Category Archives: Rummaging Reads

Books + Food = Good Times

A Rave: Peter Pan

I don’t think I ever read J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan as a child, although, like all children, I knew the story.  So what fun it was to rediscover this book when my oldest son went through a Neverland phase!

I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time.  The story is clever, of course, and draws you in.  But it’s the offhand insights into the way children see the world that I find to be remarkable.

For instance:

“Quick as thought he snatched a knife from Hook’s belt and was about to drive it home, when he saw that he was higher up the rock than his foe. It would not have been fighting fair. He gave the pirate a hand to help him up.  It was then that Hook bit him.  Not the pain of this but its unfairness was what dazed Peter. It made him quite helpless.”

And the little webs of fancy woven throughout are delightful:

“‘You see, Wendy, when the first baby laughed for the first time, its laugh broke into a thousand pieces, and they all went skipping about, and that was the beginning of fairies.’”

“‘And you could darn our clothes, and make pockets for us. None of us has any pockets.’”


There aren’t any rummaging reads to be found in Peter Pan as “The difference between [Peter] and the other boys at such a time was that they knew it was make-believe; while to him make-believe and true were exactly the same thing. This sometimes troubled them, as when they had to make-believe that they had had their dinners.”

I suppose you could make-believe something that suits your fancy, and, while you’re at it, find an old copy of Peter Pan and settle in for a fun read.



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A Rummaging Read: Wolf Hall

I just finished Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall.

I’m still kind of lingering in Cromwell’s England, which is appealing not just because I like historical fiction, but because I’m an Anglican.  Mantel’s beautifully crafted work is the kind of read that makes me wish that I had paid more attention during history class and inspires me to go out and brush up on the history of the Reformation.

I highly recommend Mantel’s book: the characters are multi-layered, the setting is full of rich details, and the story, of course, is compelling.  There’s quite a bit of food mentioned, although nothing inspired me to go out and try my hand at 16th century cookery.

But, as I worked myself through Wolf Hall, I did find myself wanting a glass of mulled wine.  Or some sort of cider or anything else that would take the edge off the winter chill and take me into the cluster of gossips around Anne’s court and the feasts full of political undercurrent and subtle humor.  At four months pregnant, I can’t really have any such thing, but I can offer you Jamie Oliver’s tasty recipe for mulled wine.  So, whip up a batch, pour yourself a glass, and dive into Wolf Hall.

Jamie writes: “Peel large sections of peel from your clementines, lemon and lime using a speed peeler. Put the sugar in a large saucepan over a medium heat, add the pieces of peel and squeeze in the clementine juice. Add the cloves, cinnamon stick, bay leaves and about 10 to 12 gratings of nutmeg. Throw in your halved vanilla pod and stir in just enough red wine to cover the sugar. Let this simmer until the sugar has completely dissolved into the red wine and then bring to the boil. Keep on a rolling boil for about 4 to 5 minutes, or until you’ve got a beautiful thick syrup. The reason I’m doing this first is to create a wonderful flavour base by really getting the sugar and spices to infuse and blend well with the wine. It’s important to do make a syrup base first because it needs to be quite hot, and if you do this with both bottles of wine in there you’ll burn off the alcohol.

When your syrup is ready turn the heat down to low and add your star anise and both bottles of wine. Gently heat the wine and after around 5 minutes, when it’s warm and delicious, ladle it into glasses and serve.”

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A Rummaging Read: A Homemade Life

For Christmas I received Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from my Kitchen Table.  This whole book is a rummaging read!

Molly’s vignettes are full of poignant humor and delicious descriptions, and the recipes will definitely catch your attention.  This was a half-brutal, half-delightful read for a woman three months pregnant, as I fought the impulse to rush right out and make each recipe as I read it.

Perhaps the thing I enjoyed the most is that Molly doesn’t mess around with any light alternatives.  These recipes are the real deal and don’t shy away from butter, oil, or loads of chocolate.  Instead they offer gourmet, well-prepared options with, in my opinion, a European flavor.  So check out the book, and if you want more of Molly’s writing, visit her blog Orangette

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A Rummaging Read: Uglies, Pretties, Specials

For several years now I’ve scanned the Young Adult displays in my local Barnes and Noble and dismissed Scott Westerfield’s Uglies Trilogy.  Mainly because of the covers.  The striking images always made me think of Gossip Girl (a show I’ve never seen but have likewise written off because of a thirty-second promo).  This resemblance caused me to relegate Westerfield’s work to the category of fluffy teen novels.

This was clearly a mistake.  Last week, I devoured these three books and was impressed with Westerfield’s story-telling and world-building, not to mention his ability to write well from a young woman’s point of view.  He tackles the difficult task of weaving serious issues into his futuristic world without coming across as heavy-handed or preachy.  And the true mark of a good book: scenes from the story flash into my head days after I’ve finished reading.

For those who’ve read the series, the accompanying recipe will come as no surprise.  Spaghetti Bolognese.  You’ll have to settle for it fresh, as dehydrating food is way beyond my capabilities (or interests).  A small confession: I haven’t actually made this recipe.  The long list of ingredients and the complexity of it might have clued you in to that fact.  But, since it has received rave reviews from the Food Network, and it is also marked as an “easy” recipe, I just might add it to the menu for next week.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 ounces bacon or pancetta, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions
  • 3/4 cup diced carrots
  • 3/4 cup diced celery
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 pound ground beef or ground veal
  • 1/2 pound pork sausage, removed from the casings, or ground pork
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes and their juice
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup beef or chicken stock or broth
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan


In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring, until browned and the fat is rendered, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the onions, carrots and celery and cook, stirring, until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, pepper, bay leaves, thyme, oregano, cinnamon, and nutmeg and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the beef and sausages, and cook, stirring, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring, to deglaze the pan and remove any browned bits sticking to the bottom of the pan, and until half of the liquid is evaporated, about 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and their juices, the tomato sauce, beef broth, and sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, to keep the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pan, until the sauce is thickened and flavorful, about 1 1/2 hours. Add the cream, butter, and parsley, stir well, and simmer for 2 minutes. Discard the bay leaves and adjust the seasoning, to taste. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and return the water to a low boil. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent the noodles from sticking, until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain in a colander.

Add the pasta to the sauce, tossing to coat. Add 1/2 cup of the cheese and toss to blend. Divide among pasta bowls and serve with the cheese passed tableside. (Alternatively, toss only the desired portion of pasta with a bit of the sauce at a time in a serving bowl, reserving the remainder for another meal.)


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A Rummaging Read: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

I really can’t do the trilogy justice or pinpoint one specific recipe from the books, although a quick google search revealed that there are many people out there doing just this.  If you want to try your hand at Lembas Bread or other tasty treats from Tolkein’s world, you’re in good company.

I first read the trilogy in middle school.  I remember sitting through lunch poring over the books (yes, I was that girl), and, as I’ve shared before, went so far as to tuck an old keyring on a chain under my uniform jumper.  Clearly, I didn’t fully grasp the seriousness of Ringbearing, but my ring let me live in the world for a little while.  And made classes bearable.

At any rate, whenever I was lost in the pages of Middle Earth, I’d welcome the nights my mom made stew for dinner.  Somehow, that always felt extra-questish.  A good dish of stew, a hunk of cheddar, and my faux Ring temporarily satisfied my desire to be part of an Important Happening along with Frodo and all the others.  So, in the hopes that you, too, will join the fellowship, I copy this recipe straight out of the pages of the family cookbook:

Beef Burgundy Stew

2 lbs. Sirloin – cut into generous cubes

2 tsp. oil

2 medium onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 large carrots, chopped

1 lb. small mushrooms, chopped

1 bay leaf

1 cup chopped celery

1 red or yellow pepper, chopped

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. thyme

2 cups dry red wine (burgundy)

In a large skillet, saute onion and garlic.  Add the meat and cook through.  Add pepper and celery.  Pour into baking dish and add remaining ingredients.  Bake at 325 degrees for three hours.

Serve with crusty, fresh baked bread and some aged cheese.  Happy questing!


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A Rummaging Read: Anne of Ingleside

I give you fair warning: L.M. Montgomery is one of my favorite authors, which means that most of her books will make an appearance here sooner or later.

I begin with Anne of Ingleside, the charming account of the lives and times of the Blythe family, with special attention given to the Blythe children.  In Montgomery’s classic style, this book is full of witty character sketches and the winsome energy of youth.  The Blythe children are always running in and out of the kitchen for Susan’s homemade treats or frying up freshly caught fish down in Rainbow Valley, and Montgomery’s descriptions make you wish you could join them for a snack.

While I probably will have to revisit this book and include a recipe for the golden cake Rilla guiltily tosses into the water, I have settled on Susan Baker’s monkey face cookies.  These cookies appear in several of the books, and just enough description is given to make them sound like a whimsical treat.

Several years ago I tried to hunt down the recipe, but these were pre-internet days, and I had no success.  Then, one Christmas, I received the Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book as a gift and was thrilled to find the following recipe for Monkey-Faced Cookies.  As the cookbook says: “You’ll be amused by the droll faces.  In an antique shop, pasted on the underside of a drawer in an old table, a radio friend of Fultonville, New York, discovered this recipe written in faded ink in old-fashioned script: ‘for Elsa’.”

Monkey-Faced Cookies

Mix together thoroughly: 1/2 cup soft shortening, 1 cup brown sugar, and 1/2 cup molasses.

Stir in: 1/2 cup sour milk, 1 tsp. vinegar.

Sift together and stir in: 2 1/2 cups sifted flour, 1 tsp. soda, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. ginger, and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Drop rounded teaspoonfuls 2 1/2″ apart on ungreased baking sheet.  Place 3 raisins on each for eyes and mouth.  Bake until set (about 10-12 minutes).  Remove from sheet in 1 minute.  Faces take on droll expressions in baking.  Makes about 4 dozen 2 1/2″ cookies.

Alternatively you could try this recipe offered by The Anne of Green Gables and L.M. Montgomery Lexicon, although I haven’t tested it myself.


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A Rummaging Read: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

As any Harry Potter fan knows, this week marks the opening of the sixth Harry Potter film.  And in honor of that estimable event, my post today includes a recipe for food mentioned in the book.

Now, J. K. Rowling is a master at incorporating enticing food into her storyline.  Most of the books make me want to down handfuls of gooey chocolate candies and eat anything remotely pumpkin-flavored.   And Rowling really should be celebrated for redeeming the notoriously bad reputation of British food, because all the dishes served in the Great Hall sound delicious.

Despite all this, the Half-Blood Prince doesn’t have a lot of tasty food.  Perhaps it’s a result of the darker nature of the final books.  I reread HP6 this week in anticipation of the movie and kept a special look out for favorable foods.  While there was a possible onion soup early on and quite a few intriguing potions (if only we could have a recipe for Felix Felicis!), I had to settle on a food that is rather modest.

This week’s selection comes to us courtesy of Professor Slughorn, who, in all his finery and excess, never fails to have a handful of candied pineapple somewhere nearby.  While Slughorn himself is not necessarily an inspiring character (note the carefully chosen name and all its connotations), whenever I read these scenes, I desperately want candied pineapple.  Now, I have never made candied pineapple, so I have no tried-and-true formula to offer you.  But I have found two easy, straightforward recipes for all you other pineapple-lovers who would like to try this at home:

Stovetop Version

Microwave Version

Alternatively, you could cozy up to some young wizards-with-potential with the hope that they will keep you well supplied.  Either way, share some with me!  I need a stash to smuggle in to the movie tomorrow night.


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