Sunday, May 14, 2006

Links and Lessons: Reading Lists, Success, and Food Tasting (Oh Joy!)

The sun is out, the air is warm, and I have a Mother’s Day Brunch to get to, but I thought I’d share a few things first:

  • Found via Big A Little a, Slayground has compiled several children’s reading lists featuring themes like strong women, school settings, books for young boys, and fairy tales retold. Since y’all seem to like lists, I thought you would be interested.

  • Conversational Reading has a great column (with links to other columns) about pushy publicists (found via Booksquare).

  • Mapletree7 of Book of the Day is doing her own survey of the best books of the last 25 years because she feels we bloggers we snubbed. Given that y’all have been so delightfully responsive about the midlist authors, I say head on over and help her out.

  • Because they are contrary as well as Smart Bitches, the ladies at Smart Bitches Love Trashy Novels have decided to come up with the list of the worst books in the last 25 years. It appears to be focused on, but not limited to, romance fiction.

  • The list of Midlist, it grows daily, but even better, I’ve heard back from the first round of authors I contacted. Success! In the coming days and weeks we’ll be having interviews or guestblogs or something wacky and crazy, I’m sure. But to kick this author crazed event off, we have this little teaser from Maria V. Snyder, the author of Poison Study, on how to be a food taster:

How to Become a Food Taster in 5 Easy Steps:

1. Amass a file folder full of technical articles on tasting. Having a husband who is an expert in “tasting” and has a degree in engineering helps. Just show appropriate interest to husband and wait.

2. Read and digest technical articles (more than you thought possible). Titles range from the intriguing, “Learning and Speaking the Language of Flavor,” to the scientific, “The Flavor-Fusion Illusion; The Psychology of Flavor,” to the fun, waist-expanding, “How to be a Knowledgeable and Discriminating Ice Cream Gourmet.” At the end of this step, you will know more about the tongue than you really wanted to know (trust me!).

3. Learn about the appropriate tasting methods. Tasting is not just about the flavor, it’s a complex mixture of sensory data. The smell, how food feels in the mouth or “mouthfeel,” and even how it looks are all important. Or you can use the classic 11-year-old boy quick, “If it smells good, it’ll taste good,” test for unknown edibles.

4. Practice methods learned in step three using chocolate (Why use anything else?). Examine the chocolate. Is it smooth? Does it give a nice clean snap when broken in half? Free of that white stuff (i.e. bloom)? Smell it. Put a piece in your mouth. Let it melt and coat your tongue. Swallow a little bit to cover the back of your tongue. How does it feel in your mouth? How does it taste? Gritty? Bitter? Fruity? Sweet? After you swallow it note the aftertaste. Make notes (or not, depends on your ability to remember). Drink some room temperature water to cleanse the palate. Repeat analysis with different chocolates as many times as needed (if questioned, tell others with a haughty air, that you’re eating chocolate for science). After sampling, compare and determine the best one. How? The best one will be the chocolate you liked the most.

5. Use these methods on all kinds of food and impress friends and relatives. And if you encounter any “off” flavors, “strange” smells, or “unusual” tastes in your meal, review your recent history. Fired anyone? Cut someone off on the highway? Forgot to send your mother flowers on Mother’s Day? If the answer is “yes” to any or all questions, throw food away and don’t feed it to your dog (unless you’re looking to get a new dog).

Good things to know if you ever find yourself the forced foodtaster for a dictator. Are you intrigued enough about these points to learn more about her book? Will this help?

About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She'll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace--and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of ixia. And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly Dust--and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay the agonizing death from the poison. As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can't control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren't so clear...

Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers! Hope you get some nice cards, some warm hugs, and bit o' the sparkly.


Kate R said...

Mapletree and you inspired me. I'm making lists of Best Of.

I can't seem to break out of the same lists of writers I always make. Come over and make a couple of suggestions? (Never mind about Trad Regencies. I know they're not there for us any more.)

Little Willow said...

Thank you for linking to my journal. I just found yours, also via Kelly, and I'll add the link to my website Your Girl in the coming weeks. :)