Saturday, May 22, 2010

Wicked, wicked, yummy, wicked

I am desperately giving away servings of a wicked, wicked dessert right now. It's hard to know who to give it to, because half the ward is on a diet. Some are on diet teams. A few more women wear black armbands, on which are embedded a thingy that measures their metabolisms. When yet another woman showed up with black around her arm, I asked, "Oh, have you joined The Cult of the Black Armband too?"

"Huh? Oh, no, I just have tendonitis."

I feel an almost reflexive urge to join in. But then I remember: I've already done my thing. I get to sit out the weight-loss game, doin' my own version of the balanced diet which is: a few vegetables because, you know, you have to have 'em, and a considerable amount of chocolate because, you know, you have to have that, too.

One of the dieters was our dinner guest last night. Fortunately, her program allows one day off per week, so she could enjoy our wicked, wicked dessert with us. And we gave some more to a family whose boys, I hear, can polish off entire pizzas by themselves.

You think I'm going to give you the recipe for this wicked, wicked dessert, don't you? Well, first you get the recipe with the vegetables because, you know, you have have 'em.

Lemon Chicken and Rice

This one was quick to fix and good to eat. If John hunts for the leftovers, I'm sorry, but he's too late.

Now for your chocolate:

Banana Cream Brownie Dessert

Over on the Finished Book Pile, we have Dark Laughter by Sherwood Anderson. We've featured Anderson before--Midwestern writer, living about the time cars were invented. This time, he imitates Faulkner (and does it better), writing about a young newspaper reporter who chucks it all. Then there's the wife of the town tycoon who is vaguely dissatisfied, can't put her finger on what's wrong with her. Maybe you can see where this is going. Still, no cow patties in this book.

Dark Laughter was Anderson's best seller, though the critics liked his Winesburg Ohio best. I've liked everything I read by Anderson. I like visiting his slower era, but I wouldn't want to live there, unless they had GPSes and blow dryers and pizza that Anderson forgot to mention.

Next up, Edwin Mullhouse by Steven Millhauser. This one's a satire on biography. Young Jeffrey Cartwright writes the life story of his best friend next door, Edwin, who lives all the way to the ripe age of 11. Jeffrey presents Edwin as "an American writer" because he created a book of cartoons. Jeffrey may be imitating the classic Life of Johnson by Boswell. He affects a brainy, academic tone as he describes the small stuff of childhood. On Edwin in kindergarten: "Later he was fascinated by the yellow paper with its alternately dark blue and light blue lines." Or, "The tall white machines with their shiny silver handles fascinated him; he kept flushing and flushing, watching the jets of water shoot along the back from invisible holes in the top. He was puzzled and upset when he learned what the machines were used for, for he thought them a kind of upright bathtub."

At other times, Jeffrey slips into more ordinary tones, i.e. of Edwin's earliest writings: "[M]asterpieces they most emphatically were not. It is only my word against Edwin's, I know, but he is dead, and besides, I was the one who had to listen to that drivel."

Jeffrey the biographer includes far too much detail (all seven dozen or so gifts that Edwin gives his first love) and inserts himself into Edwin's biography far too often ("humbly" admitting that some of the starred papers on display in the classroom are his own), but I found it all fun. Millhauser, the real author, creates in Jeffrey, the fictional biographer, a delightful tongue-in-cheek portrait of childhood in the '40s and '50s. No cow patties.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

LIttle Colored Things in the Rice

Would I be bragging if I say this meal came out just like the magazine pictures? Or could it be that the dishes were so easy, any dummy could make them look nice?

First, we feature Chicken Parmigiana.

May you enjoy the aroma as this bakes. I sure did.

While it's in the oven, you have time to fix Zucchini Rice Pilaf 

I love restaurant rice or box rice mixes with colorful stuff in them. But I don't want to have to think of stuff to add in. Someone just tell me please. So here it is.

The recipe contributor suggests that if you abhor zucchini, you might substitute squash or mushrooms instead. If you abhor squash and mushrooms, I really don't know what to tell you.

Over on the Finished Book Pile, we have Living It Up at National Review by Priscilla Buckley. This is a fun look behind the scenes of running a magazine. I especially like the chapter on the young interns that crossed the office threshold over the years. In between the chapters on work, Priscilla squeezes in some chapters on play. Money was no problem; the Buckleys were the WASP-y sort with a named country home in Connecticut and a winter place in South Carolina.

Follow Priscilla as she bumps along on safari in Africa, or yachts around the Mediterranean, or rides a hot-air balloon over the hills featured in The Sound of Music. Then head back to the office with her as she directs traffic between the secretaries, the writers, the printer, etc.

Oh, my goodness, two books on the Finished Book Pile are unfinished! Yeah, I was just not in the mood for them. At one time, I would have thoroughly enjoyed Storm Over Rangelands by Wayne Hage, but I've exhausted myself on Hage's topic. Ten or fifteen years ago, I devoured everything I could find on the West, mostly to figure out for myself if all those childhood dinner conversations about danged power companies and doubled-danged environmentalists were John-Bircher-style rants, or legitimate complaints. Conclusion: the dinner rants were a little of both.

The development of the West is a fascinating tale, not that I expect anybody to corner me at the next family reunion to hear all about it. Joseph R. would have enjoyed this book but, unfortunately, he's gone off to his great leather recliner in the sky. Seeing as how it talked about grazing rights in the West, I can also imagine Uncle Grayson reading it, shutting it in disgust, picking it up again, talking back to it.

I gave it the old Read-10% try but I just didn't have the patience to finish it.

So, moving on, I also read 10% of Irish on the Inside by Tom Hayden. You baby boomers remember Hayden, right? Disrupter of the '60s political conventions? Senator from California? Husband of Jane Fonda? Aha, you do remember that one, don't you?

Hayden's worldview is all about identity and power and protest. "If the blacks get to complain about how they're treated, why can't we Irish complain too? We're not all about fiddles and Guinness Beer, you know."

Hey, I enjoy complaining. But going through life with your fist raised in the air? What's fun about that?

If I were Hayden, I would get a kitten and a laser light and mellow out.