Sunday, November 20, 2011

Read up on Texas with an ice cream happy hour

Huntsville’s town square brought me a fabulous fall afternoon of antiquing, fried chocolate pie and Mexican food before I headed to The Texas Prison Museum and Big Sam. At the museum, they have T-shirts billing the city as “Huntsville, a gated community since 1849.” The city and its prison have come up in two new books.
“Steve McQueen” is Marshall Terrill’s thick read that includes filming he did with inmates. I’m about to scour the book for links to Port Arthur, where some say he spent part of his youth as a towel boy in a brothel.
“Gangster Tour of Texas” tells some crazy true stories with a twist. T. Lindsay Baker includes present-day and historical snapshots so readers can visit some key sites, such a court houses and crime scenes. In one case a woman said she was from The Beaumont Enterprise, and had traveled to a small Texas town to interview folks for a story on cotton crops. The Flapper Bandit was really trying to rob the bank. She tried that a couple of times, using different identities, and finally did it. Her lawyer lover helped get her out of the mess.
Huntsville’s prison comes up now and again in this fascinating book, which includes details on Bonnie and Clyde, a vet dealing in morphine, the Houston police dope scandal that rocked the department and a doctor who placed goat glands in his human male patients for “stamina.” He set up a huge business in Del Rio so he could broadcast from a powerful radio station in Mexico. Gambling in Galveston also gets its spotlight.

Are you happy now?
Spike, freeze and serve is the battle cry of two women whose late-night beer float became a book: “Ice Cream Happy Hour,” offering 50 ways to wet your whistle. It begins with the premise that readers like ice cream, and like spirits. Valerie Lum and Jenise Addison have done the science, so you just have to follow the directions to chocolate martini, ginger with dark rum, pink peppercorn with vodka . . . . you taste the idea. Here’s a quick garnish for pina colada:
Rum Pineapple Topping: In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, combine 1 pound pineapple cut into bite-size chunks, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 2 tablespoons rum. Cook, stirring occasionally until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Transfer about one-third of the sauce to a blender or food processor and puree, then return the puree to the saucepan and stir to combine.

Casting call
I’d hoped to report a review straight from the setting of “Cast Iron and the Crescent City.” A trim booklet explains how intricate florals, geometric patterns and even corn stalks were “cast” in the history of New Orleans. A mini tour of buildings, accounts of architectural outlines, bios of iron works owners and “maker’s marks” are included in the Louisiana Landmarks Society publication by Ann M. Masson and Lydia M. Schmalz. This quick read made me want to head to NOLA ( New Orleans, La.) right away, but I confess I’d be there for muffaletta and seafood as much as to gaze at fences.
Instead of reading the book from Jackson Square, I studied in before dawn on a Sunday morning, then came home to Texas by switching to the newly-released Historic Homes of Jefferson Texas,” Cherly MacLennan’s loving picture book on this preserved-in-time town. Instead of iron work, these homes have Texas Historical Markers as adornment. I enjoyed my first visit to Jefferson, and I’m ready to venture back, now that MacLennan has educated me on the nuances of tall windows, central hallways, the first gas meter, etc.

Get a look at Jefferson homes
A road trip to Greek Revival homes, a sense of early Texas and the love of preservation make up Cheryl MacLennan’s picture book “Historic Homes of Jefferson, Texas.”
The author seems like a woman you’d want to know. She’s a consultant, independent contractor, photographer, docent at the Institute of Texan Cultures and a volunteer at the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store. She makes you feel like you already know Jefferson. I was there long ago at my first bed-and-breakfast venture and now I’m ready to pack up for more. I specifically imagine heading to The House of Seasons, with multi-colored panes of glass that glow like a rainbow.

Delicious sense
If common sense to you is pages of one-paragraph gourmet recipes, Domestic Engineer Paula Sole has it. She actually has “Common Sense,” a quick read on tips and ways for good living. She advocates a neat living space. I’m all for that. Here’s a quick dish:
Chicken Genovese: Cut up boneless chicken breast into small pieces. Saute chicken in extra-virgin olive oil until golden brown. Add three sliced onions. Stir consistently. When onions are golden, add water just to cover chicken. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 40 minutes. Serve over pasta.
Author’s note: “You’ll luv this dish!!”

Frenemies with food
“Frenemies,” in modern parlance, means you are both friends and enemies. A new book was billed as a story of a woman who considered food that way. It takes place in England, and is pitched this way:
“The new book, Clarice, tells the story of a young woman living in a world where food is both her greatest comfort and greatest enemy. Written by a retired physician, the book paints a modern-day portrait of mental illness and describes the path to recovery.”
I “realised” I may have been enjoying this book more because of British spellings, such as “colour” and phraseology that’s used “across the pond.” Clarice does binge and purge at times throughout her life, but I believe the book is most familiar with her relationships with men, married or not. She visits a psychic, and the prediction comes to pass for Clarice in a way that “got me” on the very final page.
Looking for healing
Our best friend is our little child within, and that friend can help us put our house in order. Meditate on that, Austrailian author Teresa Alexander writes in “Freedom Within: A Gift of Love.” The butterfly-on-flower book cover lets readers know this will be a touchy-feely experience. The author discusses colors of lights associated with energy and mixes short writings with poems about friendship, sharing, claiming the day, etc.

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