Wednesday, June 16, 2010

lazy summer evenings

are spent playing in a badminton tourney with the neighbourhood kids and adults and having over-the-fence conversations about gentrification anxieties like good schools versus bad schools and building permits and demo permits and pre-schools and all day kindergarten.

that's what we did last night after a dinner of muttar paneer with minted yoghurt and a squirt of lime on a bed of brown rice:

the questions never stop when you're incubating a parasite. first people want to know how you're feeling. then if you're going to find out the sex. then people want to know the name situation. we've had a shortlist of boy and girl names for a while with some obvious front runners that are a leetle controversial. i think we'll wait until the fatburger makes an appearance before making the final, final decision, in case our favorite doesn't fit. plus, i didn't know this, but people can be JERKS about the names. for the record, my mum is rooting for elvis. she wanted to name c-hova that when he was born over 2 decades ago. either elvis or thor. lol!

so. literature.

i finished "asterios polyp" AGES ago. it's a graphic novel about an architect who tends to see things in binary terms. following an "act of god" (lighting) which burns down his home, he goes on a journey and lives in a small town and the comic tracks the evolution in his worldview, as the present-day events are interspersed with scenes of asterios' failed marriage, his career and life. there are also portions of the story that are narrated by his twin brother, who died at birth. this comic won a billion eisner awards when it came out - it was quite good, although the goodness is more in the reading than in my re-telling. it was kind of like a less depressing, more urban alice munro story.

speaking of which...alice munro's "too much happiness" should have been called "ANYTHING BUT too much happiness" it was so depressing! depressing stories of downtrodden white people in small town ontario going about their pathetic lives with wistful, hazy internal monologues i didn't really give a flying crap about. i found it incredibly boring. it was my first alice munro and definitely my last. i just didn't CARE. the writing was never all that engaging the stories never all that enticing - just a bunch of faux-literary vignettes where you're supposed to "read between the lines" to tease out what the author is REALLY getting at. i don't care to work that hard for short stories! especially short stories about stupid problems. i give it a resounding MEH.

"when you reach me" is a FANTASTIC, newberry award-winning YA novel in the same vein as madeleine l'engle's work - that is, it is set in the real world but features dalliances with science fictiony-y elements that are nonetheless firmly rooted in realism. told from the point of a view of a 12 year old (ish, it's been a while) girl, in the summer of the late 1970s in new york city, it features a bit of a mystery and slowly unravels an enthralling, sad, bildungsroman-ish story by employing an epistolary format. there's nothing genre-y about this. no romance, no flighty typical girly girl stuff - just solid, accessible storytelling.

lawrence hill's "the book of negroes" was my academic book club's previous selection before i made them read "twilight." the book club found it divisive and we weren't unanimously in favour of it. i didn't really like it. it tells the story of aminata, a young girl who is taken from her tribe in western africa by slave traders and makes the journey across the atlantic to the rice plantations of the carolinas, up to new york, then eastern canada's black communities, and then back to africa and finally england. it tracks the story of aminata's life and weaves in historical tidbits at the same time. the author is a historian by nature and i thought one of the major faults of the novel was that. it read more like a laundry list of events than anything else. it didn't really make the history "come alive" so to speak and it certainly didn't delve into the character or motivations of aminata at all. she's a bit of a blank slate, really. and in so far as one can say this, she was also one of the luckiest slaves ever. rarely beaten, always fortuitously saved from the rigors of physical labour through the intervention or discovery of one of her myriad skills (she has midwifery training, can read, and speak many languages), she never really has to make hard moral choices, which makes the story much less interesting and captivating as fiction. the ending is a little trite and pat and that didn't help.

so that's what i've been reading, and now we're all caught up.

last night the neighbours across the street ordered KFC, which got me all hot and bothered to eat KFC again. the dotytron does not share my enthusiasm. i know that realistically, i'm going to eat it and it's not going to be as good as i remember, but i've got a KFC itch that needs scratching...and i don't know why! they followed up their meal with two-bite brownies which had me hankering for some brownies as well. since i can replicate brownies a lot easier than i can replicate KFC, i'll post the recipe i used.

tonight we're having perogies with bacon, onions, garlic, sour cream and scallions. with leftovers of that crunchy salad from monday night. this is shaping up to be a weekend of heavy eating so the KFC fix will have to come another night.



katharine hepburn's brownie recipe
only very small adaptations made to a recipe pulled from my gourmet cookbook

1 stick (1/2 c.) unsalted butter
2 oz unsweetened chocolate (i used semi-sweet cuz that's what i had on hand)
2 eggs
1 c. sugar
1/2 t. salt
1/3 c. of flour
1 t. of vanilla
1 c. of chopped nuts (optional - original recipe recommends walnuts but i find them
- grease and flour and 8" square pan and pre-heat your oven to 325F
- melt the butter and chocolate together in a saucepan over medium-low heat until melted and smooth.
- take the pot off the heat and stir in the eggs, the sugar, the flour, and the vanilla, and the nuts, if you're adding it.
- scrape into the prepared pan and bake for about 40 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean and the top is glossy.
- this makes about 16 2" brownie squares.

*note: i added the scrapings from an almost empty jar of nutella to the brownie mixture - about 1/4 c. and it was DELICIOUS but it did make the brownies a little too sweet. you can follow my example but i would reduce the sugar by 1/3 or even 1/2 a cup.


Nicole said...

I have asked you all three of those questions, in that order. lol

karl lagerfeld, esquire said...

i have asked other people all three of those questions, in that order! it's what inquiring minds want to know!

Monica (aka monnibo) said...

While I really appreciate that you're reviewing Canadian fiction on your blog, can you please not hotlink my image? Please upload it to your own server instead of stealing my bandwidth.