Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Cool Celtic Name Isn't Everything

Aiobheann Sweeney. That's the author of the book that I'm about to not recommend to you, Among Other Things, I've Taken Up Smoking. I looked forward to seeing a picture of this person. What does an Aiobheann look like?

She was a nice brown-eyed, brown-haired Celtic type.

Her book rode along rather aimlessly, even sleepily. A motherless girl lives on a Maine Island with her father. They don't converse much. One day, he finds her a job in NYC and she goes to the big city to learn about life. (By then, I wasn't sure why Ms. Sweeney wrote the Maine half of the book. I guess it's fun to write about fog and boats.)

Anyway, off to the city. Our heroine, Miranda, faces a choice: boyfriend named Nate? Or girlfriend named Ana?

Many cow patties to skip over.

So let's talk about food instead. Here's a meal that went together pretty quickly on a Sunday packed with meetings and appointments. I was literally running from the moment I raised my head off the pillow until sunset. Oh, wait--there was a quiet half-hour after church, when I brought my sleeping grandson home, leaving the rest of the family in extra meetings. I sneaked myself a pudding, then donned my apron and started banging cupboard doors.

Which woke the boy up.

Honey-Dijon Chicken

Creamy Italian Noodles

Sunny Broccoli Salad

And how about cookies 'n cream ice cream for dessert?

Natalie says it tasted just right on a summer day.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I Failed at Faulkner, Now I've Failed at Rushdie

Did I ever tell you the story of the clamshells?

When we bought this house, we had three weeks before move-in day for John to paint away the rust color in the living room and the extreme orange in the loft. I thought it might be nice to pack him a dinner every night. I thought it would be cool to package it all up in a clamshell, just like fast food and doggy bags and things like that.

I went looking for styrofoam clamshells. Sam's Club had them--in packages of 100.

I could not give up my little clamshell idea, so I bought the whole 100 and hoped John would not tease me too badly about it.

I ended up not regretting that purchase because--you know what?--every time somebody has a baby and the ladies want you to sign up for a meal, one of the big headaches is deciding how to package it up.

No problem. Got ninety or so clamshells here.

Then we feed the missionaries by sending them Friday's leftovers.

No problem. Got eighty or so clamshells here.

Then Natalie comes to Sunday dinner. Talking her in to taking home some leftovers is easy.

And no problem. Got seventy or so clamshells here.

Anyway, I just used up my first 100 and went out and bought my second.

Here's what went into the clamshell this week:

Sausage French Bread Pizza

The original recipe called for raw vegetables, but I like them soft. Actually, just a bit blackened.

Over on the Finished Book Pile, we must admit that, again, we didn't finish something. Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children promises to tell the story of Saleem Sinai, who was born on the exact same midnight in which India gained her independence. Saleem tells his first-person tale to Padma (wife? girlfriend? housekeeper? I never figured it out) and takes so long to get to the actual birth that she complains bitterly about all the delays and tangents and "nonsense" in the story.

I couldn't keep everybody straight. I didn't like any of the characters. I didn't want to face a world where snakes come out of toilets. I kept falling asleep.

One day I opened the book and read, "It has been two whole days since Padma stormed out of my life." I wanted to say, "Wait up, Padma! I'm coming too!" And I closed this "marvelous epic" (says Newsweek) and picked up something else.

But I finished a book on CD. Restless me, I can hardly let a summer week go by without escaping to Chicago, or Cincinnati, or Louisville, or Columbus. The miles are long, especially after dark, and Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles really made the cornfields and the Taco Bell billboards fly by.

Tess' face kept changing as I listened to her soft little Cockney accent. My young Tess was Helena Bonham Carter. I could just see the abundant kinky hair. Later, when she defended that husband of hers and sounded kind of incoherent, she turned into Kristen Stewart. Then she turned into someone in my ward. Then, when she appeared in fine lady clothes, she went blonde (!).

And speaking of defending that husband, I just wanted to throw the book across the room. But I had no book and I was not in a room. I was on a freeway, defending myself against sleepy truckers and gotcha state troopers. I could only bang my fist on the steering wheel and cry out, "Come on, Tess! Get mad! Gosh, did wives really act like this?"

The ending was completely unexpected. Wrapping things up just as I pulled into town from Columbus, the final scene clanged like a sad bell while I drove across the reservoir bridge a few miles from home.

Oops, did I give away too much?

That Thomas Hardy knows how to spin a tale.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

I Need a Laugh Track

By now, we know that Scooby likes Cheerios, peanut butter, ice cream, brownies and, most especially, Honey Butter Ritz crackers. But anything pungent or garlicky makes his face screw up as if we had waved something three-days-dead under his nose.

He wouldn't have liked what I'm sharing with you this week. However, you are all adults. You are expected to appreciate flavor.

Vegetable Cheese Tortellini

As suggested by the Taste of Home page on which this recipe appeared, we ate it with burgers and banana cream pie.

And Scooby demanded some of that pie.

Over on the Finished Book Pile, we have Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh. Waugh (it's a guy) was a master of British humor. And while I'm convinced that the British are pretty funny (I've watched my share of BritComs), someone had to tell me that Pride and Prejudice was a comedy. I just didn't realize it when I read it. All that propriety gets in the way.

Now, if I see actors playing out the story, I get it, yes I do. I think I need the laugh track.

Anyway, I tackled Waugh, telling myself, "This is comedy. You watch out for it now." I actually caught myself bursting into laughter about three times, though I'm sure Waugh deserved more out of me. It's just that I'm one of his more handicapped readers.

So I recommend Handful of Dust, knowing that you are a little more loosened up, a little quicker on the uptake than I am. Have fun with it.