If I ever enjoy an older romance, I expect it to be the sort of enjoyment a person gets from things that are wacky and adorable. I don’t ever really expect them to be exactly good. But Nurse Janice Calling, despite the retro cover, the awful title and the 1964 publication date, was a darn good romance read.
Janice Carlisle has returned to Bomfort, a small town in New England. Though she held a position as a nurse in another town, a former crush, Dr. Adam McBain, is widowed and practicing there, prompting her to return to where she grew up. However, before Adam even re-crosses her path, she meets surgeon Dr. Ed Sheldon, though at first she believes him to be a car mechanic. Also in the picture is her new boss, the “directress” (yes, that’s her title) of the private nursing company where Janice works, Mrs. Ruth Hoxsie, who is also widowed. Unfortunately for Janice, Ruth and Adam are already a couple, but that won’t stop Janice from making her move.
A rather inauspicious set-up and one that could have gone in any number of horrible, awful, no-good, very bad directions, but well, it didn’t. In fact, if we’re talking feminist romance, Nurse Janice succeeds on many fronts, a huge surprise for me given the early publication date. Janice is a competent nurse with a female boss who demands a lot of her. At first Janice thinks it might be jealousy over Adam’s attentions to her, but it’s really just that Ruth expects a lot of her employees. There are also plenty of conversations between Janice and her patients, showing her at work doing public health nursing. I’m not a medical expert, but the nursing details seemed plausible at least. Plus, there’s a quirky sub-plot involving one of Janice’s patients, his benefactor and a professional gambling ring that’s very well done.
As for Ed Sheldon, he has suffered some professional set-backs that have cost him some confidence. But when the details are revealed to Janice and she confronts him about them, he doesn’t react especially badly. He thinks she doesn’t understand the magnitude of his problem, but he isn’t condescending or dismissive. Just a bit defensive, which seems pretty reasonable in light of Janice’s tough love approach. We also get limited third person perspective here and the addition of Ed’s thoughts bring a lot to this romance. Instead of the completely opaque hero of the 1970s romances I’ve read, getting a sense of how much Ed likes and respects Janice early on is a strong recommendation for this book over others I’ve read. An example:
Janice turned, and for an instant her face revealed her true feelings. Ed was almost sorry that he had intruded. What right had he to force his attentions on anyone?
Finally, Nurse Janice has a delightfully dry New England sense of humor. The character seemed at times to have been yanked from a Katharine Hepburn movie. Take this interaction with Ed:
Ed Sheldon glanced over at Janice and said, “That’s hard to believe. Miss Carlisle looks capable of handling boys…of all ages.”
Clint laughed and said, “Come to think of it, Jan did have a terrific left hook when we were kids.”
“And now?” asked Ed.
“May you never find out,” said Janice smoothly.
This is a pretty chaste romance. The hero and heroine kiss a couple of times, but their attraction is undeniable and their happy ending is not surprising. There is no mention of Janice quitting her job or staying home to raise babies either. Seriously, it’s like this book was sent back in time from a much more enlightened age. More enlightened even than ours sometimes seems.
Here’s the fun thing. If you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read Nurse Janice Calling for free. The cover isn’t the same as the one I have, but it’s the same book. Otherwise, it will cost you $2.99. Honestly, I think it’s worth the $3. I really enjoyed it.
Not every woman in Nurse Janice Calling has a job outside the home. Janice’s friends Clint and Diane appear to be happily married with twin boys. Clint manages their rental property and Diane watches the kids and throws dinner parties. However, it’s taken as a given that Clint loves, cares for and maintains equal responsibility for parenting their sons. How great is that?
But back to the dinner parties. Guess what else came out in the 1960s? Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. If you don’t own a copy of this book and you’re even semi-serious about cooking, you should really get one. Granted, there is an entire chapter on aspics (you should skip those), but mostly it’s chock-full of perfect recipes and stellar technique and will help you cook almost any basic food. Between this and Joy of Cooking, you can roast any vegetable, cook any cut of meat or perfectly execute nearly any fancy dessert.
Last Christmas, I decided to roast a duck. I had no idea how to roast a duck, but frankly, that’s never really stopped me from doing anything in the kitchen. As it turns out, it isn’t very different from roasting a chicken. If you can roast a chicken (check this post if you can’t), you can roast a duck. But while you should try very hard not to tear chicken skin before roasting, you absolutely must prick or slice duck skin. That’s what allows the skin to get all crispy.
At first, I was fairly alarmed by the amount of fat rendered. That is, until I discovered that you can save duck fat in the freezer and then use it to make the best french fries ever. Duck fat french fries were kind of a trend in restaurants a few years ago and lemme tell you, they are just as good as advertised.
For a summer meal, I served it with roasted fingerling potatoes and a butter lettuce salad with goat cheese and carmelized walnuts. I used this maple syrup I have that’s aged in brandy barrels. So amazing. Definitely worthy of any 1960s housewife’s dinner party. Just don’t forget the personal ashtrays and brandy for after dinner.
Roast Duck with Citrus Cherry Port Sauce
adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking and Food Network
Time: 1 hour 40 minutes to 2 hours (approximate roasting time 1 hour and 30 minutes)
Makes: 4-5 servings
5 1/2 pound duck
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/8 teaspoon pepper
pinch dried thyme
1 small onion, sliced
1 teaspoon reserved duck fat
1 large or 2 small shallots, minced
1/4 cup ruby port wine
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice, plus 1 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 cup pitted frozen black cherries, thawed and roughly chopped
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Season the inside of the duck with 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, herbs and the sliced onion. Secure the legs, wings and neck skin to the body. Prick or slice the skin around the thighs, back and lower breast. Dry the duck thoroughly.
2. Place the duck breast up in a roasting pan just large enough to hold the duck easily and roast for 15 minutes until lightly browned.
3. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and turn the duck on its side. Regulate heat so duck is always making cooking noises, but fat is not burning. Remove fat occasionally using basting bulb and set aside for other uses. Basting the duck is not necessary. Reserve 1 teaspoon fat for the sauce.
4. After 30 more minutes, turn the duck on its other side. After an additional 15 minutes, turn the duck back breast side up and salt with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook approximately another 15 minutes or until thermometer inserted in thigh reads 165 degrees. Remove from oven, discard trussing strings and allow duck to rest 10 minutes while you prepare the sauce.
5. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Take 1 teaspoon duck fat and add it to the skillet. Add the shallots and saute until translucent. Pour in the port wine and orange juice, and scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the orange zest and chopped cherries and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 5 minutes to reduce the mixture and thicken, mashing the cherries with the back of a wooden spoon to extract flavor as they cook.
6. Slice the duck as you would a roast chicken and top with sauce before serving.