Tuesday, July 5, 2016

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden; My Book Review of Unearthed, a Memoir. #UnearthedParty

I was lucky enough to get chosen to participate in the Unearthed Blog Party by the authors of  The Book Club Cookbook.  The book is being released to the public today and we are celebrating all month long as a dozen bloggers review this book and create recipes to share with you that either came from the book or author or were inspired by the book or author.

We received a free copy of this book and given the opportunity to give one away to one of our readers, if we so chose.  I do choose, so please make sure that you scroll past the recipe to enter the giveaway at the bottom of this post. In return we were requested to read the memoir, give an honest review and create or recreate a recipe inspired by this book.  I received no monetary compensation and all opinions are 100% mine and 100% truthful.  Please visit the author Alexandra Risen and/or the publishers, Houghton Miflin Harcourt for further information.  I am including links to their social media sites after the recipe and before the giveaway.

This memoir, written by Alexandra Risen, touched me.  Alexandra did not move from the city to a large parcel of land, as I did, but she found a large parcel of land within the city limits to turn into her own private oasis.  This memoir covers the the move and the problems selling their prior home, Alexandra's studying to learn how to turn her property into the splendid garden she envisions, the problems finding good, honest, hard working help, the pain and suffering of dealing with a parent who has dementia and trying to stay within a budget throughout.  

I have lived and am living with many of the same circumstances.  Unlike me, however, Alexandra did not have a loving relationship with her parents as she was growing up.  Alexandra was the second child and born many years after the first.  Her parents were immigrants and never spoke of their past or their background. I can relate with that because my Grandma never spoke of her past except to say that she was so grateful to be in the US and not in the "old country".  In fact, in Alexandra's memories, she couldn't recall her father speaking to her at all.  Alexandra felt distanced and separated from her parents and wondered if she had, perhaps, been a mistake that they regretted. 

Alexandra finds memories flooding back as she works on her garden.  Memories that were not all bad and painful but many that were.  This is a memoir of finding peace in your soul.  For Alexandra this came from gardening.  Her memoir will make you stop and ask yourself where your peace lies and give you the courage to find it.  

My inspiration came from Chapter 11, Roses.  During this chapter, Alexandra and her son, Max, come across Prairie Roses, which reminds Alexandra of a neighbor who would allow her to help sugar rose petals that would then be placed on cupcakes.

Image of Prairie Rose found on Google.

I don't have prairie roses in my garden but I do have rose shrubs which appear to be similar.  Most importantly, I have grown them organically without the use of pesticides so I know they are safe to eat.  Alexandra has the following guidelines in her memoirs to help you when foraging for food.  

Foraging Guidelines 

  1.  Avoid areas where you know pesticides are used. Be careful of major roadsides, industrial areas, or areas where heavy chemical use may occur.
  2.  If you are prone to allergies, be careful. Have appropriate medical supplies with you. 
  3. You may want to test plants by rubbing on your skin before picking. If in doubt, don’t pick at all. 
  4. Learn to identify plants. Before handling any plants and using them in the recipes and crafts in this book, consult a reputable guide for safely identifying plants. 
  5. Respect endangered species in your area. It is illegal to pick them. 
  6. Pick only what you need, and protect the roots of plants. 
  7. If you are washing leaves, add a teaspoonful of white vinegar or lemon juice to a large bowl and let them soak a few minutes before rinsing. Pat dry with paper towels. 
  8. Some plant parts are edible, some are not. Sometimes the season affects what part of a plant is edible.
  9. Some plants are poisonous. There are also some look-alike plants. It is important to be aware of these.

I stepped out my back patio door, grabbed my gardening shears and cut off some blooms.  Not a lot of foraging involved but I did have the satisfaction of growing my own food.  I made the sugared rose petals as found in the end of the chapter.

I followed the directions as written, using egg whites and not meringue powder as I raise my own eggs and have no concerns of their safety.

I found it was easier to lay the petals on the parchment to paint them with the egg wash and then sprinkle the sugar over them.  Flip them over and  repeat before placing them on the rack to dry. 

The author recommends placing your rack in a cold oven to allow to dry overnight.  I just left mine on the kitchen counter in the airconditioned house.  

I used my rose petals to decorated some amazing Rose and Ginger Cupcakes that I made during our #CookoutWeek event.  I thought it was appropriate to make a tender and sweet ending since the book also ended tenderly and sweetly with Alexandra coming to terms with her parents, her memories and herself.

**I am sharing this review on Foodies Read 2016

Sugared Rose Petals
Adapted  from UNEARTHED, © 2016 by Alexandra Risen. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved

1 c. washed and dried organic rose petals, bottom tips removed
1 egg white (or equivalent using meringue powder and water)
1 c. caste sugar

Beat egg white slightly in a small bowl. Cover work area with waxed paper or parchment. Lay a rose petal on your work station, brush one side with egg white, using a small watercolor brush. Sprinkle with sugar, flip over and repeat on other side. Place on waxed paper or a wire rack. Dry overnight in a cool dry place.  Print Recipe

Here are the publisher (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)'s social media links:
  TwitterFacebookTumblr PinterestInstagram

The author's (Alexandra Risen):
Facebook / Instagram

Book Club Cookbook:
Twitter / Facebook / Pinterest

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  1. Sounds like a good read! And it does sound a bit like your life. I cannot imagine being forced to take care of a parent whom I didn't really want to take care of. Your sugared roses are beautiful!

  2. My favorite forage ws finding hickory nuts last year; unfortunately mice got to our garage stash before we did

    1. Those dang mice!!! At least you know where to look next year.

  3. I do have some mint that escaped and is growing wild. It horrifies my step daughter every time I pick some and pop it in my mouth! That's as wild as my foraging gets. My best friend's dad used to pick salad from the lawn for us when we were growing up.

    1. Wild mint is perfect for foraging. Add it to some ice cream and then next thing you know, your daughter will be hunting it out on your next walk.

  4. I used to live on a 150 year old cattle ranch in the Sierras. Sooo much great stuff, like old Italian plum trees, blackberry patches along the creek beds, but my favorite: morel mushrooms I discovered underneath an oak tree. They didn't pop up every year, but when they did I hunted twice a day hoping to find more!

    1. Finding Morels is definitely like finding a gold mine Tina.

  5. Great post. I really loved the book too.

  6. I didn't love the book, but I loved the recipes! And, I just realized, that those prarie roses were everywhere during our camping trip. If only I had known...

  7. Nothing like giving each grandchild a strainer and taking them out back to find raspberries, blackberries, chives, etc. Depending on the time of year. It's a treasure hunt for the senses.

    1. You have very lucky grandkids Kim. They will pass that on through the generations.

    2. Hey Kim, you are our lucky winner. Be on the lookout for an email from me.

  8. Sorry I missed the giveaway, but I wanted to stop by the bloggers that I know from the Unearthed event. I have that same prairie rose in my flower bed. It has a spreading habit and I have been giving starts to anyone I can. I love your inspired-by rose petals, Wendy!


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