I received some wonderful non-book gifts (Wrath of Khan Director's Cut DVD, come to mama! And the new crucifix that is now gracing our living room ...) but for this crowd, I know that quite often the books are the thing. So let's take a look ...
The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making
by Alana Chernila
This one's from Rose who knows a cookbook is always a safe bet for me. Over the years I have come across many foods we usually buy from the store but that we can also make at home. Beginning with my parents who routinely made butter, tomato paste, pasta, and other delicious comestibles in the 1960s and 70s. (We won't even get into raising their own chickens and pigs ... but I can tell you there is nothing like a duck egg for breakfast. It beats a chicken egg all to flinders for excellent flavor.)
I have picked and chosen where I am willing to buy storebought and where it is worth the effort to produce it myself. Pesto, bread, mayonnaise - yes. Pasta - no. However, for the generation coming up simply cooking is a monumental feat much of the time as they have never been taught anything about it. I think of the brief and probably bewildering conversation I had with a pal as we picked up our CSA coolers from the farmer on Saturday. She was not sure why she couldn't saute a green bean without burning it or adding extra water. Poor, poor thing. She's coming over to my house soon for coffee so I can show her my kitchen equipment.
However, I digress. All of that is to say that the author's breathless excitement at producing ricotta and yogurt are praiseworthy and valid ... and probably very reassuring to those who have never considered making such things at home. For me, I like her enthusiasm and am interested to see the technique tweaks in a few places so far. (You can always learn something, even when you think you know everything and I am far from knowing everything.)
And it is good for me to be prodded out of my usual routine so that I actually do try some of the things I've read about so much. For instance, that ricotta ... it's going to happen soon, I think. Mozzarella I've always found tasteless, even the fresh stuff that I can get locally from Paula Lambert's Mozzarella Company. Provolone, now ... which I substitute for mozzarella ... that I might try making.
by Larry Silver
Who knew that watching In Bruges was going to kick off an interest in Hieronymous Bosch that would lead to this gigantic book being one of the prize gifts I received? I tore open the paper and saw half of the back cover ... squealed "Hieronymous Bosch!" like a Twilight fan seeing Edward Cullen saunter by twinkling in the sunlight. This is a big brute of an art book but well worth it so far as Silver delves into Bosch's paintings and provides me with much food for thought and an education into looking at art.
Instructions: Everything You'll Need to Know on Your Journey
by Neil Gaiman
A children's book. But a children's book written by Neil Gaiman with wonderful illustrations. Anyone who loves traditional fairy tales will love this tribute to the "rules" we all learn from them ... and how you can follow them to get through the story.
The Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks
by Donald Harington
This one was a complete surprise as I have never heard of it or the author. That's not good or bad, just a surprise ... am going to be interested to hear my mother tell me why she likes it since she's never mentioned it before.
A Dog's Purpose
by W. Bruce Cameron
Another that I have no idea what to think of. As a kid I reread Beautiful Joe and Black Beauty with no problems, though as an adult I cringe from revisiting those tough stories. As an adult I love Watership Down, but my overall experience with animal POV stories is that they tend to be sadder than is my preference. Reading Alice Walker's comment on the cover somewhere that she cried like a baby (ok, I'm paraphrasing) makes me wary. However, I do trust my mother, who gave me this, so I will dip a toe into this doggy tale.
Introduction to Christianity
by Pope Benedict XVI
This is thanks to my husband who knows who my favorite authors are. I'd no sooner ripped the wrapping off before I was flipping through the introduction and saying, "Oh, even back then he had the same style for considering arguments ... just listen" and then reading aloud. (Yes, he is a patient and loving man, my husband.)
Pope Benedict. On the creed. It doesn't get much better than that.
And he dedicated it to his students in several towns, including Tubingen. Which I've been to. And have fond memories of. From even before Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict) was on my radar.
So I guess it can get better. It just did.
More as I get a chance to read beyond the introduction.