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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Let Us Now Praise Men Who Cook: the annual New Year's Eve dinner + stray book notes

Please skip down to a small appreciation of Clare Dudman's 98 Reasons for Being. I don't want it to be lost too soon, as this is a special book, just out in the U. S., and not to be overlooked. Oh, and I should've said that visitors could leave a question for her! That's too bad, not to think of it at the time, but one could still leave a query either here or there.


New book-and-mag news in the final Phoenix of the year, just below 98 Reasons.


Tomorrow or the next day: first in a series, I Interview My Visitors. It would be fun to interview the passers-by who never leave a note--or to have a list of who and what they are--but this one promises to be amusing and interesting and very Southern.


The second "Long Grass" book will be Willow, Wine, Mirror, Moon.


Addendum: January 3rd marks my first sale of the year: a story, Prolegomenon to The Adventures of Childe Phoenix, to Gavin Grant and Kelly Link's Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet at Small Beer Press. Those two titles deserve each other, don't they?

Addendum no. 2: This morning I was sent this warning about libraries. Didn’t librarians once steer children and adults toward the best in books? My mother was a librarian who had me reading classics and researched new books and writers. Librarians "ought to regard themselves as not just experts in the arcane ways of the Dewey Decimal System, but as teachers, advisers and guardians of an intellectual inheritance. The alternative is for them to morph into clerks who fill their shelves with whatever their "customers" want, much as stock boys at grocery stores do."

Addenda, addenda, good and ill . . .


This year Mike's annual New Year’s Eve dinner-till-midnight had a little less of the performance about it than last year's Delhi-narrative meal, but was quite good. Some day I'll have to gather all his menus together . . . I was remembering some delicious tiny soufflés baked in oyster shells from 2004, but I can't remember the rest of the menu.

tampenade with homemade bread

bruschetta di pomodoro

shrimp and scallops with tarragon cream over puff pastry shells

orange, avocado, and pomegranate salad
serrano pepper dressing

pheasant marsala with parmesan couscous

homemade chocolate truffles
(almond, walnut, cocoa, or cayenne infused)
start and finish with Taittinger's Brut La Francaise
fish through main with Jadot Pouilly-Fuissé

At midnight, we all wandered down to the lakefront park to watch the fireworks: some lovely low-to-the-ground vases of bright twigs and buzzing bees, and a satisfying weeping willow. It felt strange to see them reflected in open water, instead of shimmering on ice and snow. On the way back, the ducks and geese were chattering and scolding near the shore. We always end up with tea--not being coffee drinkers, and knowing nothing about the stuff--and we saw guests off before 2:00 a. m. and tumbled into bed.
The pheasant was fresh, shot and cleaned by Himself, the king of hobbyists. For fun, he makes entirely hand-stitched quilts, repairs antique toys, hunts, writes, bakes, cooks, and generally has a fine old time. Every year brings an entertaining new hobby. Some go away; some stay forever. The hunting is, of course, not p. c.--he may cook, but he's no namby-pamby! Last year he bagged antelope (herbal-tasting), rabbit (I always think of Godard's Weekend), pheasant, grouse, ducks, and geese. It's like having a cat who is a mighty hunter, for one never knows what might materialize on the doorstep.
Laura Murphy Frankstone's Fearrington tree-with-orbs, drawn with a brush pen, is courtesy of Laurelines.


  1. What a delightful tradition! The orange, avocado, and pomegranate salad
    w/serrano pepper dressing sounds otherworldly, as does the pheasant. Too bad about the thawed, Greenhouse-Effected Glimmerglass.

    We fixed jambalaya and cranberry salad, among other things, and nary a pig nor a chicken was shot, at least not by me: I do my hunting and gathering at the grocery store, wimp that I am.


  2. Mmmm sounds delicious.

    I tend to be the cook in my house. My husband does do great steak and chicken on the grill though.

    We had quiche and salad at midnight. A great sweet red mountain laurel red wine, and port wince cheese and crackers. The wine is from a local Virginia vinyard. It was quite a lovely laid back evening with just the hubby and I.

    Day two drawings and a summer painting are up, on my blog btw.

    The husband sounds quite talented. I love your analogy of the cat. My husband has several hobbies as well. The guitar of course was his career/first love and he still plays some, and tweaks his sound. He also does woodworking, electronics, and photography. Not to mention taking care of our managerie. It keeps him busy.

    Much love to you and yours.

  3. James,

    How is the novel? I shall have to go and see.

    Yes, it was good. I wouldn't mind having another of those salads for lunch.

    I am rather torn about Global Warning. That is, I enjoy the lessening of ice and cold while I hate the whole idea. Piggish, really.

    I, too, am a confirmed wimp, though I have a lady neighbor who looks quite spiffy in her hunting gear.


    B. Q.,

    I shall have to go and see your pictures. I wish all my former NCCAT-ers would have blogs so that I could keep up with what they do...

    Your house sounds pleasant--music, pictures, words, wood.

  4. wow "himself" sounds like the best of both worls, macho and sophisticated.

    My hubby does most of the cooking. I like to bake and can make a mean campbels soup from those boxed powederd ones and add cilantro and chives.

    But he can go into the kitchen and see lots of things to make, where as I am like, there nothing here to eat.

    Glad you had such a grand new years.

  5. Regarding the Addendum no. 2 on libraries, Kurt Vonnegut has this to say: 'I want to congratulate librarians, not famous for their physical strength, their powerful political connections or great wealth, who, all over this country, have staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and destroyed records rather than have to reveal to thought police the names of persons who have checked out those titles. ... The America I love still exists at the front desks of our public libraries.'

    So true, even in my neck of the woods.

  6. Sadly, the library article is about librarians "selling out."

    James, I saw you were making progress--it'll be a hot seller in Cooperstown, if you ever get that novel done! You'd better start arranging an event at the Baseball Hall of Fame...

    Susanna, I can just see you stirring away, fanning yourself and wearing an antique hat.

  7. Call me naive, but I give the majority of librarians more credit than that. Sure, they may be pressured to clear space for blockbusters, but regardless of the information Dynix software spits out, when push comes to shove the good folks with the MLS's will hang onto the classics.

  8. Well, I will hope that you're right--my mother's generation of librarians certainly did, and read them, too.

    James, I've put doing interviews with yet-unpublished (in book form) writers who've gotten in touch with me on my list of New Year's resolution... You're in the group, of course!


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.