American Education Week is next week. Celebrations across the country will spotlight public education and the importance of providing every child in America with a quality public education from kindergarten straight through college. It seems like a good time to thank a teacher or a librarian, read a book or share a clever idea.
We all have had family, friends and teachers who have inspired us. Like my great-grandfather who never finished high school. At fifteen he left home and went to work as a carpenter’s apprentice. He worked hard and developed a pretty good business. At one point it was rumored that he built half the houses in Brockton, Massachusetts, but that might be family folklore.
Some might argue he had more than enough schooling; after all he succeeded with just the basics. He would have disagreed. Even though his was cut short, he was a great believer in education. He sent my father, my aunt, a couple of their cousins and even a few kids from down the street to college.
I have always liked that story. I never met my great grandfather; he died long before I was born at the ripe old age of ninety-something. When I was little the story impressed me because in spite of a few ups and downs, I always liked school, liked learning and loved to read. I still do.
I still remember the pleasure of graduating from picture books to chapter books. To my delight I could travel to new places and meet new people without ever leaving my bedroom. I was introduced to captivating casts of characters. Slightly larger than life, they always seemed terribly clever and just a wee bit eccentric. It was easy to get lost in their stories. I spent entire afternoons with Pipi Longstocking and Harriet the Spy. I think for a year or two I wanted to be Pipi Longstocking or at the very least her best friend. Or maybe it was Harriet. I was also a tremendous fan of Nancy Drew. I read each and every one of the first forty or so mysteries and it is still my goal to drive a roadster. Although, I think I would prefer British racing green to baby blue.
As a kid I loved to visit the library. My reading list was not totally dedicated to the exploits of fun and fanciful girl heroes. I was also interested in learning about the courageous acts and adventures of real people. I read every biography in the Upham School library, some of them two or three times.
These real life heroes’ tales were not funny and filled with wild and wacky escapades. Wild and wacky were Pipi’s and Harriet’s territory. They did not have the thrills or chills of Nancy’s mysteries. Still, I was fascinated by their lives and stories. I read about the adventures of Wilbur and his brother Orville and their flights at Kitty Hawk. Harriett Tubman’s courageous work with the Underground Railroad filled me with awe. I learned all about Paul Revere and his midnight ride, Clara Barton and the Red Cross and Miles Standish and the Pilgrims.
With all the grey days of November I can not think of a better time to curl up in front of the fire with a good book. If you love reading as much as I do, think about sharing your passion with friends and start a book club. Gather everyone around the fire for a cozy chat, a nibble and cup of tea or a glass of wine. Whether you share your favorite classics, Oprah’s current favorite or the latest best-seller, enjoy!
Tomato, Olive and Feta Tart
More elegant than a pizza try this tasty tart at your next book party. Enjoy!
Flakey pastry (recipe follows)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 – 6 plum tomatoes cut in thin wedges or 1 pint grape tomatoes cut in half
1/2 teaspoon dried herbs de Provence
6 ounces feta
1/2 cup half-and-half
8-12 greek olives, pitted and quartered
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Roll out the dough on a floured surface, about 1/8-inch in thickness. Gently lift and fit the dough into a 9-inch tart or pie plate; crimp the edges. Sprinkle the dough with half of the Parmesan cheese.
2. Layer the tomatoes in concentric circles. Sprinkle the tomatoes with herbs. Sprinkle feta and remaining Parmesan cheese over the tomatoes.
3. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and half-and-half together. Season with salt and pepper. Carefully pour the custard around and over the tomatoes and cheese.
4. Place in 400 degree oven and bake for 20 minutes, sprinkle with olives and bake 5 minutes more or until golden brown. Remove from the oven, let rest for 5-10 minutes and serve.
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) chilled butter, cut into pieces
3 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening, cold
2-3 tablespoons ice water
1. Blend flour, sugar and salt a food processor. Add butter and shortening; and process until mixture resembles coarse meal.
2. Sprinkle with ice water, 1-2 tablespoons at a time, and process until dough comes together in a ball. Flatten into a disk. Wrap the dough in plastic; chill until firm enough to roll, at least 30 minutes.
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