Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A lovely tale in the aroma of an orange rind

One of my favorite things is to find a well-written tale that combines a love of food and its preparation.
Within that combination of words and cooking, some touch of magic ignites.

Five Quarters of the Orange, by Joanne Harris (the author responsible for Chocolat) just took hold of my hand and led me down a path that filled my senses.

She describes her mother:
"Food was her nostalgia, her celebration, its nurture and preparation the sole outlet for her creativity." (page 4)

"She lacked any capacity for tenderness. Her defenses were too good, her sensual impulses sublimated into her recipes, into creating the perfect lentilles cuisinees, the most ardent creme brulee." (page 228)

"I'm 64 years old, for pity's sake. I ought to know better. And yet there's something in the way he looks at me that sets my old heart lurching like a tractor engine...A feeling of peace. The feeling you get when a recipe turns out perfectly right, a perfectly risen souffle, a flawless sauce hollandaise. It's a feeling which tells me that any woman can be beautiful in the eyes of a man who loves her." (page 229)

"Secretly she dreams of a soft-voiced stranger, in her mind's eye she sees him, a man who could see beyond what she has become to what she might have been." (page 230)

Of wine:
"Drunkenness, she told us once in a rare moment of confidence, is a sin against the fruit, the tree, the wine itself. It is an outrage, an abuse, just as rape is an abuse of the act of love. She flushed then, turning away gruffly...
Wine, distilled and nurtured from bud into fruit and then through all the processes that make it what it is, deserves better than to be guzzled by some sot with a headful of nonsense. It deserves reverence. Joy. Gentleness.
Oh, she understood wine, my mother. She understood the sweetening process, the seething and mellowing of life in the bottle, the darkening, the slow transformations, the birth of a new vintage in a bouquet of aromas like a magician's bunch of paper flowers. If only she had had time and patience enough for us. A child is not a fruit tree. She understood that too late."
(page 194)

The story is set in France during the occupation. Live music was forbidden, so I can literally feel the joy coming off the pages when she writes of the sweet treat:
"...then they began to play some bright sharp-sounding tune that we did not recognize, though I think it might have been some kind of jazz. A light beat from the drum, a throaty burble from the clarinet, but from Tomas's saxophone a string of bright notes like Christmas lights, sweetly wailing, harshly whispering, rising-falling above the half-discordant whole like a human voice magically enhanced and containing the entire human range of softness, brashness, coaxing and grief...
...Of course, memory is such a subjective thing....
...the music was hot, and the heat burnt off us like alcohol in a flambee, with a sharp, sour smell, and we whooped like Indians, knowing that with the volume of sound indoors we could make as much noise as we pleased and still remain unheard."
(page 109)

"It's like swimming against the current. It exhausts you. After a while, whoever you are, you just have to let go, and the river brings you home." (page 306)

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Friday, March 02, 2007

The need to secure our borders...

I put aside the mysteries, the comedies, and the fluff in favor of non-fiction this month. Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo's In Mortal Danger: The Battle for America's Border and Security ought to be on everyone's 'must read' list.

"The greatest threat in our nation today does not come from invasion by foreign soldiers but rather from internal decay, a loss of identity, and a de-emphasis on the value of American citizenship." (page 193)

"I firmly believe that we must reaffirm the principles of citizenship and of American identity if we are to survive as a free people in the twenty-first century. This comes not from a fear of immigration. As a son of immigrants, I welcome and support immigration. What worries me is that the nation our new immigrants seek to find at the end of their journey may not be the nation of their dreams and grand ambitions. If we are to remain true to our history, we must also remain true to our destiny. Our destiny is not to be a vague, confusing collection of ethnic groups or religious sects, but rather is a continuation of the land of freedom and opportunity, the world's beacon of hope for all who are oppressed." (page 183)

"Citizenship should be as important to Americans as it was to the ancient Romans. In every sense, citizenship is a set of rights (voting, equal protection under the laws, etc) and responsibilities (draft registry, jury duty, etc). But at its core, citizenship is about belonging. It is an allegiance you owe to your nation and an allegiance your nation owes to you. Citizenship is more than residency; it is more than an address, it's more than an electric bill. It's part of who we are and a source of pride. Much more than the value of citizenship is lost when we abandon our national heritage. And when you take away a belief that it is something special to be an American, something else can--and likely will--fill the void."(page 194)

"I'm 100 percent Italian, but I would no more cast my vote for another American of Italian ethnicity simply because he or she was Italian than I would cast my vote blindly. For me, a candidate for office should represent my views, not my hues."(page 32)

"If our goal is to remain a United States of America, we must first be a united people of America."(page 33)

"We must know who we are. What places us in mortal danger is a lack of that knowledge. We apparently know little about our enemy while we, at the same time, struggle with an identity crisis of our own, which has been brought on by decades of politically correct propaganda being spewed out by the cult of multiculturalism. The problem is exacerbated by the massive infusion of millions of immigrants who come here without any desire to leave behind their old allegiances. And they are encouraged by the cult to avoid assimilation into what is left of the last bastion of Western civilization, a unique concept called America." (page 76)

"The lives of ranchers...have been radically altered in the last decade because their own government has repeatedly failed to protect them and their land from invasion. And invasion is exactly the proper term for what's occurring."(page 178)

And then this excerpt from a speech given by Teddy Roosevelt in 1912.
"There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. When I refer to hyphenated Americans, I do not refer to naturalized Americans. Some of the very best Americans I have ever known were naturalized Americans, Americans born abroad. But a hyphenated American is not an American at all. This is just as true of the man who puts "native" before the hyphen as of the man who puts German or Irish or English or French before the hyphen. Americanism is a matter of the spirit and of the soul. Our allegiance must be purely to the United States. We must unsparingly condemn any man who holds any other allegiance."(page 196)


I need to remember this

"The optimist sees opportunity in every danger; the pessimist sees danger in every opportunity."

- Winston Churchill