Monday, February 8, 2016

Mailbox Monday: Erica Jong

Thanks for joining me for Mailbox Monday! MM was created by Marcia, who graciously hosted it for a long, long time, before turning it into a touring event. Mailbox Monday has now returned to its permanent home where you can link to your MM post.

My mom sent me a book in celebration of my upcoming birthday this week:

Fear of Fifty: A Midlife Memoir by Erica Jong.

Ha! Fifty and Feisty is my new motto!

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Saturday, February 6, 2016

Review: A Little Dinner Before the Play

“Take two partridges and prepare in usual way. Old birds can be utilized in this recipe if necessary.”

I'd given up on Lady Jekyll’s recipes long before I got to her favorite partridge dish (Perdrix aux Choux) in her "For Men Only" chapter, but I did pause to wonder what the "usual way" of preparing partridges might be. And what sort of household has the choice between old or new partridges?

The answer is Downton Abbey. A Little Dinner Before the Play is a collection of columns about food, cooking, and entertaining that Lady Agnes Jekyll wrote for the London Times from 1921 to 1922, exactly when Mrs. Patmore and Daisy would be looking for inspiration. It provides guidance, menus, and recipes for all occasions, starting with breakfast, to winter car picnics, fancy buffets for dance parties, “tray food” for those sick in bed, and meals for public speakers. If you ever wonder what the Crawley family would actually eat, this is the perfect book for you.

The recipes are sparse and presuppose general, shared cooking knowledge. Instructions to “prepare in the usual way” are common. As are a lack of measured amounts. Instead, she says things like, “add milk to form dough.” It doesn’t matter, since the food is generally ghastly. There is a lot of boiled meat; meat, fish, and eggs run through sieves to make pastes, sometimes together; dry sounding cakes or boiled puddings; and lots and lots of complicated jellied concoctions.

For example, Lady Jekyll recommends Iced Jelly as a refreshing sweet treat at a wedding feast. For such a special occasion, you don’t cheat by using gelatin sheets (her favorite in many other recipes), you go for the real thing:

Boil two calves feet for several hours, strain off and leave to get cold. Remove all grease, and put them into a stewpan with the peel and juice of 4 lemons to each quart of liquor, ½ lb. loaf sugar, a piece of cinnamon stick and a few raisins, the whites of four eggs. Whisk all well together whilst boiling; strain through a jelly bag several times until clear. Flavour liberally with a sherry glass of maraschino, pour into an ice mould with secure lid, pack in ice and freezing salt in an ice pail, and freeze for 2 hours.

That could make a vegan out of anyone. She has many other recipes for sweet or savory jellied things. She even suggests covering a Camembert cheese in aspic!

Lady Jekyll’s advice to hostesses captures her era as much as the recipes. In the title chapter, her idea for a simple meal before leading guests to the theater is to offer individual roasted quail to each guest – served on silver trays, doused with brandy as they come from the kitchen, set alight, and served flambé.

You can have the cook pick up quail next time she’s out buying new partridges.


If you would like your review of this book or any other book from the Penguin Books Great Food series listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.


A Little Dinner Before the Play counts as one of my books for the 2016 European Reading (UK), Mt. TBR, and the Foodies Read Challenges.


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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Book Beginning: The Fur Person


Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name.

EARLY BIRDS & SLOWPOKES: This weekly post goes up Thursday evening for those who like to get their posts up and linked early on. But feel free to add a link all week.

FACEBOOK: Rose City Reader has a Facebook page where I post about new and favorite books, book events, and other bookish tidbits, as well as link to blog posts. I'd love a "Like" on the page! You can go to the page here to Like it. I am happy to Like you back if you have a blog or professional Facebook page, so please leave a comment with a link and I will find you.

TWITTER, ETC: If you are on Twitter, Google+, or other social media, please post using the hash tag #BookBeginnings. I try to follow all Book  Beginnings participants on whatever interweb sites you are on, so please let me know if I have missed any and I will catch up.

TIE IN: The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice is a natural tie in with this event and there is a lot of cross over, so many people combine the two. The idea is to post a teaser from page 56 of the book you are reading and share a link to your post. Find details and the Linky for your Friday 56 post on Freda’s Voice.



When he was about two years old, and had been a Cat About Town for some time, glorious in conquests, but rather too thin for comfort, the Fur Person decided that it was time he settled down.

The Fur Person by Mary Sarton. This is as adorable as it looks, an "enchanting story and classic of cat literature . . . drawn from the true adventures of Tom Jones, May Sarton’s own cat."

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

2015 European Reading Challenge WINNER!





2015 was the fourth year for this challenge, which involves reading books set in different European countries or written by authors from different European countries.

Big thanks to all the participants who joined me for the Grand Tour!


We had a dark horse winner this year. Jim Casterline, a faithful reader but non-blogger got involved late and, as allowed, posted his reviews in comments on the review page. Jim read a lot of classics and his pithy reviews are worth reading! He won the Jet Setter Grand Prize for reading books from 15 different European countries! He won a $25 gift card to Powell's Books.

Honorary Mention (but no prizes) go to eight other participants. In years past, HM went to those who read 10 or more qualifying books (meaning books set in different countries, by different authors). This year, I'm awarding HM to those who posted wrap up posts on the Wrap Up page because I appreciate these posts very much for making my job of figuring out the winner so much easier!

Congratulations to all the readers who completed the challenge! For those who finished the challenge but didn't post a wrap-up, feel free to do so now and link it on this page here.

The gist: The idea is to read books by European authors or books set in European countries (no matter where the author comes from). The books can be anything – novels, short stories, memoirs, travel guides, cookbooks, biography, poetry, or any other genre. You can participate at different levels, but each book must be by a different author and set in a different country – it's supposed to be a tour.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Teaser Tuesday: A Little Dinner Before the Play by Agnes Jekyll

Take two partridges and prepare in usual way. Old birds can be utilized in this recipe if necessary.

A Little Dinner Before the Play by Agnes Jekyll.

I'd given up on Agnes's recipes long before I got to her favorite way to make partridges in pastry (Perdrix aux Choux) in her chapter, "For Men Only," but I did pause to wonder what the "usual way" of preparing partridges might be. And what would it be like to live in a household where one had the choice of older or newer partridges?

This book is a collection of Lady Jekyll's 1921 - 1922 newspaper columns on food. Don't read it for the recipes; read it for the food history.

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Jenn at A Daily Rhythm, where you can find the official rules for this weekly event.

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