Library Loot (27 July 2010)

A quick stop at the library resulted in these finds!

The Zigzag Way – Anita Desai

I was quite curious about this book. The other works by Desai that I’ve read deal with life in India (A Village By The Sea and Clear Light of Day), but this one is set in Mexico. Interesting.

In The Zigzag Way, the critically acclaimed novelist Anita Desai offers a gorgeously nuanced story of expatriates and travelers adrift in an unfamiliar land. Eric, a young American historian, has come to Mexico on his first trip abroad. His search for his immigrant family’s roots brings him to a town in the Sierrra Madre, where a hundred years earlier Cornish miners toiled without relief. Here the suspiciously enigmatic Dona Vera, the fierce Austrian widow of a mining baron, has become a local legend, but her reputation for philanthropy glosses over a darker history. A haunting, powerful novel that culminates on the Day of the Dead, The Zigzag Way examines the subtle interplay between past and present.

The Lemur: A Novel – Benjamin Black

Another one to satisfy my curiosity. Benjamin Black is of course John Banville. I don’t read much crime fiction but I’ve been curious to see how Banville writes crime.

John Glass’s life in New York should be plenty comfortable. He’s given up his career as a journalist to write an authorized biography of his father-in-law, communications magnate and former CIA agent Big Bill Mulholland. He works in a big office in Mulholland Tower, rent-free, and goes home (most nights) to his wealthy and well-preserved wife, Wild Bill’s daughter. He misses his old life sometimes, but all in all things have turned out well.

But when his shifty young researcher–a man he calls “The Lemur”–turns up some unflattering information about the family, Glass’s whole easy existence is threatened. Then the young man is murdered, and it’s up to Glass to find out what The Lemur knew, and who killed him, before any secrets come out–and before any other bodies appear.
Shifting from 1950s Dublin to contemporary New York, the masterful crime writer Benjamin Black returns in this standalone thriller–a story of family secrets so deep, and so dangerous, that anyone might kill to keep them hidden.

Milk: The Surprising Story of Milk Through the Ages – Anne Mendelson

Unfortunately, I seem to have become lactose intolerant, and can only drink a little bit of milk before my stomach complains. But I do so love milk (especially with cookies) and dairy products (mmmm brie).I first heard of this book on Serious Eats.

Part cookbook—with more than 120 enticing recipes—part culinary history, part inquiry into the evolution of an industry, Milk is a one-of-a-kind book that will forever change the way we think about dairy products.

Anne Mendelson, author of Stand Facing the Stove, first explores the earliest Old World homes of yogurt and kindred fermented products made primarily from sheep’s and goats’ milk and soured as a natural consequence of climate. Out of this ancient heritage from lands that include Greece, Bosnia, Turkey, Israel, Persia, Afghanistan, and India, she mines a rich source of culinary traditions.

Mendelson then takes us on a journey through the lands that traditionally only consumed milk fresh from the cow—what she calls the Northwestern Cow Belt (northern Europe, Great Britain, North America). She shows us how milk reached such prominence in our diet in the nineteenth century that it led to the current practice of overbreeding cows and overprocessing dairy products. Her lucid explanation of the chemical intricacies of milk and the simple home experiments she encourages us to try are a revelation of how pure milk products should really taste.

The delightfully wide-ranging recipes that follow are grouped according to the main dairy ingredient: fresh milk and cream, yogurt, cultured milk and cream, butter and true buttermilk, fresh cheeses. We learn how to make luscious Clotted Cream, magical Lemon Curd, that beautiful quasi-cheese Mascarpone, as well as homemade yogurt, sour cream, true buttermilk, and homemade butter. She gives us comfort foods such as Milk Toast and Cream of Tomato Soup alongside Panir and Chhenna from India. Here, too, are old favorites like Herring with Sour Cream Sauce, Beef Stroganoff, a New Englandish Clam Chowder, and the elegant Russian Easter dessert, Paskha. And there are drinks for every season, from Turkish Ayran and Indian Lassis to Batidos (Latin American milkshakes) and an authentic hot chocolate.

This illuminating book will be an essential part of any food lover’s collection and is bound to win converts determined to restore the purity of flavor to our First Food.

Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife – Peggy VIncent

I heard of this book from Eva, who wrote: “I’m not sure there are enough words for me to tell you how much I loved this book!”

Each time she knelt to “catch” another wriggling baby — nearly three thousand times during her remarkable career — California midwife Peggy Vincent paid homage to the moment when pain bows to joy and the world makes way for one more. With every birth, she encounters another woman-turned-goddess: Catherine rides out her labor in a car careening down a mountain road. Sofia spends hers trying to keep her hyper doctor-father from burning down the house. Susannah gives birth so quietly that neither husband nor midwife notice until there’s a baby in the room.

More than a collection of birth stories, however, Baby Catcher is a provocative account of the difficulties that midwives face in the United States. With vivid portraits of courage, perseverance, and love, this is an impassioned call to rethink technological hospital births in favor of more individualized and profound experiences in which mothers and fathers take center stage in the timeless drama of birth.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?
What did you get from your library this week?

4 Comments

  1. Oooh, I’m especially interested in the Babycatcher book (great title). I haven’t been to my library much lately. Too snowed under books I own.

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    1. Heh that’s a problem I wouldn’t mind having! Have started on the first few pages of Babycatcher. She’s got a great voice. And interesting stories. So far so good.

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