Monday, February 20, 2017

Aging Suspense Novels

As a teenager, when I found a book I liked I checked out every book the library had by that author. Thus, I remember long rainy afternoons reading The Red Lamp, The Bat, The Yellow Room, A Light in the Window, The Circular Staircase and The After House, all by Mary Roberts Rinehart.  Her suspense novels were just frightening enough to send shivers up my spine, but not so ghostly that I had to sleep with the light on.
She was born in 1876 and died in 1958, several years before I first read her books. Often compared to Agatha Christie, Rinehart’s first mystery novel was published 14 years before Christie’s. I recently found a 1926 Dell paperback of the Bat (photo above) at Powell’s bookstore and added it to my small collection of older paperback mysteries.  Although originally 25 cents, Powell’s priced it at $3.95.  I love those old paperbacks with original cover illustrations: the Bat cover was by Walter Brooks.  I could find no online reference to Walter Brooks as an illustrator or artist, but there is a writer of a series of children’s’ books who was a contemporary of Rinehart. Further research is required. 
Rinehart is included in a section called ‘Lady detectives’ in another interesting 1971 book I own: The Murder Book: An Illustrated History of the Detective Story, by Tage la Cour and Harald Morgensen (published by Herder and Herder).  This book disputes assertions elsewhere (online) that Rinehart originated the “had I but known” form of mystery where key information is not divulged that would assist the reader (and police) in solving the mystery.  Despite this minor controversy, I continue to recommend Rinehart’s books as either collector items or as a good read.  

Saturday, December 31, 2016


This blog began as my way to document older and interesting books I encountered while working at a used bookstore (see Archives).  I subsequently concentrated on recipes, some from old cookbooks, but then the blog languished. After completing a Letterpress class, I begin 2017 with renewed enthusiasm (on my part) and focused more generally on the process of creating books.  

The circa 1920’s typewriter in the above photo sat unused and gathering dust for decades until a creative project required a typewritten poem. Without belaboring the point, typewritten script has a unique appearance that a computer does not.  So, I found a typewriter repair shop (more easily than I thought), and when I dropped my machine off was surprised at the dozens of typewriters—including electric—that lined the shelves for repair or maintenance. Whatever the reasons, there is definitely a renewed interest in typewriters. 

A little history:  Royal produced the first upright (as opposed to flatbed) typewriter beginning in 1914.  The oldest models had two beveled glass panes on each side.  In 1920, the Royal 10 models had a single beveled glass pane on each side (see photo).  These machines are incredibly heavy.  Royal launched portable typewriters in 1926. The first electric typewriter was produced in 1950. We all know what happened to typewriters after desktop computers.

When I look at my Royal I like to remember writers, like Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond books, who allegedly used the 1947 Royal Quiet Deluxe model.  Remember the sound of a typewriter, somewhat addictive like that of coins falling into a slot machine? I had forgotten how difficult it is to punch the keys or correct a misspelled word.  The only “cut and paste” with a typewriter is the literal one.  No delete button.  Even newly cleaned and oiled, my old Royal will not replace my computer.  So I plan in 2017 to think about how things are changing for writers/artists/publishers/editors.  For example, will online books replace print?  What has texting, blogging, twitter and so on contributed to or taken away from writing?  Like the typewriter, what else will we leave behind?

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Mango-Banana Bread

This is my favorite recipe and it was adapted from my favorite cook book, “A World of Breads,” by Dolores Casella (1966).  In the over 40 years that I have been making this bread, nothing beats it for consistency:  moist, sweet and delicious. 

A mango like those in the photo above are hand-picked from the tree for eating; however, just like any fruit, many fall as they ripen and it is those that I use for this bread.  Already soft and bruised, they mash easily. As you can see in the photo, a mango turns red and yellow as it ripens. 

Apple bananas are my first choice for this bread, but any banana that is overripe (already getting soft and dark) will do. I mash the fruit by hand instead of in the blender or food processor, which results in a less even texture that I prefer in the final product. 

½ C butter
1 C white or brown sugar (brown sugar makes a darker bread)
2 eggs
2 C flour (1 C whole wheat can be used)
½ Tsp soda
1 C ripe bananas mashed
½ C ripe mango mashed
nuts (optional)

Cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs, then add the flour and soda and stir as you add the mango/banana mixture.  Bake at 350 degrees in an oiled loaf pan for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  The bread should not jiggle but be firm and mine gets almost too dark before I take it out of the oven.  While this bread is fantastic when warm, it seems to moisten and sweeten on the second and third day (if it lasts that long).  Enjoy. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Slow Cooker Coconut Tapioca Pudding

Coconut is an ingredient strongly associated with Hawaii and here it is combined with tapioca for one of my favorite recipes, tapioca pudding. Using the slow cooker to make this delicious treat (or tasty dessert) saves time because the tapioca pearls are not presoaked.  However, while this recipe is simple, it requires more attention than first seems necessary.  For example, overcooking occurs in a matter of minutes, so as the pudding thickens, it is necessary to check it often.  On the other hand, my last batch seemed thick at only 1 ½ hours in the slow cooker, so I turned it off. When I returned in two hours, the pudding was watery.  I cooked it for another hour in the slow cooker, and it was perfect. A caveat: Every slow cooker is different.

A little background information: The coconut (Cocos nucifera) is a member of the palm family (Arecacae).  The fruit is botanically a “drupe” (stonefruit) not a nut and has many uses. The palm produces both the female and male flowers on the same group or cluster of flowers (monoecious). The earliest description of the coconut palm is about 545AD.  All of this information and more is found at Wikipedia.

Tapioca which comes from cassava (Manihor esculenta) is a carbohydrate and thus a poor source of protein. Unprocessed cassava has antinutritional and toxic factors, particularly cyanogenic glucosides which on hydrolysis release hydrocyanic acid.  Thus, cassava must be properly prepared in order to be safely consumed. Tapioca is the starch of the cassava and safe to use, often as a thickening agent. It is also gluten-free.   


Put into a slow cooker:

½ C small dry pearl tapioca (do not presoak)
2/3 C sugar (less can be used)
4 C liquid (1 Can coconut milk and water to 4 C.)
1 Tsp vanilla (added towards end of cooking, or as pudding cools)

Stir the above ingredients (except for vanilla), then cover and cook on low in slow cooker.  Stir after 1 hour.  At 2 hours the mixture will begin to thicken, so I stir it and then stir it again every fifteen minutes.  In my cooker the tapioca is thickened at 2 ½ hours, and I turn it off.  Experiment with the time and the consistency of the pudding in your slow cooker.  I like the pearls to be whole but not hard in the middle. If it cooks too long, the consistency becomes too thick and gelatinous.  There is a perfect consistency, and once you find it, you will never go back to soaking the tapioca and cooking it on the stove top. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Lilikoi Posset

The story behind this blogpost begins in Northern Ireland at the Belle Isle School of Cookery in Enniskillen, where I spent an incredible month on a 200 acre rural estate cooking with Master Chef Liz Moore. (See, However, in the interests of space, this blogpost will focus on only one of Chef Moore’s dessert recipes—posset. What the heck is a posset?

According to my research posset began as a British hot drink, originally of curdled milk with wine or ale, often spiced, and used in the Middle Ages as a cold and flu remedy.  After the 16th Century possets were made from lemon or other citrus juice combined with cream, sugar and often eggs.  Posset sets used for mixing and serving the drinks were popular gifts and heirlooms.  A crystal and gold posset set given by the Spanish ambassador to Queen Mary I of England and King Phillip II of Spain when they betrothed in 1554 (believed made by Benvenuto Celini) is on display at Hatfield House in England.

Posset in its modern form refers to a dessert most often made with lemon, cream and sugar and usually chilled (although I also enjoy it warm). When cold, it is similar in consistency to a smooth mousse. An internet search yields many quick, easy and full-proof posset recipes.  While I have made this enchanting dessert with either lemon or lime, my favorite local (i.e., Hawaii) citrus to use is lilikoi (aka passion fruit, shown sliced in half in the above photo). 

Lilikoi are about the size and color of a lemon with a tart, seedy pulp (shown in photo). The fruit forms within 80 days of flowering on vines that climb over 20 feet per year on trees or telephone poles. The vines (often considered yard pests like the morning glory vine) maintain good productivity for 4-6 years. Although seasonal, lilikoi is available almost year round in Hawaii. The juice also freezes well.

For more practical information, see, Passiflora edulis var. flavicarpa (yellow passion fruit) and this website for photos and discussion of 34 related species:

On the mainland, passion fruit can be found at Asian markets that import fruits and vegetables or online at The recipe for Lilikoi Posset is below:

2 C cream (1 pint whipping cream)
1/2 C sugar (I have used only 1/3 C)
1/3 to 1/2 C lilikoi juice (juice of 2 lemons, if using lemon)
1/2 Tsp vanilla (optional; I do not use vanilla with lilikoi)

In a saucepan, bring the cream to a rolling boil and maintain for 3 minutes (I time it). Remove from stove and whisk in sugar and juice, then pour into ramekins and chill (8 hours or overnight to ensure it is firm). Use small ramekins (I use espresso cups) and serve with a fresh raspberry or mint leaf on top.  Enjoy. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Hawaiian Cookery

This post refocuses my blog from old, rare and unusual books (see previous posts) to cookbooks: specifically Hawaiian cookbooks and selected recipes. The photo above is of a 1964 Peter Pauper publication; a lovely little book that aptly illustrates my intent.

While planned future posts will emphasize recipes with less familiar ingredients like lilikoi (i.e., passion fruit), I begin with pineapple because it is strongly associated with Hawaii. Del Monte and Dole began large scale pineapple production in Hawaii in the early 1900s. Pineapple can be purchased at our farmers’ markets, local grocery stores and Costco all year. Pineapple juice which is used in the recipe below, is readily available everywhere. With minimum effort, pineapple plants grow and fruit in Hawaii’s yards or even in a large pot on the lanai. Home grown fruits are smaller but also sweeter. As an interesting aside: white pineapple is a tasty, local (mainly Big Island) and seasonal fruit, which has a lower acid content. Although twice the price, I always buy white pineapple when available.

Years ago I copied a recipe for “King Kamehameha Pie” from the Honolulu newspaper and have made it many times. The ingredients are inexpensive and the final product is a lovely chilled pineapple/apple dessert.  According to my internet research, “King Kamehameha Pie” ( won 3rd place in a Better Homes and Gardens Contest in November 1970, as submitted by Clara Tanner.   

Here are the ingredients for King Kamehameha Pie:

1 12 oz can (1 ½ C) pineapple juice
¾ C sugar
7 medium cooking apples, peeled and sliced (see notes below)
3 T cornstarch
1 T butter
 ½ Tsp vanilla
1 9 in baked pastry shell (see notes below for alternative crumb crust)
¼ C whipped cream, sour cream or vanilla yogurt (optional)
Chopped macadamia nuts (optional)

Here are the directions:

Reserve ¼ C pineapple juices. Combine 1 ¼ C pineapple juice and sugar, bring to boil and add apple slices.  Simmer covered until tender but not soft (3-4 minutes). Lift apples from syrup and set aside on plate to drain (pour any syrup on plate back into pan). Combine cornstarch and ¼ C pineapple juices, add to pan and cook until syrup is thickened and bubbly, then 1 minute more.  Remove from heat, add butter and vanilla and cool 10 minutes without stirring.  Pour and spread up to half of syrup into baked pastry shell. Arrange apple slices in fan shaped layers and spoon remaining syrup over.  Chill.  Before serving, garnish center of pie with whipped cream, sour cream or vanilla yogurt and sprinkle with chopped macadamia nuts. 

Notes:  It is important to slice apples uniformly about ¼ inch each, and do not cook them too long (they should be easy to cut but still firm). The sauce barely covers the apples.  Internet photos show this pie made with apple chunks but it is much prettier when the slices are fanned out in circles from the middle. As an alternative crust combine 1 ¼ C crushed vanilla wafers and macadamia nuts with 5T butter and 3T sugar, press into pie pan and bake 5 minutes in the oven. Enjoy with aloha. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Romance in South Seas

Featured in the photo above is the lovely dust jacket of a romance of the south seas written by Robert Dean Frisbie and published only three years before the author’s death in 1945 (hardback with dust jacket).  According to Wikepedia, Frisbie was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and was an American writer who moved to the south pacific after World War I to improve his poor health.  He settled in Tahiti, married, and fathered five children.  Throughout his lifetime, Frisbie penned numerous travel articles and stories for U.S. publications.  He maintained friendships with other writers, and allegedly Charles Nordhoff and James Hall (think, Mutiny on the Bounty) encouraged Frisbie to write a narrative about his life on Pukapuka (book of the same name published in 1929). 

Despite residing in the south pacific and enjoying life as a writer, Frisbie’s days were not uniformly happy.  He married in 1928, at age 32, and his wife bore him five children before she died in 1939, leaving Frisbie with five young children to rear on his own.  Only three years later in 1943, Frisbie was diagnosed with tuberculosis, and although he continued to travel and write, he died in 1948 of an apparent tetanus infection.  His children were raised by friends and relatives in New Zealand and Hawaii.

A prolific writer of nonfiction travel articles, Frisbie published several novels including Amaru.  Online research indicates that demand (thus cost) of PukaPuka is higher than that for Amaru.  Perhaps PukaPuka, as a memoir, is more sought after.  One of his children, Florence Frisbie, wrote two books, Miss Ulysses of Puka-Puka (Macmillan, 1948) and The Frisbies of the South Seas (Doubleday, 1959).  Be on the lookout for both books which according to online research are difficult to obtain (costly).