as an international bestseller. Well that may be true but our reviewer was less than enthusiastic about it. Kevin is a teenage mass murderer. And as one review stated,”It is a family saga that features a sordid tragedy, filled with abhorrent, compelling, wretched, titillating detail.” I suggest you read a lot of reviews before you consider it for your bookshelf.

5. Zero Day by David Baldacci (2011) 434 pages. #1 in the John Puller series. John Puller is a crackerjack military investigator, who heads out of the DC area to the south, to check out the death of a senior officer in unsavory conditions. It’s a goodie and you’ll be glad there are more in the series.

6. Steel Kiss by Jeffery Deaver (2016) 496 pages. Lincoln Rhyme #12. The “Steel Kiss” of the title is the name of a manifesto from a domestic terrorist, a man who is brutally murdering those he calls “Shoppers” by using the intelligent data chips in their own consumer appliances against them and sending rants to the newspapers about materialism and greed.

7. Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce (2014) 352 pages. This novel is a parallel story to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. Why would Harold walk 600 miles to see Queenie before she dies? In this story we discover what is happening with Queenie while Harold walks, the reason he walks, the present life of Queenie and their interlacing history. PS: The Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is really good so read it first.

8. Avenger by Frederick Forsyth (2003) 352 pages. An older thriller by one of the masters. Forsyth is the author of The Day of the Jackel. In this adventure we get to know the Avenger, a Vietnam vet who uses his unique set of skills to hunt down and bring to justice those who prey upon the innocent. Pure escapism.

9. General Patton: A Soldier’s Life by Stanley Hirshson (2002) 826 pages. Our reviewer found this book to be a very well written and very satisfying look at the American military icon, General George S. Patton, Jr. He said it revealed information about some of the myths and some of the unusual truths about Patton.

10. A Different Kind of Normal by Cathy Lamb (2012) 416 pages. A novel about a boy named Tate. He is seventeen, academically brilliant, funny, and loving. He’s also a talented basketball player. However Tate has been born with Hydrocephalus, the medical term for a very large head and facial features that don’t really line up.  Dealing with the mean-spirited people in the world is only part of his problems.

11. Where the Bodies are Buried: Whitey Bulger and the World that Made Him by T.J.English ( 2015) 448 pages. The story of James “Whitey” Bulger, the notorious Boston crime boss.

12. Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg (2015) 293 pages. On the eve of her daughter’s wedding, June Reid’s life is completely devastated when a shocking disaster takes the lives of her daughter, her daughter’s fiancé, her ex-husband, and her boyfriend, Luke—her entire family, all gone in a moment. June is the only survivor.

13. The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction by Neil Gaiman (2016) 522 pages. A great collection of nonfiction essays on a variety of topics—from art and artists to dreams, myths, and memories—told in Gaiman’s amusing, and distinctive style. A good book to own so you can pick up whenever you have time to read one or two entries.

14. Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld (2016) 492 pages. This book is the fourth in the Austen Project. This Project pairs six bestselling contemporary authors with Jane Austen’s six complete works: Sense & Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Pride & Prejudice, Emma, Persuasion and Mansfield Park. Taking these stories as their base, each author writes their own unique version. Eligible is Pride and Prejudice.

 

Ever Eat a Daylily, Bud?

Once again my husband tries something new from the garden. This time it is from the flower garden. We have some beautiful daylilies blooming right now. The perfect ingredient for a tasty appetizer?lily3

But for the ingredient in this recipe you have to look past the lily.lily2

You’re getting close but you have to go a little further past the flower.

budsAh there they are, right next to the flowers. The buds.budThe new buds are what you want to pick to make

Pickled Daylily Buds

2 1/2 cups water
4 Tbls salt
35 daylily buds ( the tastiest are those just about to open)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 clove garlic, halved

1. Place 2 cups of water and the salt in a bowl, stirring until the salt dissolves. Add the daylily buds and let stand overnight, covered.

2. In a small saucepan, heat the vinegar and garlic.

3. Put the drained daylily buds in a clean pint jar. Add the hot cider to almost the top, cover, and allow to cool on the counter. When cool, place in the refrigerator and leave for 2 weeks to pickle. We ate them in 24 hours and they were fine.

They taste like pickled beans and are a nice accompaniment to a sandwich or as an appetizer with a piece of cheese and a glass of wine. Fun Summer food!jar

Saying Goodbye

butch5A dear member of our family passed away during the night. His name was Butchie, and he was a cat. He hadn’t been well for about two weeks and when we first noticed that his eye didn’t look good and he was sort of listless we took him off to the vet. To make a long story short, after various tests and shots and pills, he just wasn’t getting better and finally, about four days ago, he stopped eating and became very weak and could hardly walk. That is why I found it strange that he had made it up the stairs to the second floor of our house and went to sleep for the last time outside our bedroom door. That is where Curt found him this morning. You know, even when you are expecting something like this it still takes you by surprise and the tears can’t be stopped.

We got him as a kitten from the Humane Society 17 years ago and promptly lost him the first day. We searched the house, the first floor, the second floor, the basement. No kitty. At the time he didn’t have a permanent name so mostly we called kitty, or Snowball ( ha ha, black cat named Snowball) or Kuro Neko ( black cat in Japanese). We went outside, all over the yard, down the road…calling, looking. Finally we went back into the house, he had to be here. I think it was my son, Nathan, who finally located him behind a bunch of boxes and the parts of a dismantled loom in my studio. Waaay far back, underneath, in the dark, a little black smudge. Later he officially became Butchie.IMG_0087

He soon got used to this crazy family who had taken him in and became, as we liked to say, a “good dog”. Butchie would come when you called (Butcha, Butcha,Butcha), he would cuddle on your lap, he was a food freak, he would be constantly underfoot from following you around. Never aloof. He liked to sit on the washer in the laundry room (right off the kitchen where he could see any food falling to the floor) or “help” out on my work table or on the computer keys while I was typing.butHe was a keen observer of nature.

butch&chipbutch7He had a cuddle buddy in Zelda, who we got just a bit later.

Butchie and the Zel

Butchie and the Zel

He was a member of the family and as much as he drove us crazy at times, he was much-loved.

Butchie and Nathan

Butchie and Nathan

He will be missed. Hope there are lots of jingle balls, catnip and tuna treats in cat heaven sweetie.

Goodbye old pal.

Goodbye old pal.

I’m Reading as Fast and as Slow as I Can

Reading creates a roller-coaster of emotions. If you are strictly a non-fiction reader or a reader of periodicals you probably never have experienced the apprehension that occurs when nearing the end of a really good book of fiction. In a good book you become personally invested in the story, there are characters you really care about, they feel like friends that you have been with through thick and thin. As their story comes to the end you start reading faster…what’s going to happen? Will they survive? Will they realize their dream? And then you remember that the faster you read, the faster this story, that you have loved for 400 pages will be over, done, finished. The End!

So you start to slow down. I’ve even put a book down and done a chore, like the dishes, and then come back and read one more chapter, then went and folded the laundry, and then back for another chapter. Here’s your treat Jeanne, good girl! Of course this only works so long and you slowly come to the end or you just give up and read it all. And there you are. The tale is done, your characters have finished their journey. But you can’t call them in a few days to go to lunch and you can’t “friend” them on Facebook. There will be no headlines in the paper about their harrowing adventure, no obituary in the Times.3121473

This just happened to me twice in one week. I usually have 2 – 3 stories going at once. This past week I happened to be reading Windigo Island, the fourteenth book in the Cork O’Connor series by William Kent Krueger and I was listening to the third book in Stephen King’s Bill Hodges trilogy, End of Watch.

In the former, Cork O’Connor is a sheriff in a small town in Northern Minnesota. He is part Irish/part Ojibwe so his friends, his cases, his family cross over to the reservation area. We meet his kids, his wife, her family. Over the course of 14 books, his family grows, his job changes, he finally becomes a private investigator and, as in any mystery series, he deals with more murders and unusual cases that any real small town sheriff or PI ever would. There is also a wonderful spiritual aspect to these books because of Cork’s Ojibwe blood. Many times he seeks advice from Henry, a Mide, a spiritual leader in the tribe. There are visions and sweat lodge experiences and ritual. Wondeful stuff. But now I’ve read the last book! Wait, no! These people have been living with me since early 2015 when I read the first book, Iron Lake. Of course back then, when I was nearing the end of one book I quickly looked up the next one and reserved it through the library so it was ready when I finished the current one. That’s the upside of discovering a series that is mostly written. This time there was no next book until recently when I discovered he was writing #15 Manitou Canyon, due out in September. Ah, big sigh of relief.

First and currently last in the Cork O'Connor series

First and currently last in the Cork O’Connor series

The other book I finished was End of Watch. Since I came to this trilogy as King was writing it, it took three years before I came to the end and the wait between books is always agonizing. In 2014 King released Mr. Mercedes, a straight up mystery/crime/thriller. It was so good. Frankly, I think Stephen King has been writing some of his best work in the last five years. Anyway, on to 2015 and Finders,Keepers came out. Crime novel, private eye stuff again but with a twist, a Stephen King twist, some woo-woo stuff that I love but damn!!!! I had to wait another year for End of Watch. So here I am in the third year, get the book right after it comes out and I am reading like crazy only…..WAIT. ONE. MINUTE. This has been a three-year love affair with a story and characters and I am about to gulp it down. I slowed a little but all good things must end. This one even brought out a few tears, not because the trilogy was over but because of the story, yes I get very involved with my characters. (no spoilers for you folks, read it!).

Bill Hodges Trilogy

Bill Hodges Trilogy

So I mourn a little a story ends but then the search is quickly on for another book. Right now I am doing a stand alone, LaRose by Louise Erdrich and I know already I am going to get close to the characters but at least I won’t have to wait for a sequel to finish the story.  Hey anyone want to recommend a good series?

 

Another Turn of the Page: Jump to June

“Come with me,’ Mom says.
To the library.
Books and summertime go together.”
Lisa Schroeder, I Heart You, You Haunt Me

books_shelf_cartoon

Well in my rush to pack and get ready for a mini-vacation ( all that birding I wrote about) I missed April’s booklist. Then I was on that vacation in May, no books from that month, so let’s Jump to June! Of course there were others on vacation this month but we still had a lively group of ten. Bea presented the author, W. Bruce Cameron, who writes humor. For most of the presentation she read straight from his autobio on his site because it was just funny good and she felt paraphrasing it would just not work. It is from 2013, just before his book, The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man, came out. Great title. Another funny thing this month is two of us brought the same book as two others of us. So the first on in the clockwise round table got to speak about their book while the other two, me included, had to scramble for an alternative. Fortunately we all read like fiends so it wasn’t such a hardship. So let’s jump to the June books.

June1. Fall of Giants by Ken Follett (2010) 985 pages. #1 of The Century Trilogy. This is a huge novel that follows five families through the world-shaking dramas of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for votes for women. However the 985 pages move along quickly.

2. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri (1999) 198 pages. Lahiri’s collection of short stories deals mainly with the experience of Indian immigrants in America. They often deal with a more specific experience: a young married couple moves to America shortly after being married so the husband can work at a university, so the two have to navigate the new worlds of their marriage and the United States.

3. LaRose by Louise Erdrich (2016) 372 pages. Note: This is not a spoiler. Right in the beginning we know that there is an accident that causes the death of a child. In Native American culture this requires an act of atonement, so Landreaux Iron, the perpetrator convinces his wife Emmaline to give their young son Larose to Peter and Nola, the parents of the dead child. This act sets off a chain of events that will take years to overcome.

4. Guilty by David Baldacci (2015) 672 pages. This is the 4th book in David Baldacci’s Will Robie Series. It continues with the life of the government assassin as he finds himself at a crossroad in his life.

5. Last Painting of Sara Vos by Dominic Smith (2016) 304 pages. Three stories intertwine in an amazing way. In 1631 Sara de Vos is the first woman painter to be admitted to the Guild of St Luke’s in Holland. She paints a landscape usually forbidden to women. In 1958, an Australian grad student in New York, Ellie Shipley, trying to make ends meet, agrees to paint a forgery of De Vos’ landscape. In 2000, the forgery and the original are about to meet at a prestigious art exhibit with interesting consequences.

6. Stone Necklace by Carla Damron (2016) 288 pages. Clawing chest pains and a fiery car crash take one life and change the destiny of four others. The Stone Necklace braids together the stories of a grieving widow, a struggling nurse, a young mother, and a troubled homeless man.

7. Curve of the World by Marcus Stevens (2002) 320 pages. This fast-paced novel blends the past and present story of a victim of a plane hijacking who becomes lost in the Congo. The story moves back and forth from the man’s struggle to survive and his wife’s search for him.

8. Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts by Joshua Hammer (2016) 280 pages. An inspiring and fascinating account of one man’s quest to find thousands of ancient Islamic manuscripts, hidden away among the desert communities of Mali, and then to remove them to safety as Islamic militants take over large parts of the country.

9. Trickster’s Point by William Kent Krueger ( 2012) 329 pages. In this, #12 in the series, Cork O’Connor sits at the base of a tree next to a huge pillar of stone called Trickster’s Point. Next to him is Jubal, an acquaintance and friend from his youth, the man is slowly dying from an arrow lodged in his chest. The arrow belongs to Cork, and from this point on he is the prime suspect in Jubal’s murder.

I ate an oyster and I liked it

No seriously, I did. It wasn’t bad. This experience won’t make me run out and order raw oysters the next chance I get but it was interesting and not unpleasant.oyst

How did I get in an oyster eating situation? Me, who hardly will touch cooked fish, eating something raw. Well it was our anniversary, the 43rd. Not a significant number according to the Wedding Gift list. After 25 it skips every 5 years so I have to wait till 45 for my sapphires. Uh-huh. But we like to go out and do something fun or different on our anniversary no matter what year it is. This year we decided to go back to Restaurant Three-Three-Five where we took a close friend of ours for a retirement celebration in January. As I mentioned in that post they are only open to the pubic one day a week and take reservations one week in advance. And their menu is different every week. So I called and was told that this coming week they were having an 8-course prix-fixe Crudo menu. Each course included a drink pairing and in this case it would be craft beers. Curt, of course, knew immediately what Crudo meant but I needed to ask details. Crudo is Italian for raw and basically the meal would be composed of raw fish and raw meat (tartare). I expressed my reluctance to raw fish to the person on the phone who said they could accommodate me so… I made the reservation.

I really don’t know why I said yes. Maybe I am at an age where having a new adventure doesn’t happen that often so what the hell! Anyway, the week went by quickly and all of a sudden I found myself at a restaurant where I was going to be presented with raw fish. What the hell is right, as in what the hell was I thinking? Do I really want new adventures?

We were greeted at the door, offered a glass of champagne and seated outside (it was a pleasantly warm June evening) to wait to be seated. There were two (2 hour) services that night and we were in the 5:30 one. Once they were ready for us we joined 8 other adventurous souls at a long counter that faced the kitchen. We were going to be able to watch as everything was plated and prepared. Food Theater!

Lft: Counter of ten, Beer expert presiding. Rt: Plating area

Lft: Counter of ten, Beer expert presiding. Rt: Plating area

Before each course we were poured a small glass of beer and the beer expert or cicerone explained the source, the ingredients and/or the brew process.

Craft Beers; sweet, sour or earthy

Craft Beers; sweet, sour or earthy

So far, so good…then the first course arrived and naturally it was raw oysters. However, the chef had obviously taken good notes when I made the reservation because my course was fried oysters with pea shoots. How nice. But there was Curt, looking at me with those questioning eyes and then saying, “Would you like to try a raw one?” Long pause…….I said yes. The raw ones came with toppings or accents or mignonette of rhubarb or lemon. I tried the rhubarb. Yes, I put it to my lips and in it went. I chewed once or twice and then slipped it down my throat. And….it was tasty. No gagging, no funny faces.

Fried vs Raw oysters

Fried vs Raw oysters

The next four courses were Razor Clams (w/ green strawberries, osstra caviar, dill weed), Hamachi fish (w/ daikon “noodles”, chive blossoms, toasted pine nuts, cold-pressed pineapple juice, pineapple week), Tuna (w/nasturtiums, crispy capers, pickled capers, celery sprouts) and Trout (w/crispy chicken skin, pickled fennel). Curt’s were raw, mine were poached or lightly seared. All amazing flavors and the beers paired with them were great matches. (To see the dishes larger just click on the images)

Lft to Rt: Razor Clams, Hamachi, Tuna, Trout

Lft to Rt: Razor Clams, Hamachi, Tuna, Trout – top row cooked, bottom row raw.

But for the last three courses (fluke, scallops and lamb) the Chef came over and asked me if I wanted them cooked because he suggested they would be much better raw and he thinks I would like them. How can I disagree with the Chef? Okay…in for a dime, in for a dollar.

The Fluke was delicate. It had garnishes of sliced radish, pickled rhubarb, micro greens and buttermilk sauce.flukeCJThe Scallops were sliced impossibly thin and were tangy with Fresno chile, kiwi pulp and micro greens. We each got a tiny finger lime which we squeezed onto the scallops. Our fingers smelled wonderful.

Finger lime and scallops

Finger lime and scallops

And just before dessert we had Lamb Loin Tartare. This had pickled mushrooms and Mt.Rainier cherries and I would have loved a second helping. lambJC So now you know what you get for your 43rd wedding anniversary – seafood. As we finished I realized I had  just eaten more seafood, and raw seafood. that I had ever eaten in my entire life and I liked it. We ended with a dessert of lovely strawberry slices topped with balsamic vinegar and black pepper. Can’t wait to find out what we will do for anniversary 44.

 

Sometimes…3: It’s more than a cookbook

As I’ve noted before, we volunteer at our local library sorting books for the semi-annual Friends of the Library book sale. These are books that have been withdrawn from the library collection for various reasons or donated books that citizens have given to our Friends group for our book sale. As we sort the books into one of 46 different categories we occasionally come across something of note; something amusing, maybe shocking or possibly just puzzling.

This is the third in a series of occasional posts about those finds.

recipe.coverSometimes things are more than what they seem.

On its face, this is a composition book popularly used in schools around the country during the first half of the twentieth century.  We found this one interesting because it’s not a school child’s work book but a housewife’s recipe book that also served as a scrapbook and address book.

recipe.INcover

Inside front cover

It first caught my eye because one of the addresses inside bears a surname that we know from my wife’s side of the the family (but no apparent connection to her actual family).  It also held things that spoke to the times.  Meat and potatoes must have ruled the dinner table but sweets ruled the recipe book.  Of 87 hand-written recipes, 67 are for some sort of sweet thing.  Times must have been tough – one recipe is for milk-less, egg-less, butter-less cake.

milklesscake

Milk-less, egg-less and butter-less. Mmmmm-good.

Other recipes of note are one for a poultice made of onions and rye flour to be used for a chest cold, and one for Bug killer which starts with carbolic acid (crude) (black).

BugKiller

Cold remedy, bug killer and birthday notes.

Occasionally there are recipes or newspaper clippings pinned onto the pages with straight pins.

GrayHair

Other items include a remedy for high blood pressure, garden advice and a note of Minie’s birthday.

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