Monday, July 09, 2012

The Agony and Pepper Toast

It's like being reunited with an old friend!  I have long been searching for the book The Agony of the Leaves: the Ecstasy of My Life with Tea by Helen Gustafson.  (I wrote about her here.)  The book is out of print and online copies could be quite expensive.  My library didn't even have a copy. Many times had I pined for one of her funny stories or a recipe. 

Imagine my delight when I recently found a copy (for a very reasonable price) at Powell's Books.  Sweetcakes was with me and must have been my lucky charm.  I re-read the book, cover to cover, with great delight.  Helen tells her story of tea, from her childhood afternoon teas to the heady days in San Francisco when tea was being reborn in the US.  She was there.  She took charge of the the tea service at Chez Panisse, educating the staff in clever ways and finding real-world solutions to difficult problems (like how to get busy wait staff to put fresh water in the boiler).
Here is one of my favorite recipes from the book, Pepper Toast.  Helen had borrowed it from a friend (and since I've loaned out the book, I can't recall whom).  It's quite simple!
* Take some good bread and butter it.
* Sprinkle liberally with pepper.
* Broil until golden and crunchy. 
I used my toaster oven.  She indicates that it also works well in an upright toaster - adding the butter and pepper after the fact.  Either way, this IS delicious!


La Tea Dah said...

Yay! Your efforts paid off with a wonderful book! There's nothing like Powell's --- you are fortunate to live so close! It's a place one could get lost for hours and hours and not even realize they were lost! :D

Enjoy a lovely day! Read away.

Anonymous said...

Do you know, I'm so glad you mentioned this book because somehow or other it has fallen completely off my Wish List.

Funnily enough (I love this term, "funnily enough" - it's quite popular over here), I found a used copy on for under a fiver (includes delivery), shipping from the United States. Go figure!

Steph said...

Wow - Denise, go for it!!!! That is a GREAT deal.

relevanttealeaf said...

I have this book too. I'm glad you wrote about it because I've pulled it from my tea book shelves to re-read on an upcoming airplane flight. I got my copy at a tea room after a man had just brought in several books from his wife's collection for resale. I didn't get the bargain Denise got! ;-) I paid $14.95 but still was happy to get it.

Colleen said...

Oh I am so delighted you've mentioned this book! It is a favorite of mine (I even have 2 copies! If I'd known you wanted it....) She has been a hero of mine since I read this book and live in the Berkeley area. I met her daughter several years ago and have 2 lovely tea photos from her. Helen also did a book called Hanky Panky- on handkerchiefs of course, with beautiful pictures. I collect hankies also, so really have felt a kindred connection always.

Steph said...

Colleen - That's a great story!

Marilyn said...

How wonderful to find her book at Powell's. I thought I might have this book, but actually have her Green Tea book. The toast does sound good.

The Tea Enthusiast's Scrapbook said...

Hi Steph,

I purchased this book used for $7 about 2 years ago, but never read it. After reading your post, I have pull it out from my "to read pile" which is growing out of control.

Thanks for sharing,


Angela McRae said...

I have this book and remember enjoying it very much. Perhaps a "return trip" is in order. And I will be trying Pepper Toast soon, thanks to you!