Monday, March 28, 2011

Blood, Bones and Butter

        Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef

As mentioned in the blog post dated March 23, 2011, this book, BLOOD, BONES, & BUTTER: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef, has gotten rave reviews from other chef/writers.

In it, Gabrielle Hamilton chronicled her idyllic childhood, growing up with a French mother and an artistic father. She remembered how her parents hosted fabulous parties, abounding with food and atmosphere. The idyll ended when her parents abruptly divorced when she was 13. This event seemed to color the rest of her life, including her bleak marriage to an Italian doctor, as well as her determination to work hard and cook well.

She included many wonderful descriptions of food, from the lamb banquet her family served when she was a child to Italian dishes and meals she ate as part of her Italian husband's family.

As well as luscious descriptions of food and the events of her life, she shared some of her thinking. I loved her thoughts on hospitality...

She arrived tired and hungry when she traveled to Greece, and called someone she'd never met whose number she'd been given to see if she could crash at his place for a while. He was utterly delighted to hear from her even though she was a complete stranger. After she arrived, he provided an amazing Greek meal for her, never asking any of the usual things we think that a host would ask, would she prefer red or white wine? Does she like shellfish? No, he simply cooked a marvelous meal and presented it to her. In having the meal and in not having to make any choices about it, she felt absolutely cared for and welcomed, fed and warmed, as much by his taking care of everything as in the food and drink itself. Which is more hospitable, she asked, to make sure everyone has items he or she prefers? Or did he do the more hospitable thing in taking care of everything himself, providing out of his bounty and generosity? She knew what her answer was. "I forever want to arrive somewhere hungry and thirsty and tired and be taken care of as Iannis took care of us."

Hamilton came to her success by diving in with hard work, often not looking up to see if she was doing it right. She was just doing it. And with a little bit of attitude.

In chapter 16, she described how she was on a panel for a conference given for upcoming female cooks/chefs. She found herself so frustrated by the apparent need to separate female chefs from chefs. She encountered the phrase about one of the presenters..."One of the best female chefs in New York City..." and she mused aloud, "What if we take out the word "female"? And then the description becomes "One of the best chefs in New York City." The rest of the panel to whom she was speaking became silent at her observation. This chapter was stunning in its look at being female and being a chef and being significant in one's field.

While I'm not raving about this book quite as much as Mario and Anthony did (perhaps because I am not a chef by any stretch), I can appreciate and respect her drive and her writing and her story.

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Saturday, March 26, 2011


"It's so soft," she heard the girl saying.

Twyla* turned to see what the girl was looking at.

"The little girl was touching the underwear on the cover of that book," Twyla told me.

"Underwear on the book? What book is that?" I asked.

"BEAR IN UNDERWEAR," she said. "There's a book about a bear who finds some underwear in the forest. On the cover the bear is wearing underwear and they made it out of fabric. She was touching it and saying it was soft."

"Wait a minute, a bear finds underwear?"

"Yeah, here, I'll show you." Twyla retrieved the book.

         Bear In Underwear

I read the book. A wide-eyed bear and his friends are playing in the forest. The bear gets separated from the group and finds a backpack. He picks it up and puts the backpack on his back, without seeing what's in it. He meets up with his friends who ask him what's in the backpack. The bear doesn't know, he said he's afraid to open it. His friends encourage him to open it. What's inside? Underwear. Lots and lots of underwear in various colors and sizes. He tries all of them on until he finds a pair that is just right for him - the tighty-whiteys he's pictured in on the cover.

Okay, a couple of things that are just kind of...odd. The bear finds a backpack in the abandoned, fully packed backpack (can anyone say "Homeland Security"?). He doesn't want to open it (this may be the only sensible thing in the book). His friends coax him into opening the backpack. It's full of underwear (ick). They call them "tighty-whiteys" (ick again).

I get that little kids (to whom this book is geared) are sometimes focused on underwear. AND...this is just a little creepy. Not the book I would choose for my kids.

Neither would Twyla.

*Not her real name.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Reading, Reading...

I just finished Daniel Palmer's DELIRIOUS and what fun it was.


Charlie, a driven executive in a technological firm, discovers a plot to murder several people, a plot that he supposedly orchestrated. He has no memory of doing so, and is terrified of ending up like his schizophrenic brother. Did he commit the murders? Is he losing his mind? It's a well-written, action-packed ride, incorporating psychology and technology.

I had in my mind that I was going to read UNFAMILIAR FISHES by Sarah Vowell next, and had actually grabbed a copy to take home with me. I love her writing, SHE does all the research, WE get to read and enjoy her learning and wit.

      Unfamiliar Fishes

But then another new book caught my eye. BLOOD, BONES & BUTTER: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton beckoned. Hmmm. There were RAVE comments on the back cover by Anthony Bourdain...Mario Batali...

Anthony Bourdain says...
"Magnificent. Simply the best memoir by a chef ever. Ever."

Mario Batali says...
"I will read this book to my children and then burn all the books I have written for pretending to be anything even close to this. After that I will apply for a dishwasher job at Prune to learn from my new queen."

      Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef

So that is what I brought home...I am eager to get started...

I will come back to Sarah Vowell!

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Wild and Wanton

The Wild and Wanton versions of Pride and Prejudice and Wuthering Heights just arrived at the bookstore...

Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy Finally DO IT!, proclaims the back cover..."From first kiss to orgasmic finish..."

and from the back cover of Wuthering Heights...

"Catherine and Heathcliff may have been doomed sweethearts from the start, but that's no reason to keep them from consummating their desperate desire for one another."

          Pride and Prejudice The Wild and Wanton Edition     Wuthering Heights The Wild and Wanton Edition

New scenes, paragraphs and lines have been added and are in bold text throughout each volume...

"He rode with the ease of a man who had spent his life around horses, and she found her eyes drifting down to where his strong thighs gripped the beast."

The above sentence is one of the very tame additions to Pride and Prejudice...the new "wild and wanton" passages get pretty steamy. There is not much left to the imagination in these versions!

Like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, these are pretty funny.

     Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance - Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!

It's fun to see what comes into the store!

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Chocolate Wars

I just finished CHOCOLATE WARS by Deborah Cadbury (and yes, she's one of the Cadbury Chocolate Cadburys).

       Chocolate Wars: The 150-Year Rivalry Between the World's Greatest Chocolate Makers

Cadbury talks about the development of the business end of chocolate companies, and she talks about the challenges of producing the chocolate itself.

In the beginning, companies only made cocoa. It took years of trial and error and ingenuity before they discovered how to make a palatable chocolate bar. It was fascinating to read about each company's struggle to find the best ways to produce chocolate.

It was interesting to see familiar names in chocolate and from whence they came...Rodolphe Lindt, Henri Nestle, Milton Hershey, Jean Tobler, Forrest Mars and of course George and Richard Cadbury.

While this was an interesting look at the business of chocolate making and selling, even more interesting to me was how the companies founded by Quaker families whole-heartedly believed in the ability to change the world for the better through their business.

Many of the early chocolate families were Quakers and incorporated their beliefs into their business practices. These families - the Cadburys and Frys and Rountrees in England, and Milton Hershey in the U.S. - worked tirelessly to fight poverty in their communities and developed model factories, incorporating things like natural light and space and paying a living wage. This at the same time they worked to create the most delicious chocolate confections.

Chocolate and making the world a better excellent combination.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Scent of the Missing, revisited

They've set a challenge for us at work. Each bookseller is to choose one book to handsell, and our goal is to sell 100 copies of the book we've chosen.

At first I had resistance to this challenge. I didn't like the idea of picking just ONE book. All sorts of different people come into the bookstore with all sorts of different interests and needs; no one book fits everyone.

And that is the challenge. What book could I whole-heartedly recommend, AND would be easy to bring up in conversation with customers?

Perhaps if people were asking about a subject or buying other books about the subject, then I could start a conversation...

Dogs! We rescued a dog in October (a Springer Spaniel named Shelby), so we've had dogs on the brain. And on our bookshelves.

From deciding to choose a book about dogs, it was easy to know which one I wanted to choose. I chose SCENT OF THE MISSING by Susannah Charleson. (see the blog post from last May...

          Scent of the Missing: Love and Partnership with a Search-and-Rescue Dog

Not only is it a fascinating insider's look at canine Search and Rescue, it is also a warm and wonderful book about her love for and the training of her dog. The subtitle of the book is "Love & Partnership with a Search-and-Rescue Dog", which describes it perfectly.

I'm thinking that this is a good choice for the challenge at work. People buy lots of books about dogs...heartwarming stories about dogs, training books, books that tell us more about our pets. And dogs are good conversation starters with customers.

I'm hoping to introduce many people to SCENT OF THE MISSING.

Game on!

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Customers 20

A man, late 20's or early 30's, dark hair and beard, wearing jeans and a jacket came up to the counter with some magazines. Redbook, Marie Claire, Good Housekeeping, Martha Stewart Living, and Skunk.

"I need to do this in two transactions. I'll pay for these on a credit card," he said, pointing to a pile. "This one," and he pointed to Skunk, I'll pay cash for."

  Redbook (1-year auto-renewal)  Good Housekeeping (1-year auto-renewal)  Martha Stewart Living (1-year auto-renewal)  Skunk Magazine (The seed the weed and the wardrobe, Volume 5 Issue 8 2010)

My guess? He doesn't want his wife to know he's buying Skunk.


A couple came up to the Information desk. She: late 20's, dark red, almost maroon hair, angled hair cut, nice make-up, jeans and boots. He: Short reddish blond hair, jeans and a t-shirt.

"I'd like to know if you have a book. I'LL MATURE WHEN I'M DEAD

     I'll Mature When I'm Dead: Dave Barry's Amazing Tales of Adulthood

I looked it up. "It's actually coming out in paperback in a few weeks, so we don't have the hardcover in the store. Most people want to wait for the paperback. I can pre-order a copy of the paperback, or I can order a hardcover for you if you'd like."

"Hmm," she said. "Darn it. I was hoping to get it tonight."

The man she was with picked up a book from the table behind them. "Hey, look at this," he said to her. He showed her a book.

     Farts: A Spotter's Guide

She looked at it and laughed. "Are those buttons?"

"Yep," I said. "Go ahead and push them. People do it all the time. One of our managers does it almost every time he walks by this table."

He pushes one of the buttons. A fart noise is produced. We all laugh.

"The book I asked about? I'LL MATURE WHEN I'M DEAD? I want it for him. She pointed to her companion. Could you tell?"

"That doesn't surprise me," I said, laughing. "Do you want to order a copy?"

"Yeah, let's do that," she said.


A woman came up to the counter. Short blond hair, black turtleneck, she put a book on the counter.

"I'd like this, please," she said in a quiet voice.

      Boundaries: When to Say YES, When to Say NO, To Take Control of Your Life

"Sure," I said. "Do you have one of our club cards? It saves at least 10% every time you shop."

"Um, I don't think I have one of those," she said, quietly.

"Would you like one?", I asked.

"Um, well, hmm..." She looked down.

"Extra coupons come in email..."

"Um, I, uh..."

Done with my spiel, and knowing she didn't want a card but wasn't able to come right out and say so, I whispered and pointed at the subtitle on her book (When to Say YES, When to Say NO, To Take Control of Your Life), "It's okay, you don't have to get one.' And in my regular voice, "That'll be $14.95, please."

One of the most appropriate purchases, ever.


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Monday, March 7, 2011

Can't Read Fast Enough

It's that way, isn't it? For a while it's hard to find a book to settle into, and now I can't read fast enough to keep up with all the books I want to read.

I just started and am devouring ANNABEL by Kathleen Winter. Recently published in the U.S., it's been winning awards in Canada for its luminous writing. Comparisons will be made to MIDDLESEX by Jeffrey Eugenides, as they both deal with hermaphroditism. MIDDLESEX I read and greatly enjoyed. I am liking ANNABEL even better.

        Annabel: A Novel

Next up is ORANGES ARE NOT THE ONLY FRUIT by Jeanette Winterson, a British writer. Semi-autobiographical, she writes about growing up in an evangelical Christian home and discovering her lesbianism.

        Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

After that might be DELIRIOUS by Daniel Palmer. A thriller, I was interested after reading the first page and discovering that the action starts out in Marin County, California, where I grew up. (Which I know isn't enough by itself to make a good story, but it's a good start for me!)

        Delirious: Exclusive Bonus!

And just yesterday I just saw BLOOD WORK: A Tale of Medicine and Murder in the Scientific Revolution by Holly Tucker, chronicling the conflict between religion and medicine in the 17th century with blood transfusions and looking at the same conflict today with stem cell research and cloning.

        Blood Work: A Tale of Medicine and Murder in the Scientific Revolution

Happy reading to one and all!

You can send email to: 2of3RsATgmailDOTcom. Thanks for reading!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Customers 19

A young girl, maybe early 20's, black hair, dark grey eyeliner, black jeans, a black sweatshirt, a heart tattoo by her left eye and more tattoos visible on her neck, asked if we can ship something from the store.

"To a facility?", I asked, pretty sure she was asking about sending something to a correctional facility. She nodded. I explained that she can select items from the store to be sent to a prison or jail, but we have to treat it like a ship-to-home order where the items come from a warehouse, not from the store.

"What about magazines?", she asked.

"Some facilities don't accept magazines."

"Oh, this one does. I've done it before," she said in her quiet voice.

"Okay," I said. "I thought we couldn't send magazines from the store, but let me check just to make sure." I called the manager and she said that jails accept magazines but prisons don't. I told her and asked her if it was a prison or a jail.

"It's a prison," she said, "But they do accept magazines. They just can't be sent from ME."

"Let me check again," I said. I called the manager back. She said that as far as she knew, prisons wouldn't accept magazines. I asked if we could do it if the customer would assume the risk, that if the magazines never arrived, she wouldn't be able to get her money back. The manager agreed that we could do it.

"Okay, the manager said that we can send them, but it has to be through UPS, and some facilities don't accept UPS packages, or rather, some do not get to the intended recipient. Sometimes we send something, and the customer will come in and tell us that it never arrived and we don't know why. Maybe someone is having a bad day and refuses the shipment. You need to know that if that happens, you're just out the money. We can send it, but if it doesn't arrive, you're just out the money."

"Okay, I understand. I appreciate all your help."

"You might want to only do one or two, just in case it doesn't get there, then you're not out too much money," I said.

"That's a good idea. Thank you SO much for all your help."

She was so sweet. I wanted to ask her two questions...
1) What's he in for? and
2) Are you all right?


A woman, maybe mid-50's, short brown hair, wearing a brown suede jacket and a scarf comes up to the register. She puts a book on the counter with a receipt in it. It's a book by Laura Schlessinger.

      Ten Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives

"I need to return this," she said.

"Okay, is there anything wrong with it?", I ask.

"No. Nothing wrong with the book. I bought it for my niece, but nothing can help her." She sighed.

"Well, at least you're thinking about her and trying to help," I said. "Sorry this didn't work out."


A woman, 60-ish, graying brown hair, black corduroy pants, black and white jacket, came up to the register to purchase a book...

      How Not to Look Old: Fast and Effortless Ways to Look 10 Years Younger, 10 Pounds Lighter, 10 Times Better

"I'm going to get this and do what it says. I'll look 10 years younger by this afternoon!"

I laughed. "Sounds great! Maybe I'll have to get that book!"


A young couple came up to the register. He: 20's, crewcutshort reddish blond hair, some minor facial hair. About 5'8". She: 20's, long blond hair, about 5'9", wearing a beige wool coat. They are buying two books and a bookmark. He adds another bookmark that (evidently) had her initial on it.

"Don't let him buy that," she tells me, laughing. "Oh wait," she says to him, "it has a dog paw on it!"

"Because you love your dog so much," he said.

"I DO love my dog," she said. "This is perfect." She turns to me. "Okay, he can buy this."

"What kind of dog do you have?" I asked.

"He's half border collie and half we-have-no-idea-what-he-is," she said. She gets her phone and pulls up a picture of her dog to show me.

"Is he still a puppy?" I asked.

"No, he's a long way from being a puppy, but he's still a puppy to me."

"He is adorable. What's his name?" I ask.

"His name is Dewars." She paused. "Yep," she said. "I named my dog after alcohol."

"I think that's a pretty great name," I said.

"Thank you!" She was laughing as they left the store.


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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Right to Write

We got a dog in October. She was found with a dozen or so other neglected English Springer Spaniels in a back yard in Idaho. Rescued by the English Springer Rescue Association, they cared for her until we adopted her.

Just like the birth of a baby in a family, her arrival has changed our lives.

Since we got her, I've had less time for writing. Or rather, it's been harder for me to make time to write since we got Shelby. And then, right on the heels of getting Shelby, I was working the holidays at the bookstore, which were absolutely crazy and hectic. With the holidays and the dog, I was TIRED. And not writing much.

With not writing came frustration, the same frustration I felt when my children were born and I wasn't writing. I missed that creative outlet, felt as though I was unconnected to who I was, yet felt too tired and utterly drained to do anything about it.

Since the new year, it's slowed down at the store and we're settling into more of a routine with the pupper (who is, to the vet's best guess, about 18 months old and still acts quite a bit like a puppy). I have been carving out time to write, acknowledging to myself and my world the importance of my writing life.

The other day at the store I came across Julia Cameron's THE RIGHT TO WRITE. Shelved in the Self Improvement section, rather than in the writing section where the other writerly helping books are (such as WRITING DOWN THE BONES by Natalie Goldberg, BIRD BY BIRD by Annie Lamott and Stephen King's ON WRITING), I think this is likely why I hadn't seen this particular book before.

THE RIGHT TO WRITE, has small focused chapters with a writing exercise at the end of each.

The chapters include exercises (or "initiations" as she calls them) to help with all sorts of aspects of writing...such as exorcising the influence of people who have thwarted one's creativity (our "creative monsters"), helping get the words on the page, addressing loneliness, how mood relates to writing, dealing with our own writing drama and so on. Each initiation is an opportunity to cut through some unhelpful thinking patterns and consider more positive, invigorating ways of thinking and looking at my own writing.

Her hopes are that...

"This book will be a cheerleader for those trying the writing life, a companion for those living it, and a thank-you to my own writing for the life it has given to me. It is my hope that this book will help to heal writers who are broken, initiate writers who are afraid, and entice writers who are standing at river's edge, wanting to put a toe in."

This has been the right book at the right time for me. Not that it's giving me permission to write as the title suggests, I'm finding rather that this book is gentle encouragement and a delight to read and work through as I reclaim my self through writing.

       The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life

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