Fish Trees

It’s spring and the fish trees are in bloom. Other people call them Bradford pear trees, I now know, after asking a friend who is versed in horticultural matters. You can’t help noticing them, of course. Beautiful white flowers, planted everywhere, and a distinctive fishy smell to the blooms. Without knowing the formal name, I had to call them something, so I’ve always referred to them as fish trees. My kids picked up on that, and fish trees they will always be in our family discussions.

We also use sprinkle cheese in our house.  My daughter coined this term for the grated parmesan stuff in a can. Another family I know calls the same food feet cheese, because the mother thinks it smells bad.

I’ve always been fascinated by those apocryphal stories of twins who invent their own secret languages. I know there’s been debate about whether this has ever really happened, and if so, to what extent.  My personal experience tells me that wherever two or more people are gathered together for any length of extended contact, at least a few privately used words and phrases will spring into being. As my son once pithily observed, “Every word is a made-up word.”

Amazing and flexible thing, language. It can be so personalized and so universalized at the same time. I started thinking about this because I noticed the first fish tree blooms the same day I read that the final volume of the Dictionary of American Regional English will be published this year. This dictionary, according to the publishers, “seeks to document the varieties of English that are not found everywhere in the United States–those words, pronunciations, and phrases that vary from one region to another, that we learn at home rather than at school, or that are part of our oral rather than our written culture.”  

Big news for language geeks. I can’t wait to lose a few hours over it at the library.

Book List: Coffee and Tea

While we’re trying to get used to the clock change getting us up an hour earlier in the morning, this might be a good time to indulge in some caffeinated reading.  To that purpose, a list of books about coffee and or tea, or set in coffee/tea shops:


The Art of Making Tea: an Album of Recipes, Portraits, and Other Rituals
Elizabeth Jones Hanley

Teahouse of the Almighty: Poems
Patricia Smith 

Graphic Novel:

The Haunted Tea-Cosy: a Dispirited and Distasteful Diversion for Christmas
Edward Gorey (Note: I love this book, and Edward Gorey in general. If you have a dark sense of humor and you celebrate Christmas, you should remember this book come December.)


Black Coffee: A Hercule Poirot Novel
Agatha Christie

Coffee, Tea or Murder: A Murder She Wrote Mystery
Donald Bain

Coffee to Die For: A Professor Teodora Morelli Mystery
Linda French

Decaffeinated Corpse
Cleo Coyle

Espresso Shot
Cleo Coyle

French Pressed
Cleo Coyle

Irish Coffee
Ralph McInerny

Latte Trouble
Cleo Coyle

One Coffee With
Margaret Maron  (note: I didn’t leave words out of the title)

Tea Shop Mystery Series
Laura Childs

Other Fiction:

Coffee and Kung Fu
Karen Brichoux

Coffee in the Morning
Roz Denny

Coffee Rings: Three Women, One Tragic Event
Yvonne Lehman

The Coffee Trader: A Novel
David Liss

Confessions of a Triple Shot Betty
Jody Elizabeth Gehrmen

Barti Kirchner

Fresh-Brewed Love: Four Novellas Share a Cup of Kindness With a Dollop of Romance

High Tea
Sandra Harper

Stupid and Contagious
Caprice Crane

The Teahouse on Mulberry Street
Sharon Owens

The Teahouse Fire
Ellis Avery

The Various Flavors of Coffee
Anthony Capella 


The Art of Tea-Leaf Reading
Jan Struthers

Cappuccino/Espresso: The Book of Beverages
Christie Katon

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Coffee and Tea
Travis Arndorfer

Confessions of a Coffee Bean: The Complete Guide to Coffee Cuisine
Marie Nadine Antol

Eat Tea: A New Approach to Flavoring Contemporary and Traditional Dishes
Joann Pruess

The Empire of Tea: The Remarkable History of the Plant That Took Over the World
Alan MacFarlane

God in a Cup: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Coffee
Micheale Weissman

The Gospel According to Starbucks: Living With a Grande Passion
Leonard I. Sweet

The Green Tea Book: The Science-Backed “Miracle Cure”
Lester A. Mitscher

Green Tea: 50 Hot Drinks, Cool Quenchers, and Sweet and Savory Treats
Mary Lou Heiss

The Harney and Sons Guide to Tea
Michael Harney

Healing Herbal Teas: A Complete Guide to Making Delicious, Healthful Beverages
Brigitte Mars

A History of the World in Six Glasses
Tom Standage

Home Coffee Roasting: Romance and Revival
Kenneth Davids

How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else
Michael Gill

Start and Run a Coffee Bar
Thomas Matzen

The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide
Mary Lou Heiss

Swindled: The Dark History of Food Fraud, From Poisoned Candy to Counterfeit Coffee
Bee Wilson

Tea: Addiction, Exploitation and Empire
Roy Moxham

The Tea Ceremony
Sen-O Tenaka

Tea Cup Reading: A Quick and Easy Guide to Tasseography
Sasha Fenton

Tea Cup Tales: The Art of Reading Tea Leaves
Margaret McWhorter

Tea: The Drink That Changed the World
Laura C. Martin

Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace – One School at a Time
Greg Mortenson

Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World
Mark Pendergrast


Drink in the words and enjoy!