SUMMER ... time for long swims, napping in hammocks, panting dogs and great reads. When it comes to books, I'm a huge fan of old-school reading: books with paper, ratty paperbacks left behind in cottages, book exchanges at Hannaford - my own local public library.
I'm also a huge fan of thrift-shop books, which generally are far cheaper than Barnes & Noble, far cheaper than Amazon. And the selection? Fabulous. Eclectic. Fun.
I recently found Mary Roach's "Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers" at the Full Circle Thrift Shop in Eliot, Maine. Who knew cadavers could be so interesting, curiously fascinating and really amazing in their after-lives? Really.
According to Entertainment Weekly, this read is "One of the funniest and most unusual books of the year. ... Gross, educational, and unexpectedly sidesplitting." OK, the year to which the publication referred was 2003. For me, that's current enough for two bucks and loads of entertainment.
I don't think I've ever paid full price for a book, much as I've been tempted. I'm not a huge fan of owning books. I like to read, give back, empty my bookshelves. I do hold on to too many possessions, but books? Once I'm done, I'm ready to purge my latest literary find and replace it with another.
Another read I spotted in one of my book haunts is "Creating a Charmed Life: Sensible, Spiritual Secrets Every Busy Woman Should Know," by Victoria Moran. I'd like to think my life is charmed enough, but you never know if there is another secret to digest, another way to amplify my already charmed life. And there it is on Page 60, a chapter title that sums up one of my favorite suggestions for achieving a charmed life: "Drink Good Coffee, Eat Good Food."
Yup, I'm all over that - especially in the summer when tomatoes are ridiculously good, when grills are the only way to cook, when beach baking is at its height.
"What is beach baking?" you ask. When I write my own cookbook - which you might find at an exchange someday - it will be titled "Beach Baking" and will have three recipes: for melted M&M's, warmed chocolate chip cookies and the grand finale: warmed goat cheese on a French baguette.
The cooking directions for each recipe are identical:
1. Place bag of M&M's/chocolate chip cookies/goat cheese and French baguette on a small table you've brought to the beach.
2. Allow the ingredients and yourself to melt in the sun.
3. Eat carefully. (Remember to spread the warm goat cheese on the French baguette.)
4. Bask in the joy of a full stomach under the sun. On the beach. Listening to the surf. Ahhhh ... bliss.
You are invited to try out these recipes before my book comes out. I am in the process of looking for a publisher. It may be awhile.Finally, another book I never would have known about had I not found it at Full Circle Thrift is "Talking with My Mouth Full: Crab Cakes, Bundt Cake and Other Kitchen Stories." Written by NPR's "Weekend Edition" food commentator, Bonny Wolf, this is a fun, laugh-out-loud read. Initially I thought it would be filled with words like "organic," "caviar," "truffles" and "bouillabaisse," but instead Wolf's chapters include: "Tied to My Apron Strings" (a tribute to aprons) and "An Ode to Toast."
This is a great, easy, comfortable read for foodies and non-foodies alike. I read it last year on the beach - surrounded by melted M&Ms, chocolate chip cookies and goat cheese.
Now that's summer at its best: a cheap book, good food, great beach, sun.
Happiest of reads and a blissful remainder of the summer from Budget Vogue. Now off to the shore with you; beach baking awaits.
Susan Dromey-Heeter's "Budget Vogue" regularly appears the first Sunday of each month in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.