Sunday, November 27, 2011

Baking and Books

My daughter Ruby was just home from college for the Thanksgiving holiday. She has her own vegan baking blog so she spent much of her time in the kitchen baking, then taking photos on the back porch to catch "just-the-right-light"; tough to do on these gray pre-snow days in Minnesota. On Black Friday she went shopping at Trader Joe's for baking supplies to use in her small college kitchen. Trader Joe's was not offering any midnight deals, in fact the  person at the cash register was quite happy to be enjoying a relatively slow pace compared to the Thanksgiving rush just the day before. Canola oil, cashews for vegan cheese, and almonds were on the shopping list. I threw in a box of "Candy Cane Green Tea" to help her through finals to the holidays. 

When we got home Ruby scoured the attic, basement, and closets for small plates, cups, saucers, pieces of cloth, doilies and anything that might serve as background and props for photographing her baked goods. Where did she get this amazing ability to bake delicious things to eat?  I have my theories... but I think it all comes down to books...
Ruby photographing pumpkin pancakes, watch for the recipe on her blog! Delicious!
Both Ruby and my son, Cooper grew up with books. Everything books! I think it all began with cookbooks. Our favorite was Pretend Soup by Mollie Katsen. "Bagel faces" and "Bright Pink Fruit Dip" were two of our favorite recipes. We also loved trying recipes we found in stories, such as: How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman, or our favorite spring read: Thunder Cake, by Patricia Polacco. (Tomatoes in chocolate cake are really good, but strange.) And though I don't remember a real recipe in the book, we always had to eat pancakes after reading this.

The season of baking is fast upon us. We just dropped Ruby off at the airport, but she will soon return home for winter break and more baking. We are all looking forward to her vegan versions inspired by this childhood favorite!

Portrait of the Baker as a Young Girl. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Great Find...

I love bookstores. Especially small ones... independent ones... ones that are more likely to be called "Bookshops" than Bookstores. Last weekend I was in Grand Marais, MN~ my favorite small town on the edge of Lake Superior. Whenever I visit Grand Marais I have to visit Drury Lane Books. A small white historic house on the edge of the lake filled with books! What could be better? What I love about small independent bookstores is that each one has a unique voice when it comes to the books that fill the shelves inside. Drury Lane has shelves of books to choose from that I would never come across in a large bookstore chain.  When I walk through the door I feel my excitement rise with the anticipation of finding the perfect book.  I take off my winter coat and make myself comfortable, knowing I can easily spend several hours or more perusing the fiction section alone, then make my way to the travel and nature shelves at the back and finally over to the history, politics, and current issues sections. Sometimes I sit on the small painted chair in the children's book section. Sometimes I sit in the rocking chair at the back of the store where I can talk to whoever is working at the store, maybe Lee, maybe Bruce, sometimes even the owner, author, Joan Drury. They all know books, so very soon I have gathered before me a pile of books to consider. This is when I make my way to my favorite spot: the window seat in the front room. There I can look out at the Bay occasionally while I curl up and look through each book, hoping to find the one that feels "just right."

Last weekend I made a great find! It is a small perfectly shaped book and every page I have read so far stirs my imagination. Set in 16th Century Venice the story takes place in an island monastery where Fra Mauro works on a map of the world in his small enclosed cell. His map grows and changes based on the stories brought to him by explorers, pilgrims, and merchants returning from their world travels. It is one of those books that I could read in one sitting, but I deliberately go slow in order to savor every page.

Never able to choose just one, I also bought this book. It is gorgeously illustrated by my friend Betsy Bowen, a marvelous artist of books, paintings, and much more, who lives in Grand Marais. Should you find your way to the North Shore of Lake Superior, I recommend visiting Betsy's studio and of course, Drury Lane books.