Friday, July 17, 2015

On the Bookshelf: Food, Forgiveness, and Austen-style love stories

Happy Friday! I hope that you all are having a wonderful week! It has been a very busy week for me over here in Oklahoma City. A few evenings ago, as my husband and I were driving to Mass, I said "You know when you've been super busy all day long, but your brain is mush and you have no idea what you did? Yeah, I had one of those days."  Actually, my whole week has been a bit like this. You'd think that life would not be as busy, since I do not really travel far from my domain during the work day, but I have been finding myself very, very occupied. From blogging to writing articles to submit at different places (it's been tough finding "the" niche to try and break into), and from reading "helpful" articles to assist me in these areas to household chores, the days have been flying by! Nevertheless, I have made some quality time to read, and I would love to tell y'all about these books! So, let us begin!

Persuasion, Captain Wentworth, and Cracklin' Cornbread, by Mary Jane Hathaway. Last week, I read Emma, Mr. Knightley, and Chili Slaw Dogs, and really enjoyed it. This is another book from the same series, and I liked it as well! I particularly appreciate how the book deals with racism and interracial relationships; topics we may not think are applicable to modern-day life, but sadly are part of daily life in some areas of the United States. I also thought that the love story was really sweet in this one. This book says a lot about forgiving ourselves and others, and learning from the consequences of our actions. It also shows the importance of looking at things from another person's perspective. I recommend it for high school on up!

Pride, Prejudice, & Cheese Grits, by Mary Jane Hathaway. This is the final book in the series that I read, but it actually is the first book, I discovered. So, I read the three-book series completely out of order. Woops! I loved seeing the Darcy-Lizzy relationship in this one. It was very cute, and there was a lot of good backstory for Darcy's character. Oh, and one of the supporting characters is Catholic, which is pretty neat. I also recommend it for high school on up! After reading the Jane Austen Takes the South series, it's hard to put them in order of my preference. I think I liked Emma the best, but all of the books were very entertaining and lighthearted. Persuasion and Emma included more of the Civil War reenactment content, which I really liked, but Pride & Prejudice set up the stage nicely for the other books, introducing characters and settings. So I just recommend that you read all three and make your own judgment call : ) 

Left to Tell, by Immaculee Ilibagiza. I have been blessed to hear Immaculee speak in person, and she is amazing. Her strength, her love, her hope, and her joy permeates Immauclee's entire being. Years ago, I read Immaculee's book, Led by Faith, which documents her life after the Rwandan Genocide. But when I found Left to Tell at a thrift store for $1.50 the other day, I knew that God wanted me to get it and read the story of her survival and forgiveness during the genocide. This book is gripping, powerful, and grace-filled. We see Immaculee's joyful life as a young woman in Africa prior to the genocide, and then we see her hide in a cramped bathroom for three months as men try to find and kill her. This story shows how sin literally drives people apart until they are willing to kill each other. Reading this book was also a bit unnerving, because of the close proximity in which the genocide happened. The Rwandan genocide happened a little over twenty years ago. As I read the book, I kept thinking of the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, which is happening right now. And some Christians in the Middle East have told relief workers that the tribulations and killings which they are living through is not isolated, and will eventually come to the United States. So yes, reading Immaculee's story and thinking about persecutions was all a bit intense. Everyone must read this book and not just become inspired, but actually change his or her life. We must seek unity and forgiveness with each other, and Immaculee's witness shows us how to do these things. So, if you're an older teen or adult, I highly recommend that you pick up this story. 

Haute Dogs, by Russel Van Kraayenburg. I am not a "hot dog person." I like hot dogs that are grilled at cookouts, or roasted over an open fire. I love corn dogs. But otherwise, I couldn't care less to eat them. And then I saw this book at the library. Van Kraayenburg's book shows that hot dogs are one of the most versatile foods around. You can cook hot dogs for an informal gathering, or you can dress them up for a fancy dinner. How about a Swedish Shrimp Dog (also known as Tunnbrodsrulle), with mashed potatoes, pickle mayonnaise, and shrimp salad (among other things) packed into flat bread with a hot dog? Or how about the Columbian Hot Dog, with its pineapple and salsa? Or you could keep it simple with the Plain Jane. Whatever you're in the mood for, this book will help you create it. This book is also fascinating because after all of the hot dog recipes, the author includes recipes for different hot dog buns and flat breads, as well as condiments. There's even a recipe for homemade sausage! So pick up this book and rediscover the hot dog. I recommend this for people of all ages! 

Southern Biscuits, by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart. About a month ago, one of my friends gifted me with this fantastic cookbook. I had always grown up making Baking Powder Biscuits, and didn't really know of any other way to make biscuits (except Biscuits Supreme, which I rarely made). I love biscuits, and baking biscuits was a comforting, delicious routine. This book changed my entire perspective. Sweet biscuits, savory biscuits, sour cream biscuits, yogurt biscuits, olive oil name it, this book has it. Written from a wonderful Southern perspective, the authors include personal anecdotes and a relaxed spirit which makes this book a joy to read. Before all of the recipes, the authors go through the different elements to biscuits, and discuss the various types of flours and fats you can use. Here, my perspective really changed. I've never used Self-Rising Flour in my life. I've always thought it was a "lazy way out," and was inferior to All-Purpose Flour. I don't know where or how I had developed that idea, but I did. The authors of this book pointed out many tremendous benefits to Self-Rising Flour when making biscuits, so I was willing to give it a try. When we first moved in with friends here in OKC, I decided to try this book (and Self-Rising Flour) out. I was very happy with the results, and so were my friends : )  I was whipping out two-ingredient biscuits or three-ingredient  biscuits, and we were all excitedly eating them. Since we've moved into our apartment, I have have continued to branch out, trying the Sweet Potato Biscuits (this was my breakfast this morning) and the Strawberry Shortcake Biscuits (our 4th of July treat). I highly recommend people of all ages to pick up this book and rediscover the world of the biscuit. 

Thanks for joining me today! Please comment below or e-mail me if you have any book recommendations, because I'd love to hear your thoughts, and I'm always out to expand my reading list! 

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