Saturday, December 28, 2013

Review: Whole Foods Companion

This popular resource, first published in 1996, has been revised and expanded in a new edition that builds on its reputation as a definitive holistic foods reference. 

Divided into six sections -- Fruits, Vegetables, Grains, Legumes, Nuts and Seeds and Oils, Herbs and Spices and Other Foods -- the book profiles hundreds of food items with background on their history, varieties, culinary uses, health benefits, and tips on buying, cooking and storing,

Both a guide for health-conscious consumers and a directory of natural foods, this book is used by chefs, shoppers and growers alike.

A Guide For Adventurous Cooks, Curious Shoppers, and Lovers of Natural Foods 
by Dianne Onstad 
Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 2004.

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Friday, December 27, 2013

Review: Cooking Slow

It may seem counter-intuitive, but cooking slowly can actually be less time-consuming than actively frying or grilling or even baking. A roast or casserole can be prepped in a few minutes in the morning, allowed to slow-cook for hours, and then served up for dinner in seconds with little fuss.

Because there are many cookbooks with recipes for slow cooker appliances, this one emphasizes other methods of slow cooking like stovetop or oven baking, simmering, grilling and roasting as well as cooking with sous vide machines recently manufactured for home kitchens.

"The biggest difference between slow cooking in a slow cooker and any other piece of cooking equipment is water," author Andrew Schloss points out. "There is much less evaporation from a slow cooker than there is from a saucepan or a skillet simmering on a stove top.

Recipes for Slowing Down and Cooking More
by Andrew Schloss
Chronicle Books, 2013

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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Book Stall Review: Practical Botany for Gardeners

Explaining the science of gardening without being overly scientific, this botanical primer provides the kind of botanical schooling that every grower should possess.

Although the subtitle suggests a dictionary, the book is much more a textbook with articles  introducing the plant kingdom and its classification; explaining plant growth and reproduction; describing the inner workings of plant cells.

Others chapters cover soils, pests, pruning, and disorders. The text also includes brief biographies of prominent botanists.

Over 3,000 Botanical Terms Explained and Explored
by Geoff Hodge
Oregon State University Press, 2013

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Review: Cowgirl Creamery Cooks

"We eat a lot of cheese in the United States. Per capita, each of us eats about a pound of cheese per week, most of it grated over fast-food pizza or melted over grilled ground beef in the form of a cheeseburger. This cheese comes mostly from post-World War II factories that churn out as much as one million pounds of cheese per day with the goal of producing food as cheaply as possible."

Cowgirl Creamery is an artisan cheesemaker that emerged in Point Reyes, California in the 1990s at a time when American consumers were starting to seek out alternatives to mass produced foods. This book tells the story of their struggles, achievements, and the rise of farmstead cheeses in this country.

by Sue Conley and Peggy Smith
Chronicle Books, 2013

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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Reading the History: Japan 1941

This history recounts the eight months leading up to Japan's decision to attack Pearl Harbor and engage the United States in all-out war. It was a fateful decision for the Japanese, initiating a conflict that was preventable and unwinnable. The only way to understand it is to approach it from the viewpoint of the Japanese people, as historian Eri Hotta has done here.

The Japanese leadership, including the military and Emperor Hirohito, was very much divided over questions of military expansion and engaging the U.S. in warfare. Hirohito frequently expressed his desire that diplomacy supercede any planning for war, but as supreme commander of the armed forces he had to ensure the survival of Japan and in the end it was a combination of dysfunctional politics and jingoistic advisors that pushed the acquiescent emperor to approve a war plan that a more assertive leader could have vetoed.
Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy
by Eri Hotta
Knopf, 2013

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

New Guide to Whiskey

This smart guide to whiskey introduces a new generation of would-be connoisseurs to the hottest new-again spirit. And with upstart distillers reviving varieties like white dog (moonshine to prohibition-era folks), now is the best time to start learning about it.

Drink More Whiskey is the reference for those want to discover the provenance, styles, differences in quality, and ideal uses of whiskey in a fresh, fun-to-read format.

Everything You Need to Know About Your New Favorite Drink
by Daniel Yaffe
Chronicle Books, 2013
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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Book Stall Review: The Kentucky Barbecue Book

Here's a guide to barbecuing Kentucky-style, describing the history and culture of barbecue in the state and profiling more than 100 of the state's restaurants, shacks, joints, festivals and even church picnics that are known for barbecue.

An English professor at Western Kentucky University as well as a small scale farmer, Wes Berry gave himself a sweet assignment: travel throughout the state of Kentucky, eat at every barbecue, talk to all the pitmasters, and write a book about what you see, learn and taste.

by Wes Berry
The University Press of Kentucky, 2013

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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Reading the History: On Paper

A consideration of all things paper—its invention that revolutionized human civilization; its thousand-fold uses (and misuses), proliferation, and sweeping influence on society; its makers, shapers, collectors, and pulpers.

Nicholas Basbanes writes about paper, from its invention in China two
thousand years ago to its ideal means, recording the thoughts of Islamic scholars and mathematicians that made the Middle East a center of intellectual energy; from Europe, by way of Spain in the twelfth century and Italy in the thirteenth at the time of the Renaissance, to North America and the rest of the inhabited world.

The Everything of Its Two-Thousand-Year History
by Nicholas A. Basbanes
Knopf, 2013

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Five Seasons

"Indian summer, the fifth season, is energetically important because it provides the hub or center of balance for the other four... This 'middle country' of the mind, the fifth season, is the driving force behind all purposeful living.
from The Five Seasons: Tap Into Nature's Secrets for Health, Happiness, and Harmony by Joseph Cardillo

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Review: Storey's Guide to Raising Turkeys

First published in 1991, the third edition of this comprehensive reference includes new material on heritage breeds, on-farm processing, pastured feeding methods, and humane raising practices as well as updated organic certification standards.

"A renaissance is underway," says the author, "a renewed interest in keeping poultry in backyards, homesteads, and small diversified farms. Fueling this movement are concerns about food safety and a craving for better flavor and nutrition."

The contents of the book cover the health, breeds, protection and processing of turkeys as well as the equipment and feeds needed for raising the birds effectively. Illustrations, charts and a glossary of terms are included.

Breeds * Care * Marketing
by Don Schrider 
Storey Publishing, 2013

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Sunday, November 3, 2013

See the New Movie Books: William Wyler

In this book, Gabriel Miller explores the career of one of Hollywood's most unique and influential directors, examining the evolution of his cinematic style.

Wyler's films feature nuanced shots and multifaceted narratives that reflect his preoccupation with realism and story construction. The director's later works were deeply influenced by his time in the army air force during World War II, and the disconnect between the idealized version of the postwar experience and reality became a central theme of Wyler's masterpiece, The Best Years of Our Lives (1946).

William Wyler: The Life and Films of Hollywood's Most Celebrated Director
by Gabriel Miller
The University Press of Kentucky, 2013

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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Book Stall Review: Red Tractors 1958-2013

The story of International Harvester and its distinctively red tractors is very much the story of modern American agriculture, adapting to dramatic changes in markets and technology and surviving near-extinction before rising to new heights in the 21st century with a new generation of machines.

Led by Lee Klancher, publisher at Octane Press, a team of writers, researchers and photographers obsessed with IH tractors and their story compiled this detailed account of the tractor manufacturer and its products, from the Farmall 40 and 60 series tractors to the MXM Maxxums. With its lavish photography and original concept drawings of red tractors, the substantial volume is a loving testament "to the skill, dedication, and hard work invested by the people who created and built them," Klancher states.

The Authoritative Guide to Farmall, International Harvester and Case IH Farm Tractors in the Modern Era by Lee Klancher, et al
Octane Press, 2013

continued in The Book Stall

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Review: Homegrown Honey Bees

This primer on beekeeping, composed by a man-and-wife team that kept close record of their own experiences, describes the first year of a beginner's beekeeping from planning, set-up and harvesting with loads of advice on what to expect and how to prepare.

"My husband, Mars, is a photographer and an obsessive documentarian," author Aletha Morrison explains. "During the first couple of years that we kept bees, he photographed how to install a new package of bees, light a smoker, inspect a hive, manage pests, harvest honey, and almost everything in between. We understood what beginners needed to know because we were learning ourselves at the same time."

An Absolute Beginner's Guide to Beekeeping
by Alethea Morrison
Storey Publishing, 2013
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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Farm and Garden Picks: Cereals and Pulses

Cereal and pulse crops are staple foods that provide essential nutrients to many populations of the world. Traditionally, whole grains were consumed but most current foods are derived from refined fractions of cereal and pulse crops. Consumption of processed or refined products may reduce the health benefits of food.

Cereals and Pulses: Nutraceutical Properties and Health Benefits provides a summary of current research findings related to phytochemical composition and properties of cereal and pulse crops.

Nutraceutical Properties and Health Benefits 
edited by Liangli L. Yu, et al.
Wiley-Blackwell, 2012

Friday, October 11, 2013

New Guide to Healing Crystals

Bestselling author Judy Hall presents a comprehensive guide to more than 400 powerful healing crystals, plus information about 150 newly discovered stones in this new edition of The Encyclopedia of Crystals.

Beautifully illustrated and effortless to navigate, the 2nd Edition is organized by crystal color for easy reference, relates the colors of the crystals to the chakras, and lets you know how to cleanse and activate them.

by Judy Hall
Fair Winds Press, 2013

Monday, October 7, 2013

Review: Charcuterie

Due to the unexpected success of the original edition of this book in 2005 and a surprising surge of interest in cooking heavily salted animal fats coupled with with authors' own continuing education in the subject, a revised and updated version of the text has been published eight years later.

Derived from French words for flesh and cooked, charcuterie - in the sense of salting, smoking, and cooking to preserve meats - has been around since the dawn of mankind, the authors point out. "It has been carried on in many forms through virtually every culture, and it has been one of the foundations of human survival in that it allowed societies to maintain a food surplus and therefor helped turn early peoples from nomads into clusters of homebodies...

"Historians have suggested that our ancestors first discovered cooked food in the form of animals that had perished in forest fires, and then began to cook food on purpose. Regardless of how they discovered cooking, they surely realized that cooking made food not only taste good but last longer as well."
The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing
by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn
W. W. Norton & Company, 2013
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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Reading the History of... A President in Yellowstone

For three weeks in August of 1883 the first sitting president to visit Yellowstone National Park, Chester Arthur, made an ambitious 330-mile overland trip from Green River, Wyoming, north to Mammoth Hot Springs with a 75-man military escort led by General Philip Sheridan.

It was the longest and most unusual vacation ever taken by a sitting President. The traveling party included Secretary of War Robert Todd Lincoln, the only surviving son of Abraham Lincoln, who commemorated the trip with a leather-bound album of photographs taken on the journey by a young photographer, F. Jay Haynes, along with the dispatches describing the President’s activities which were sent to the Associated Press.

This volume reprints much of that album, of which only six copies were ever made, and publishes more of Haynes' 130-year-old photographs of Yellowstone National Park and the President's party.

The F. Jay Haynes Photographic Album of Chester
Arthur's 1883 Expedition
by Frank H. Goodyear III
Continued in Out of the Past

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Reading the History of... The Drunken Botanist

Sake began with a grain of rice. Scotch emerged from barley, tequila from agave, rum from sugarcane, bourbon from corn. Thirsty yet?

In The Drunken Botanist, Amy Stewart explores the dizzying array of herbs, flowers, trees, fruits, and fungi that humans have, through ingenuity, inspiration, and sheer desperation, contrived to transform into alcohol over the centuries.

The Plants That Create the World's Great Drinks
by Amy Stewart 
Algonquin Books, 2013

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Farm and Garden Picks: Lobsters

This expanded and fully updated second edition of the most comprehensive and successful book on lobsters, comprises contributions from many of the world’s experts, each providing core information for all those working in lobster biology, fisheries research and management and lobster aquaculture.

The second edition of Lobsters: Biology, Management, Fisheries and Aquaculture delivers exhaustive coverage of these fascinating creatures, stretching from growth and development to management and conservation.

Biology, Management, Aquaculture and Fisheries
by Bruce Phillips
Wiley-Blackwell, 2013

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Reading the History of... Snake Country Expedition

Largely the story of fur traders Donald Mackenzie and Alexander Ross, who led the earliest fur trapping expeditions into the Snake River Country of present-day Idaho and Montana on behalf of the North West Company in the 1820s, this history also analyzes the legal, institutional, and commerce-related forces driving the North American fur trade of the early 19th century.

Details about the expeditions was provided primarily by Ross, a conscientious chronicler, who recorded Mackenzie's trailblazing expeditions of 1821-23 as well as the difficult 1824 expedition that he led.

"His journals provide the first account there is of daily happenings in the Snake country," historian John Phillip Reid points out. "The most compelling reason Ross and other leaders of the earliest Snake expedition kept journals was to furnish guidance to future trapping parties and inform them of problems, dangers, and places to avoid."

Expeditions in the Snake River Country,
by John Phillip Reid
The Arthur H. Clark Company, 2011

Artwork: Trappers Carrying Furs on Snowshoes
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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Review: Appalachian Toys and Games from A to Z

The toys and games described in this watercolor-illustrated children's picture book are authentic 19th century pastimes enjoyed by youngsters growing up in America's Appalachia Mountains.

Ranging from apple dolls (a wrinkled toy molded from Rome apples) to whimmydiddles (a toy carved by young boys on a stick with a spinner), author Linda Hager Pack provides an alphabetical sampling of traditional games, toys, and songs depicting playtime in 19th century Appalachia. The book describes familiar toys like marbles, slingshots and pick-up-sticks along with lesser-known toys such as limberjacks, Tom Walkers, and buzz buttons.

A native Appalachian, Pack is a veteran educator who has taught college-level courses in children's literature. Her text is accompanied by the artwork of master watercolorist Pat Banks.

by Linda Hager Pack
The University Press of Kentucky, 2013

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Monday, August 12, 2013

Review: Growing Camellias in Cold Climates

Based on the author's decades of research and breeding experience, this book details the cultural practices necessary for growing camellias in northern climates. It names and profiles cultivars that have proven themselves cold hardy across many seasons.

"The primary purpose of Growing Camellias in Cold Climates is to present the advantages (there are some) and the challenges encountered by the northern gardener," Ackerman explains. "These emphasize striking differences as compared to those followed by our southern friends."

by William L. Ackerman
Noble House, 2003
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Monday, June 17, 2013

Review: Llewellyn's Witches' Spell-A-Day Almanac

Here's a book to add some magic to your days with a chronological collection of spells, recipes, rituals, incantations and meditations. Each day of the year is marked with a brief essay or piece of advice along with suggested colors and incenses based on planetary influences.

April 4, for instance, is linked to the Festival of Cybele and the Roman mother goddess, Magna Mater, an arbiter of moral and ethical dilemmas.

Chandra Alexandre, Ph.D., a doctor of ministry, suggests the following Megalesian divination:

"Take a bowl of water and drop three leaves onto the surface, having formulated a question for which a yes/no response will be useful. Three leaves face us is a yes. Two leaves up and one down in a yes with qualifications.Three leaves face down is no. Two leaves down and one up is a no with qualifications.

"To ascertain the meaning or the nature of the qualifications, crumble the leaves into the water, let them settle, and drain the bowl. Look for your fullest answer in the images you find left in the remaining leaves."

Holidays & Lore
by Llewellyn 
Llewellyn Publications, 2012

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Artwork: God`s Eye Leather Blank Book

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Well Read Books: The Itch

"There are a thousand causes underlying a condition of itching. They can include anything from dandruff to diabetes.

"In medical discussion and articles the term pruritis is used to indicate itching. To show the low status of the word, a similar-sounding word, prurience, means lewdness in thought or desire. An "itch plant," which is found in tropical countries and which is used to make itching powder, is call mucuna pruriens.

"Why do people scratch? Some believe that the pain produced by the scratching is a mean of stopping the itching. The physiological explanation is that itching stops when pain supervenes. But the explanation lies deeper...

by J. I. Rodale
Rodale Books, 1971
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Friday, June 7, 2013

Now Exploring "Lake Effect"

This book offers an in-depth and personal look at a natural phenomenon shaped by geography and weather patterns and how it affects human history. A "lake-effect snow" occurs when narrow bands of clouds formed in cold, dry arctic air pass over a large, relatively warm inland lake, producing intense snowfalls lasting from a couple of minutes to two days. Such snowfalls occur famously along the Great Lakes, the Great Salt Lake, and Hudson Bay; this narrative focuses on the Great Lakes and the Buffalo area east of Lake Erie in particular.

continued in The Nature Pages

Tales of Large Lakes, Arctic Winds, and Recurrent Snows
by Mark S. Monmonier
Syracuse University Press, 2012
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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Reading the History: The Kentucky Derby

If the Super Bowl had been played in the same city each year, say a working class community like Green Bay, and still grew up to become a multi-billion-dollar spectacle attracting the world's rich and famous as well as the beer-swilling, tatooed commoners then it would be an event comparable to the Kentucky Derby, especially if you added an extra hundred years of tradition to its history.

An unabashed  thoroughbred horse enthusiast and Kentucky Derby fan, the author nevertheless provides a straightforward history and honest assessment of the event and its evolution.

The book follows the progress of the Derby through the decades as it broke away from a pack of other races to become America’s premier thoroughbred event.

How the Run for the Roses Became America's Premier Sporting Event
by James C. Nicholson
The University Press of Kentucky, 2012
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Denali National Park

The second edition of this guidebook updates and reorganizes a first edition published ten years ago by the defunct Alaska Northwest Books and now long out of print. It provides detailed information on the history of the region and advice on exploring by foot, train, car, bus, boat or even sled dog team.

Continued in The Nature Pages

The Complete Visitors Guide to the Mountain, Wildlife, and Year-Round
Outdoor Activities
by Bill Sherwonit
Mountaineers Books, 2013
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Artwork: Remote Ruth Gorge, Denali National Park, Alaska

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Weird Life

As a consequence of space exploration and the realization that life on other planets might be very different from what we are used to, scientists in recent decades have improbably discovered bizarre life forms here at home in places previously deemed uninhabitable.

This book provides a bestiary of weird creatures, both real and imagined, and describes the science behind their existence.

Weird Life
The Search for Life That Is Very, Very Different from Our Own
by David M. Toomey
W. W. Norton & Company, 2013

Out There: Scouting the Frontiers of Science
Out There: Extreme Sucking Up
Artwork: O'opu Nopili
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Friday, May 31, 2013


Until that moment, Silas had thought he knew what dark was-the simple absence of light. He thought that he understood it. He even thought that he had experienced it before. But as he rounded the first riser of stairs and continued up, step by step, he and darkness were forced into new intimacy. He came to understand that darkness was not just a lack but a thing, that it possessed mass, that it can be felt on your skin, that it can be a burden you carry. 
He knew then, with a certainty he could feel in his bones, exactly what had motivated his ancient ancestors when they first gathered around that very thing that the rest of creation fled from. It hadn't been to cook, or to harden spear points. Those things had come later. Heat was just a collateral benefit. Man had mastered fire simply to push the darkness away.
by Ted Kosmatka
Del Rey, 2013

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

New Stokes Birding Guide

Available in Eastern and Western volumes, The New Stokes Field Guide to Birds features over 4,600 North American bird species with stunning color photographs.

Each guide includes:

* the newest scientific and common names and phylogenetic order
* special help for identifying birds in flight through important clues of behavior, plumage, and shape
* detailed descriptions of songs and calls
* important behavioral information and key habitat preferences
* the newest range maps, detailing species' winter, summer, year-round ranges, and migration routes

by Donald Stokes and Lillian Stokes
Little, Brown and Company, 2013

Monday, May 27, 2013

New Guide to Kentucky BBQ

Kentucky's culinary fame may have been built on bourbon and fried chicken, but the Commonwealth has much to offer the barbecue enthusiast.

The Kentucky Barbecue Book is a feast for readers who are eager to sample the finest fare in the state.

From the banks of the Mississippi to the hidden hollows of the Appalachian Mountains, author and barbecue enthusiast Wes Berry hit the trail in search of the best smoke, the best flavor, and the best pitmasters he could find. This handy guide presents the most succulent menus and colorful personalities in Kentucky.

While other states are better known for their 'cue, the Kentucky style is distinct because of its use of mutton and traditional cooking methods. Many of the establishments featured in this book are dedicated to the time-honored craft of cooking over hot hardwood coals inside cinderblock pits. Time intensive and dangerous, these traditions are disappearing as methods requiring less manpower, less wood, and less skill gain ground. Pick up a copy of this book and hit the road before these great places are gone.

The Kentucky Barbecue Book
by Wes Berry
The University Press of Kentucky, 2013

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Friday, May 10, 2013

Reading the History: The Age of Edison

University of Tennessee historian Ernest Freeberg recounts the story of Thomas Edison’s light bulb invention and how it revolutionized the world, illuminating cities and expanding workdays, invigorating new industries and changing the way people the world over live their lives.

It is also the story of how Edison single-handedly (and this may be his greatest invention) came up with a new style of inventing, using a coordinated program of scientific research and product development that systematically solves problems and pragmatically develops products to market.

While Edison is credited with inventing the incandescent light bulb, this book makes clear that it was a collective achievement. Edison and his fellow inventors created a technology with transformative applications far beyond their dreams, from billboards and night clubs and amusement parks to hospitals and highways and factories.

Freeberg's history helps us imagine a time, not so long ago, when "a light to hold the night at bay" was an awesome wonder, offering "liberation from one of the primordial limits imposed by nature on the human will."

The Age of Edison
Electric Light and the Invention of Modern America
by Ernest Freeberg
Penguin Press, 2013

Artwork: Thomas Edison with the first light bulbs

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Monday, May 6, 2013

Thinking Like A Plant

"To live and to think in and from the middle, like a plant partaking of light and of darkness, is not to be confined to the dialectical twilight, where philosophy paints "its grey on grey." It is, rather to refashion oneself - one's thought and one's existence - into a bridge between divergent elements: to become a place where the sky communes with the earth and light encounters but does not dispel darkness."
 Plant-Thinking: A Philosophy of Vegetal Life by Michael Marder

Artwork: Reaching for the Light
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Saturday, May 4, 2013

Review: Picnic

This book offers menus, recipes and planning suggestions for 29 portable repasts, from an "After the Wedding" Brunch Picnic to a Workday Picnic. Arranged seasonally, the suggested picnics cover all 12 months of the year, beginning with a Spring Day-Hike Picnic and progressing to a Summer Canoe Picnic, an Autumn Beach Picnic and then, in winter, an Apres-Ski Picnic.

Picnics are usually associated with lazy Sunday afternoon trips to the seashore or a riverside park and a hamper full of sandwiches, cold meats and lemonade.

125 Recipes with 29 Seasonal Menus  
by DeeDee Stovel 
Storey Books, 2001
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Friday, May 3, 2013

Review: Vodka

Does the word "vodka" derive from the Russian "voda," meaning water, or the Polish "wodka," derived from "woda," or water? Historians from the two countries will argue incessantly on the origins of the world's favorite liquor, which almost certainly originated somewhere in Eastern Europe during  the 14th or 15th century.

This new volume in The Edible Series of Reaktion Books explores how a rather unremarkable liquid -- pure alcohol distilled from grain -- became such a potent spirit, both culturally and economically. Once a humble drink known only to Eastern Europeans, it is now the most popular liquor in both the U.S. and Britain, and probably the world.

A Global History
by Patricia Herlihy
Reaktion Books, 2013
continued in The Book Stall

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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Good Guides: The New Stokes Field Guide to Birds

The culmination of many years of research, observation, and study, The New Stokes Field Guide to Birds is factually, visually, and organizationally superior to any other photographic field guide available.

Available in Eastern and Western volumes, these easy-to-use guides feature over 4,600 North American bird species with stunning color photographs.

by Donald Stokes and Lillian Stokes
Little, Brown and Company, 2013
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Monday, April 22, 2013

Reading the History: The Old Fashioned

American tavern owners caused a sensation in the late eighteenth century when they mixed sugar, water, bitters, and whiskey and served the drink with rooster feather stirrers.

The modern version of this "original cocktail," widely known as the Old Fashioned, is a standard in any bartender's repertoire and holds the distinction of being the only mixed drink ever to rival the Martini in popularity.

In this book, Gourmand Award--winning author Albert W. A. Schmid profiles the many people and places that have contributed to the drink's legend since its origin.

The Old Fashioned
An Essential Guide to the Original Whiskey Cocktail
by Albert W. A. Schmid
The University Press of Kentucky, 2013

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Reading the History: Kit Carson

Best known today for his role in the tragic "Long Walk" of  the Navajos as Col. Christopher Carson of the First New Mexico Volunteers, "Kit" Carson was a mythical hero in dime novels of the 19th century and movie Westerns of the mid-20th century who fought savages, protected the virtuous and helped open the frontier.

This biography portrays the real-life Carson as Scots-Irish border man - a trapper, guide, hunter, soldier - shaped by his culture and his times. Rather than a stereotypic Indian killer, it argues that he matured intellectually and ethically as he grew older.

The Life of an American Border Man 
by David A. Remley
University of Oklahoma Press, 2012

Continued in ... Out of the Past

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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Fast Pitch: Top of the Heap

Perhaps more has been written about the New York Yankees than about any other sports team. And the magic that has played out on the field over the years has been rivaled only by baseball scribes' prowess on the page.

Excellence breeds excellence, and for 100 years some of the best writers in America have chronicled the New York Yankees, taking a single swing or game and somehow making it singular.

This anthology from the series editor of The Best American Sports Writing and author of Yankees Century collects the best writing about the Yankees over the course of their long history. Published to coincide with the team's centenary celebration, this is a must-have volume for fans the world over who claim the New York Yankees as their own.

A Yankees Collection
by Glenn Stout
Mariner Books, 2003

Monday, March 25, 2013

Death by Melons

Speaking of unusual papal successions...

Massimo Montanari recounts the peculiar demise of Pope Paul II who died of a sudden apoplectic attack on a summer night in 1471.

"His doctors attributed this to a melon binge the evening before. After having spent the day in consistory, the pontiff dined late (around ten) on 'three melons, not too large' and other things 'of meager substance, as had become his habit over the past few months.' The account of this event, written in these words by Nicodemo di Pontremoli in a letter to the Duke of Milan, reveals and attitude of great suspicion toward this fruit, capable of causing not only indigestion but even death."

Medieval physicians disapproved of cold and juicy fruit, believing it could undermine the body's natural heat and upset its equilibrium. They commonly advised people to eat very little melon and, if possible, avoid them entirely.

"Melons in particular were held to be the most toxic of all fruits."

And Other Stories About Food and Culture
by Massimo Montanari
Columbia University Press, 2012
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Artwork: Ripe Melons by John F. Francis

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

"An Insect View of Its Plain"

"Thoreau, Dickinson and Muir had mutual interests in the relationships between science, culture, and nature, relationships that they were partly able to explore and express through the observed habits and experiences of insects. Sharing the belief that nature was a reflection of God's intention... they recognized that insects, like every other particle of nature, were lovingly created by God to serve a unique purpose."
Insects, Nature and God in Thoreau, Dickinson and Muir
by Rosemary Scanlon McTier 
McFarland, 2013
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The Nature Pages
Nature Writing and Natural Histories

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Reading the History: Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey

This book is a history of the bourbon industry, beginning with its foundations in the small pot stills of American farmers in the late 1790s. It follows the growth of large distillers and rectifiers and the booms and busts of the beverage's market through wars and Prohibition, concluding with the emergence of craft distillers returning to small stills of the whiskey's origins.

"What made bourbon famous was the aging process employed by its distillers, one that took place in charred oak barrels," historian Michael R. Veach explains.

"It was known at least as early as the Roman Empire that water and wine stored in oak barrels charred on the inside stayed fresher longer. By the fifteenth century the process had been appropriated by the French to flavor and color brandy and cognac. And at some point in the early nineteen century it was adopted by Kentucky distillers and allowed them to produce a whiskey with a sweet caramel/vanilla flavor and a red color."

An American Heritage
by Michael R. Veach
The University Press of Kentucky, 2013

Continued in ... The Book Stall

Good Spirits and Fine Liqueurs
Out of the Past
History and American West Titles
Outrider Reading Group