Saturday, March 6, 2010

by Suzan Colon

After being laid off as a magazine editor, with a six figure salary, in 2008, Suzan Colon had to cut down her budget. Shopping at Whole Foods and specialty stores were no longer in the picture.
While rummaging in the basement, one day, she found her grandmother's recipe file. Here was Suzan's sustenance.
Nana, as Grandmother Matilda was called, either handwrote or typed specific directions for the recipes. She would add comments along the edges. At times, newspaper clippings would be torn out and attached.
Suzan's grandparents lived through the Great Depression, barely. They survived by Matilda's ingenuity. This resilience was passed down through the family and cooking became the way to get through hard times.
I loved this little gem of a book. It's warm and comforting with beautiful writing. Every section has the original recipe in very tiny print. If you are so enamored, you can prepare the dish, yourself. Nothing is difficult. Very simple. Don't worry. No need to strain your eyes. On the next page is the recipe in a normal font.
Cherries in Winter is just delightful.

Monday, March 1, 2010

by Christopher Corbett

The gold rush of 1849 attracted people from far and wide to the American West. Only men came. Some became quite rich, while others died trying.
The Chinese arrived in the thousands. They were poor, illiterate and spoke no English. Their intention was to stay for a couple of years, make some money and then return to China to live off their proceeds. Consequently, they were called "sojourners." The name that was used most often, as the Chinese stayed longer, was "celestials" due to their exoticism.
At first, the Chinese were welcomed and praised for their industriousness. They were savvy and frugal and would work long hours. Chinatowns started sprouting up, first in San Franciso and then, later, in small cities, elsewhere.
When competition started to arise for work among the sexes, the Chinese were no longer wanted. (They had jobs as laundrymen, restaurant workers and servants, which were all positions originally done by women, not men.)

The Poker Bride is one hell of a story. Interspersed within the history of the gold rush, is a tale of a young Chinese concubine, named Polly, who is smuggled to San Francisco (riding on a pack horse) and eventually won in a poker game. Her new owner, Charlie Bemis, a gambler, after several years, marries her and they settle on an isolated ranch in Idaho.
Christopher Corbett is a terrific writer with quite an eye for details. Mark Twain and Bret Harte make appearances along with a whole slew of characters.
Not really interested in the Wild West, this book, hands down, changed all of that.
Highly recommended.