Monday, December 17, 2012

Festive Foods

Craft, cook and bake your way through the holiday season with recipes, food gifts and decorating ideas. Here’s a short list to get you started.

The Christmas Table: Recipes and Crafts to Create Your Own Holiday Tradition by Diane Morgan TX739.2 .C45 M675 2008

Friends and family tested all the recipes presented here along with ones for creative dishes for leftovers. Morgan includes directions for holiday decorations, that are family projects and sample menus with timetables so the cook enjoys the party as well.

Christmas with Southern Living TT900 .C4 C487 2012

If you follow the magazine, Southern Living, this annual volume pulls together various holiday decorating ideas for the home, using seasonal greens, fruit and flowers. Many recipes for new dishes from appetizers to desserts compliment the color photos of food and home d├ęcor.

Sweet Christmas by Sharon Bowers. TX772 .B68 2012
There’s something for everyone in this volume: homemade gifts to give, projects for parents and children and recipes for cookies and jam. Try the peppermint fudge, chocolate-almond toffee, hot maple donuts or sugared pecans.

Very Merry Cookies TX772 .B5313 2011

This volume of 16 dozen recipes from the Better Homes & Gardens kitchen includes easy to follow directions and many colored photos of the finished bars and cookies. If you’re baking cookies as gifts, the book suggests clever ways to package them. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Book Review- Sweet Tooth

Sweet Tooth

Ian McEwan (2012)

PR6063.C4 S94 2012 

Knowing that Sweet Tooth is a Jane Austen romance, post-modern, Russian doll, K├╝nstlerroman nestled within a spy story doesn’t make it any less enjoyable or compelling. Ian McEwan has written a superb personal novel from the point of view of a complex female narrator which at times is a thriller, a glimpse into the writer's craft, and a psychological study within the framework of universal themes: love, betrayal, and redemption.

The first paragraph of the book introduces the structure of Sweet Tooth, “My name is Serena Frome (rhymes with plume) and almost 40 years ago I was sent on a secret mission for the British security service. I didn't return safely. Within eighteen months of joining I was sacked, having disgraced myself and ruined my lover, though he certainly had a hand in his own undoing." The unfolding of the story is how these events came to pass some forty years ago places the beginning of the narrative in the United Kingdom of the 1970’s. Serena is a beautiful and brilliant Cambridge student who is recruited to join the British M15 and whose mission is to counter Soviet supported writers by infiltrating and supporting British literary circles of up-and-coming writers in a psych-ops mission to, hopefully, promote anti-communist writings. Along the way we are treated to all manner and sorts of musings, contemplations, thoughts and discussions - all of which are integral to the story. Lingering on the novel’s side-streets (against the pull of the narrative) is one of the many pleasures of Sweet Tooth, such as the discussion of Philip Larkin’s “The Whitsun Weddings” or Joyce’s “The Dead.” One of many intrigues of Sweet Tooth as a nominal spy novel set in the UK of the 1970’s is that the presence of United States is more deeply felt than the peripheral Soviet Union which has the added benefit for American readers of seeing (and learning about) ourselves in the 1970’s as others saw us even as UK readers revisit their history as their country continues to pull itself out of the aftermath of the Second World War.

Sweet Tooth is also a novel about writing, the role of the author and the relationship of the author to the characters. References made to writers including: Kingsley Amis, Angus Wilson, Edward Thomas, W. H. Auden, Arthur Miller, Bertrand Russell, Margaret Drabble, Iris Murdoch, Robert Lowell, T. S. Eliot and Martin Amis, a friend of McEwan’s. Sweet Tooth is dedicated to Christopher Hitchens and the discussion of “The Whitsun Weddings” was an actual conversation between McEwan and Hitchens.  But, underlying the book is Serena’s knowledge of probability and chance which, like in the writings of John Fowles (acknowledged by McEwan), such as The French Lieutenant’s Woman and The Magus, provides the jumping off point of the novel and very much informs Sweet Tooth in those eighteen recounted months of the events of the 1970’s.