Stuck-in ~ Cook-in
Posted 6 January 2010on:
I’m having a Nigella moment – so what’s on the menu to combat the freeze —
I’ve got a shissel of heart and soul warming barley soup on the simmer (takes about three/four hours and it’s so worth the wait eaten with great chunks of bread) and one of my favourite veg dishes, courgettes in a tomato and herb sauce. I’m gonna make a a massive potato kugel too – one that sticks like glue to your ribs. I’m not in the frame of mind to bake, but I may knock up a few biscuits – there’s nothing quite like the satisfying feeling of kneading pastry. All I can say is I’m glad, for once, I had a little foresight and did the supermarket and the garage after work last night – even at 6.00 the shelves were almost empty – hardly any fresh fruit and veg – actually now I wish I’d bought some frozen – ironic eh! LOL
Since everyone seems to be in the same boat, this is a great day to play catch up with calling friends and watching films I’ve recorded but not yet had the time or opportunity to watch. Just put on Twilight, but my sky is so unpredictable it didn’t record, in fact most of them didn’t record – now trying Sherlock Holmes… no, vixens not our ab fab fav man steamily playing the dastardly Moriarty, but one with the drop dead gorgeous, but unfortunate and sorry waste to womanhood, Rupert Everett.
I haven’t recommended any books here lately; my latest three good reads were:
The Joy Luck Club was Amy Tan’s debut novel – unlike many writers this was not a one-book/one-hit wonder and she has gone on to prove herself over and over again. It was turned into an excellent film which, coincidentally, was being aired on tv at the time I was reading the book. I watched it once I’d finished and on the whole it was well done and almost, not quite, true to the story.
It’s about four immigrant Chinese/American women living in Chinatown, San Francisco (thanks jojo) who set up a club called ‘The Joy Luck Club’ where they meet in each other’s homes; they talk, worry, cook, eat together and play Mahjong. Just as the game is structured with four parts divided into another four parts, so is the book. Three of the mothers and their daughters share stories about their lives (one of the mothers has already passed). The stories are moving and mystical. The mothers worry about their daughters lives in America, and the daughters cannot understand their mothers and know little of their history. As the book unfolds and their stories unravel, the daughters begin to understand the mystery of their mother’s dramatic and traumatic lives. The fragile bonds between mother and daughter tighten and they learn what it is to change and to hope. The discovery of family legacy and individual identity, clashes and reconciliation, love and loss is no stranger to most of us, particularly for those of us whose ancestors were immigrants.
The Help is Kathryn Stockett’s debut novel and in many ways reflects her own life. It took her years and determination to get this novel published and I hope it won’t be a one hit wonder. The story is set in early sixties Jackson Mississippi at the onset of the civil rights movement. The narrator is Aibileen, a black maid whose remit was not only chief cook and bottlewasher, but also to raise the white woman’s children. The other main protagonist is Miss Skeeter, a young white woman with ambitions to be a writer and Minnie, Aibileen’s neighbour and a maid with a loud mouth that lands her in all sorts of trouble. I found it a true page turner, stomach churning and emotionally gripping. Here’s the synopsis from Kathryn Stockett’s website:
“Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.
Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.
Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.
Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.
Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.
In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women–mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends–view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.”
It was over sixty years from its original conception before Irene Nemirovsky’s Suite Française came to be published. The story cannot be read in isolation – the appendices have to be read to give the book full meaning and emotion for it’s the facts that surround the discovery of this book that make it all the more remarkable. For all that it’s a bestseller, the finished writing of the book is not polished or edited.
The book is in two parts, although her intention was to write five modelled on the rhythm and tone of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. She wrote meticulous notes on the work in progress and on every character. Storm in June, the first part, were her observations of the Parisians as they fled their city and the second section, Dolce, is about the residents of a rural community during the occupation. Her writing concentrated on the raw nature of the French people; she denounced them for fear, cowardice, acceptance of humiliation, persecution and massacre. If anyone has romantic notions of France and the French people, this book would surely make you think twice.
Ironically she didn’t focus on the fate of the Jews. She was a Ukrainian Jew who had fled the Bolshevik Revolution and settled in France and, despite positively disliking the Jews and converting herself and her two young daughters to Catholicism, was murdered in Auschwitz for being Jewish.
Not sure what to read next — I have a pile of unread books by my bedside and on my bookshelves; a couple of Michael Chabon, more Amy Tan, some from the Kellerman family, but not sure what I’m in the mood for – does anyone here have any recommendations?
It has stopped snowing for a while – my road is like an ice rink, but I shall be getting to work tomorrow. I am actually more concerned about getting home at the end of the day! Wish me luck and good luck to everyone else who has to brave these Siberian weather conditions – we are just so not geared up to it – oy vay!