Sunday, August 26, 2012

Une Boulette de Vache en Fran├žais est Encore Une Galette de Vache.

I don't know about you and your smart phone, but I've gotten awfully app-happy with mine. This week, my new on-phone toy was Google Translate.

I was forced into it, you might say, while reading Tim Gautreaux's The Missing. His main character is Louisiana Cajun, apt to break in to his French at any moment. I finally got tired of missing out on these little story bits and hunted around for the translator.

Over there at Google they have made mighty big strides at undoing Babel's babble. And thanks to a few oft-repeated lines in Gautreaux's book, I can now say a couple French phrases without any of their help at all.

Unfortunately, these phrases are not fit for polite company.

Anyway, Missing is a book with a lot of side trips. You'll get some battlefields right after World War I. You'll get some Mississippi River boat and the wild, boat-bashing dance parties thereon. You'll get some darkly degenerate backwoods folks. You'll get a little girl stolen from her parents. We wind up to the big moment when the missing-girl storyline resolves itself, and then the book goes on for another seventy pages or so, which is as deflating as wolfing down your cupcake in the middle of dinner, then turning back to the green beans.

Maybe Gautreaux isn't the master of plotting, but if you don't mind the side trips, many with delightful dialogue, you'll have yourself a middling good time.

Not to mention equipping yourself with some fine French insults. Cow patties indeed!

Next up on the Finished Book Pile, we have The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow. At first, it's vague, with wispy hints of the event that ignites the story. If the reader can battle through all this vagueness, not to mention the many, many characters Durrow throws in before the reader knows what to do with them--if you can hold on, the story eventually tightens up, and you will get your bearings. I loved the peek into the tangled life of a bi-racial girl. As for the final third, some of those vague threads from the beginning tied up together and made me catch my breath just a little. Just a little.

Lotta cow patties in this one, too. But I thought the bi-racial stuff was quite illuminating.

As for your recipe, how about a little Vegetable Chicken Medley?

For such an near-instant dish, it turns out to be not terribly instant at all. You need to plan ahead and have cooked chicken on hand (we ate grilled chicken a couple days before, throwing a couple extra pieces on the fire). And you can't hurry brown rice. So you might as well set it in its pot, park yourself near the kitchen and pick up a good book. Tell anybody who hassles you that you are tending to something important and can't get away right now.

Say it nicely. No French insults, OK?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Posing as a Locavore

Do I get credit for buying local when I bring home a bag of sweet corn foisted on me by a neighbor?

All I was trying to do was take a walk, but I rounded the last corner and there the young man stood, blinking at a truck bed full of ripened ears. "My parents grow this not far from here and I said I could take a dozen or so. But Mom brought me all this."

I took pity on him. "I could take a half dozen."

He gave me a huge bag, proving that over-giving in hard-wired in that clan.

I'm just gonna take locavore credit for it anyway, so I can join in the vibe of Doug Fine's Farewell, My Subaru It's a quick read, a classic fish-out-of-water account of a Long Island-born boy who decides to live off the land.

He buys a ranch in New Mexico and, from the sound of things, I'll bet the sellers snickered quietly when they walked away with Fine's money.

He busies himself buying a pair of goats, installing solar panels and hunting down used fry oil for his retrofitted truck. He starts raising chickens--amazingly easy (until he learns about coyotes).

There are floods, but no famine. There are girlfriends. There is surely a mighty big checkbook somewhere to pay for all this set-up.

Fine's goal was to enjoy all the perks of his cell-phone-carrying, movie-watching, ice-cream-eating life without hurting Mother Earth. I had fun, even if he didn't really convert me.

Next up, Screen Plays by David Cohen is a collection of his Script Magazine interviews with with screen writers. It's a fascinating look into the writing process. When adapting a novel, what do you leave in? What do you take out? Do you add characters that never appeared in the book? How do you take pages of talky narrative and turn it into scenes?

Cohen's book covers twenty-five movies, only one of which I might have seen. Some of them were hits. Others simply baffled audiences. Some of the screenwriters, I might add, were baffling. To read about a man defending the humanity and relevance of his NC-17-rated screenplay is to witness an expert round of self-justification.

However, once you have hawked up that part and gotten it out of your system, perhaps you will be hungry for:

Blue-Ribbon Beef Nachos

Sadly, I do not have the ingredients to make this tonight. Nor does this qualify as locavore eating, but I already admitted I was a poser, didn't I?