- Fizzy Thoughts: November 2007


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Do you get on a roll when you read, so that one book leads to the next, which leads to the next, and so on and so on?
I don’t so much mean something like reading a series from beginning to end, but, say, a string of books that all take place in Paris. Or that have anthropologists as the main character. Or were written in the same year. Something like that… Something that strings them together in your head, and yet, otherwise could be different genres, different authors…

This usually happens with travel writing, especially books written by people who have moved to another country. I love reading about people's experiences in other countries, so I'll read a whole string of books then get so jealous I can't stand it, and move on to something else. Then I'll start the cycle all over again.
Other than that one particular genre, I don't tend to choose my next book based on the one I'm currently reading. Usually, it's more like a pretty cover catches my eye...


weekly mutterings

Saturday, November 24, 2007

  1. Filthy :: lucre

  2. Therapist :: shrink

  3. Duck :: quack

  4. Slant :: italics

  5. Artist :: in residence

  6. Lease :: rent

  7. Wish :: bone

  8. Doormat :: wipe your feet

  9. Global :: warming

  10. Apartment :: block


Cooks Canon Meme

(Let me just say up front that the only reason I did this was for the amusement factor.)

These are the 101 "classic" recipes "everyone should know," according to Raymond Sokolov, author of The Cook's Canon. Bold the ones you can make competently, with or without a recipe. Italicize those which you've tried once or twice, but either didn't like, or don't plan to make again. Put an asterisk next to those which were culinary disasters. All dishes are assumed to be made from scratch. Take credit for reasonable variations.

1. Apple Pie
2. Baked Alaska
3. Beet Borscht
4. Beurre Blanc (White Butter Sauce)
5. Billi Bi (Mussel Soup)
6. Blanquette de Veau (White Veal Stew)
7. Brandad de Morue (Salt Cod Puree) (I can guarantee this would be a culinary disaster in our house...it practically makes me gag to think about it)
8. Bread
9. Bread Pudding
10. Bstilla (Moroccan Pigeon Pie)
11. Cannelloni
12. Ceviche de Lenguado (Citrus-Cured Flounder)
13. Chicken Adobo (Filipino Chicken Stew)
14. Chicken Soup
15. Chiles Poblanos en Nogada (Chiles Stuffed with Pork in Walnut Sauce)
16. Chocolate Fudge
17. Chocolate Pudding (I'm guessing I don't get credit for Jell-o pudding?)
18. Choucroute (Sauerkraut and Pork Stew)
19. Clam Chowder
20. Coq au Vin (Chicken Stewed in Wine)
21. Coulibac (Russian Fish Pie)
22. Couscous Chick Chick (Moroccan Chicken Stew)
23. Crayfish Bisque
24. Creme Caramel (Caramelized Pudding)
25. Crepes
26. Croquetas (Spanish Croquettes)
27. Daube de Boeuf a la Provencale (Provencal Beef Stew) 2
8. Doughnuts
29. Duck a l'Orange
30. Escabeche of Vegetables (Cold Briased Vegetables in Vinegar Sauce)
31. Fresh Ham With Star Anise
32. (Southern) Fried Chicken
33. Fried Rice
34. Gaeng Pet Gai (Thai Red-Curry Chicken)
35. Gazpacho
36. Genoise a l'Orange
37. Gravlax (Swedish Cured Salmon)
38. Gumbo
39. Hollandaise Sauce
40. Homard a l'Americaine ("American" Lobster)
41. Hong Kong Salt Shrimp
42. Hummus
43. Jambon Persille (Ham with Parsley)
44. Kibbeh Nayeh (Lebanese Raw Ham with Bulghur)
45. Lamb Biryani (Indian Lamb and Rice Ragout)
46. Lasagne
47. Macaroni and Cheese
48. Macaroons
49. Maiale in Latte (Italian Pork Roast in Milk)
50. Marmalade
51. Mashed Potatoes
52. Mayonnnaise (ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww)
53. Meat Loaf
54. Moules Mariniere (Mussels Steamed in Wine)
55. Moussaka
56. Navin de Mouton Printanier (Lamb Stew with Spring Vegetables)
57. Omelet
58. Onion Soup
59. Osso Buco alla Milanese (Milanese Veal Shanks)
60. Oysters Rockefeller
61. Paella Valenciana (Valencian Rice Casserole)
62. Paris-Brest (Cream-Puff Cake)
63. Pasta e Fagioli (Noodles and Beans)
64. Pate Brisee (Pie Crust)
65. Peking Duck
66. Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Soup)
67. Picadillo Boliviano (Chopped Meat With Shoestring Potatoes)
68. Pizza (Hello Dominos? I'd like a large veggie and a large pepperoni...)
69. Plum Pudding
70. Poori (Indian Bread Puff)
71. Pork Vindaloo
72. Profiteroles au Chocolat (Cream Puffs with Chocolate Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream)
73. Quenelles de Brochet (Lyonnais Pike Dumplings)
74. Quiche
75. Ribollita (Tuscan Bean and Greens Soup)
76. Rice Pudding
77. Risotto
78. Ropa Vieja (Cuban Beef Casserole)
79. Saltimbocca all Romana (Breaded Veal and Ham)
80. Saurbraten (German Marinated Pot Roast)
81. Savarin Valaisanne (Yeast Ring Cake Soaked with Swiss Pear Brandy)
82. Shepherd's Pie
83. Sole Meuniere
84. Souffle
85. Spaghetti (I'm assuming they mean sauce and not noodles)
86. Standing Rib Roast
87. Steak au Poivre (Steak with Pepper Sauce)
88. Strawberry Preserves
89. Suckling Pig
90. Szechwan Dry-Fried Beef
91. Tamales (I helped my mom once...do I get a gold star?)
92. Tempura
93. Terrine of Foie Gras
94. Tortilla Espanola (Spanish Potato Omelet)
95. Tripes a la Mode de Caen
96. Truite au Bleu (Boiled Trout)
97. Vinaigrette
98. Vitello Tonnato (Veal with Tuna)
99. Waterzooi (Belgian Chicken Stew)
100. Wiener Schnitzel (Breaded Veal Cutlets)
101. Zabaglione (Egg Yolk Foam)

What planet is this dude from??? I have (or in the past have) made 8 of these recipes consistently. Half of them I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole, seeing's how I don't like most fishy things. I have made edible bread, but I didn't bother to bold it. It's too much work, and the older I get the simpler my cooking gets. Honestly, I just don't like to take the time to cook anything fancy. And besides, it would be totally wasted on Hamburger. So if it's not simple, it's not happening. I would argue that everyone should know (or know someone (like mom) who knows) how to make the following (yes, from scratch!):

chocolate chip cookies
one good chicken dish (mine is chicken stuffed with olive tapenade and feta cheese)
soup (I'll let you chose the type, but it should be homemade)
hamburgers (appropriately, Hamburger makes much better hamburgers than I do)
a really good sandwich (our secret ingredient is avocado)

I will agree that mac 'n cheese and meatloaf and mashed potatoes belong on the list. I love homemade mac 'n cheese. My arteries are grateful that HB doesn't, so it doesn't get made very often.

What would be on your list?


A Mad Dash through Rain Village to Mexican Days

This past week in reading has been a bit odd. First, I tried this book:

But I didn't finish it. It was a freebie I got at the book expo I attended earlier this year. I read a little over a hundred pages before I realized I didn't care what happened. It's about a forty-something woman who leaves her husband because of a dog. Okay, it wasn't really the dog's fault...the dog was just the catalyst. This book (Mad Dash, by Patricia Gaffney) did absolutely nothing for me, and after one night it landed in the reject pile.

So next I went for another one of the book expo freebies, Rain Village, by Carolyn
I had high hopes for this one. Unfortunately, it didn't quite deliver. I did finish it, but it was just a story. Nothing special at all. The basic story is about Tessa, a young girl who is scorned by her family because of her lack of height. She is befriended by the mysterious Mary (the town librarian) and eventually runs off to join the circus. Years later, she is haunted by the mystery of Mary's past, and sets off on a journey to find some answers. I'd classify this book as an attempt at magical realism that falls way short.

Hmmm...maybe freebies aren't the way to go.

Now I'm reading Mexican Days, by Tony Cohan. I'm almost finished, so I'm going to go ahead with the brief review.

This is a followup to his book On Mexican Time. Back in the 1980s (as best I can figure), Cohan and his wife bought a house in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The first book described the decision behind the move, the search for the house, and the hassle/joy of renovation. This second book is about his travels around Mexico. My only complaint is that Cohan compares his wanderlust to dissociative fugue. He keeps bringing up his "fugue state" throughout the book. But since he has no memory loss (reading the book, I'm convinced the man has a mind like a steel trap...he is always citing obscure (to me) books and movies and historical people), it becomes an annoyance. I'm guessing he uses it as a way to have a recurring theme in his book, but I could very well have done without. Other than that, it's a good book that just emphasizes how little I know about Mexico and its history. Cohan travels off the beaten path, to areas rich in history and culture.


Connecting Words

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Okay, today’s question is going to be a little different. First, I’m posting it early because Thursday is Thanksgiving here in the U.S. and I’m going to be busy making and eating turkey as I’m sure some of you will also be, so I want to give everyone time to play. And two, because I’m basically going to link you through to somebody else’s blog with a question that I thought was pretty interesting.

Joanna and Brad are asking about “connecting words,” and they don’t mean conjunctions like “and” or “but.” No, what they’re looking for are unique, or treasured words that we’ve found out and about in our daily travels, words that might not be common usage, or often heard, but which struck a chord for some reason.

This is unorthodox, of course, but here’s the thing: if you link back to Joanna’s post (which is where the rules are written), you’re eligible to win a prize. Not to mention joining in some great conversation about interesting words.

I’m not sure if you’re supposed to leave a comment there or not. She only specifies that you should link to it in your post, but . . . I suppose a comment wouldn’t hurt. But, as always, comment here, too, please so that all of us can play along. I’ve already answered this one here.

Like others, I'm finding this week's question difficult. Maybe because it's hard to reflect on how you speak. But I do have a few connecting words (actually, more like phrases) that I can think of...

How's tricks? As in, what's happening? My family says this occasionally. I've used it at times with non-family members only to have them stare at me like I'm from another planet. I remember the time I tried to explain it to someone at the gym (back when I actually went to the gym) and they never quite got it. Maybe that doesn't really qualify as a connection then, huh?

Bob's your uncle. I'm convinced this is more of an English phrase. I've never used it, but I've heard it said a few times. For some reason, it tickles my funny bone. And it's even more amusing to listen to someone try to explain it's meaning. I've heard rumor there's another phrase involving an aunt.

Veritable plethora. Plethora is on many people's lists. I was first introduced to the word by a high school vocabulary list. Veritable was also on the list. When it came time to use the words in a sentence, many of us ended up pairing the words together. To this day I cannot hear the word plethora without muttering veritable plethora under my breath and remembering AP English.

Gosh darned quesadilla. Thanks to Napoleon Dynamite, this is what quesadillas are now called (and how they are intentionally mispronounced) in the Hamburger/Softdrink household. Not really a connecting phrase, but I could make a case for Napoleon Dynamite being one giant connecting phrase...for those of us who appreciate it, that is.

Good stuff, Maynard. The old-fashioned way of saying yummo. This is another one of those phrases that I've tossed out only to have people look at me oddly. However, the phrase comes from Malt-o-Meal commercials, so unlike "how's tricks," I can easily explain this one.


Unconscious Mutterings

Sunday, November 18, 2007

  1. Toasty :: Warm
  2. Allegations :: Accusations
  3. Herb :: is the h silent?
  4. Bacon :: Ham
  5. Neck to neck :: Tiebreaker
  6. Simon :: Says
  7. Heels :: Head over
  8. Fundamentals :: Reading
  9. Middle :: Child
  10. Seasonings :: Herbs


Booking Through Thursday - Preservatives

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Today’s question comes from Conspiracy-Girl:
I’m still relatively new to this meme so I’m not sure if this has been asked yet, but I’m curious how many of us write notes in our books. Are you a Footprint Leaver or a Preservationist?

Unless it's a school book (I wrote all over my history books), I don't generally write notes in books. Probably because I don't re-read most books. However...that doesn't mean I'm a Preservationist. I'm certainly not opposed to leaving notes, unless you are the one person locally who writes in library books (and used books I've bought) about how much worse her life is than the characters in the books. She needs to stop. Or write her own book. I do occasionally write in books I give or send to people, but usually only in the front of the book.

Along with writing in books, I think there is also the whole dog-ear/well-loved books issue that marks you as a Preservationist or a Footprint Leaver. I own lots of bookmarks, but there are many times when I'm too lazy to go get one and I just turn down the page instead. And I bend the spines, too. Unless it's a book I've borrowed, then no dog-ears or spine-bending. I do have respect for other people's books...just not always for my own.


She's everywhere I don't want her to be

Monday, November 12, 2007

Raise your hand if you've heard of Harriet Klausner. No? Well, she's Amazon's top reviewer. And a pain in the ass, if you ask me. And I'm pleased to discover I'm not the only one who feels this way. A few notes on good ol' Harriet...

  • I don't claim to be a reviewer. In fact, I've never even posted a review on Amazon or B&N. But her reviews, well, they suck. Need an example? Try this review of The Faraday Girls.
  • She reads more than is humanly possible. Like others, I'm convinced she's churning out reviews on books she's never read. There are some really good observations in the comments section of that post...definitely worth reading if you're anti-Harriet.
  • She always gives 4 or 5 stars. And she gets free books from the publishers to review. Yes, I'm jealous, but hello? Too bad there's already a BookSlut site. Not that I'm comparing the two...because they are nothing alike.
  • According to OpinionJournal, she doesn't read non-fiction "unless it's a subject I'm really into. Otherwise it's too time-consuming." Gawd forbid reading should be time-consuming. I understand if non-fiction doesn't float your boat, but the fact that she condemns it as time-consuming says a lot to me about her reasons for reading.

I could go on, but I think I've already devoted enough space to Harriet "It's All About the Numbers, Baby" Klausner.


Another round (of books)

Earlier this week I read The Other Side of the Bridge. A few years ago I read Mary Lawson's first book, Crow Lake, and despite the fact that I sobbed through most of the book, it remains a favorite. So I was eagerly anticipating reading The Other Side of the Bridge.

And while I didn't sob my way through it, I still enjoyed this book. It is the story of Arthur and Jake, two incredibly different brothers who grow up in a remote farming community in northern Canada. The book alternates between them growing up in the 1930s and 40s, and their adult lives in the 1960s. It is also the story of the Depression and WWII. And it is the story of Ian, the son of the town doctor, who is struggling with what he wants to be when he grows up, issues with his mother, and a crush on Arthur's wife. There is a lot going on in this book, but it still retains the feel of life in a small town...slow-paced, interconnected and intimate.

From brothers to sisters...the next book, which I read over the weekend, was Monica McInerney's The Faraday Girls. Beginning in Australia in the 1970s and ending in the present day New York and Ireland, The Faraday Girls is about 5 different sisters (and their dad, Leo). When one of the sisters becomes pregnant, the others promise to remain at home until the baby turns 5. Therefore, Maggie's upbringing is a family affair. When she turns 5, the sisters begin to leave to pursue their own lives, and one sister commits an unforgivable act (which you can see coming from a mile away, but I still won't reveal here). As an adult, Maggie learns of family secrets and begins to better understand her aunts and her own place in her unique family.



Thursday, November 08, 2007

Would you say that you read about the same amount now as when you were younger? More? Less? Why?

When I was a kid, and still into high school, I was an avid reader. I would stay up late on weekends reading (gee, some things just don't change). However, like many of you, when I was in college, time seems to have been eaten up with classes, and studying, and working, and hanging out with roommates and friends.

So yes, I read about the same amount now as when I was younger, if you exclude the college years.


Booking Through Thursday - Oh, Horror!

Monday, November 05, 2007

A little late this week...

What with yesterday being Halloween, and all . . . do you read horror? Stories of things that go bump in the night and keep you from sleeping?
I thought about asking you about whether you were participating in NaNoWriMo, but I asked that
last year. Although . . . if you want to answer that one, too, please feel free to go ahead and do both, or either, your choice!

Well, it all depends on what your definition of horror is. Stephen King, no. Never read him, never plan to. Anne Rice, yes. Back in college, I read almost all of her books, although I haven't picked up one of her books since. True horror (whatever that is...I tend to think of it as people jumping out from behind doorways with a chainsaw in hand and killing off entire towns) I won't read. But books about vampires, especially vampires who have personality, I'll read. I loved The Historian, but I don't consider that horror, by any means. I also like Karin Slaughter, who writes some incredibly graphic scenes, but I don't consider her horror, either. More like suspense, with a good story behind it. I don't like to be scared, but I do like to be intrigued.

And no, no NaNoWriMo. But I like saying it.


Standing by

I'm on telephone standby for jury duty. Which means I have to call back between 11:30 and 12 for a possible afternoon appearance. Bleh. The courts really know how to put a damper on my day.

I've actually served on a jury before. It was an attempted murder (wait, I think it was really attempted manslaughter...there's an important difference that I can't recall...something to do with premeditation, I think) trial and we found the guy guilty. It involved roommates in the small town of Nipomo (which I've always found to be creepy), and a steak knife, and a gun, because the guy on trial was a security guard (they can also be creepy, you know?), so he happened to have a gun. Anyway, that's most of what I remember, because it was about 6 or 7 years ago. I still have the spooky fortune from lunch, though. When we were deliberating, the bailiff took us to lunch at a Chinese restaurant. Because you have to be escorted at this point...no alone time allowed. Anyways...at lunch, my fortune cookie had a bizarre fortune that read something to the effect of the drops of blood, once spilled, can never be erased. Do you think they have special cookies for jury members?

So that whole experience has satisfied any desire I ever had to be on a jury. Which explains why I'm sitting here pouting about being on telephone standby.


Recent reads

Sunday, November 04, 2007

I read two books this past week.

First up, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, by Maggie O'Farrell. I will confess to buying this book because I had a coupon from B&N for like a gajillion percent off. As I started to read it, I was feeling conned by the whole coupon thing, because I wasn't too into the writing style, and I found the set-up of the book too confusing. The author jumps around in time and between characters, and I was having a hard time figuring out where I was, and who was who. But after I finished the book it grew on me. It deals with a fascinating, yet depressing topic - women who are committed to psychiatric hospitals for simply not conforming to society's expectations of proper behavior. So for the topic alone, I appreciate the book. I'm still not appreciating the writing style, though.

Next up was The Saffron Kitchen, by Yasmin Crowther, a book I'd walked by many times in Borders. The cover kept catching my eye, so once again I was suckered in by the cover art. This time, it was actually worth it. The book tells the story of Maryam Mazar, an Iranian immigrant with a troubled and mysterious past. As a young woman she was sent to London, where she eventually married a British man and had a daughter. Years later, her daughter Sara follows her mother home to Iran and begins to understand the influence her mother's culture and upbringing has had on both of their lives.

While nothing alike, these two books both touch on how women are frequently victims of societal constraints and expectations. Out of the two books, I found The Saffron Kitchen to be the more readable of the two books. The author did a wonderful job of transporting me to both rainy England and the cold mountain villages of Iran. Her characters were real, while The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox felt more like a quick drive-by of someone's life. Both books are fairly short, and quick reads...I'd recommend The Saffron Kitchen to anyone wanting a taste of Iranian history and mother/daughter/cultural conflict. I'd recommend Esme to anyone wanting a very, very, very brief look at stuffy Victorian morals and how they totally screwed up one person's life.

In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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