Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a weekly-ish blog post featuring five things that caught my attention this week. It's been a cold week here in NYC, and the weekend is supposed to be even colder. It's a good time to stay inside and read.
1) Last week we were in Florida, where the weather was warm and sunny. I spent one perfect day at the beach, not too hot, no breeze, just sun and sand.
2) I've been trying to cook more now, and I pinned some recipes from The Washington Post 's Top Ten Most Popular Recipes from 2021. I made Aaron Hutcherson's Baked Chicken Thighs with Butter and Onions, and it was hit. Next up is the Leslie Brenner's Classic Ragu Bolognese. They all look really great.
I also made Katie Lee Beigel's Banana Cake after I saw an episode of The Kitchen on the Food Network. If you ever thought "You know what would make this banana bread better? Cream cheese frosting", then this recipe is for you. My husband loved it.
3) There's a new type of 15 minute grocery delivery service in New York City. They have small store fronts filled with things like diapers, water, fresh fruit and vegetables, bread, poptarts- lots of stuff. You place an order on an app, and within 15 minutes (or so), your order is delivered. I passed by Fridge No More in my neighborhood and I am curious. It's great if you're home and need something quick for a recipe or you're not feeling well and don't want to go out. There's no minimum order, and the prices seem pretty reasonable compared to the grocery stores. I haven't tried it yet, but I may just to see if it works.
4) One of my favorite books is JR Moehringer's memoir, The Tender Bar, it's always on my Staff Recommends shelf at the Book Cellar. I've been waiting for the movie based on the book to hit Amazon Prime Video, and we watched it this week. George Clooney directs the movie, with Ben Affleck playing Uncle Charlie to JR, who is played by Daniel Ranieri (as a young boy), and Tye Sheridan (as a young man) All of them are very good. JR is being raised by his single mom, played beautifully by Lily Rabe. They moved back in with her parents, brother (Affleck), and various other siblings and nieces and nephews who seem to come and go depending on circumstances. It's a lovely movie about family, and having a mom who believes in you. I adored the 70's music, I hope I can find the soundtrack. You can watch the trailer here.
5) I read a fabulous book this week. Adriana Trigiani's upcoming novel, The Good Left Undone is an epic, sweeping story about a family of artisans in Tuscany, Italy. The Cabrelli family has been creating and selling beautiful jewelry for generations, and now Matelda, the elderly matriarch, is reflecting on her life as her 25 year-old granddaughter Anina is questioning the choices she has made in her own life. The story is told in present day and in the days leading up to WWII where Domenica is a young nurse who runs afoul of the local parish priest and is sent away from her family to Marseille, France to work with nuns in a hospital. She meets handsome Scottish sea merchant captain John McVicars there and quickly falls in love.
As war approaches France, Domenica is sent to Scotland, and then Liverpool, England, where Italians are sent to an internment camp because the British government feels they can't be trusted, as Mussolini has aligned Italy with the Nazis. Trigiani once again gives us a fantastic generational family story, and layers in a historical lesson that many of us did not know- Italians (many whom had lived in England and Scotland for years) were rounded up and imprisoned based solely on their heritage. (Susan Elia MacNeal's The King's Justice dealt with this topic as well.) This is similar to what the United States did to people of Japanese descent after Pearl Harbor.
One of the best things about reading an Adriana Trigiani novel is that it is a treat for all of your senses.You can hear the tents snapping in the wind at Carnevale, smell apple strudel baking, taste the delicious cherry cake (I would love that recipe!), and see in your mind's eye the beautifully crafted jewelry "glistening like ribbon candy" in its case.
As someone who grew up attending Catholic school, I appreciated the nuns in the story. The care they provided as nurses to their charges, the kindness they showed to Domenica, the strength they exhibit, these are the women I grew up knowing. One of my favorite scenes occurs when Anina and her fiancé go to their parish priest for advice. The priest is a wise man, who listens to their concerns and relates his best advice- "Forgive.Forget.Repeat."
At a time when we have all missed seeing our family- parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles- falling into this big, beautiful book about, as Matelda says, how "a family is only as strong as its stories" will encourage us to share our own family's stories with each other. And as Father Fracassi says, we must "reflect on the past, (and) make peace with it. You cannot control the evil done to you. You cannot turn back and right the good left undone." There is so much to ponder in The Good Left Undone, it's the kind of book that once you turn the last page, you want to immediately begin to reread it. I give it my highest recommendation. It publishes in April, preorder it today from your favorite bookseller.
I hope you all stay safe and healthy and warm.