Book Bag: ‘Mountain Street Memories’ and ‘The Goddess of Mtwara’

  • ‘Mountain Street Memories’ SUBMITTED IMAGE

  • ‘The Goddess of Mtwara’

Wednesday, February 28, 2018


Compiled by Mary Koenig Loring

Levellers Press


In an introduction to the multi-generational recipe book she has compiled, Haydenville resident Mary Koenig Loring writes that the initial idea for the project came from a conversation she had with one of her daughters, Louisa, then a teenager, who told her mother she feared she her mother might die — and take all her recipes with her.

“Resisting the urge to seize the moment and have a conversation about death,” Loring writes, “I grabbed onto the recipe theme and said something like ‘Yes, I should begin to write things down things in a notebook.’ ”

Loring wrote down quite a bit after that — not just her own recipes but those from a huge number of extended family members, friends and ancestors. The result is a spiral-bound, 384-page volume that includes not just 350-plus recipes but more than 150 photos of Loring’s family and friends, with images that date back to the 19th century.

The recipes in “Mountain Street Memories,” published by Levellers Press of Amherst, cover everything from appetizers to desserts, with meat, fish and vegetarian dishes, breads, soups, sauces and much else. Some of the foods are also taken from published recipes that Loring and other family members used or adopted over the years.

Most of the recipes get an introduction, and each is also accompanied by the initials of the family member or friend that contributed it. An index in the front of the book includes a list of nearly 60 of these initials, the full name of the person (several of whom are long since deceased), and the location of his or her home.

The book’s photos generally just include people’s first names, but you may find it interesting to match the name to the index of contributors in the front of the book to try to see who’s who.

The book also comes with some continental cachet, as Louisa is now married to an Italian man, Pietro Grossi, and lives in Florence, Italy; Grossi and some of his family members contribute several recipes to “Mountain Street Memories.” Buon appetito!


Interlink Books


Known as the African Booker Prize, the Caine Prize for African Literature has recognized the top writers from Africa for the past 18 years. In “The Goddess of Mtwara,” Interlink Books of Northampton offers a new collection that includes the five short-listed stories from 2017 and a dozen other honored titles.

The 17 stories in the collection are by authors from 10 different African nations, including Ethiopia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa and Tanzania.

The stories offer a mix of drama, mystery and family strife as well as magical realism. In “Who Will Greet You at Home” by Lesley Nneka Arimah of Nigeria, the story’s protagonist, a hairstylist named Ogechi, makes babies out of yarn. This isn’t all that odd in the story’s context: In this blend of folktale and horror, mothers also make their children from mud, human hair and other strange materials.

In what might be read as a warning about the pressure women face to raise a perfect child — and the sacrifices they’ll sometimes make to realize that goal — Ogechi is scorned and ridiculed because her babies never last. One of her efforts unknowingly unravels after she snags its thigh on a nail.

In “The Virus” by Magogodi oaMphela Makhene, a South African writer now living in New York, an Afrikaner farmer and former soldier who looks back on his efforts to keep black South Africans at bay is facing a new “menace” to his way of life. Worldwide cyber warfare has led to American and other western refugees flooding South Africa and taking over the land.

The story includes a number of Afrikaner terms like swaart gevaar (black danger) and rooi gevaar (communist threat), and the author uses them in an ironic way to reveal the narrator’s hypocrisy as he vows to fight for “his” land, since land dispossession and xenophobia have long been regular themes in South Africa.

“The Americans is here to wipe us out,” the narrator rages. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the National African Cronies is behind the whole thing with them … But you mark my words ... There will be no cyvivor-style walking away from here. Our names is written in the ground. We will be fossilized in this here earth. It drinked our fathers’ blood. Our fate is this land.”

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.