Monday, November 30, 2009


James and I got to the "lobster part" of Julie & Julia last night. Julie is a bit squeamish at first about dumping the docile crustaceans into a boiling pot, and considers some other Julia-approved ways of offing them first, but finally decides just to chuck them in. With Christmas officially approaching (now that Thanksgiving is over) I am looking forward to our annual Christmas Eve lobster dinner with friends Lisa & Rob and their children. I must admit I have nothing to do with the actual cooking of the lobsters at our dinner. James and Rob go out to buy them, and Rob is usually in charge of the actual killing. I sit by the fire and drink red wine.

What's local to eat where you live?

James and I occasionally pick up a copy of Edible South Shore. This magazine has information about farms, farmer's markets, and other local food sources in our area. Stories, recipes and color photographs make this quarterly publication very appealing. Edible Communities publishes it as well as dozens of other similar publications for different places in the United States and Canada. To find out if there is an Edible Communities magazine for your area click here.

Friday, November 27, 2009

A very local Thanksgiving

Well, really, a "somewhat" local Thanksgiving. James and I talked about preparing only local foods for Thanksgiving this year, and made what I would call a valient effort, but we discovered that it really is a very difficult thing to do. During their year of eating local MacKinnon and Smith use only ingredients that come from within 100 miles of their home in Vancouver, Canada. They give up salt and sugar and flour, among other ingredients, except for what was already in their home when they began their project.

The book contains a page-long passage about the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving in which I learned that the feast we commemorate, which was back in 1621, probably consisted of "corn raised from Wampanoag seed, and five deer provided by the ninety visiting Wampanoag warriors, plus wild turkeys and other fowl, fish and shellfish, wild nuts and berries, and a local species of squash."

Our own Thanksgiving had some elements of this, sans the seafood, deer, squash and corn. Our turkey, while not "wild" was free-range raised and came from the Colchester farm in Plympton, Massachusetts. It was butchered on Tuesday, and delivered quite fresh to our door on Wednesday. The delivery was actually just lucky. Ron Maribett, who runs the farm, also teaches part-time at Bridgewater State College and told us he would drop it off since he had to come out our way to teach that day anyway. We also had green beans and peas from Colchester farm, as well as the celery that James used in the stuffing. I had frozen all of these vegetables over the summer when they came in our CSA farm box. Even more local, Hanson farm, here in Bridgewater, about 2 miles from our house, provided us with the cranberries, from which I made dressing, and the eggs and onions which were used as ingredients in several dishes. The apples used in the stuffing were from Clark Bros. Orchards in Ashfield, Massachusetts, and the apple cider came from C.N. Smith farm in East Bridgewater. For dessert I made pumpkin pie from scratch. The pumpkin originally came from Colchester farm. I had cut out the flesh and frozen it last month and then thawed and pureed it on Wednesday and Thursday. I have enough puree for my Christmas pie, too. This is good, since I learned today on NPR that there is a pumpkin shortage. Plus, I have another whole pumpkin that I am cutting the flesh from today to freeze for later.The crust was made with flour from King Arthur flour in Vermont.

We opened two bottles of wine yesterday. The first one, a Rkatsiteli (yes, that is spelled correctly!) came from Westport Rivers Winery in Westport, Ma. The other, a sparkling red wine, came from Australia. I don't guess anything could be any further away from Bridgewater Massachusetts than that. I will say that we already had it in our wine rack since last spring. I will further justify it by saying that we did support a local business, The Wine Palace, in West Bridgewater when we bought it, and that we purchased it during a fundraiser for the Bridgewater Public Library, which, I will point out once again, is in dire straits.

This Thanksgiving the Hayes-Bohanan's dined alone. We had no guests. Sometimes we have company for Thanksgiving, and sometimes we go to a friend's house, but this year it was just the three of us. I often hear people with small families say that they eat out on Thanksgiving because they just don't see a reason to cook a big meal for a small family. I argue that my family, however small, is worth the effort to cook the meal. It is a holiday, a special occasion that warrants a big meal. We all helped to cook this meal and we all enjoyed it, and will enjoy the leftovers for the next week or so. We also got our the good silver, (yes, for just the three of us, because we are worth it). I try to use the silver at least once a month. It never gets tarnished if it is used regularly. We also (almost) always eat in our dining room. It is very rare that we would eat in our kitchen.

Things that were not from local sources included any sugar or spices used, and some of the other baking ingredients, the walnuts I used in the green beans, and, ironically, the potatoes my daughter mashed. It would actually have been pretty easy to get local potatoes, but I couldn't see buying them when we already had a whole bunch at home. (MacKinnon and Smith talk about eating a lot of potatoes in their book, too.) Like the potatoes, most things that did not come from a local source were things we already had on hand. I think James bought two or three things specifically to make the stuffing that may or may not have come from local sources.

So, all in all, not what a real locavore would call a local meal, but I'm giving us a pass on this one.

Will wonders never cease?

Readers who have been with me since the beginning of the year no doubt remember my January 7 post, in which I lament not ever having seen or heard the word "bustophredalian" since my map cataloging class many years ago. And then you rejoiced with me merely week later when, in my January 14 post, I mention that I found the word in A.J. Jacob's book The Know-It-All and discovered that I had been spelling it wrong. Well, I have to say now that my "year of" project is really paying off in spades because the word also appears in Plenty! Co-authors MacKinnon and Smith go blueberry picking with a little red wagon while "moving up and down the rows, boustrophedon stye..."

And to think some people got their thrills today from shopping.

Black Friday

I am home in my pajamas on this Friday after Thanksgiving. I am so glad not to be the sort of person to get up and shop on this day. Standing in line on a cold, dark, and rainy morning is not my idea of a good time. We have been celebrating "Buy Nothing Day" for about 15 years. This "holiday" was started by Kalle Lasn in the 1980s. And, it turns out there is a connection to all of this with Plenty, which I did finally start reading, co-author J.B. MacKinnon used to work for Adbusters, which sponsors Buy Nothing Day. This morning after our morning coffee James made us some turkey omlets. We will take care of some projects around the house today and enjoy some time together.

For more on Black Friday see Angela's post on the Great American Sleep In on her Year without Spending blog and read my sermon on The Best Gift.

By the way (Not) Shopping will be my theme for December's books.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Locavore Hunting

Okay, so I still haven't started reading Plenty, perhaps tonight if I don't get too busy with Thanksgiving preparations. By the way, my family and I will be having a Thanksgiving dinner made (mostly) from local indgredients, so I will make a separate post about that afterwards. In the meantime, I found this video on the NewYork Times website about deer hunting for locavore foodies.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

National Day of Listening

The American Library Association, National Public Radio, and StoryCorps are sponsoring The National Day of Listening on Friday November 27. Instead of shopping, spend some time with a family member or friend and learn about each other.

Book Review

Last weekend I was away in New Orleans and have not yet had a chance to start Plenty. While on the plane, I did finish reading The We Generation: Raising Socially Responsible Kids by Michael Unger which I will be reviewing for the Internet Review of Books in December. I forgot to post about my November review for Watercooler which can be found here.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Support for Libraries

On November 5 the Brockton Enterprise ran this story about the Bridgewater Public Library. It seems things will get worse before they get better. I saw the story before I realized that my wonderful husband James had commented on it already.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

New Book

My next book for November is Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon. It comes to me by way of the Falmouth Public Library. I think it will be more my speed than Eat This Book was.

Wrapping up Nerz

It is rare that I will just say that I didn't like a book, but I had a hard time finishing this one. I probably would have put it down pretty early on, if it weren't for my project. I found this book sophmoric in its overused scatological descriptions, as well as providing too much information on other bodily functions. Tales of strip club visits and porn-movie fests complete this juvenile picture.

I mention in an earlier post that I don't consider competitive eating a sport. I had not yet gotten to the chapter called "The Nader Dispute: For and Against Competitive Eating as a Sport" in which Nerz spends 9 pages defending the sport, and attacking Ralph Nader, and others for contending that it is not. I suppose if it is that important for those in the world of competitive eating to consider it a sport, I won't argue as it makes no difference to me. It's not as if professional sports such as baseball, football, hockey, or any of the other more "traditional" sports hold any of my interest either. This disinterest in sports in general is probably part of the reason the book didn't capture much of my attention. So many of the chapters were the stories of individual eating competitions, and I just wasn't into the drama. I was completely unconcerned with who won, or who qualified, or didn't, or why.

The chapter continues with questions about whether competitive eating is gluttony, a waste of food, and if it is a sign of American overconsumption. He does concede some of these points, but also defends them, as if since America is competitive in so many things this must be okay too. Is competition and consumption good just because it is part of our culture?

He does not fully explore the question of competitive eating as a waste of food except to call those who consider it such "bleeding heart[s]", and to point out that someone who thinks that wouldn't consider "NASCAR a waste of fuel." Ummm...yes, NASCAR is a waste of fuel. To be fair I will point out that the IFCOE does donate to Second Harvest and the Hurricane Katrina relief.

On several occasions Nerz claims that competitive eating is an equal opportunity sport because a few women compete on the circuit. He profiles two women "guritators", as they are called, and both are described as quite thin and feminine-looking. On the other hand, he profiles quite a few men and body types of all shapes and sizes are celebrated in them. I somehow doubt a large woman would last very long on the ciruit, even if she were a champion eater. A look at the IFOCE website "meet the eaters" has two women out of twenty, hardly "equal" opportunity.

There was no mention of libraries in this book, there was, however, a mention of Unitarians. Nerz puts on "one of those collars that priests wear" in order to impersonate a Unitarian minister as part of a stunt. He he stumbles his way around issues in the Old Testament and last rites to the crowd gathered to see "Crazy Legs Conti" eat his way out of a popcorn sarcophagus. To be sure, we Unitarians have many beliefs and our ministers have any number of ways of expressing their vocation, so I am sure there are some who use the "dickeys", and probably those who will administer last rites when asked. I hope he wasn't really trying to fool anyone though, perhaps not. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt on this one. On another spirtual matter though, guritator "Ikeda feel[s] that his stomach has its own soul". Nerz"believe[s] this [possiblity] has some basis in truth, [and] would shatter all notions of eating competitions as mere exercises in gluttony." I am not ready to make such a leap of faith.

Finally, Nerz got under my skin by using two of my "pet peeves of writing". First he uses "fast-forward" to indicate time passage. This is just overused. Can we all please agree not to use this one anymore? And secondly he says "Drew Cerza and Lon both didn't (emphasis mine) seem to notice. I have seen this awkward construction more and more of late. It sounds so much smoother to say "neither Drew nor Lon seemed to notice". Let us remember that negatives can be our friends.

I am sure Nerz will have his fans, as competitive eating truly does have a large following. For those who are tickled by tales of poopy pants, and vomit that looks like "milk shakes" this book will no doubt amuse. It takes all kinds.

Monday, November 16, 2009

12 books 12 months Conspiracy 365

This new series doesn't actually look like it's my cup of coffee, so I probably won't read it myself, but it fits the theme of my blog and I'm sure others will be interested. The November 2 issue of Publisher's Weekly features a cover about Conspiracy 365. A series that will be published one book a month for 12 months and the story takes place over the period of one year. Its target audience is ages 10-15.

Featured Chef

I must give a plug to my budding foodie husband, James. He is currently the featured chef at Fast Recipes
The queso dip does have bang for the buck!

Of musty books and good food smells

The first mention Julie Powell makes of libraries is on page 32 (I don't know if there are others, having only read to page 106 so far). She says "...I flipped through the book [Mastering the Art of French Cooking], trying to pronouce all the French words under my breath. An old smell came off the pages, musty but not like library books. More like a dog or a forest floor, something damp and warm and living. The words, and the smell, reminded me of something-but what it was I couldn't at first figure out...."
[several paragraphs follow in which there is a clear connection between sensuality and food]
"It sounded weird. It also sounded kind of well, dirty."
"I suddenly remembered exactly what the book reminded me of."

So, as is my wont, I had this passage marked so I could blog about it, after all, it is about libraries. And then, today, purely by coincedence, my boss sent the following story about why musty books smell like they do.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Bobby Brady and the Kartoon King

Competitive Eating began with local contests. The IFOCE (The International Federation of Competitive Eating) did not get involved until much later. Nerz mentions some of the roots of the "sport" including pie-eating contests in which the contestants were not allowed use their hands. This brought to mind my favorite show when I was a kid - The Brady Bunch. During the Brady Bunch's second season there is just such a scene in an episode called "The Winner". It has the oh-so-original plotline in which a young sibling feels bad because he has no trophy. (How many television shows used that one in the 60s & 70s?) In this case Bobby enters an ice cream eating contest on the "Kartoon King" show hoping to win a golden spoon trophy. Spoons are taken away and the kids go at their ice cream like pigs in a trough. Although Bobby doesn't win this one, you can be sure that by the end of the episode he has his trophy.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Movie picks of the month

I recommend the classic Bill Murray flick Meatballs as a companion movie to Eat This Book. The competitive hot-dog-eating scene near the end is part of an end-of-summer "Olympics" with two rival camps competing. I think of sports when I think of the Olympics, and I don't think of competitive eating as a sport, but apparently many do. By the way a new Meatballs is being remade for release next year. My other movie suggestion is Stand By Me a coming-of-age film in which the competitive eating sequence is a story within the story, with a very high gross-out factor, told a 12-year old lad to his chums. His story features a competitive eater named "Lardass."

A Very Special Bookmobile

Luis Soriano takes books to the children of La Gloria, Colombia each week by donkey, a program called "Biblioburro" or Library Donkey. Some of the children use the books to do research for their homework, others just want to read for pleasure. He says by bringing the children books they learn about their rights and duties, and that in turn, teaches them to say no to war. This story truly hit home for me because James, Paloma and I hosted Martha Lucia Giraldo from the organization Witness for Peace in our home this week. She spoke at Bridgewater State College on extra-judicial killings in Colombia.

Michael Anthony

I mentioned in my November 2 post that I had just found out about a book written by Bridgewater State College student, Michael Anthony, called Mass Casualties. Last night I had the priveldge of meeting Mr. Anthony who was signing books at the Wine Palace in West Bridgewater, Massachusetts. I broke rule number 2 (as described in my very first post); however, I have no regrets about buying a brand new copy of this book. I now have my own autographed copy, and all proceeds of last night's sales went to the Boston vet center, "which provides readjustment counseling, PTSD counseling and outreach services to all veterans". Plus, I got to sample some great wine. Michael Anthony was interviewed for the Bridgewater State College newslog. Find out more here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Ooh la la

One nice thing about reading Julie & Julia out loud to James is that there are a fair number of French words in the book, and that means I get to show off my superior French accent (superior to James', that is). Any bit of French makes us a nostalgic because James and I met in French class back in 1983 at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. I don't actually remember meeting him, he was just someone I knew from French class, who, alors, already had une petite amie. Zut! Here we are 26 years later though, and tres amoreuses. I ended up taking French through some advanced level courses, but I think James stopped at the 101 class in which we met. Although we speak Spanish and Portuguese with some frequency now, we almost never use our French. I think the last time we really had to give it a work out was in 2001 when we needed to ask for a camping spot while we were in Montreal, Canada. With the help of the pretty-good English of one of the park employees, we managed.

The Belt of Fat Theory

Why is it that a person who weighs less than 150 pounds can handily beat a 400 pound bruiser in competetive eating? One theory is the "belt of fat". The skinny challenger does not have any fat pressing up against his stomach and therefore has more room. Popular Science had this to say about it. Hey, it's just a theory.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Two down

In my post of November 2 I related that I had quite a few books come to me at the same time. I have read and reviewed Watercooler (watch for it in the upcoming issue of the Internet Review of Books) and finished and blogged about Life's That Way. Additionally, James and I are several chapters into Julie & Julia (posts soon to follow). So, my next solo book is Ryan Nerz's Eat This Book. I've read 25 pages so far, and already I want to vomit. No so much from the nasty descriptions of people making gluttonous spectacles of themselves, but rather from discovering that competitive eating as a spectator sport even exists in a world where so many are starving.

Wrapping up "Life's THAT Way"

So, it turns out that I was reading the title of this one wrong. I assumed it was a phrase to be said with a shoulder shrug - kind of a fatalistic view of things (that's the way things are; you can't change them). But in fact, the title should be said with the stress on the word "that". It is actually a direction, a command to move ahead.

Cynic that I am, I think I only used about dozen kleenex reading this book. Others will need many more. Jim Beaver is alternately serious, funny and emotional in this one-year journey which chronicles his wife's cancer diagnosis and death, and his personal grieving as he realizes he will be raising his very young daughter alone, and the bittersweet feelings he has of seeing her reach new milestones knowing that Cecily would have thrilled to share them.

The book is a series of e-mails Beaver started sending out to friends when Cecily was first diagnosed to let them know what was happening to her health, and how her treatments were going. The messages progress into reflections on life, death, love, and grieving and although he claims to hold back on some of his emotions and honest feelings, it certainly does not seem so to the reader.

When I embarked on this "year of" project I expected all the books I chose would be of the "shtick lit" genre - a term I just learned from Library Journal meaning "a stuntlike project undertaken for the purpose of writing about it" (see the review for Memoir: A History in the link above). A.J. Jacobs comes immediately to mind. It is also essentially what this blog is. But I discovered that some of the books recounted "accidental" years. There wasn't a plan, writing was done in hindsight. Joan Didion and Jon Katz are two that I think of here. In Beaver's case, there was no plan to send messages to friends for a year, but he stopped at the year anniversary - about 8 months after Cecily's death. The writing took place in "real time", as a "year of" project would, but the intention was not the same. He was reporting to friends and acquaintances, not writing a book. He points out in his last entry he is moving on "...from the procedure begun unwittingly (emphasis mine) a year ago...". So neither a project book, nor a hindsight book, a new sub-genre all together.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

There is always a way to make a library connection

I do not recall reading anything about libraries in this work. I try to mark any page on which I find a reference to libraries, or librarians, so I can create an separate post about it. I have no such markers for this book. Not to worry. I made a connection anyway, weak though it is:

Jim Beaver was married to Cecily Adams, daughter of the actor Don Adams, known best to me as Maxwell Smart, Secret agent 86 from the TV series Get Smart. The library I work in is the Clement C. Maxwell Library. A few years ago the marketing students on campus came up with a marketing slogan for us: "Get Smart - at the Max" (groans all around).

I actually wrote a draft of this post when I was only partially through through the book, I didn't publish it at the time because I thought it was still possible that a library mention would show up by the end, but also because I wasn't sure if it seemed a bit disrespectful. I decided it was okay when I read a passage about Beaver's young daughter Maddie making a play on the words taxes and Texas. He begins to wonder if "bad puns are genetic", and if so "[h]e know[s] his papa is smiling proudly, for there were few things he loved more than a bad pun."


In addition to his wife's (actress Cicely Adams) cancer, Jim Beaver writes about his own father's failing health; his father-in-law (actor Don Adams') poor health; a health crisis for his brother-in-law; and his mother-in-law's fall which results in a broken arm. All of this in the first four chapters.

I nodded to myself as Beaver described his own family's manner of communicating health concerns "Numerous times in recent years I've found out that somebody fell off the house or had something amputated or was diagnosed with Glaubner's disease not when it happened, but days, weeks, even months later."

It is also the way of my people to assume that someone else will tell me, the one who does not live in Maryland, what is going on in our family. As if to prove the point, shortly after reading this passage I received an e-mail from my husband, who had forgotten to give me the message he received from my sister (his BFF on Facebook) the night before that my mother was having surgery that day "you knew about this, right"? was the tagline of my sister's original message. Of course we didn't know. Who would have told us? I laughed with my sister about the "Hayes way" when I called her last night.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Libraries Cure Ignorance

Earlier this week author Tracy Kidder visited the Cohasset, Massachusetts High School and had this to say.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A feast of books

On Friday I received the first of my November books, Eat This Book: A Year of Gorging on the Competitive Eating Circuit by Ryan Nerz (which came to me by way of Canton (Massachusetts)Public Library). This was a little upsetting to my anal-retentive sensibilities because I had not yet read two books on health for October. I was really hoping that one of the other books I requested for October would have come in by the end of the week so I could read it over the weekend. Alas, my second October book - Life's That Way: A Memoir by Jim Beaver - did not arrive until Sunday, and I picked it up this morning. (I have the good folks at the Reading (Massachusetts) Library to thank for it). Meanwhile, my friend Nancy stopped by my office late Friday afternoon and dropped off her copies of Julie & Julia by Julie Powell and Julia Child's My Life in France (For those who didn't catch on, November's theme is eating). Additionally, over the weekend my editor from the Internet Review of Books dropped off two books at my house for me to review. So, my plan is this: I need to review one of the books (Watercooler by Elizabeth Sanchez) by November 8. This shouldn't be a problem as it is pretty short (112 pages) so I will start on that one right away. I will also start Life's That Way and try to get a posting up ASAP so as not to get too far behind on my November books. Julie & Julia is the read-aloud book I will read with James, so it will probably spill over into December. The Julia Child book is not a "year of" book, so it can wait. When I am finished with my October book I will start on Eat This Book. My other review is not due until early December.
Today, I also found out about another book I will put on my list for later: Mass Casualties by Michael Anthony. Anthony spent a year as a medic in Iraq. He is also a student at Bridgewater State College.