Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Buried in British Stuff

I'm struggling here to get out from under the Unfinished Book Pile. Got a load of pages to read in the name of traveler research. There's Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd, "The Novel of England." It's 900 pages. I just passed the halfway point, and already had to renew it at the library. So far we've covered the prehistoric man who came down from the north in search of forests in the south and found--uh-oh!--water had broken through the lowlands, cutting him off from those forests. Now he lives on an island. We've also covered the Roman occupation; I loved all the ambitions roiling around there. Now we're reading about the guys that built the great medieval cathedrals. I cannot keep all the kings straight but I'm managing fine with all the love stories.

I had to pause partway into The Thames by Peter Ackroyd (a history of the famous river) just to read the fat books, so I wouldn't have to carry them around in my suitcase.

The other fat book is Austerity Britain by David Kynaston. This is 600 pages on how Britain got through WWII and the succeeding years. Sarum is taking so long that the odds of finishing Austerity or maybe even starting it before I climb on that plane are very dim indeed.

However, we will take along the normal sized books, which are:

The First Day of the Blitz, another one about WWII, and The Diana Chronicles. Yes! A little trash reading makes the miles fly by, does it not? I hope the Brits don't roll their eyes when they see that one in my hands. "Oh, you Americans, can't you get over her?"

I have read nothing to prepare me for France. It will just have to be experienced, and in a strange language, to boot. Abbey says they will be kinder to me if I at least try to speak their tongue. I shudder to think how I'm going to embarrass myself.

Anyway, your recipe for this installment is by request from Mercy, who is being quite social and having friends over for lunch. She thinks she'd like to feed them:


1 1-lb. loaf frozen bread dough
Sandwich filling (below)
Melted margarine for brushing on dough

On lightly floured surface, roll out thawed dough to 10x14-in. rectangle. If dough shrinks back, let rest for 15 minutes, then continue. Put on greased baking sheet.

Fill center third with choice of filling.

With knife, make cuts on outer 3rds of dough at 1-in. intervals. Fold strips diagonally over filling, overlapping to give braided appearance. Brush dough with melted margarine. Let rise until puffy.

Bake in pre-heated 375' oven 25-35 minutes or until golden brown. Slice and serve.

Sandwich fillings: (layer on dough)

Club: (4 servings @ 600 cals. ea)
1 6-oz. pkg turkey breast, sliced
1/4 lb. (abt 6 slices) bacon, cooked and patted dry
1 sm. avocado, skinned, thinly sliced

Ham and Cheddar: (4 servings @ 480 cals. ea)
1/2 lb. sliced ham
1 c (4 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese

Broccoli and cheese: (4 servings @ 460 cals ea)
1 1/2 c. cooked broccoli, chopped
1 c. (4 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese
2 TB dried chopped onion
1 tsp. onion salt

These recipes came from the now-defunct Best Recipes magazine.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

All Keyed Up for Backstage Gossip

This week on the Finished Book Pile, we have Making Americans by Andrea Most. Most examines how Jews invented the Broadway musical as a way to assimilate themselves into American life. Meanwhile, they created an idealized version of Americana, far rosier than the reality.

For instance, Rodgers and Hammerstein presented Oklahoma in 1943, a show full of optimism about pioneer life and a "Brand New State!" From what I've read, breaking in a new land was not all that perky. And never mind that in the ten years prior to the musical, desperate and dustworn Okies had been leaving the state in droves.

As I said in my title, I was ready to read some backstage gossip. But Most's book reads more like literary criticism, i.e. the symbolism of Joe Cable in South Pacific, what it means that Liat never says anything. To me, literary criticism is a suspect art. Amy Tan (The Joy Luck Club) once wrote about breathless students who had divined symbolism from her book ("The number four keeps recurring in your book. What is the significance of that?"). Tan says, "Just an accident, folks. I'm neither that good nor that organized of a writer to plant all that stuff in there intentionally." (I'm paraphrasing.)

So, what is the larger meaning of Joe Cable? All these theories can be fascinating. They might even be true. But Making Americans is certainly no beach book. Feels more like the lecture hall.

I also dipped into another Evelyn Waugh book, Put Out More Flags. It opens just as WWII is about to hit England. "It won't be that bad. The French will stop the Germans from bombing us." By eight pages in, I was already lost in a sea of characters, not to mention a lot of cultural references that I could only know if I read the same newspapers that Waugh read. It's probably a pretty good book, but the library wanted it back. So, with a combination of confusion and regret, I gave it up.

Coming up next: a horde of England books, to help me appreciate the things I'm going to see when I get there.

Now, since I'm typing all this with cold bony fingers, it's time for a soup recipe:

2 oz. bacon
2 slices onion
1 1/2 cups diced raw potatoes
1 can (16 oz.) cream-style corn
3 cups hot water
3 TB butter
1 cup evaporated milk
2 1/2 tsp. salt
Dash pepper
Some parsley or paprika

Chop bacon and onion coarsely and put into soup kettle; saute until onion is soft and bacon done. Add potatoes, corn, and water, cover and simmer until potatoes are tender. Add butter, milk and seasonings; reheat to boiling and serve piping hot with a little parsley sprinkled over the top, or a few dashes of paprika. Serves 5 at 240 cals. ea.

Let's just say that I'm so sad when the last drops of this soup disappear.