Daily Archives: December 31, 2010

Stone In A Landslide – Book Review

I was thirteen when, with a bundle of clothes in my arms, my father on my left and Maria on my right, I left my family, home, village and mountain. It was just a few kilometers between Ermita and Pallares, but it meant a day’s walk and losing sight of home. At the time, this hurt me more than anything else. As I walked away, I left the only world I had ever known behind. – from Stone in a Landslide, page 10 –

I feel like a stone after a landslide. If someone or something stirs it, I’ll come tumbling down with the others. If nothing comes near, I’ll be here, still, for days and days … – from Stone in a Landslide, page 89 –

Maria Barbal’s classic literary novella takes place in Spain at the beginning of the 20th century. It begins with thirteen year old Conxa leaving her family and village to go live with her childless aunt and uncle. Conxa is at first fearful and sad about being displaced from her family, but she grows to love her aunt and does not mind the hard work of living on a farm. The years slip by and eventually Conxa meets the charming Jaume, marries him and begins a family of her own. But the Spanish Civil War blights their lives and in the end, it is only Conxa’s steadfast will and unflinching spirit which keeps her moving forward.

Conxa’s voice is compelling and resolute as she relates the significant events of her life in a small village. It is the simpleness of her story which drives the narrative. With stark, yet poetic language, Maria Barbal captures the life of a young girl growing into adulthood and finally entering the waning years of her life. It is a quiet story, but one which captures the patient reader. When Conxa must face the loss of Jaume, her pain is described like the unraveling of a skein of wool:

No need to open your mouth, just find a bit of the pain and pull at it gently like wool from a skein, let it unravel, unravel … until you can’t see colours any more because your eyes have flooded but it’s not tears that fall from your eyes. The wool you were unraveling has turned into a sheet of water slipping down your cheek, and just as you were going to let out a sob, you realize you are not alone. A knot forms in your throat, causing such a strong pain but you swallow and swallow, until slowly you untangle the knot and you’re left with the skein. A fragment of sorrow, knot and all, has gone down directly to your stomach. – from Stone in a Landslide, page 101 –

It was moments like this which drew me to the story and made me feel as though I knew Conxa. Beautifully crafted, this book manages to say more in 126 pages than most longer novels are able to do. A story about coming of age, love, loss, and the connectivity of family, Stone in a Landslide is an amazing work of fiction.

Highly recommended to those readers who enjoy literary fiction.

FTC Disclosure: This book was sent to me by the publisher for review on my blog.

Weekend Cooking with Fred Ramey, Co-Publisher Unbridled Books

Welcome to this week’s edition of Weekend Cooking hosted every week at Beth Fish Reads who writes:

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

This week I am pleased to invite Fred Ramey, Co-Publisher of Unbridled Books (with Greg Michalson), to Caribousmom to share a favorite holiday recipe. He was a founding editor of BlueHen Books and, earlier, Arden Press as well as
Publisher and Executive Editor of MacMurray & Beck.

Fred Ramey’s Recipe

Here’s a recipe that evolved from one that appeared in The Tsil Café, by Thomas Fox Averill, the most delicious novel Greg and I ever published (BlueHen, 2001). I’d put it second in our list after St. Burl’s Obituary – M&B, 1996- because its menus are reachable in our kitchen. I should say that Greg was the editor for both of those scrumptious novels. In The Tsil Café, Wes, the 15-year-old protagonist creates a turkey mole for another restaurant as his first act of cooking rebellion from his father. In his father’s restaurant, only native American ingredients are allowed. But in Wes’s mole there are onions and garlic.

We’ve altered the recipe a bit around our house. But here are its basics. (You’ll need access to a Latino grocery; cooking time is about 3 hours.):


½ cup roasted peanuts
¼ cup roasted sunflower seeds
6 or 8 ancho chiles
2 chipotle chiles
2 medium onions
One pound of tomatoes
All the cloves from a small head of garlic
2 teaspoons of achiote seeds (You can leave this out if you can’t find it.)
¼ cup Mexican cocoa (Abuelita’s is perfect, but any cocoa will do)
1½ teaspoons of cumin
3 teaspoons of salt
2 teaspoons of vanilla (though we prefer the meat from one vanilla bean)

Wes calls for a tablespoon of cider vinegar. The last time we made this, we used a tablespoon of Verjus from a Michigan vineyard, just because we had it. But how often does that happen?

Whatever parts of a turkey you want to use, enough for however many folks are coming to dinner.


Roast the peanuts and the sunflower seeds. They should be as dark as possible without burning. We use the toaster oven.

Stem and seed the chiles. Chop the onions. Halve the tomatoes. Peel the garlic. Run them all-including the peanuts and sunflower seeds-through a food processor until smooth.

Put the mixture into a large, wide pot on low heat. Add the spices and stir. When it’s bubbling, put in the turkey parts.

Cover and simmer for at least 2 hours; cooking until the meat falls from the bone and the sauce thickens. Dark meat  takes longer. Stir often. If the sauce becomes too thick, add water-or turkey broth if you have that.

Serve over rice.

As Wes’s Maria Tito says, “Love others, comfort yourself.

Thanks, Fred!!!