So I’ve had no other choice but to avoid work and browse blogs and news.
** Educating Alice is raging today, and it’s awesome. Alison started it by blogging about peeking versus non-peeking: people who read ahead and people who would never. Alison is very judicious about the issue, soliciting opinions from readers. But the responses to Alison's post are passionate and confessional - there are a lot of peekers out there! What has Monica annoyed are the non-peekers that feel they've taken a nobler, higher moral ground by not peeking. One commenter on Alison's post said that peeking "would simply be wrong!", and a publisher even got in on the act, asking readers to stop peeking and compromising the integrity of the author's work, or something like that. I'm just annoyed that, more and more, the way we go about our lives and the daily small choices we make are being being dictated to us. Do it this way! No, do it this way! Sheesh. Reading and, to a certain extent, libraries are two of America's greatest examples of democracy. To each their own or, as Monica succinctly put it, "the democracy of reading rules!"
There was an article on fondue that sort of made me want to make some…but only sort of. Because here’s the thing: I loooove fondue. Hell, I love anything where cheese takes center stage. The problem is that I seem to lack any self-control when it comes to fondue, in particular. I just eat and eat and eat because it’s so darn good. And then I inevitably feel overstuffed, wishing I could just puke so I could feel better again. Too much information, perhaps. But nevertheless, when I saw fondue featured on the front page of the Dining section, I inwardly groaned. No fondue for me, thanks.
Anyone want to fork over $20,000 for a fancy schmancy coffee maker???? Yeah, me neither. But that’s how much this one costs and there are a couple of places in NYC that have one of these Mr. Coffees. Part of me is incredibly intrigued…but the more prudent part of me suspects it’s all pretentious mumbo jumbo. I have no other choice than to seek one of these places out and give it a try.
The best part of the section was the small corner dedicated to letters from readers. Needless to say, people were fired up over Jamie Oliver’s TV stunt that I blogged about last week. Most of the letters hit home for me, but I loved this one, in particular, who praised the likes of Jamie Oliver and Dan Barber for bringing this issue to the forefront:
“…No less aggravating are the dainty eaters leaving piles of sea scallops (overfished) or steak on their plates because they ‘don’t like leftovers.’ With our environment in a state of peril, we must stop subtracting our conscience from the food chain. If we acknowledge the lives and deaths of the animals we eat, perhaps we will eat fewer animals to the benefit of our bodies, our souls, the animals and the environment we all inhabit” – Mary Hammett (NY)
Again, I find myself in awe of those more articulate than I am. The letters were really wonderful.
I was recently introduced to the blog Oops…Wrong Cookie, which has some nice reviews of books I haven’t heard of. I always appreciate reviews of more obscure (at least obscure to me) titles – it helps me keep my street cred as a “children’s materials specialist” and I just enjoy being in-the-know about such things.
So one of the bloggers, Laura, reviewed a darling book called French Milk by Lucy Knisley, published by Epigraph Publishing (unfamiliar to me) in 2000. I’m a total Francophile so I was completely intrigued – am I the only one who had never heard of this book before? I first looked in the
This is where the OCD kicks in. Now I am obsessed with finding this book. Obsessed. And this has occupied my mind for a week. I haven’t been to eBay yet so that’s my next stop. After that, I think I might have to trek into
Anyhoo, the hunt is on for French Milk. I will find it. Just watch me.
*This is one of those things they don’t tell you about
** So I’ve discovered a new foodie website I’m totally in love with: Saveurs du Monde. Though it’s in French, you can click on an English tab at the top of the page and it translates it all. But I love the French. Check out this list of ingredients for Crêpes a la bière du Nord de la France (unromantically translated to “beer crêpes”):
250 g de farine
60 g de sucre semoule
1/2 litre de bière blonde
1 pincée de sel
un peu de rhum
80 g de beurre
cassonade, marmelade de mûres, gelée de groseilles, miel etc .
I mean, doesn’t everything not only look better but sound better in French? Yeah, I agree. That’s a gorgeous ingredients list, even though I have no idea what groseilles means. But that’s not the point, is it?
The website also had a fabulous-sounding recipe for crêpes filled with ham and mushrooms. Wow. And the recipe index is really good.
** I found out from Chocolate and Zucchini that egg whites coagulate at 149° F. So if you bake a whole egg at that temperature for 30 minutes, the egg white will perfectly coagulate. Sounds like I’m having a soft-boiled (soft-baked?) egg for breakfast tomorrow morning!
** Lucy’s Kitchen Notebook had a lovely post about Salade Lyonnaise, which wasn’t actually about the salad at all…It was more about people-watching in Lyons, France while eating the salad. It doesn’t matter. It was written poetically, with brilliant photos, and it made me wish I were lots of places other than Jamaica, Queens. (The photo is coutesy of Lucy's Kitchen Notebook)
** I’m making another of Jamie’s recipes tonight – so far the cookbook has been really fantastic, even though I’ve had some missteps here and there: for instance, when Jamie says you need an oven-proof nonstick fry pan, do not use an oven-proof stainless steel fry pan. There is a reason the man said to use nonstick, listen to him. As usual, though, it was good for some laughs. And while I destroyed the aesthetics of the dish, the flavor was swoon-worthy. So tonight I’m doing pork chops with some sort of mustard sauce and serving it over gnocchi. I’ll admit that I’m cheating on the gnocchi and I bought already-made stuff. I know, I know. But I’m a full-time working mom! I take my shortcuts where I can get ‘em! They’re just damn lucky that I’m not the mac and cheese/fish sticks sort of mom….though I was raised on that sort of thing, and I turned out just fine. Sort of.
Happy weekend, and bon appétit.
* Francoise Mouly is the Editorial Director. She’s the art director of a little rag called The New Yorker. And she’s the wife of an artist you may have heard of: Art Spiegelman. No, none of us has heard of him, right?
* Art Spiegelman is the “series advisor.” Now I can’t be quite sure exactly what that is…I’m guessing that he makes sure that everything is awesome quality.
* They have a blog! And because I’m hooked up to Bloglines now, I know I can manage another blog subscription! Woo hoo!
* The most important thing: GRAPHIC NOVELS FOR YOUNG KIDS!!! And none of that ambiguous “age 10 and up” nonsense. No, like, these really are for young kids. Check out the website link above because, brilliantly, the powers-that-be have included interior art for the upcoming books (why oh why don’t more publishers do this?).
I’m completely geeked up about this because Queens librarians have asked me repeatedly over the past year (as long as I’ve been working there) for more graphics for the young kids. The young kids want them, they’re asking for them, they’re hooked on the format. In my previous job, I had 8-year-old girls begging me for Fruits Basket because they had already read every single Babymouse. And I don’t have to tell you how obsessed the young boys were with Naruto, DragonBallz, and every other series. But a lot of these series just weren’t designed with 7-8 year olds in mind. Or younger. Heck, even my 6-year-old daughter loves flipping through my Babymouse books (yes, I personally own a couple of them). Clearly, there’s an audience out there…which is why it’s curious that we haven’t seen more. Lastly, it’s important to mention that Queens is the most ethnically diverse county in the U.S., and graphics are a great way to encourage literacy to young immigrants.
The good news is that early signs indicate that not only is Toon Books going to publish books designed for young children…but the books are actually going to be good.
So I could share a lot of juicy tidbits from last weeks’ NYT Dining section, but I won’t this time. Check out the link for an interesting article about the fortune cookie. I also enjoyed this week’s "The Pour". Eric Asimov, "The Pour" writer, also had a great post about hangovers on Friday as well.
But what we need to devote our discussion to is Julia Moskin’s article, “Chef’s New Goal: Looking Dinner in the Eye.” Jamie Oliver just got his slaughterman’s license and he, along with other chefs and agricultural ethicists, is dedicated to convincing the public that they need to be on intimate terms with the animals they are eating. Slaughterhouses, death, questions of morality and ethics: these are all part of what gets that yummy food on our table, and the sooner we are aware of this, the better. Why? Because the argument goes that our omnivorous choices will be made with an educated mind and with a greater appreciation for what we put into our bodies.
Jamie Oliver hosted a “gala dinner”, where people sat at their tables, sipped champagne, and watched a chicken get slaughtered and baby chicks get suffocated. I found a video on YouTube where the chicks are being suffocated; apparently, the male chicks are “dispatched” in the egg-laying industry because, since they don’t lay eggs, they’re rather useless. I’ve included the video below. PLEASE DO NOT WATCH THIS IF YOU ARE EASILY DISTURBED!!!! This video is intense and disturbing and challenging, but important, I think.
Obviously, there has been a lot of controversy over this, as there should be. It’s certainly provocative. One of the major reasons for our country’s obesity crisis – our food crisis – and our lack of a food identity is that we are so far removed from the land and the animals. I know, I know, says the gal who lives in
I like the idea discussed in the article that if you’re going to kill an animal for food you “should be able to look it in the eye, taking responsibility for both the treatment it receives in life and the manner of its death.” Mostly I like the idea because it’s just good sense. Now, have I actually looked something in the eye before killing it and eating it? Hell, no. But it’s climbing up my list of things I need to do because I do feel that it’s important. It could turn me vegetarian, perhaps, and I’m okay with that because I’d be making an informed decision based on first-hand knowledge of the process an animal goes through from life to death.
A chef here in NY made a comment in the article that coming face-to-face with the animals we cook is “a pathetic fallacy.” Really??? I disagree. I mean, is it realistic for me to see the pig killed that made my proscuitto? Not really. Or what about the filet mignon that I had for dinner? No, I don’t need to see that specific cow. However, I regularly buy buffalo meat at the
1. I had an end-of-the-year project at work that completely prohibited me from blogging during my lunch break. And I was too burned out to do it when I got home. So November and December were pretty shot.
2. Adam has been working late the past few nights so, rather than drinking a glass of chard with him (or a pint of beer, for him), I have been glued in front of the computer. This is the last night he has to work late – you’ll probably see a bit of a drop-off after today.
3. I’m feeling drained after ALA, and I don’t feel like working. Boo.
But I just discovered Bloglines and I am the happiest camper right now. All the time I’ve freed up! I can spend it…you know…blogging more!
Sarah Miller reviewed Ever by Gail Carson Levine – argh! I’m completely pining for that book! Sure, I could probably get a hold of my contact at Harper, but I don’t like to play that card too often. Anyone else have a galley out there and want to do a switch? I have Meg Cabot’s new one, Airhead, or the new Mysterious Benedict Society. Anyone? Anyone?
Thanks (again!) to my daily Shelf Awareness email, I’ve found a new blog! And thanks to Bloglines, I’m not sweatin’ it. It’s Collecting Children’s Books, and I’m completely fascinated. In particular, he has a discussion going about the merits of opening up the Newbery discussions. Apparently, for about 4 years in the 1970’s, the Newbery committee came up with “nominees” – Peter has proof of this – and this allowed everyone to read those books and discuss, discuss, discuss before the actual winner and honor books were announced. I think there is definitely something to this: I like the idea of increasing sales and circulation for a wider circle of books; additionally, this process would allow libraries and booksellers to actually have decent stock of the winners when they’re announced! Can you imagine! The meaningfulness of Mock discussions would increase. Everyone – teachers, librarians, booksellers, children, teens, adults – would feel part of the process and feel invested in the outcome, rather than this hush-hush weird sequestering thing that happens now. If the “youth media awards” are truly the “Academy Awards of the children’s literature world”, it sure would be fun if we tried a system revolving around nominees. Maybe I could even do a spread and take bets? Perhaps?
Ultimately, I’m the rare librarian who actually likes and encourages change. Why shouldn’t we try a different approach and see what happens? If it doesn’t work out, how about we go back to the sequestering?
This is fitting because it was a recipe from Cook with Jamie (see post below): Black angel tagliarini. Which is basically black spaghetti with scallops. Jamie told me I needed to add squid ink to the eggs during the fresh-pasta-making-process...or just buy dried black spaghetti. Okay.
Well, I'm in Chelsea Market a couple weeks ago and find packets of squid ink. Hey! I know what I can do! I can get fresh, already-made pasta and just add the squid ink to it before I cook it! Isn't that strange that Jamie didn't mention I could do that? Yeah, well, this is why you can't:
That is the pasta in a bowl after I've rubbed squid ink all over it and dyed my hands black (it washed off easily, except for my cuticles - this alarmed me...if it came off my hands so easily, wouldn't it come off the pasta easily too?).
And here's what happened when I put it in the boiling water - all the ink came off and made the water turn black. Yummy!
And here was the result. Notice the black pasta in the picture? Now see my pasta? Yep, nothing alike. And you can't see it terribly well here, but the pasta was a weird grey color...kind of like my cuticles were for the next four days.
The important thing? I dared to experiment and risked failure. Or something inspirational like that. No, I'm just happy that I was able to laugh it off, have an unexpected adventure in the kitchen, and - weird color aside - still create an entirely edible meal. Cheers!
NOTE: Do you know how long it took me to format this post??? Does Blogger HATE me????
FRIDAY: All-Day Breakfast Salad. It’s an all-Jamie-Oliver-Cook-With-Jamie weekend, as it’s my newest cookbook and I’m having fun tinkering with it. This has salad greens, a poached egg, sautéed bread, bacon, and chives all mixed up together. Doesn’t sound too shabby for a Friday night meal!
SATURDAY: Fish Lasagne. Intriguing, no? Lots of veggies, shrimp, white fish (I’m going to try skate with this – god, I love skate), cherry tomatoes (I know they’re out of season, but I’m being sucked in…), Parmesan, pancetta…I’m telling you, this is going to rock. I can feel it.
SUNDAY: Potato rosti and salad. Like I said, all-Jamie-weekend. I’m intrigued by this – apparently it was a “classic potato dish of the 1980’s”??? But I assure you my mom never made this. It’s sort of like a very thin, crispy hash brown pie. With whole cloves of garlic. Need I say more? Doing a simple salad on the side with white balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and goat cheese.
MONDAY: Filet mignon with “Best Onion Gratin”. It’s a holiday so I can still go the more elaborate route. I’m doing the filet mignon, but the gratin is Jamie’s. Apparently I’m doing all the root vegetables to alleviate my guilt over the totally non-seasonal tomatoes in the lasagne. The gratin has red onions, white wine, garlic, Gruyere, crème fraiche, and Parmesan. How can I possibly go wrong?
I have listened to so many librarians grumble that a library “is not a bookstore” so, therefore, why do I have to listen to this nonsense about marketing and publicizing my books? It doesn’t apply to me. It doesn’t apply to what I do. My kids don’t care. My kids don’t read.
I do not exaggerate – I have heard all these things. And I'm sort of tired of it.
I argue that it means everything to you as a librarian. No, we’re not a bookstore, for obvious reasons, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t market ourselves like one. A commenter on Allison's blog states: booksellers, teachers, and librarians all have the same ultimate goal -- enticing others to read great books. So why wouldn’t you work ridiculously hard to show off what you have on your shelves? Even if you aren’t passionate about the books – and I can’t imagine that you’re not – then you can look at it pragmatically: whereas a bookstore is trying to sell books to stay in business, a library is trying to check books out to do the same. So there’s something wrong with the logic when we aren’t looking at approaches, like those at Changing Hands and Wellesley Booksmith, and opening our minds to that sort of marketing and publicity. It’s common sense, people!
There’s a darling new librarian here in Queens who told me that her manager said to her, “Our customers don’t care about the award winners.” What?!?! Needless to say, I got fired up. There is so much wrong with that statement. First off, maybe it’s not that they don’t care…perhaps they don’t know about the awards! You can’t make assumptions about that, Mr. Manager! Did they actually say they didn’t care?! Sheesh.
I suggested that this librarian make a temporary display – nearly every librarian has this space in their library – with a selection of past award winners. Make a sign advertising that these are award winners, and include a list of the newest winners. Prominently display the 2008 winners that you have in stock. If you’re missing some, then make a movie marquee “Coming Soon…” sign to entice them. Talk it up – Feathers has that gorgeous cover (and it's thin!), Hugo Cabret needs hardly any selling at all, use First the Egg in a storytime and tell your parents that it just won two major awards. Think creatively!
Stop being brought down by your managers (who rarely understand children’s literature, anyway) and read Allison’s post as proof-positive that people do listen to us and you can absolutely affect the circulation of a single book.
So you don’t need me to tell you that
It was my first ALA Midwinter conference and it was just friggin awesome. I had some of the most interesting and entertaining conversations of my life, and I have come back to Queens invigorated and excited about being a librarian again – which is good because I was really in a place where I wasn’t so sure about working in a library anymore. Now I’m ready to kick some ass…in a good way, of course.
If anyone reading this is a librarian who has had their degree for less than 5 years OR is younger than 35, I highly encourage you to apply for the 2009 ALA Emerging Leaders program. It’s really a fantastic program that made me feel empowered and inspired. If you have any questions about it, feel free to ask me (via comments or email me personally). I definitely think Leslie Burger was on to something when she created this program – it’s a wonderful way to include up-and-coming librarians in the process and to elicit their ideas about the direction of
I even managed to fit in my love of all things food-related: Harcourt invited me to a dinner at Fork, a swoon-worthy restaurant on Market and 3rd. Fantastic food. For an appetizer I had the flatbread with sautéed calamari, parmesan cheese, and white beans. A little on the dry side, but the calamari was really flavorful. For my entrée, I got the hangar steak with frites and it rocked. I asked for it rare and they actually gave it to me RARE! It’s an anomaly in the restaurant world – you folks who like your meat rare will know what I mean. For dessert, I had the dark chocolate mousse with cognac, which was very light and flavorful…but I don’t know if I made the right choice. Ellen Greene, Harcourt’s library marketing guru, ordered the ricotta cheesecake and I’ve never tasted anything like it in my life. I normally don’t go for cheesecake because it’s so dense but, lordy, that’s because I’ve never tried Fork’s cheesecake. Light as friggin air. Amazing. And of course, there was wine. See, I prove again how books, wine, and food are so completely interrelated. This whole meal – and Harcourt’s generosity in hosting it – will continue to be the major highlight of the conference for me.
But enough of that, let’s talk about the BOOKS! I still can’t believe it was just yesterday morning that I was sitting in that enormous ballroom, listening to the book award winners announced right before my eyes. As the Batchelder and Schneider Family awards were being announced, I felt all tingly and thrilled and excited. Then…as the moment of truth arrived…I felt all tense. Why? I realized that I was nervous because WHAT IF I HADN’T ORDERED THE RIGHT BOOKS ALL YEAR?! What if I had NONE of the major award winners in ANY of the libraries?!?!?! Luckily, though, I was golden. Granted, not every single library had a copy of every single book but at least we had some libraries holding all of some of the books. You know? Phew! I do have to say – and no description will truly capture it unless you were there – but listening to that enormous audible gasp when Hugo Cabret was announced was awesome, and the wild applause afterward was a thrill. And can I even tell you how pleased I am that Let It Shine got the CSK Award? Well-deserved. Overall, I’m enormously pleased with the award recipients, though there are a few question marks: Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County? Jabberwocky? Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian? And I sure was hoping that Jonathan Bean would get some well-deserved love but, alas, it wasn’t his year. Not to worry because I know his time is coming any year now.
All my gushing aside, it’s damn good to be home and make myself a home-cooked meal for the first time in five days. Even if it was as simple as a salad and a melty camembert grilled cheese sandwich. And pinot noir, of course.
So I’m actually here to tell you that last week’s NYT Dining section was really uneventful. The restaurants weren’t terribly inspiring and there was an article about heat that lost me after the second paragraph. There was also a big article about NYC’s need for a permanent farmers’ market, like those in London and San Francisco. I couldn’t muster excitement about that article either since all the locations discussed are in Lower Manhattan, which is hell and gone from my little abode in Queens. I’ll have to stick with Union Square.
But the shining light was an article on cleavers! Cleavers! Cool! Apparently they’re not just for hacking meat! Apparently you can use them on such delicate items as shrimp. Shrimp! Needless to say, I got all starry-eyed and dreamy over the whole thing…I don’t have a cleaver…yeah, there’s lots of things I can use a cleaver on…I haven’t bought a new knife for myself since…well, since a long time ago! There were two in particular I was in love with: the Kershaw Shun and the Global. The Kershaw Shun, according to the article, has a slight curve to the blade so you can rock it a bit like a chef’s knife, thus making it more versatile, and the handle is gracefully ergonomic. But it’ll set you back 3-hundy from Williams-Sonoma. The Global is a totally different knife, appropriate for vegetable chopping. And it’ll only set me back $85 at Zabar’s or $93 from Broadway Panhandler. The only problem is that I already have knives similar to the Global. My birthday is coming up this summer, and that Kershaw Shun is going to be on my list!!!
Alas, better luck this Wednesday. The good news is that I’ve had two recent cooking debacles. Seriously, I really fubared things. And I’ve got pictures to show just how bad I messed up. Stay tuned for the posts.
WHAT WILL WIN:
Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis
I do predict this one will win, and it’s a lucky thing because it’s my favorite. It is storytelling at its finest and, I believe, when compared to another historical fiction contender, Wednesday Wars, this one really shines and sets itself apart.
WHAT SHOULD WIN:
I don’t have another choice – the book I feel should win is the book I’m predicting will take it.
Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson
The committee won’t feel passionately enough about it to give it the Award, but they won’t be able to come up with enough reasons to shut it out completely.
Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt
This is a tough call because it’s difficult to gauge how much hype this book has really lost. But it really is a fantastic book, and I think they’ll give Gary an Honor – he’ll need to step it up to score himself the gold (which, incidentally, I believe Curtis did with Elijah of Buxton).
WHAT WON’T WIN:
Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz
I’m going to have to deal with Betsy’s wrath on this one, but I don’t predict it’ll get anything. It’s a phenomenal book – I’m not in any way saying that I don’t love it dearly – but there are just a lot of other books that will be bigger and brighter in the committee’s eyes. Obviously, I will be glad to be proven wrong on this one.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
Oh, but wouldn’t it be a wonderful world if it could win? Clever, smart, and funny – not to mention that it actually has lots of kid appeal, which definitely can’t be said for all the books we’re chatting about here.
Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
No way, not happening. Notables list is the only place you’ll see this one.
WHAT WILL WIN:
The Wall by Peter Sis
I do not predict this one with confidence. On the one hand, it’s innovative, creative, and stunning – who can deny that? And it’ll be in the back of the committee’s collective mind that Sis should finally be given the gold. On the other hand, it really is for older children, and I can see some committee members getting hung up on the “persons of ages up to and including fourteen.” It’s tough to say…
WHAT SHOULD WIN:
Let It Shine by Ashley Bryan
Why oh why does no one else seem to love this book as much as I do?! I’d call it “stunning”, but I already used that for The Wall. So I’ll use…come on, Thesaurus… “spectacular.” It’s not just the large-format, colorful nature of the art, but it’s that Bryan also creates texture and movement that just seems to pulsate off the page. I was breathless the first time I read this book…and I find that is still the case after about 10 viewings.
Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County by Janice Harrington, illus by Shelley Jackson
I can put this one out there with confidence. There won’t be enough love for the Medal, but I can’t imagine that there won’t be enough support for the Honor.
At Night by Jonathan Bean
Again, in our Mock Caldecott discussions, I was the loudest supporter of this book while everyone else seemed to be lukewarm on it. It’s not big and bright and sexy…which is part of its charm…and dare I say, genius? All the framed, tight illustrations in the middle of the page and then that gooooorgeous spread that opens up to the night sky and city below? Again, I lost my breath.
WHAT WON’T WIN
Jabberwocky by Christopher Myers
For better or for worse, whether it’s in the Caldecott’s collective subconscious or not, this is a dead-lock for the CSK…and it’ll be overlooked by the Caldecott.
Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
This book was a rather large point of contention in QL’s Mock Caldecott discussions – a number of vocal librarians wanted it included in our finalists. But stop the madness, already. Most will argue that it doesn’t even fit the criteria. Away to the Notables with you, Hugo!
All I really want for 2008? Sleep. Sleep would be perfection.
To be continued...