Lost Recipes of Prohibition: Notes from A Bootlegger’s Manual

When I was writing my book, A Jazz Age Murder in Northwest Indiana (History Press), about Nettie Diamond, a wealthy widow and pharmacist who was murdered by her fifth husband, a much younger bootlegger named Harry in Indiana Harbor on Valentine’s Day 1923, one of the things I learned was that it was relatively easy to get a permit during Prohibition to buy medicinal alcohol and distribute it.

That may be why I’m finding a new book, Lost Recipes of Prohibition: Notes from A Bootlegger’s Manual by Matthew Rowley (The Countryman Press 2015; $27.95) to be a fascinating read.

Rowley, who describes himself as specializing in folk distilling and the manufacture and distribution of illicit spirits, was given an old book titled The Candle and The Flame, The Work of George Sylvester Viereck. The interior didn’t contain any poems by Viereck, a popular poet up until his pro-German sensibilities during World War I made him a pariah in the U.S. Instead, the book’s once blank pages contained a plethora of handwritten distilled spirit recipes procured and preserved by a New York pharmacist named Victor Alfred Lyon.

As for Harry, he wasn’t supposed to sell alcohol for non-medicinal purposes like he did—by adding real spirit company labels to his own bottles…but that was Harry who also.  According to Rowley, many pharmacists made alcoholic concoctions to help ailing (or just plain thirsty) customers and many distilleries were allowed to continue to operate to provide product. Rowley points out that during Prohibition, the sale of sacramental wine went sky high as people suddenly became much more religious.

Lyon’s recipes were collected from a variety of sources and at the time he was gathering them, some were a century or so old. Rowley organized the recipes in chapters such as Absinthe, Cordials, and Bitters and Gin; Compounding Spirits and Gin, Whiskey and Rum.

Less a cookbook than a history and how-to of spirit making, Rowley does include many of Lyon’s recipes from a simple cocktail that silent screen movie star Mary Pickford enjoyed to the complex (and supersized) such as one for Rumessenz which calls for gallons of ingredients and was used by wholesalers, barkeepers, importers and exporters to make an essence of rum they could use for adding the aroma and tastes of rum to a batch of plain alcohol creating a higher profit margin.  That’s similar to what Harry Diamond did as well and at his trial he told the court he made about $20,000 a month from bootlegging.

Here’s one of the book’s recipes.

Lanizet: Sour Mash Cajun Anisette

3 quarts water

25 ounces sugar

½ teaspoon anise oil

½ tablespoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon red food coloring

3 cups bourbon or Tennessee whiskey

5 to 7 pounds ice

Pour 1 ½ quarts of the water in a medium stockpot. Note the depth of the liquid. Later, you will boil the syrup to this height. For now, pour in the remaining water and all the sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Lower the heat and simmer until the liquid reduces to 1 ½ quarts, 50 or 60 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat.

While the syrup is simmering, sterilize five new or well-scrubbed 1-pint canning jars in a deep pot or canning pot. Leave the jars in the hot water until you’re ready to use them. Wash and boil the lids and rings according to the manufacturer’s directions.

When the syrup reaches that 1.5-lquart mark, turn off the heat and remove the pot from heat. Stir in the anise oil, vanilla and food coloring until thoroughly mixed, then stir in the whiskey. Remove the jars from their hot water bath with tongs. Place the jars (don’t touch with your bare hands) on a wooden surface or folded towels and immediately pour the crimson liquid into the jars up to 1⁄2 inch from the tops. Wipe any dribbles or spills from the rims with a clean, damp cloth and place hot lids on top with sealing compound down; screw on the metal rings firmly but not too tightly.

Line your sink with a damp dish towel; it will prevent the hot jars from breaking when they touch the cool surface. Immediately place the jars upright in the sink, then slowly fill it with cool tap water so it covers the jars. As the jars cool, you’ll hear a series of metallic pops and pings; that’s a vacuum forming in each jar. When the jars are cool to the touch, after 5 to 10 minutes, place them upright in a tub of ice, with ice to top off the jars, to cool the anisette as quickly as possible. Once contents of jars are well chilled, about 1 hour, remove the jars from the ice. Label and date the jars, then store upright in a cool, dark place.

Yield: 5 pints

From Lost Recipes of Prohibition.

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The Death of Mrs. Westaway: A New Psychological Thriller by Ruth Ware

Tarot cards, a threatening stranger and a mysterious will propel Hal, a young vulnerable orphan to spend her remaining cash for a railway ticket to the funeral of a woman who solicitors believe is her grandmother. Hal, who makes her precarious living reading Tarot cards, a skill she learned from her mother who was killed in a hit-and-run a few years earlier, thinks she knows better. But still, when she receives a letter indicating she is an heir to the moneyed estate, she decides to see if the same skills she uses to tell fortunes can help obtain part of her “inheritance.”

Atmospheric and compelling, The Death of Mrs. Westaway (Gallery/Scout Press $26.99; 2018), is the fourth novel of English author Ruth Ware, author of the best- selling The Woman in Cabin 10 and The Lying Game.

Ware, who is on a book tour throughout the  United States, took time out to answer the following questions.Author Photo - Ruth Ware c Gemma Day

What inspired you to write The Death of Mrs. Westaway?

I can’t put my finger on one single inspiration, but probably the key thing that defines the book for me is Hal. Having written three books about women who stumble into events more or less through no fault of their own, I wanted to write a very different kind of main character this time round – one who brings the events of the novel down upon themselves. Hal sets out to commit a crime – and in doing so sets of a nightmarish set of dominoes. That was a very conscious choice on my part!

Were you familiar with Tarot cards before you wrote this book or did you have to learn about them? And why did you decide to make them part of the story? In that vein, have you always had an interest in fortune telling?

I’m super skeptical and don’t really believe in any kind of supernatural forces so I had never had my cards read, though of course I was familiar with some of the images on tarot cards and found them very beautiful and inspiring as visual images. I had to research the meanings from scratch as I knew nothing about fortune telling, or the different kinds of tarot spreads. I really enjoyed the research though and found myself quite swept up in the different meanings. I suppose I made them part of the story because I wanted Hal to be someone who was practiced in reading people and telling them what they wanted to hear. So I tried to give her a job that fitted with that and was in some way a preparation. Making her a cynical tarot reader – one who doesn’t believe in the power of the cards but uses her skills to deceive – seemed fitting.

Your books create such a sense of foreboding–do you ever get caught up in that and experience those feelings?

Of course! Writing is like reading – you get just as caught up in the atmosphere you’re creating. But I find it’s quite hard to scare myself when I’m writing, because I know when the jump scares are going to come. I get immersed in the atmosphere, but the sense of terror I get sometimes reading other writers’ work just isn’t there, because I’m in control.

Do you plot your novels and your characters or do they evolve?

A mix of the two – I usually have a skeleton structure in my head, and I think about the characters for a long time before I start writing, so they are usually quite evolved by the time I put pen to paper. But I write very little down – they exist mainly in my head so they tend to be quite fluid and evolve as things develop on the page.

What writers have influenced you?

For this book, particularly Daphne du Maurier. I love her work.

What’s next for you? 

Another book of course! I’m writing it now, but it’s too early to tell you what it’s about…

Ifyougo:

What: Ruth Ware

When: Monday, June 4th at 7 p.m.

Where: Anderson’s Bookshop, 26 S La Grange Rd., La Grange, IL

FYI: This event is free and open to the public. To join the signing line, please purchase the author’s latest book, The Death of Mrs. Westaway, from Anderson’s Bookshop. To purchase please stop into or call Anderson’s Bookshop La Grange (708) 582-6353.

 

 

 

Jon Meacham’s The Soul of America

For those who are worried that we have entered dark days as country and are uncertain what the future might hold, Pulitzer Prize–winning author and presidential historian Jon Meacham explores other eras in America’s history, pointing out that in the end, by following “our better angels” we became a stronger and better America.

“Lincoln got it wrong before he got it right,” says Meacham whose most recent book, The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels (Random House 2018; $30). “Woodrow Wilson supported women’s suffrage but got a lot of other things wrong.”Meacham_author photo_(c) Heidi Ross

Meacham points out that Lyndon Johnson had a very mixed record but when it came to Civil Rights he was the one who convinced Governor George Wallace, a virulent segregationist, to ask federal troops to come in to integrate the public schools by playing on how he wanted to be remembered. To do so, Johnson asked him, “George, when you’re gone, do you want there to be a scrawny pine saying ‘George, what do you want left behind? Do you want a great big marble monument that says ‘George Wallace: He Built’? Or do you want a little piece of scrawny pine lying there along that hot caliche soil that says ‘George Wallace: He Hated’?”

“Johnson understood something that I hope our incumbent president comes to realize,” says Meacham, whose previous books include biographies of George H.W. Bush, Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson. “What will people say when they look at my portrait?”

Meacham’s hope is we tweet “hate” less and “like” more.

Using history as a guide, Meacham is hopeful.

“There are forces in our country like the press, the courts, the rule of law, Congress, the president and the people that control the outcome and if we can get three or so of the forces to come together, we’ll be okay,” he says. “Right now the press is doing a great job, I think we can take the presidency off the table and Congress is falling off the edge but the courts are doing a good job, the rule of law is holding and we need people to come together. We have to listen to the people we don’t agree with on the chance they might be 1% right about something that we can work on together. We have to resist tribalism. There’s room in the American soul for Martin Luther King and the KKK but  the question is which one do we celebrate.”

Ifyougo

What: Jon Meacham talk and book signing with former Assistant US Attorney Dan Purdom moderating.

When: Sunday, May 27 at 2:30 p.m.

Where: Ratio Hall (Wentz Science Center), 131 S. Loomis St. on the campus of North Central College, Naperville IL

FYI: Event tickets are available at www.andersonsbookshop.com, at the store or by (630) 355-2665.

 

 

Cheers to the Publican, Repast and Present: Recipes and Ramblings from an American Beer Hall

Invited by a friend to dine at Blackbird, Paul Kahan’s first restaurant, when it first opened in 1997, I was somewhat taken about upon first entering about how totally different it was from many of the restaurants of the time. The menu was farm-to-table way before the term had become a cliché, the setting minimalist with long communal tables (like a high school cafeteria I remember thinking) and menu items including an endive salad with pancetta and a poached egg on top which when punctured dripped a wonderful ooze of yolk into the dressing. It was, in other words, unique. Other restaurants opened in Chicago that year and many of those are gone but Blackbird remains and chef/restauranteur Paul Kahan has expanded his restaurant empire with such additions as Avec, Big Star, the wonderfully named The Violet Hour and the Publican.

With all this success, you’d think that during the last two decades Kahan would have come out with a cookbook or two or even more. Surprisingly though, his first, barbecued-carrots.jpg (Lorena Jones Books 2017; $40) was just released this fall. And in keeping with the eclectic concepts of his restaurants, which he describes as speaking to a place and not a time, it’s definitely different–an amalgam of recipes, insights, reminiscences, paeans to local food producers and autobiographical. It even contains poems.

So, what took you so long, I ask?

“I waited 20 yeas because I didn’t want it to be a half-assed,” was Kahan’s response. “We’re not run of the mill and I wanted the book to be unique, to follow the path of the Publican, include poetry.”

Kahan’s mantra it that he’s just a small part of the business and its success.

“We’ve all been here together since day one,” he says about his One Off Hospitality Group. “We’re all about the culture, the relevance and the continuity and the book is about that. I think our success has truly been about us, about trust, nurturing. We like to be innovative and approach things differently.”

Indeed, Avec, he says, was inspired by his first trip to France with his wife.

“She was in a real horrific motorcycle accident there and end up recuperating in Switzerland,” he says. “The culinary experience of Avec was built by the experience of going there.”

If each restaurant has a story, so do the recipes.  Take the barbecued carrots.

“I don’t think there’s ever been a dish at The Publican that people have freaked out about so much. Even chefs,” writes Kahan in the introduction. “We did a charity event last year and served these, and there was a table of 25 big-name chefs just losing their minds over them. We’ve tried new variations, adding different spices, experimenting with other preparations, but it always comes back to this recipe. We use a barbecue rub that I ‘borrowed’ from Chris Lilly, the owner of Big Bob Gibson’s in Georgia and a world champion of barbecued pork shoulder. He came in to eat once, and we got embarrassed about ripping him off, so we quickly changed the name of these to Chris Lilly Carrots. We like to serve them with pecans that we get from Blain Farms in California, which are creamier than any other pecan, and then we top it off with an herbed dressing.”

Sourcing ingredients is, of course, super important as is forging relationships with farmers and food artisans. Finding them often takes Kahan to less exotic places than a trip to France.

One out of the way journey lead Kahan to tiny Medora in Southern Indiana, best known for its 1910 round barn and covered bridge—built in 1875 and the longest historic covered bridge in the United States. It’s also the hometown of Burton’s Maplewood Farm, owned by Tim Burton, a producer of highly valued maple syrup which is much used by chefs in both Chicago and throughout the U.S.

“I think I was the first guy Tim hooked up with at the Green Market,” says Kahan, a James Beard Award winner in the following categories Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America, Best Chefs in America 2004 and Outstanding Chef 2013.

Growing up in Chicago, Kahan was influenced by his father who owned both a Jewish deli as well as the Village Fishery and King Salmon, a small smoked fish business. He still remembers the slow cooked corned beef, the hanging sausages and the smoked chubs. Following in those footsteps might seem a given, but Kahan diverged at first, studying applied mathematics until the lure of cooking over took him.

Will it take another 20 years before we see another cookbook, I ask?

“I’m already working on a second cookbook,” Kahan says, noting that it’s already two years in the making. But then true to form, he goes from I to we, noting that Cheers to the Publican wasn’t just his work.

“There are a lot of people who worked hard on that book,” he says.

Barbecued Carrots

Recipe courtesy of Cheers to the Publican, Repast and Present by Paul Kahan.

Makes 4 servings

1 gallon water

1 cup plus

1 tablespoon BBQ Rub (recipe follows)

1⁄4 cup kosher salt

1 pound carrots, cleaned and halved

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon sea salt

11⁄2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1⁄4 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

2 sprigs dill, torn

1 batch Ranchovy Herb Dressing (recipe follows)

In large pot, add 2 gallons of water, 1 cup of the BBQ rub, ¼ cup of salt.  Bring to a boil.

Add the carrots and cook until ¾ done, about 5 minutes.

Drain the carrots, reserve for the grill.

To Finish:

Preheat the grill to medium-high.

In a bowl, toss the blanched carrots with 1 tablespoon of BBQ rub and extra virgin olive oil.

Arrange on a grill screen, and grill over direct heat until finished.  Adjust seasoning as necessary.

Arrange carrots on a plate, drizzle with lemon juice, garnish with crushed pecans and dill yogurt sauce.

Dress the carrots with the Ranchovy Herb Dressing and serve.

BBQ Rub

Makes 1.5 cups

½ cup dark brown sugar

½ cup kosher salt

4 tablespoons hot smoked paprika

1 tablespoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon granulated garlic

1 tablespoon onion granules or onion powder

½ tablespoon celery salt

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon ground cumin

Combine all in bowl, mix well, store in an airtight container.

2 cups mayonnaise (we like Hellman’s/Best Foods)

1 cup buttermilk

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1½ teaspoon white vinegar

1½ teaspoon Tabasco sauce

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1½ teaspoon granulated sugar

1½ teaspoons fish sauce

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 tablespoon chopped chives

1 ½ teaspoon chopped tarragon

1½ teaspoon chopped oregano

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Whisk all the ingredients in a bowl and season with the salt and pepper. Taste and add more salt and pepper. Transfer the dressing to a glass container with a lid and refrigerate. The dressing will keep in the fridge for up to 1 week. Give the jar a good shake before using.

 

The Faerie Handbook: An Enchanting Compendium of Literature Lore, Art, Recipes and Projects

To me, fairies have always been about the holiday season—think the Sugar Plum Fairy from the Nutcracker Suite ballet and Tinkerbelle, the blonde-haired imp who wore a green outfit with matching translucent green wings in the 1904 play Peter Pan and knew how to handle a wand and pixie dust—both a job requirement. Imagine then my delight when my friend Lily Lopate sent me a copy of The Faerie Handbook: An Enchanting Compendium of Literature Lore, Art, Recipes and Projects by Carol Turgeon with Grace Nuth and the Editors of Faerie Magazine (Harper Design 2017; $35). And yes, there is a Faerie Magazine.lavender-shortbread-cookies_smalll-credit-sara-ghedina-2.jpg

This beautifully illustrated book containing all things faerie (the archaic literary spelling) is divided into chapter including Flora & Fauna with such headings as “A Select List of Fairy World Inhabitants” and their history, a “Fairy Herb and Flower Almanac,” as well as instructions on making such fairy necessities as houses, furniture, pressed flowers, and terrariums. In the section on Fashion & Beauty we learn about such style icons as Morgan Le Fay, Titania of the Fairy Realm and La Belle Dame Sans-Mercy—a woman with eyes that mesmerized helpless, handsome men (way to go, La Belle, we say).  The Fashion & Beauty chapter gives us the low down on fairy couture including fairy shoes which are totally inappropriate for walking particularly the ones with five-inch heels made of flowers. It also contains directions on how to make a fairy crown—a clothing item no one should be without.

It isn’t easy being a fairy. You have to get up early to gather the right beauty ingredients. After all, according to Samuel Pepys, the great 17th century diarist, his wife was a big believer in maintaining her looks in a faerie manner by collecting early morning May dew. Another requirement is being able to make fairy dust. That’s what Tinkerbell used to get Peter Pan to fly. You wouldn’t want to be without it.

Want to hang with the faeries? The authors tell about how to find fairy portals and pathways. You’ll need to read the chapter, but we can give some hints. Look for a strange circle of mushrooms (those are fairy rings), bridges (but be careful of the trolls, country crossroads are good places to run into fairies (but devils hang out there too) and natural portals like ocean cliffs and tangled branches with an open center in the middle.frosted-cranberries-1.jpg

Of course, what interested me the most was fairy food. As one might expect, fairies love parties and the authors show us how to host a Midsummer Night’s Dream Garden Party. Fairies main ingredient when it comes to cooking seems to be edible flowers. Their menus consist of such goodies as Flower Lollipops, Honey Ricotta Tart with Lavender Scented Crust, Candied Violets and Lavender Shortbread Cookies.

Faeries also love tea parties—ones with lots of flowers in pastel colors of pink, lavender, violet, pale blues and even moss. What to eat at such a party? Fairy Tea Cakes and flower teas.

Candied Violets

40 fresh violets, pesticide free, with stems intact

1 egg white

1 cup superfine sugar

Special Equipment:

Fine-tipped paintbrush, preferably new

Small sharp scissors

Place a wire rack over a parchment-lined baking sheet and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg white until frothy.

Holding a violet by the stem, dip the paintbrush in the egg white and carefully coat each petal, front and back.

Sprinkle the superfine sugar over the violet and shake off any excess. Sprinkle again until the whole flower is lightly coated.

Gently place the violet on the drying rack. Repeat with the remaining flowers.

Allow the violets to dry for 24 hours, then use the scissors to cut off the stems. Candied violets may be stored in an airtight container for up to eight weeks.

Lavender Shortbread Cookies

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon dried lavender, pesticide-free

1 stick plus 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

2¼ cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons whole milk (optional)

½ cup sanding sugar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the sugar and lavender in a food processor and pulse to achieve a fine texture.

In a large bowl, combine the lavender sugar, butter, and salt. Use the electric hand mixer to cream the ingredients until light and fluffy.

Gradually add the flour, mixing until the dough comes together. If it’s too crumbly, lightly wet your hands with water and knead the dough in the bowl until the flour is completely absorbed, and the dough is smooth.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. With a rolling pin, roll out the dough to a ½-inch thickness.

Use a cookie cutter to cut out the dough. Transfer the cookies to the parchment-lined baking sheet.

If desired, use the pastry brush to lightly coat each cookie with milk, then sprinkle with sanding sugar.

Transfer cookies to the oven and bake for approximately 25 minutes, rotating the pan once, until the cookies are golden brown.

The cookies will be very soft when you remove them from the oven, but will set once cool. Allow them to cool completely on the baking sheet before transferring them to a plate.

Frosted Cranberries

1 ½ cups water

1 ½ cups granulated sugar, plus 1 cup for dusting

1 cinnamon stick

4 whole cloves

2 cups fresh cranberries

In a small saucepan, combine the water, sugar, cinnamon, and cloves. Cook over low heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved.

Remove from heat and cool for 15 minutes before stirring in the cranberries. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, set a wire rack over a parchment-lined baking sheet. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the berries onto the rack and set aside for 1 hour. Meanwhile, line another baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the remaining 1 cup sugar in a shallow dish. Working in small batches, roll the cranberries in the sugar until they are completely coated, then transfer to the clean parchment-lined baking sheet. Make sure berries are in a single layer and not touching each other.

Allow to stand at room temperature for about 1 hour or until dry. Frosted cranberries may be stored in an airtight container for several days.

The above recipes are from the book: THE FAERIE HANDBOOK by Carolyn Turgeon and the editors of Faerie Magazine. Copyright © 2017 by Carolyn Turgeon. Reprinted courtesy of Harper Design, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Horseshoe Casino exec pens book about supportive women

Region resident Dawn Reynolds, drawing upon the early loss of her mother and the encouragement of others, has written “The Highmore Circle,” a novel chronicling six women who learn to navigate life together.

Writing as Cricket (her nickname) Reynolds, she tells the story of Gracie Anderson, a single college professor in her 30s with a severely lacking personal life whose best friend signs her up for a support group at a local community center.

“The group consists of women with diverse careers and personalities — one is a librarian, one a college professor, others include a fashion consultant, dominatrix, blue collar worker and housewife — who have very little in common except they are motherless,” Reynolds said.

The book, while dealing with complex life issues, also has a lot of humor and a touch of romance in the story plot, she said.

Reynolds, a Dyer resident and vice president of Human Resources at Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, started the book 20 years ago but struggled with numerous obstacles — twice her laptops crashed, erasing the entire manuscript. The third rewrite disappeared when a jump drive became corrupted.

“Also in the meantime I got married, had two sons and got divorced,” said Reynolds, who graduated from Highland High School. “But I’ve always realized the importance of all the women in my life, including my sister, who helped me so much and died of cancer 10 years ago, and my friends. The core theme is the importance of having a circle — whatever the circle means to you whether it’s friends or family — that helps you get through difficult times and who are there for you.”

Reynolds, who earned a master’s degree in organizational communications from Purdue University Northwest, is a recipient of Caesars Entertainment Excellence in Leadership Award and Northwest Indiana’s Most Influential Woman of The Year Award. She also is an active supporter in promoting women’s initiatives and is a Lean In Circle moderator within Caesars Entertainment as well as the Global Gaming Women organization.

Describing herself as an avid reader, Michelle Ryba, director of casino marketing at Horseshoe Casino, said she was very eager to read Reynold’s book.

“I absolutely adore Dawn,” Ryba said. “And I thought this is a book by someone I know, not just a big name author. From the first chapter, I was hooked, I stayed up reading it until 2:30 p.m. because I wanted to find out how it ended.”

Ryba describes “The Highmore Circle” as touching and humorous.

“I laughed when I read the book, but also I related to it emotionally. We’ve all loss someone in our lives, and so I understand the feelings you have. I’m impressed with Dawn’s writing. She’s just as good Janet Evanovich or J.D. Robb, two of my favorite writers.”

Since her book has been published, Reynolds has been a New York Times and Publisher’s Weekly featured author, appeared on “Fox Good Day Chicago” to discuss her book and received starred reviews from BlueInk, Clarion and Kirkus as well as wining iUniverse’s Editor’s Choice and Rising Star awards.

“The Highmore Circle” is available at Barnes & Noble and online book sellers. For more information, visit www.thehighmorecircle.com.

Searching for Ghosts Along the Underground Railroad

My latest book, Haunthautntings coverings of the Underground Railroad. Ghosts of the Midwest (Indiana University Press)is due out August 1. Researching the book took me into the small towns of Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan where ghost stories abound about UGRR. Though I never saw a ghost myself, The Courtyards housed in a building dating back to the 1820s were said to be a stop on the Underground Railroad.

For more information:

http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/product_info.php?products_id=808927

 

 

 

 

Marisol Murano’s Valentina Goldman Books Now Available as Audiobooks

When Marisol Murano’s first novel Valentina Goldman’s Immaculate Confusion hit the shelves five years ago, readers were delighted at her heroine’s brash and completely unique voice that shone through in every short and sweet chapter. Reading the book is a lot like gossiping with your best friend–if your best friend is a no-holds-barred Latina who has recently moved to the US expecting the American dream. Oh, and for Valentina, she’ really dealing with the American nightmare.

As Goodreads describes it, “Since her arrival in the United States from Venezuela, Valentina Goldman isn’t exactly living the American Dream. She’s living the American Nightmare. Her late husband, Max, has left her a young widow, a step-daughter whom Valentina didn’t want, and a bi-polar ex-wife. And oh, having given up her dream job in New York, Valentina is also unemployed in Arizona. Part “Bridget Jones Diary,” part “Modern Family,” “Valentina Goldman’s Immaculate Confusion” is the story of a woman trying to get a handle on her whacky life in America. In breathless, blog-like snippets, Valentina compares her own story with that of her eccentric sister, Azucena, who has bizarre troubles of her own down in the tropics. “Valentina Goldman’s Immaculate Confusion” is a funny and moving story about what happens when a passionate South American woman moves to the USA and, like so many of us, ends up with a life she never imagined.”

Last November, Hipso published Murano’s follow-up novel, Valentina Goldman Ships Out, to even greater success. The book exposed another side of the beloved Valentina, vulnerable after the unexpected death of her husband. Despite tragedy, though, hilarity still ensues, as is always the case when Valentina (and in this case, her mother) is involved. Indeed, Valentina’s mother arrives on her doorstep to whisk her away on a 12-day Mediterranean cruise full of unexpected detours. If you’ve always longed to go on a cruise, ship out with Valentina. And if you’ve never wanted to go on a cruise, go anyway. You’ll likely find yourself alternately delighted and surprised by her quirky encounters at sea and alluring ports of call. In tightly wound language shimmering with wit and longing, Valentina Goldman Ships Out is a moving portrait of a woman looking for answers and coping with loss, even when the waters are deep.

Now both novels are newly released as audiobooks, narrated by the fantastic Ginger Roll. In audio form, these books are even more hilarious and more relatable. The short, narrative chapters lend themselves perfectly to audiobook form, making them the perfect listen for any busy reader.

http://www.hipsomedia.com

http://www.marisolchef.com

 

Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo

The spark for his second novel stems from what it means to be an adopted child from a land very far away says Boris Fishman, author of
(Harper/HarperCollins 2016 $26.99) which was just named as one of the 100 best books of 2016 by the New York Times,

Fishman, who was born in Minsk, Belarus and immigrated to the United States at age nine in 1988, knows the intense feelings of searching for where he belongs both emotionally and psychologically.  It’s the theme he explores in his humorous and touching story about Maya Shulman, a Ukrainian exchange student who marries Alex Rubin, a somewhat spoiled son of Russian immigrants.

The two adopted Max whose biological mother’s parting words were the “Don’t let my baby do rodeo” and up until age eight, Max has not been a problem. But then suddenly his behaviors become somewhat bizarre and indecipherable to the couple. Max begins acting somewhat feral-like. He consumes grass, sits face down in the river and hangs around wild animals.

Their own lives have also reached a point where they need to redefine things and in that very American way, Alex and Maya decide to take Max and hit the road to find his parents who live in Montana.

It’s a physical and spiritual quest told from Maya’s point of view. But for Fishman it also represents what many immigrants go through, including his own family.

The patriarchal roles for both men and women that many immigrants brought with them from their homeland change particularly for the next generation.

“I’m of their blood but not of their psychology,” says Fishman who graduated with a degree in Russian literature from Princeton University and a MFA in fiction from New York University.

Indeed, Fishman says that half way through writing his novel, he realized he was like Max.

“I was really feeling it,” he says about the catharsis of writing about Max. “You basically realize that neither of the places—the U.S. or Russia are home. And so you have to find a third place”

Ifyougo:

What: Boris Fishman has several Chicago events.

When & Where:

7:30pm, Friday, March 24
Women & Children First Bookstore, 5233 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL. (773) 769-9299.

7pm, Saturday, March 25, KAM Isaiah Israel Synagogue, 1100 E Hyde Park Blvd.,
Chicago, IL. (773) 924-1234.

6pm, Sunday, March 26.
Soho House, 113 N. Green St., Chicago, IL. (312) 521-8000.

 

Duck Season: Eating, Drinking, and Other Misadventures in Gascony, France’s Last Best Place

When David McAninch first moved to Plaisance du Gers, a small village in Gascony, with his wife Michele and their young daughter, Charlotte, he was going full-force Francophile by indulging a dream he’d nourished for years—to become part of French village life, a move he chronicles in Duck Season: Eating, Drinking, and Other Misadventures in Gascony, France’s Last Best Place (Harper 2017; $28.99). McAninch had lived in Paris and the South of France at various times in his life, but Gascony with its traditions centered around what was grown on the land or made locally, was in some ways like place time had overlooked. The nearest McDonald’s was in Toulouse, a two-hour drive away, very little processed food was available and tourists seldom seemed to find their way to this part of Southwestern France.

McAninch, an editor at Chicago magazine, had first discovered Gascony when researching a story on duck and was determined to return for a much longer stay. Getting an assignment, he started researching and was surprised to find how little was written about Gascony. Unlike other regions of France, there were few cookbooks and even fewer less restaurants focusing on Gascony cuisines. His bible became Paula Wolfert’s The Cooking of Southwest France: Recipes from France’s Magnificent Rustic Cuisine.

 He became captivated with the old fashioned farmhouse practices of making the foods that define Gascony such as Armagnac (and please don’t call it Cognac in front of a Gascon)–a rich brandy made from a blend of white wine grapes. Among other regional specialties are Madiran, a blackish, tannic red wine and Pacherenc, the local white, dry cured ham and confit—where duck is first salted and then cooked in its own fat which then acts as a preservation method.

Of course, when living in Gascony, it helps to love duck which is always on the menu. At first Michele McAninch isn’t sure about this 24/7 duck thing but her husband says within two months she was eating skewers of grilled duck hearts and he realized Gascony had won her heart—and her stomach as well. Obviously they know how to cook duck in Gascony.

But then, when reading McAninch’s sweet and humorous memoir of the eight months the family spent there, it becomes apparent that the Gascons take their cooking very seriously indeed.

“Every meal is special,” says McAninch. “The cuisine of this corner of Southwestern France is very focused on having three wonderful meals a day—usually with wine at lunch and dinner, but not too much so.”

The family brought a little Gascony back with them as well.

“On the weekends I make garbure, the classic peasant soup,” says McAninch. “It’s a beautifully simple dish and it really embodies the food of this region.”

They also relish a small slice of quiet time each evening, where for just 15 minutes or so, David and Michele sip a glass of wine (though it’s hard to find Madiran says McAninch) and Charlotte enjoys her sparkling water in a fancy glass. For those moments it’s almost like being in Gers again.

Ifyougo:

What: David McAninch is doing several book events.

Tuesday, March 14 at 6:30pm he’ll be at Froggy’s French Café, 306 Greenbay Road, Highwood, IL. Tickets are $45 for dinner. To register, call 847-234-4420.

Thursday, March 16th at 7pm at the Book Cellar, 4736-38 N Lincoln Ave Chicago, IL. Free.

(773) 293-2665.

Tuesday, March 21 at 12:00pm, University Club of Chicago, 76 E. Monroe St., Chicago, IL. For reservations, call The Book Stall at 847-446-8880.