Friday, July 29, 2011

Eat Portugal!

Since Marilee has been slammed with revisions, foreign correspondent, Sue Roebuck, generously shared her interview with the authors of a new cookbook titled, Eat Portugal. Sue, you are a friend indeed!

I was fortunate enough to attend a book-launch for “Eat Portugal – The Essential Guide to Portuguese Food” by Lucy Pepper and Célia Pedroso.

As a foreigner living in Portugal for many years one would imagine that I’d know all there is to know about our cuisine. But this book is a gem. It is divided sections: Recipes, Glossary, Useful information and English/Portuguese, Portuguese/English dictionary.
The recipes are surprisingly simple but delicious and written in a style that makes the reader want to head for the kitchen: “Broad Bean Stew (Favas à portuguesa) Broad beans become interesting when cooked with mint and meat juices”. The glossary is sometimes laugh out loud amusing, but straight to the point and honest: “feijão: bean. Beans are very common in Portuguese cookery…Tinned baked beans (in tomato sauce) are thought quite horrible in Portugal and the idea of eating them for breakfast or with chips is ludicicrous.”

In 2005, a well-known restaurant critic writing for the Sunday Times wrote this about Portugal:

“…Portugal is Belgium for golfers, a place so forgettable that the rest of us haven’t even bothered to think up a rude nickname for it. …there is a theory that the Portuguese only got an empire as a desperate attempt to get laid…In gallant little Portugal, the food is well meaning and pretty dreadful…I’m sure if you’re born to it, it reminds you of your grandmother’s beard and your mother’s mop bucket. Portuguese food is heaven — if you’re Portuguese…”

And so on and so forth. The article, rightly, provoked a storm of protests not only from the Portuguese but also from foreigners.  Lucy and Célia can explain why the writer got it completely wrong.


Sue: What would you say to the restaurant critic who wrote the above?

Lucy: I remember that review.  First, I’d just say “grow up, Adrian, and stop showing off”. 
At the time he hadn’t been to Portugal, so I’ve never understood how he had such strong feelings about the place.  If he HAD been here and said them, I’d have forgiven him; everyone has an opinion.  Of course, you can find bad food in Portugal, but I must say that it is a lot harder to do here, than say, in Britain, which, although she has changed her foodmap forever and is now one of the greatest places to find amazing food, it’s also too easy to find utter rubbish, from the horrible generic frozen pub food to plasticky bakery food and some dreadful restaurants.  
Poor Adrian wasn’t blessed with a Portuguese mother-in-law.  I acquired one 13 years ago, and I’ve been her experimental guinea pig ever since... she, like many Portuguese, is of the opinion that the British are a bunch of sissies who need to learn to appreciate Cozido à Portuguesa (lit. Boil up, à la Portugaise) ... and I learned.  
I would forgive Adrian for what he said if he had ever been presented with a great ugly plateful of Cozido à Portuguesa, with its fair share of ears and noses poking out, and boiled flour and blood sausages sitting mushily at the edges, or with an evil looking dish of Feijoada (Bean Stew, with meat and often with cured sausages) with so many ingredients in it that you imagine it can’t taste of any of them.  I would forgive him because I took my time to appreciate them.  However, once you can get past the looks, the flavours are interesting, deep and lodge themselves into your new found “this is what Portugal tastes like” area of your brain.  
I am pleased that Adrian will be denied that pleasure.

Célia: I had forgotten about that review. Glad you point it out that because many people feel some kind of fear or even repulsed just based on what their eyes see on the table. Once you get over that visual first impression you'll find a tasty cuisine. Sometimes simple, sometimes rich, but very different from our neighbour, Spain, which surprises most visitors. As one important British restaurant critic (Marina O'Loughlin) says, Portuguese cuisine is still very underrated. I suppose if Adrian had tried the Migas à Moda do Alentejo (a bread and pork dish from Alentejo) cooked by Lucy he would never have written that nonsense. 

Sue: “Eat Portugal – The Essential Guide to Portuguese Food” is aimed at foreign residents, tourists and the Portuguese themselves. How did you manage to create a book that would satisfy all three? 

Lucy: We initially aimed the book at tourists and foreign residents.  The fact that it resonates with the Portuguese is a huge added bonus and a lovely surprise.  When we started working on it, I wasn’t at all sure how it would go down with my Portuguese friends, this “bifa” writing about their food. 
We wrote it in a casual, chatty way, so that it was easy to pick up and easy to read.  Maybe that has also helped to appeal to everyone. 
Célia: The non-Portuguese were our first target and the reason why we wrote the book in the first place. Somehow, now that the book is published, many Portuguese also love it and ask for a Portuguese translation, which was a happy surprise. Apparently traditional dishes are not as cooked as often as they used to be in many households, and people don' t feel confident in doing it anymore without a recipe; this could explain this warm reaction. Also, Lucy's design is very appealing and makes the book easy to read and use.

Sue: I’ve always been curious about cookery-book writing. How do you choose the recipes, and did you actually try them yourselves? 

Lucy: The recipes are ones that one or other of us already makes from time to time or that a friend or relative makes and was happy to give us the recipe. We tried all the recipes (and photographed most) as we wrote the book, with a great deal of help from Célia’s mother.
Célia: We chose the recipes based on our knowledge and experience, thinking of what non-Portuguese would like to cook at home, after a visit to Portugal. A selection of recipes that could represent most of the country, including Madeira and Azores islands. Yes, we tried, taste and photograph them, with a hand from my mother, a great cook and expert in Portuguese cuisine. During the writing and cooking process I was very moved to see how Lucy's love for our food is as passionate as mine. I'm convinced she eventually will get over her baba de camelo (camel's spit) and lampreia de ovos (egg lamprey)  disgust.

Sue: Which is your favorite recipe?

Lucy: This week, it’s Milho Frito (fried corn), a side dish from Madeira. It’s something I only discovered a couple of years ago and it is fiendishly good... and extremely simple to make.  Simply cook up a thick batch of fine grain cornmeal/polenta (well salted, add garlic and a little shredded kale if you like), cooked until it’s well cooked and rubbery, let it cool, refrigerate for a few hours to enhance the rubberyness.  Slice into 1” cubes or sticks and deep fry, until golden and crispy on the outside.  I didn’t say it was good for you.

Célia: That is a difficult question as I love most of the recipes in the book, but I would say Migas à Moda do Alentejo and Bacalhau à Braz (cod with eggs and chips). The desserts are also a matter of perdition. I recommend them all.

Sue: Where can people buy “Eat Portugal”?

Lucy:  We’re currently looking into getting it to Amazon.
It’s available in Lisbon, Porto and Faro airports and many bookshops across Portugal.
Also it’s available online:

Sue: Do you have any plans for a follow-up book? 

Lucy: We’re thinking of extending it a little, but we’re going to see how it goes for now. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011


I rarely use all capital letters to call attention to a book. One Second After by William Fortschen is worthy of rule-breaking. Picture this: Everything you own powered by computer chip stops working in a split second. You are on the freeway heading home. Suddenly, your car conks out for no apparent reason along with all the cars around you. You reach for your cell phone. No signal. You are surrounded by desperate people. People who can't get where they want to go. People who have no food. People who can't contact their families. How long will it be before civilized society breaks down?

The precipitating incident is known as EMP, a nuclear event using electromagnetic pulse waves. Fact: if a nuclear weapon is detonated above the earth's atmosphere, it generates pulse waves that travel at the speed of light. When the waves hit the earth's surface, it destroys the electrical grid. Bye-bye modern conveniences. Hello Dark Ages.

The story is told by protagonist, John Matherson, a history professor in the college town of Black Mountain, North Carolina. Three years prior to this event, his wife died of breast cancer. John is trying his best to raise two teenage girls, one of whom is diabetic. Before long, the town of Black Mountain is faced with challenges unheard of in modern times. How do you handle hordes of hungry people invading your town?
The body count is rising. The cemetery is full. Where do you bury the bodies? Answer: You use the community golf course. And, In Matherson's case, how can he keep his daughter alive without insulin?

Is EMP real? Yes. Were the disasters resulting from such an attack exaggerated in One Second After? It's possible. Does the book contain glaring grammatical errors? Yes. That said, if you start this book, make sure you have a block of time set aside because you won't stop until you reach the end. Word of warning: if you're not a Newt Gingrich fan, you may want to skip the foreword written by him. It does, however, put forth some interesting theories.

Have you read One Second After? Do you have an opinion about EMP? If so, please leave a comment.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Rebekah Jensen, writer of middle grade fiction and avid reader offers this look at one of her favorite children's authors. Welcome, Becky!
                               LUCY MAUD MONTGOMERY

As a writer, there are times when I just want to read other’s work. I find myself thinking about what I like about a story and the author’s style. Every once in a while I’ll pick up a new book and just fall in love with it. I had never read Lucy Maud Montgomery’s THE STORY GIRL and was given a copy to peruse.

It turned out to be a new favorite. THE STORY GIRL a story that revolves around a group of children (cousins and their friends) who live in a small community on Prince Edward Island, Canada. The Story Girl is one of the cousins and she has a talent of telling amazing tales and stories. The book is a delightful adventure of children as they interest with one another and learn more about life and growing up. I laughed, cried and just couldn’t put it down.

As a writer I found the conversations the children had a wonderful example of true children’s dialogue. LMM really captured the essence of child-like wonder and thought processes. I enjoyed the book so much that I picked up the sequel THE GOLDEN ROAD and again was absolutely enraptured by the story.

In fact, after I read those two books I decided to re-read all the LMM books. Her ANNE OF GREEN GABLES series have eight books (and a ninth one called THE BLYTHES ARE QUOTED, but I didn’t get a chance to read that one). They are all about Anne from her childhood to her children’s stories. The last book is RILLA OF INGLESIDE and it’s focus is Anne’s youngest daughter.

I also read CHRONICLES OF AVONLEA, FURTHER CHRONICLES OF AVONLEA and THE BLUE CASTLE. All of her books are wonderful! They deal with children, war, marriage, love, death and life in general. LMM also captures the beauty of nature (especially her beloved Canada) in all of her stories. Her rich descriptions make you long to travel and see all the beauty she writes about in her work.

I highly recommend reading (or re-reading) LMM’s works as a writer and a reader. Her Anne stories start out simple but the subject matter matures as Anne does. LMM’s works are a great tool for writers who want to develop strong characters, have genuine character dialogue (especially children) and write a well-rounded book that deal with the themes of life.

In the present writer’s market where the supernatural story reigns supreme, it’s nice to read a story that deals with real life situations and people. Don’t get me wrong! I love the fantasy stories, but there is something that stirs the soul when you read LMM’s works. She was an incredible storyteller and her work still stands after a hundred years.

Friday, July 15, 2011


It's time for a new post but due to the fact I'm swapping out my PC for a Mac Book, there will be a short delay. I've been wanting to write about the changes in the publishing industry for a long time, particularly the topic of self-publishing which is currently undergoing a huge transition. I've received a great response from writers who have self published as well as those who have an opinion on self publishing. Ask and you shall receive. I will be attending a forum on the subject soon, so expect a few well chosen words from yours truly as well. Until then, please browse more recipes from our resident chef, Jean Denham.

Basil and goat Cheese Dip

 Originally from a Nigella Lawson book, Feast.

1 cup walnut pieces, toasted
2 green onions, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups basil leaves
1 cup soft goat’s cheese (Chèvre)
3 Tablespoons garlic-infused oil

Process the walnut pieces, scallions & basil leaves, then add the goat cheese and oil; process again to make a grainy paste. Transfer to a bowl. You can use feta in place of goat cheese.

a Chef’s Journey tip: for easy infused garlic oil, heat the 3 Tablespoons of olive oil in a small sauce pan with 1 large clove of garlic minced. Just bring to a simmer, don’t allow to boil, and remove from heat. Let sit until cool before using.

Rhubarb, Jalapeno and Raspberry Jam
This jam can be used in so many ways ~ of course on your morning toast, bagels, or waffles; but mine mostly ends up being used as an hors d’oeuvre. Warm it just enough to spoon over a block of cream cheese, put out some crackers and you’re all ready for company. Keep in mind; you need to start the jam the day before you want to use it.

5 cups Rhubarb, small dice
3 cups sugar
1 or 2 jalapeno peppers, discard seeds but keep the membrane; finely mince
3 oz. package Raspberry flavored jello

Mix Rhubarb, sugar and jalapeno together and let stand overnight covered in the refrigerator. Stir it a couple of times to completely dissolve the sugar. In the morning cook the mixture until the rhubarb is soft, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the jello, stirring until it is dissolved. Makes 2 pints of jam. It will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks, or process it in smaller jars according to canning procedures.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Whether published or unpublished, we authors have our insecurities. I'll never forget the first time I attended a critique group and read something I'd written. My hands were shaking. My mouth was as dry as dust. I was terrified! Why? Because, as writers, we pour our hearts and souls into our words. They become like surrogate children and all of us want people to like our kids . . . right? 

When I joined Facebook, one of my first friends was Dawn Miller. I found her fascinating - okay, it's true, she likes my books - but that's not the only reason. She always had something interesting to say. She was articulate, well-read and upbeat even though it was obvious her life was not easy. I had a hunch she would have something wonderful to contribute to Book Blather and here it is. A great big Book Blather welcome to Dawn Miller!


I often tell my kids that in order to succeed they have to try.  If they fail, learn from it, and try again.  So, why is my own advice so hard to follow?  I have allowed my own fear, of failure, of rejection, to hold me captive.  It’s safe here in the cage of my own making.  I am confident in my actions and the reaction to them.  However, my goals, my dreams, sit outside the bars, unattained.  Unreachable, unless I open the unlocked door and venture into the beyond.

You would think that being able to recognize the problem would be half the way to solving it, right?  Wrong.  There are obstacles that need to be negotiated.  I have a chronic illness.  I have three teens.  They each have issues and demands upon my time.  I have a husband, a house and pets.  Our family budget is tight and facing the addition of college as a line item shortly.  Not insurmountable obstacles though and certainly not ones that are all that unique.

So, if the obstacles are not true barriers, then I guess we are back to the fear.  Yes, it’s the fear.  As I mentioned above the fear is two-fold, fear of failure and fear of rejection.  I know that not trying is actually failing.  I know it and I hate it.  The fear of rejection is more complex.  I am an outgoing, happy person that likes to make others happy, too.  I am also realistic and know that not everyone will like me and certainly not everyone will like what I do.  Yet, the thought of seeing that rejection in black and white seems scarier now that I am older, wiser and experienced.

I should clarify my dream for those of you reading.  I want to be an author.  I love to write.  I have two books started and no where near finished.  One is a fictional paranormal mystery like the ones I love to read.  The other is the story of how we decided to homeschool my eldest son with Asperger’s Syndrome in the late 1990’s when there was no autism awareness or help being extended from the public school system.

Maybe writing this blog entry will be the first step in overcoming my fear.  I was just giddy with delight when Marilee first asked me to contribute to Book Blather.  Then, the panic hit.  What should I write?  Will Marilee like it?  Will everyone else?  Slowly, I crawled out of the cage and began.  Putting everything down in words has helped dampen the fear.  I think I have a dusty notebook and a couple of old Word files I need to reopen. 

Dawn LaVella Miller - July 12, 2011

Saturday, July 9, 2011


Our British Labrador Retriever, Mauli, has been with me since the beginning of my writing journey in 2001. From early puppyhood, her favorite place to sleep was behind my desk chair. Mauli has a long tail. My chair has wheels. I am sometimes forgetful. Therefore, it’s impossible to calculate the number of times I’ve rolled over her tail. Being of a forgiving nature, Mauli would simply give me a reproachful look and resume her post.

I swear she knows when I haven’t finished my word count for the day. In spite of the danger, tail-wise, she scoots closer and closer, literally pinning me to the desk until I finish. Mauli will be ten this year. She’s made sure I’ve completed six books. I can’t imagine writing without her pressed against the back of my chair.

 I’d like to believe Mauli is like Enzo, the sweet dog in The Art of Racing in the Rain. Enzo lived his life believing that, after death, he would evolve into a higher being, one with opposable thumbs and the ability to talk. Oh, wait! Do I really want a dog who not only makes me stay in my chair, but has the ability to nag? Hmmm. I’ll think it over and let you know.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Dreams and Dedication

Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die,
Life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly
                             ...Langston Hughes 

Have you ever examined your life and felt that something was missing? My friend Jean Shelledy Denham did. Instead of living with what ifs and regrets, she made a decision that rocked her world. Jean is a living example of the old adage, It's never too late to achieve your dream.

Have you experienced a life-changing moment? If so, we'd love to hear about it. Leave a comment and who knows? You may win a prize!

                                  The Jean Denham Story

I turned 59 in 1999 and it was an eye opening experience for me ~ I didn’t so much hate the idea, I just couldn’t believe it was happening to me. Until I looked in the mirror, I was still the frizzy curly red-headed tomboy with more freckles than a speckled egg. But, that little girl had morphed into the mother of eight (blended family), grandmother of 14 and if anyone had asked me that year what I had accomplished in my lifetime, what a friggin’ blank stare they would have been given. Nothing, other than being proud of my children and their offspring plus having a wonderful second marriage…but nothing, I really had achieved by or for myself.

 I had had my first heart attack in 1993 and over the following years I had at some level asked myself, if I died tomorrow, what would I regret? In 1999, I finally answered myself…Why, oh why, did I not pursue becoming a chef? Since I was 19 years old I have had a love affair with cooking – I devour cookbooks, I hear a cooking term and I’m not satisfied until I teach myself how to do what ever it is. I’ve cooked for family, friends, done nonprofessional catering, and was never happier than when I had blown the socks off friends with a dish that I was so proud of.

In the summer of 1999, I learned of the American Culinary Federation and that this association sponsored a three-year accredited culinary program in my area. By September I was enrolled in a class that would literally change my whole family’s life – especially my husband’s; the husband who was used to his wife working 9 to 5, Monday-Friday jobs. I committed to three years of one night a week classes plus I had to document 6,000 hours of cooking at all the 10 stations of a restaurant – from Garde Manger  through Butchering, Soups and Sauces  and ending with  Lead Cook. Each apprentice was responsible for finding work in a restaurant during the duration of our schooling. Well, I knew I’d probably be headed for divorce court if after 31 years, I came home one day and said, “Honey, I’m not going to be around anymore evenings, weekends, or holidays.”

So, for the first 8 months of school, I hid ( I thought) the fact that I was not working at a legitimate kitchen job from my Chef/Instructor, Chef Trung Bui, the most fantastic Vietnamese French Chef who ever landed in the U.S. I was sure I would be expelled as not being ‘serious’ chef material. Instead I started my own personal chef business, which was an occupation that was just getting off the ground and really received no respect from the ‘real cooking world’ and the chefs who inhabited this world. With this job, I could work for customers during the week days – they didn’t want you around evenings, weekends and holidays – they just wanted food prepared for them and waiting in the refrigerator or freezer. In addition to my business, a Chef’s Journey…to your home,” I volunteered with every country club, restaurant, and professional caterer I could convince to take me on and at the first, I didn’t get paid – I was a stagiaire (stah-zhee-EHR), a French term which literally means you are an unpaid apprentice, but you are compensated with the most wondrous education an apprentice could ask for. I eventually achieved status with the chefs I met and worked with, and before long, they were paying me to fill in and I learned the restaurant world of Sacramento valley in California.

During the last year of school, I was voted in as Apprenticeship Chairman of the local chapter of the ACF (American Culinary Federation) and I kept that chair until we retired in 2005 and moved home to Washington.

During the few short years of 1999 and retirement in 2005, I was so lucky in my cooking experience – by 2003, I got my dream job of Chef at a little hotel in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. I worked harder than I had ever worked in  my life, but it was the most rewarding and fun time of my working life.

Now, I look back and think, “My God, what if I had died when I had my first heart attack, October 3, 1993?” I would have missed the best years of my life. If anyone reads this who has a dream they think they are too old to accomplish, I hope they will take a page from my book and go for it. I was taken seriously from day one and my fellow apprentices never snickered about my age – in fact they took advantage of it knowing I was such a perfectionist, they ‘let’ me lead all our group efforts. The icing on the cake for me in school? Well, it is a two layered cake – one layer is being the apprentice chef that my beloved Chef Bui recommended for catering jobs he couldn’t or wouldn’t take on. They were mine. The second layer icing was when I was presented with a beautiful wall plaque from Chef Jim Schanel and his country club where I first started volunteering and before long was a paid part-time employee that said, “Certificate of Appreciation Presented to Jean Denham, for outstanding and dedicated service to Cameron Park Country Club.” Now, in my eyes, that is an accomplishment for and by me!

And now, I don’t want to work so hard, so I am having a ball writing cookbooks and keeping up my knife skills by catering for local wineries.

C. Jean Shelledy Denham, CC
29 June 2011

Faux Champagne

This is truly the way to watch a movie at home, champagne for the adults and faux champagne for the children, while munching on Truffle popcorn – true decadence. Be sure to have extras in the pantry when you serve this ~ I’ve always had to make more than I planned on of this punch. Everyone, all ages, loves it!

34 oz. bottle carbonated water, chilled  
34 oz. bottle ginger ale, chilled
24 oz. bottle unsweetened white grape juice, chilled
Ice cubes or party ice cubes (see directions below)

In a large pitcher, combine carbonated water, ginger ale, and grape juice. Pour over ice cubes in a punch bowl. Serve in chilled champagne glasses or wine glasses.  Serve immediately. Makes about 20 4-oz. servings.

CJ’s tip: for special party ice, place small pieces of fruit (berries or tiny citrus wedges), small sprigs of fresh mint, or 1/2" strips of orange peel into the compartments of ice cube trays. Add enough water to fill, and then freeze.