Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Stuck in Europe

Well, to finish out that thick book pile, we're going to concentrate on Europe and the Americans who, for one reason or another, can't quite stay away from the Continent.

Sonia Pilcer wrote a volume of short stories The Holocaust Kid that sounds pretty autobiographical. She's the child of Holocaust survivors, so her Great Burden in life is that every time she complains about her teenage angst, her parents say, "What? You have it so hard? Is this why we survived, so you could turn out like this?" As a teen in a gritty New Jersey neighborhood, she adopts a tough-girl persona, smoking, smacking her gum, teasing her hair four and a half inches out from her head. Moving on to young adulthood, she is "sexually liberated." (If, while reading along, a professor appears, a major cow patty lies just ahead.) (And no, no, no, I don't tell you these things so you can turn straight to them!) As she matures and gets more sensible, she meets others like herself, "2G," meaning the second generation after the survivors, and all of them are obsessed with their parents' concentration camp experiences. All of them create "art" with a concentration camp theme.

The House of the Seven Sisters
by Elle Eggels is set in Holland. It's about a baker who abandons his seven daughters, leaving them to run the business. It spans WWII down to the '90s, yet it reads like a fairy tale, because so many characters are the butcher, the baker, the candle-stick maker. If they were cashiers, or system analysts, or HR people, it would definitely sound American and crisply modern. If you like stories that lead you from the narrator's childhood, wherein she tries to make sense of everything the older folks do, to her own days as a grandmother, and if you can keep the names of seven sisters straight, you might look up this one.
Finally, The Red Passport by Katherine Shonk, is another volume of short stories, this one set in post-Communist Russia. Americans wander through each story, and the Russians resent them for their excess of money, of leisure, of compassion. In one story, a grandmother moves back to her home near Chernobyl. She can't understand why her family tells her not to live there, why she can't eat those onions in her garden. Why, look at them! They've never grown so robustly before! Another story is about a mail-order bride, returning to care for a sick relative. Her young American daughter believes the fanciful stories her mother tells about how and why she departed Russia long ago. That is, until a Russian cousin reveals a few more details.

And finally a dessert so big, you're going to need to invite everybody you know over to help you eat it.

2 c. crushed chocolate graham crackers, (about 20 squares)
1/3 c. margarine, melted
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 gal. mint chocolate chip ice cream, slightly softened
1 cups semisweet chocolate chips (or 1/2 c. semisweet and 1/2 c. milk chocolate)
1/3 c. margarine
1 c. powdered sugar
1 12 oz. can evaporated milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 8 oz. container Cool Whip

1. In a bowl, combine crushed graham crumbs, 1/3 c. melted margarine & sugar. Press into bottom of a 15x10 baking pan. Chill in freezer for 15 min.
2. Cut ice cream into 1/2-in. thick slices and lay over the crumbs. Cover & return to freezer.
3. For chocolate sauce: in saucepan, melt chocolate and 1/3 c. margarine. Add powdered sugar and milk. Cook and stir for about 20-25 min. Add vanilla.
4. Pour sauce over ice cream and return to freezer for about 30 minutes or till firm.
5. Spread Cool Whip on top; freeze again until serving time. Makes 32 servings @ 240 cals each.

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