Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Looking For A Single Man In Possession of a Good Fortune

I have no idea why, but getting a new magazine makes me incredibly happy. Unfortunately, however, I have had to keep myself in check lately, knowing that as the UK spring semester draws to a close, the ginormous paycheck that I receive for being a teaching assistant tauntingly waves goodbye as well. Sorry, Houchens cashier, I cannot add Woman's Day, Southern Living, or People to my buggy today (and obviously, those are all code for US Weekly).

Know what I love as much as wasting money on magazines, though? Getting mail. And yesterday I hit a post office trifecta: Cumberland County News, Real Simple, and Food & Wine. Ahhh, redemption.

I found some interesting recipes in Real Simple that I would like to try this week - including Watercress Salad with Beets and Feta and Sausage and Broccoli Calzones; I'll report back with results - but my favorite tidbit in the May issue was a one-page spread in the reader poll section. The posed question was simply: What is your favorite first line of a novel?

I love this question because it resonates with my approach to reading, regardless if fiction, non-fiction, journal, memoir, biography, or research study. I am convinced that I can determine my eventual enjoyment of a publication within five minutes of perusal. I always read the acknowledgement section first (You all might want to check out Marlene Wagman-Geller's, Once Again to Zelda: The Stories Behind Literature's Most Intriguing Dedications). If I like the author's tone (I especially enjoy that which tends toward the sarcastic/witty and dedications and/or introductions that seem more self-deprecating, less "here's why my argument, and I by extension, am super important), I typically will appreciate, even if I don't agree with, the text. It is the same reason that I encourage my students to come up with clever (some might even suggest corny or kitschy) titles, why I loved the creative way in which my winky owl salt and pepper shakers were wrapped, why I, along with every other Turner woman, am obsessive about pillow arrangement on a couch: 1) first impressions matter; and 2) we typically all like things to be representative of or "look" like us.

Here are the first lines of a few books that I like to have near as I am wearing my brown suede and rather gaudy turquoise-infused cowboy boots, drinking from my perfectly-sized coffee mug, reading about the haircut Mama's cat had forced upon it, and sitting in my cozy stripped living room chair.

Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America
"One of the peculiarities of the white race's presence in America is how little intention has been applied to it. As a people, wherever we have been, we have never really intended to be."

Susan Jacoby, The Age of American Unreason
"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. - Thomas Jefferson, 1816
It is the dream of every historian to produce a work that endures and provides the foundation for insights that may lie decades or centuries into the future. Such a book is Richard Hofstadter's Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, published in early 1963 on the hopeful cusp between the McCarthy era and the social convulsions of the late sixties. 'One of the major virtues of liberal society in the past,' Hofstadter wrote in an elegiac yet guardedly optimistic conclusion, 'was that it made possible such a variety of styles of intellectual life - one that can find men notable for being passionate and rebellious, others for being elegant and sumptuous, or spare and astringent, clever and complex, patient and wise, and some equipped mainly to observe and endure.'"

Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life
"This story about good food begins in a quick-stop convenience market."

Al Gore, The Assault on Reason
"Not long before our nation launched the invasion of Iraq, our longest-serving senator, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, stood on the Senate floor and said: 'This Chamber is, for the most part, silent - ominously, dreadfully silent. There is no debate, no discussion, no attempt to lay out for the nation the pros and cons of this particular war. There is nothing. We stand passively mute in the United States Senate.'"

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."


Recipe for the week
Strawberry Almond Scones (The recipe was actually for "Scottish Scones with Lemon and Ginger; I modified)
Servings: 8, Time: 30 minutes

2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
4 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
3 tbsp. sugar
2 handfuls of frozen strawberries (fruit will make this a messy adventure; I think worth it, though)
1 handful (obviously, these are precise measurements) sliced almonds
1 large egg
1/2 c. half and half, plus more for glazing (I didn't have half and half, so I used 1/4 c. milk and 1/4 c. french vanilla coffeemate)

Preheat oven to 425.

In large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Using your hands, rub butter into the flour mixture, squeezing and pinching until the mixture resembles a coarse meal and there are no butter lumps bigger than a pea.

Add the sugar (hehe...I forgot to do this and ended up "sprinkling" a whole bunch of sugar on top of the 8 scones), almonds, and strawberries.

Pour 1/2 c. of half and half into a small bowl and add the egg. Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture, and stir gently to combine. The dough will look dry and there may be some unincorporated flour at the bottom of the bowl. Press the dough into a rough mass. Turn the dough onto a board or counter top and knead until it comes together (Do not overwork the dough). As soon as the dough holds together, pat it into a rough circle about 1" thick. Cut the circle into 8 wedges.

Place the wedges on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (I lined mine with aluminum foil and used a non-stick spray). Pour a splash of half and half into a small bowl. Use a pastry brush (i.e. a spoon in Liza's kitchen) to gently brush the tops of the scones with a thin coat to glaze. Bake for 10-14 minutes, or until pale golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

If you have any ideas for ingredients to replace the strawberries and almonds, I'd love to hear them!


  1. I love reading your blogs, but sometimes feel intimidated by your insight and ability to share it with others through your thought provoking words. The books you sighted are a bit more complicated in content than the ones I have read. For example some of my favorite books begin with, "Once upon a time"

    You might try blueberries or blackberries in the scone recipe.

  2. Man, I tell you, I read this blog at the right time today. Just what I needed to be thinking about. I think that's just good fortune. Yeah, alot of fortunate things have been happening to me lately. I'm thinking that I may be in posession of a good fortune...I'm just saying.

  3. Mom - There is no way you should feel intimidated. I think, and have told others, that you have such an ability to make everyone around you feel comfortable, and interested, and involved. And you do the same with your writing. I have no doubt that anything you contribute here will perfectly balance creativity, insight, humor, and plain old cuteness.
    And, bring that "Middle Sister" over one afternoon and we'll try blackberry scones:)

    Andy - This would be clever if it weren't completely wrong. Someone needs to read more Jane Austen. Get back to me only when you have a more Mr. Darcy-esque response.

  4. Jackie (and Liza), as my dad and I were discussing last night, we're all smart in our own ways : ) For instance, my mother (and I) will never be able to understand particle physics like my dad; my dad will never be able to play the piano with gusto and technical prowess like my mother.

    Liza's right - I always always look forward to coming to the Turner's because I know that I will feel like I'm wrapped up in a big blanket of warmth, welcome, and good cheer. That is a real gift!

    And SNAP, Liza! Layin' down the (book) law on Mr. Wiggins! Guess someone's got some work to do this weekend.

    Wait, you wanted recipes? :) Actually, one thing I've learned from Herb is that the best scones are made when you freeze and then shave (grate) the butter. Never tried it, but he's got a gene named after him so I trust him.

  5. I cannot wait for Mom to see your comment, Caroline. It's so true:) She is at Keeneland today spreading her warmth, welcome, and good cheer, but I will direct her to Pillowbook when she gets home.

    Yep, having a gene named after you works for me. Shaved frozen butter it is next time. Thanks for the tip:)!