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CULINARY THRILL SEEKING — Enjoy a joyful January & 2021 to you

I like this month because the 9th is my birthday; sunny and crisp days are like none other in the calendar and it’s National Soup Month, which means more gumbo for me.

Thanks for supporting Culinary Thrill Seeking, readers. I love hearing your ideas and questions.

I’ll bet you thought I’d start out with a health roundup. Surprise. It’s books. The weather makes for cozy reading with hot tea.

Don’t worry. Healthy stuff is coming. Got to keep you all on resolutions track. Enjoy these recent releases to enhance your journey into the new year.

“Texas Place Names”

Fort Spunky? Not Familiar. Port Arthur? Of course I knew about railroad magnate Arthur Stilwell. But now everyone can, in if they proudly display Edward Callary’s big red book done with Jean K. Callary. Premise?

The book cosists of just a blurb about how each city in the great state of Texas got its name. Dime Box? Raisin? Our own Sour Lake? Read all about it, and then plan some good-eatin’ road trips.

This is fun stuff and I love that Texas is so big this hefty book clocks in at 400 plus pages.

“Freddie Mercury: An Illustrated Life”

Drawing Queen’s front man Freddie Mercury brings iconic images to mind: a mustache, crown, shades, a floral mike and athletic shoes. Queen is my go-to music when feeling a range of emotions, and Alfonso Casas was onto Freddie’s appeal before he even realized it, because he heard a cover song and thus learned about the real Queen.

His drawings and story are fascinating as they trace the singer’s paths and “rebirths.” The flamboyant singer was quieter offstage, preferring the company of his cats and Liza Minnelli albums. A take-away for me: The video of “I Want to Break Free” shows the band in drag.

With the rest of America, I didn’t know they were making a parody of the soap opera characters of Brit hit “Coronation Street.” While I couldn’t put it down at times, I also put it aside purposefully to prolong enjoyment. University of Texas Press publishes this one.

“Improbable Metropolis: Houston’s Architectural Urban History”

Do you live in Space City, H-Town, The Bayou City? Have you cheered at the Astrodome’s Skydome Club, craned your neck toward skyscrapers on the rise or savored quiet time with art at The Menil Collection?

From dirt streets to steel beams Houston has produced business deals, politics, music and more while going by nicknames including Magnolia City and Golden Buckle of the Sunbelt. From oil to space and swamps to sprawl, Barrie Scardino Bradley book collects these personalities with words and pictures that will inform and entertain, even if “think you know Houston.”

There’s a reason this University of Texas Press book is so beautifully bound and so heavy. It’s full of history.

“Making Houston Modern: The Life and Architecture of Howard Barnstone”

You’ve driven by these classic buildings and maybe you’ve attended lavish events there. This book with photos features Rothko Chapel on the cover and includes stories of how private homes, office buildings, places of worship, etc. came to be. Many of these structures look as fresh now as they ever did. It’s a pleasure to go back in time and know you can still come back to 2021 and visit some of these enduring structures.

“Mark Klett Seeing Time: Forty Years of Photographs”

Ever been out west and gazed upon a rocky landscape, waterfall or forest and wonder how it looked about 100 years ago? Mark Klett did it for us in The Rephotographic Survey Project, 1977-1979.

After you catch your breath back from these side-by-side images, with the first set taken by photographers long ago who had to pack enormous camera gear on mules, you can study his family portraits over time, tribute to human-like cactus and basically get lost in nature.

It took me months to fully enjoy this collection and I’ll feel good just looking at this hefty book when I pass it on a table. University of Texas Press puts out this art book of Klett’s works that made me feel both as small as a sand speck and timelessly powerful.

“Happy Soul. Hungry Mind: A Modern-Day Parable About Spirituality”

Be peace.

Sound easy? Let’s do it.

Spoiler: It may take some work. After all, we have hungry minds, writes Ravi Kathuria.

Our own Janis Joplin said you can destroy your now by worrying about tomorrow.

Here’s how this author puts it:

Greatest irony of life: Our pursuit of temporary happiness steals our permanent happiness.

The story has Ravi meeting up with Travis, in a fancy Vegas hotel and catching up on their work days in Houston. Both have been through a lot, but Ravi is handling it through meditation, etc. and chats with Travis about tapping into bliss, etc.

Each little chapter is somewhat of a cliffhanger and you want to know more. This book is Volume 1, called Tribulations. Kathuria’s messages are easy to digest but it’s not always easy to slow down and search for the best in yourself. Make time, he writes.

Here’s a few thoughts he highlights in boxes:

* Our minds are restless and hungry.

* Enjoy the world, engage in it, just don’t’ be addicted to it.

* Obsessing about outcomes will exhaust you mentally.

* Quiet your hungry mind, let your happy soul shine.

“Elevate Your Career”

What’s with all the questions? Helen Horyza offers a code for a free assessment via her book, which challenges readers to live a life of which they can be proud. Examine your talent package. Now that’s a cool phrase. Client anecdotes help this read flow with questions that are just right to ask oneself as 2021 kicks off:

* What is giving me strength right now?

* What am I doing to support my health?

* How can I become my own biggest champion during this transition?

Darragh Doiron is a Port Arthur area foodie enjoying some page-turners. Reach her at darraghcastillo@icloud.com