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Monday, August 20, 2012

Clara and Mr. Tiffany

     A novel based on factual information and written by Susan Vreeland, it tells the story of Clara Driscoll, an artist and artisan who worked for Louis Comfort Tiffany in his stained glass factory. The book combines details about the history of the stained glass industry, the culture of New York City in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the problems of working women, the advancement of labor unions and more, all while exploring Clara’s life and relationships with friends and lovers.

     Tiffany, the son of the founder of Tiffany & Company jewelers, was an artist in his own right, known for his magnificent stained glass windows. Much of his company’s manufacturing work was done by men but unmarried (only) women were hired to select the colors of the glass and use them in detailed work, as Mr. Tiffany believed that women had a better eye for color. Clara became an indispensable part of Tiffany’s company as her management skills (at one time she managed a department of close to thirty women artisans), her attention to detail and her creativity developed. Only recently has it been determined that Clara was the originator of the Tiffany lamp, designing and supervising the manufacture of a great many versions of it. Ultimately their production was halted because of its overwhelming expense. Clara resigned from the company because of her impending marriage, ending an important era in American crafts history.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Astaires: Fred and Adele

     If you think you know all there is to know about Fred Astaire, one of the best dancers of twentieth-century movie musicals and cinema partner to several leading ladies; then you may or may not have heard of Fred’s early years. This book, written by classical scholar and modern theater historian Kathleen Riley, traces the origins of Fred’s career in which he and older sister Adele, showing talent early on, relocate to New York City to train and then perform in early twentieth-century vaudeville. Strong family ties with their parents and one another help Fred and Adele cope with early career disappointments but their talents shine through and eventually they attain success on the Broadway circuit during their twenties.

     At first Adele is identified as the more talented of the two, with her natural comic and dancing skills garnering her more recognition. But Fred’s perfectionist drive eventually draws attention to his genius. In their thirties, Adele retires to marriage and Fred takes on Hollywood, performing in several musicals and other films throughout the years.

     Several black-and-white pictures are interspersed throughout the text, highlighting the duo’s performances and relationships with theater notables of the day. A chronology of their theater performances is given and notes and bibliography aid those readers interested in further research.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Vegetarian Cuisine: New Cookbook Selections

     Herbivoracious: A Flavor Revolution, with 150 Vibrant and Original Vegetarian Recipes is written by Michael Natkin, a chef and author of the blog Herbivoracious. His culinary creations are inspired from international cuisines, particularly those from the Mediterranean, Middle East, and Asia. After a personable introduction to the book and some notes on ingredients and cooking equipment, Natkin devotes his energies to a wide range of main course dishes, as well as selections of appetizers, soups, salads, sides, desserts and more. Gluten-free and vegan recipes are available too.

     Vegan Cooking for Carnivores: over 125 Recipes So Tasty You Won’t Miss the Meat is written by Roberto Martin, personal chef to Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi. When DeGeneres and de Rossi turned to a vegan diet, eschewing all animal proteins including meat, milk, butter, eggs and cheese, they didn’t want to eat tasteless foods. Then they were introduced to Roberto Martin who was not a vegan but was interested in making food vegan. He was able to reproduce their favorite foods by substituting animal proteins with vegan alternatives. The recipes for several of these dishes with accompanying color photographs, ranging from breakfast, lunch and dinner and including soups, salads, entrees, sides, desserts and more, are presented to the reader.

     Vegetarian Cooking, part of the At Home with the Culinary Institute of America series, is directed toward the vegetarian and non-vegetarian alike. Focusing on lacto-ovo vegetarianism, in which meat, fish and seafood aren’t eaten but dairy products and eggs are, the recipes highlight an assortment of soups, salads, sandwiches, beans, tofu, grains, pasta, vegetables and more. Large color photos add to the book’s appeal.