Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Last Jew

I finished the third of a bunch of books I've read by Noah Gordon now have ordered the only two others that our library has. If my love of this author continues I may have to (*gasp*) buy the rest!

My reading odyssey all began with "The Physician," which Nate gave me right before I left for Minnesota. I was turning the house upside-down for a paperback for the plane and he produced it. It was required reading for a class of his at Erskine. "The Physician" is about a little guy who loses his parents and is given to a traveling barber surgeon. Now, this is 11th century London, so he's a traveling "doctor," such as they were. The boy learns all about the business of helping people with minor ailments, as well as selling a potion they called "physick" and juggling and telling stories to bring in more income. After the barber dies, the boy decides he wants to be a real, learned medical doctor. But they are few and far between and the one he knows of and wants to apprentice with won't take him on because he's not a Jew. He travels to the school in Persia where the Jewish physician took his training and gains entrance to study under Persian physician Avicenna by pretending to be a Jew (there is a ban on Christian students).

It's a wonderful book that I hated to see end:

After finishing that one, I ordered "Shaman," which is about this same physician's descendant. It takes place on the Illinois frontier in the civil war era. I wrote about that one here, but didn't say much. It covers the advent of anesthesia and hygiene, as well as early American apothecaries and Indian medicine. "Shaman" is particularly interesting because this doctor is deaf as a result of contracting Scarlet Fever as a child.

The "Last Jew." Now this one was hard to get into at first. I actually started it and then put it down for 2 weeks. It's very dry at the beginning, but I picked it up again because I remembered that the other two were a tiny bit slow grabbing my attention. So I stuck it out a few more pages and then was hooked. It takes place during the Spanish Inquisition, and the "last Jew" left in Spain, who survived by keeping his Jewishness, (and his circumcised penis,) under wraps. Our hero, Yonah Helkiah, wanders around Spain after surviving the decimation of his family (he'd hidden in a cave). He takes on several odd-ranging jobs and names as he wanders, ultimately apprenticing to a metal master and then later, that master's brother, who is a physician.
Another book I hated to see end!


Friday, August 27, 2010

An Abridged History of American-Centric Warfare. Using Food.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Ghee. Clarified butter, essentially. But cooked a little longer to really get the oil purified and separated from the milk solids. I've been reading quite a bit lately about Ayurvedic medicine and cookery and ghee is much-touted for it's healthy properties. So I decided to make some myself. I used salted butter because that's all I had, but it does turn out very very salty. I compensate for that by being doubly careful not to oversalt food that I've cooked in ghee.

Yesterday I had a hankering for french fries at lunch time but we didn't have any in the freezer. So I peeled a potato, cooked it in a sandwich bag in the microwave, and then sliced it. I fried the slices in ghee. I got some wonderfully golden brown and delicious home-fried potatoes! Ghee, since it does not have the milk solids, has a much higher smoke point than butter. In fact, I've read that you can deep fry in it.

I'll be experimenting a lot more with my ghee. I think the next thing I'll make is chapati. I've made chapati quite a bit, but have not cooked them with ghee.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Shaman by Noah Gordon

Get this book.

I read "The Physician" while in Minneapolis and had to get the next book, "Shaman." The main characters are the descendants of the main character in other book. But not hideously over-worked. There's a connection, but just blood. The stories don't dovetail or anything. GREAT BOOK! It takes place during the Civil War.


End of Week One, Day Five

We all breathed a collective sigh of relief today at school when the bell rang at 3:30. We managed to complete our first week of school!

Yes, there were a few kids that were mis-directed. Placed in the wrong classes. A couple of disciplinary incidents already. Still no receptionist. A few classes filled to overflowing. Much paperwork done and data entry completed. More to do in the coming weeks. But 3:30 came and we all bid our students goodbye and considered the weekend.

I grocery-shopped with Taylor. We parked in a "Customer with Child" spot. Just to be rebellious. He drove the car in the store. We discussed food. He chose tacos for supper and so I made those...bean ones for me.

I also made my first batch of ghee. A pound of butter, simmered for a couple of hours. Skimmed the milk solids off the top and used a bit to fry my beans. SALTY!!! I guess that's where all the salt in salted butter goes! I'll have to make the next batch with unsalted butter. I'm looking forward to playing with the ghee. I think I'll make fry bread tomorrow with it.

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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Somewhat Wordless, Unlike Someone Else!

I haven't written much, and I blame it on Facebook. It's easy enough to write a 140 character observation about something. Harder to write a missive for a blog.

That said, I observed something today on our school fax machine that gave me pause. You know those stupid scamming emails about the dude from Nigeria that wants to send you a bucket of money because he has no other place to put it? He'll give you some percentage of it if you pay him to ship it to you? Something like that?

Today on our fax machine was a newer version of that scam. One I consider to be a new kind of low in the area of scamming. This one was a letter from "Robert Barnes," a US Marine serving in Afghanistan. It uses a whole bunch of jarhead jargon to tell you that things are really bad there but they found this stash of abandoned cash. Here's the kicker paragraph that sort of got me hot:

"I don't want you to judge me by what you just read. I am a Devil Dog with a lot pride and honour. No amount of money can make up for the pain and sacrifice we all got through here in the hell hole in service for our country. But I have to also secure my future and have something to bank on after my active service."



Monday, August 02, 2010

Another Perk

So when we were in Minnesota week before last (has it been that long already?), we were staying at my parent's house. Each morning my mom would begin the day the by saying, "We need to plan supper."

Usually this conversation happened right after I stumbled into the house from the camper and poured my first cup of coffee.

Why did she need to know this so early each day? BECAUSE CARNIVORES HAVE TO TAKE STUFF OUT OF THE FREEZER TO THAW! We vegetarians? Not so much. The only advance planning I do anymore is to soak beans overnight or start them in a crockpot during the day. My freezer is full of bread flour and frozen blueberries.

I'm just sayin'


Sunday, August 01, 2010

The Invisible Wall: A Love Story that Broke Barries

Mom encouraged me to read this book. I believe it was an Oprah book club selection at one time. I loved it. The book was the first written by this author, who is in his 90s. 

It takes place in a small English town right around the beginning of WWI. It's about a street where the Christians and Jews live across from each other and the barriers of religious beliefs that are evident. Autobiographical, the book is about the author's own family and their struggles to survive poverty. To complicate matters, Harry's sister falls in love with a Jewish boy across the street. It's sort of Romeo and Juliet and Angela's Ashes all rolled into one. Happier endings, though.

There are more books written by this author. I'll be looking for them.