Monday, April 27, 2009

In the college-girl kitchen

I'm living the college-girl life this week. I'm shacked up in Emma's room, where I find a wall calendar with due dates for assignments, textbooks stacked beside her bed, and the student herself frowning over her schoolwork.

So if you get the urge to cook while visiting a college student/working girl, the food better be quick and require minimum kitchen equipment. Out of all the dinner ideas I brought to her, Emma said, "Let's definitely do this one."



YIELD: 7 doz. 2-in cookies which, if you can make them that small, will have 64 calories each. Goodness, who could possibly make them that small? We came out with 39 cookies and three (or was it four, Emma?) spoonfuls of raw dough.
If the dough seems a little sticky, throw in a couple spoonfuls of flour.

As for the Finished Book Pile, I forgot to mention Freakonomics by Steven Levitt. Finished it weeks ago. Returned it to the library rather efficiently. Forgot it while I dove into research-type reading.

Levitt, as economists go, can't keep his mind on truly boring economic stuff, but spends his days wondering about questions like Do schoolteachers cheat? and What were your parents telling the world when they gave you your name? Being an economist, he's comfortable with numbers and data, which he uses to answer these compelling little questions. Title chapters include: "Why Do Drug Dealers Still Live With Their Moms?" and "What Makes a Perfect Parent?"

I'm currently working my way through Mark Winegardner's Crooked River Burning, a novel about . . . Cleveland. Hey, out in the Midwest, they call Cleveland "the mistake on the lake," referring to the time when it had polluted its waters so badly, they caught fire.

So what has Winegardner got to say about Cleveland?

He starts his story back in the '40s when, according to the jacket, "Cleveland was America's sixth biggest city," a decent place, a hometown to be proud of. His story, complete with star-crossed lovers, advances to 1969, by which time Cleveland had lost population and prestige. Readers like me are willing to let Winegardner tell us: what happened?

Readers like me are not, however, willing to read about Cleveland Indians' baseball games. Winegardner likes to give us blow-by-blow accounts of famous games, or infamous ones, I don't know and don't care. Easily skipped.

He's a fun writer when he's not trying to be too glib. I can see him sometimes, taking a writerly break, making a sandwich and repeating to himself some phrase he just wrote, feeling awfully proud of it, juggling the mayo and the mustard playfully as he puts them back in the fridge.

Cow patty count for this book is 2 1/2 or 3 out of 10.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Too Much High-Livin' for Cookin'

Yes, Emma. Me and my laptop at Panera. I've joined the . . . the whatever-it-is-now generation.

Anyway, it was a high-living week, dashing down to Louisville on Wednesday to join my husband on his business trip. On Thursday, I wandered home in time to meet our guests, Jim and Mercy, who arrived at midnight. On Friday, Jim and I took Mercy to Chicago, where she'd never been before. "Pretty much like New York," she pronounced, "but I don't like the wind." When we could not find our way out of town, we learned that it does indeed matter whether you put the GPS in drive mode or pedestrian mode. Meanwhile, we drove around, quite lost, in some cool neighborhoods that bear further exploration. Once the GPS started being nice to us again, we drove home, arriving late, only to turn around the next morning and return to Louisville for a temple trip.

So after a few days like that, when you get back to the house, and the cat's litter box is full, and the laundry rises out of the hamper, climbing halfway up the wall, you still have church music to practice and something to get at the store, your wallet says you've already eaten out too much and--oh my goodness, when did there get to be so many dishes?--what do you fix to eat?


As we go to the Finished Book Pile, we'll have to cheat just a little because we are not quite finished with Wendy Holder's Farm Fatale. This British novel is all about Londoners that think the country is peaceful, quiet and charming. So they decide to move there. You can well imagine the antics that follow. It's a fun read. Holder loves puns; to her credit, I don't remember any groaners.

Since this is a book about country life, we'll call the parts you should skip "cow patties." The chapter on Samantha's party is thick with 'em. Otherwise they are just now and then throughout the story, so just step carefully and you can avoid them.

Holder's earlier novels sound interesting, though I don't think I'll get to them anytime soon. They are: Simply Divine, and Bad Heir Day.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

How to Fake an Enchilada

Well, starting with The Finished Book Pile as I sit here in a Panera in Louisville, we have Invisible Ink by Carl Veno. The jacket bills Veno's book as a bunch of short stories by a master storyteller. What it turns out to be is a memoir by a self-admitted "bronze-medal" kind of news reporter (compared to the "gold-medal" types he knew who really went somewhere in the business) who bounced around from one minor newspaper to another. The "short stories" are just chapters in his life which, if anybody takes on the task of writing their life history, is the only sane way to undertake it. Not far into the book, I started examining information about the publisher and--just as I suspected--self-published. But an OK little tour through Orlando, Yonkers, Newark and eventually Quakertown, PA, where he worked for newspapers that are mostly defunct now. Oh, ooops, shouldn't have given that away.

Next up, Seventh Son by Orson Scott Card.

I'm not usually a fan of fantasy writers, but this book appeared on a list of best all-time Mormon novels. And I can get Card's books in my local library.

It's been a long time since I enjoyed a book as much as I enjoyed this one. Seventh Son went by way too fast. It's the first in a series of five books about Alvin Maker, a little boy in frontier America born with special powers. Mormon readers will take special delight at all the symbolism hidden in there just for us. I love all the subtleties between the characters, the way Card had them saying one thing while meaning another. I loved the interaction between the children in the family--fierce loyalty right next to murderous competition. And I got very caught up in the forces that both threaten and protect Alvin. Can't wait for the next four books.

As for kitchen stuff, we just tried Cilantro Chicken.  Everybody around the table thought it tasted like enchiladas.

I made a little extra and sliced up the leftover breasts for sandwiches on one of those too crazy-to-cook nights.