Every Friday Jennifer Fulwiler hosts the meme "7 Quick Takes" on her blog, ConversionDiary.com. Even though today is Tuesday, I've got a few little things to share with you before the New Year's Feast (more on that in Take Number 6 and 7), and I figured now was a good a time as any to put my first Quick Takes post here. I post them pretty regularly over at my other site, Musings of a Catholic Mom.
I hope you all had a blessed Christmas, filled with love and laugher, and especially good food and good books! We spent the holiday in Atlanta with my brother-in-law and his family, and ate like kings. My mother-in-law brought her famous pasta sauce, and on Christmas Eve we ate rigatoni with sausage, meatballs, and Grandma B's "gravy." Breakfast Christmas morning was a hashbrown casserole with sour cream and cheese, and a ham-and-egg dish that was out of this world. (When my sister-in-law cooks, you can bet you'll have an amazing meal.) My brother-in-law brought out a big ole slab of salmon that he had caught in Alaska and smoked at home, and OH, MY, it was the best smoked salmon anyone had ever tasted. Dinner (after the fish soup--more like a bisque, and much better than the oyster stew I usually make for Christmas) was prime rib--which I have never attempted to cook, but since my sister-in-law made it seem so easy, I'm definitely going to try it sometime. No more Costco spiral ham for Christmas at our house. Dessert was Grandma B's homemade cannoli.
I didn't take any pictures of the food (Why??) but here's what her table looked like just before Christmas dinner:
It's a long drive from our home in Virginia to Atlanta and back, and since Joe did most of the driving, I was able to re-read Nights in Rodanthe and most of The Guardian during our trip. I took lots of notes--well, not LOTS, just writing down some food ideas, and I can't wait to cook the delicious meals in those books. (I'm especially enjoying re-reading The Guardian, since it is probably among my top three favorite Nicholas Sparks books.)
By the way, do you remember my lasagna dilemma? Turns out I didn't need to worry, because Grandma B's special pasta sauce recipe is NOT a secret, and I'm free to share it with whomever I want. She only has two secret recipes, both of which are complex desserts that I have never attempted to make. (I thought her cannoli was secret too, but I was wrong on that one as well.) I'm looking forward to sharing the sauce recipe with you when I make it--I'm pretty sure someone cooks lasagna in Dear John, at least they do in the movie. That's quite a number of books away yet; I don't know if I can wait that long!
Yesterday I ran across this post on BlogHer.com, which said if you want to have a really good food blog, you should be a great storyteller, a great photographer, you should post at least once a week, AND all the recipes you post should be your own. That's quite a challenge to undertake, I must say. I hope I'm an okay storyteller (not nearly as good as you, Nick!), and I'm learning to take halfway decent photos, but it would be quite a challenge to post here every week--and even more of a challenge, I think, to use all original recipes. Some of the things I'm making here I've never tried before--that's why, for instance, I asked Paula Deen to help me with my fried chicken. (Speaking of which, I made it again a couple of weeks ago, and guess what? I went easy on the salt this time and it was the BEST fried chicken EVER. Goodbye Popeye's and KFC!) I will try to post recipes that I already use when I can, like our favorite beef stew--although most of them I got from cookbooks, the Internet, or other people. (When I make the roast chicken for Nights in Rodanthe, I had planned to try a new way of cooking it since I've roasted chicken the same way for years, and even though it's delicious, everyone is getting tired of it. I'll think about that one.)
And besides, if I post here every week, pretty soon I'll run out of books.
Which brings me to my next project--New Year's Eve A La A Walk to Remember.
Want to know the unique thing about this book? Not that it's about teenagers (the only other book about two teenagers falling in love as far as I know is The Last Song); it's this: Nobody cooks anything. But there's enough food in A Walk to Remember to give me something to work with, and I'm excited about the meal I'm putting together.
So what's the story? Landon Carter is seventeen years old, and he lives in Beaufort, North Carolina in the 1950s. He's always been sort of a troublemaker, especially in the eyes of the town preacher, Reverend Sullivan. The Reverend has a daughter, Jamie, whom he has raised since her mother died in childbirth. Jamie doesn't have any friends, really, and is looked upon by her peers, including Landon, as somewhat odd--certainly not the type of girl that boys want to go out with. When Landon ends up with a starring role in the school play alongside Jamie, he begins to get to know her better and--you guessed it--the two fall in love. There's a lot more to this story, of course; in fact, in his memoir, Three Weeks With My Brother, Nick says he cried when he wrote it because--oh dang, I don't think I want to tell you why because I might give away too much. The movie is good, too, but very different from the book. (You want to know a secret? I never actually read this book--but I did listen to the audiobook at least four times. As far as I know it's the only one that Nick recorded himself. I wish he would read more of them--I think hearing JoBeth Williams read Nights in Rodanthe might bring back memories of her yelling, "CAROL ANNE!! STAY AWAY FROM THE LIGHT!!" Nick's voice, on the other hand is nice and soft and soothing. Okay, enough of that.)
So here's what we're making: Landon and Jamie go out to dinner on New Year's Eve, and eat sea bass and salad. I've found a couple of recipes for sea bass that look pretty easy--I've never made it before--in fact I might try and make an appetizer out of it. My mother is helping me with the salad--she's got a couple of great ones, and I hope I can decide which one we'll make. And Landon and his friends like to hang out at this place called Cecil's Diner and eat hush puppies; my kids are excited that we'll be eating them too. (On a side note--for this blog, I'm trying not to cook things people eat in restaraunts, because every other post would be shrimp, hush puppies, and sweet tea. Although, I might have to revise that rule a little bit if I'm going to follow the advice given in Take #5 and post once a week--in fact, in A Bend in the Road, when Miles goes to his favorite diner he always orders barbecue, and I'm tempted to make that since it's a favorite in our house. We'll see.)
When Landon stops by Jamie's house early on in the book when the weather is warm, she offers him a glass of lemonade. I have a great recipe from Fine Cooking magazine for stawberry pink lemonade, and we'll make that for the kids. For the adults? Lemon drop martinis. I'm looking forward to experimenting with a couple of recipes for those between now and Friday night. And if I have time, I might make a few Christmas cookies like the ones the kids have at the orphanage where Jamie volunteers, the day Landon and Jamie drop in on their Christmas party.
So there you have it. Have a Happy New Year, and be sure to stop by here in a week or so and see how everything turned out!
Merry Christmas! (You know it's still Christmas until January 6, right?) See you soon!