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Book Synopsis

A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air.

“Why?” asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

“I’m a panda,” he says at the door. “Look it up.”

The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation.

Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.”

So, punctuation really does matter, even if it is only occasionally a matter of life and death.

Now, we all know the basics of punctuation. Or do we? A look at most neighborhood signage tells a different story. Through sloppy usage and low standards on the internet, in e-mail, and now text messages, we have made proper punctuation an endangered species.

In Eats, Shoots & Leaves, former editor Truss dares to say, in her delightfully urbane, witty, and very English way, that it is time to look at our commas and semicolons and see them as the wonderful and necessary things they are. This is a book for people who love punctuation and get upset when it is mishandled. From the invention of the question mark in the time of Charlemagne to George Orwell shunning the semicolon, this lively history makes a powerful case for the preservation of a system of printing conventions that is much too subtle to be mucked about with. 

This is a fun one. What is a recipe that has shoots and leaves in it? My first and only thought was Pho. Pho is one of those dishes that can be as complicated or as simple as you want it to be. You can add thirty things or three. The choice is up to you.

This recipe was taken directly from as it is a fantastic representation of how diverse you can make this.


For the pho bo broth:

  • 3 lbs beef knuckles or neck bones (with meat, see notes)
  • 2 lbs beef oxtail (see notes)
  • 10 cups water (or enough to entirely cover the meat)
  • 2 large yellow onions (peeled)
  • 1 fresh ginger root (½ size of a small palm, roughly peeled)
  • 4 whole star anise (with pods)
  • ½ Tbsp whole cloves
  • 1 Tbsp black peppercorns
  • 4 cloves garlic (smashed)
  • 1 daikon (peeled and cut into 3 pieces)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 small shallots (peeled)
  • 1/2 cup fish sauce (see notes)
  • 1 Tbsp salt (plus more to taste, the original recipe calls for 2 Tbsp)

For pho bo assembly:

  • 12 oz flat rice noodles (pho noodles, see notes)
  • 1 pound sirloin or top round steak (sliced paper-thin against the grain)
  • 1 medium yellow onion (sliced paper-thin on a mandolin)
  • 6 scallions (chopped into rings)

For the garnish:

  • Sriracha chili sauce
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Fresh cilantro leaves
  • Green limes (quartered)
  • Mung bean sprouts
  • Thai basil leaves
  • Perilla leaves
  • Coriander leaves
  • Fresh whole red or green chiles


  • Place the beef bones and the oxtail in a large stockpot. Add the water. The bones should be completely covered with water. If not, add more. Bring to a boil and let the the bones boil while you are preparing the rest of the ingredients.
  • Cut two peeled onions in half. Char each half by holding it with tongs over open flame of a gas stove or place it under the broiler. This will bring out the aroma and deepen the flavor of the broth. Repeat the same with the ginger and set aside.
  • In a small skillet, lightly toast, frequently stirring, the anise pods. cloves, peppercorns, and garlic for about 5 minutes, or until fragrant. Set aside to cool.
  • Check on the boiling bones in the stockpot and skim off any scum that has accumulated.
  • Add the toasted spices and garlic, charred onion and ginger, daikon, cinnamon stick, and shallots to the stock. Boil for 15 minutes, then bring down to a gentle simmer.
  • Add the rock sugar (optional), fish sauce, salt, and stir well. Continue to simmer for 2½ hours, uncovered, periodically skimming off any scum or fat as they accumulate. The broth will be ready to eat after 2 1/2 hours,  but the longer you simmer the better it will become. Continue simmering, covered, for up to 10-12 hours in total for the ultimate pho bo.
  • When the broth is done cooking, remove the pot from the heat and set aside to cool a little. Remove the bones and oxtails and set aside. You can use the meat and the bone marrow in the soup. Strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer into a new stockpot. The broth should be richly colored but clear. Bring the broth back to gentle simmer.
  • Fill a large pot with hot tap water. Soak the rice noodles in the water for about 10 minutes. They should soften just slightly: the hot pho broth will cook them the rest of the way.
  • Drain the noodles and place them in six individual soup bowls. Arrange the sliced raw beef on top, followed by thinly sliced onions and scallions.
  • Slice the oxtail meat and add it to the bowl as well as any of the bits of meat and bone marrow taken from the bones.
  • Pour the boiling hot broth into the soup bowls, making sure it covers the raw beef. The broth will cook the beef as well as the noodles. Give it a few minutes to do so, then serve with the pho garnish platter. A squeeze or two of lime juice will help cut the richness of the broth. The sauces can be added to the pho bo or used as a dipping sauce for beef. Using them as a dipping sauce will prevent from spoiling the wonderful flavor of the broth.


I had a hard time finding beef knuckles of beef neck bones at local supermarkets and ended up buying what was called ‘beef soup bones’. They worked really well.Oxtails are not cheap. I’ve tried this recipe with and without oxtails, and both times the broth turned out fantastic. The difference was barely noticeable.The original recipe calls for rock sugar – ½ cup rock sugar, roughly palm size. If you like sweetness in your pho, add this ingredient. I usually omit it.The original recipe calls for 1 cup fish sauce, which I found to be a little too much for my taste. 1/2 a cup was just perfect for my taste. You decide for yourself.Pho noodles or rice noodles are what’s used traditionally, but they are a bit rubbery and quite tasteless. Personally, I like using ramen noodles. You can’t go wrong with those.


Calories: 645kcal | Carbohydrates: 45g | Protein: 63g | Fat: 22g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 200mg | Sodium: 3115mg | Potassium: 608mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 2.6% | Vitamin C: 24.8% | Calcium: 12.3% | Iron: 49.5%


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