Saturday, August 23, 2008


"Q: What do you get when you cross an insomniac, an agnostic, and a dyslexic?

A: Someone who stays up all night wondering if there is a Dog.”

--Groucho Marx


Saturday, August 09, 2008

Ah, for the love of food

I suppose my posting excerpts versus my own opinions/reviews could be called a spoiler.
I suppose I post excerpts because I must.
Just like I have to make notes all the time, write diary pages, and remember quotations...because it's all about loving words.

Comfort me with Apples, by Ruth Reichl, just makes me smile.

The scrambled eggs with truffles were even better than the foie gras. Minutes earlier I would not have thought it possible. Each forkful was like biting off a piece of the sun. It was like musk and light, all at once, and suddenly I burst out, "This is what I always imagined sex would taste like." (page 42)

There was a kind of magic to champagne that old, a wine bottled before automobiles or airplanes or either of the major wars. A wine bottled before women had the vote. Watching the liquid come sparkling into my glass, I thought of all the years it had been waiting in that dark bottle, what a different world it was emerging into. I was drinking history; I liked the taste.
(page 43)

"I love this," I said before I had time to think. "It tastes like grapefruit." Why couldn't I keep my opinions to myself? But Darrell only nodded solemnly and said, "That's exactly what I've always thought!" Looking at Colman he added, "This one you should keep. Such enthusiasm!"
Colman looked at me speculatively; I couldn't imagine what he was thinking. After a minute he said, "You don't think enthusiasm clouds the critical faculties?"
"Not at all," Darrell replied. "What's the point of knowing a lot about food if all you get is disappointment?"
(page 60)

The path turned away from the golden hills and into woods, and suddenly it was almost dark and very cool. The trees above us grew close together, forming a leafy tunnel, and the scent changed to a darker one, of earth, leaves, and mushrooms. Twigs crackled beneath our feet. Bits of sunlight filtered through the leaves, making the path sparkle.
"It's like being in a cathedral," Michael said, his voice improbably reverent. "Like walking beneath stained glass." He was almost whispering as he went on: "I love churches. Sometimes when I'm really sad I go in and light candles. I love the dark, and the waxy smell, and the feeling of hope in the air. If God were anywhere, he'd be in a place like this, don't you think?"
But all I said was, "Look!" Because we'd found the place. The trees ended just ahead, and we started running, laughing, delighted. It was a deep pool at the end of the forest and straight ahead was a waterfall. Just as we arrived a bird started to sing, loudly, on a branch above our heads.
And finally I replied, "Yes, if God were anywhere, he'd be here."
(page 156)

My head flew off. I felt my cheeks getting hot and my eyes getting moist. My palms prickled. Shivers swooped down my spine. Suddenly I was so attuned to sensation that I could feel my watch ticking against my wrist. No food had ever done this to me before.
The hot-pink soup was dotted with lacy green leaves of cilantro, like little bursts of breeze behind the heat. Small puffs of fried tofu, as insubstantial as clouds, floated in the liquid. I took another spoonful of soup and tasted citrus, as if lemons had once gone gliding through and left their ghosts behind
. (page 177)

Danny's soup was extraordinary, with that resonance that goes on and on, like a bell still humming, long after the last note has been struck.
Danny did not sit down. As we ate he stood at the stove like a mad scientist, enveloped in the steam that billowed about him from a huge cauldron. I heard the sizzle of butter hitting a hot surface and sensed the high, clean note of lemon juice being added to the pan. Now there was a richer scent--cream, I guessed--and the aromas began to mingle, so that lemon and cream and butter were dancing through the air.
Water drained; wet pasta hit a skillet with a hiss, and a cover went crashing down. Then Danny was rushing to the table with a plate in his hand and setting it in front of me. "Eat it now," he insisted, "don't wait for the others. This is a dish that can only be served to people eating in the kitchen. In a few minutes it won't be any good. I made the noodles myself.
I twirled the pasta around my fork and took a bite. And then, in spite of myself, I gasped. The pasta was so think that it seemed to have vanished, leaving only a memory behind. What was left was simply the subtlety of the sauce, pure and light, as if the liquid had somehow taken solid form. It wasn't food; it was magic on a plate, and for a moment I disappeared into the flavor. When I returned Danny was standing over me, watching me so intently and with such pleasure that I knew I didn't have to say a single word.
(page 245)


Monday, August 04, 2008

Garden Spells

I saw the cover of Garden Spells, by Sarah Addison Allen, in a store and was intrigued.
You might be surprised how many great reads I've found because I was attracted to the cover.
Something about the color or the image made me pick up the book and leaf through the pages.

I went back to buy a copy, and it was sold out.
Then I saw a display of new books at my local library, and had to read it.
This is one of the best books I've read in awhile.

It is filled with all the elements I love--food, symbolism, writing that makes me want to dogear the page.
It is the story of a family with some quirks--an aunt has a compulsion to give people things they are going to need, they just don't know it yet.
A sister has both a passion and a gift with cutting hair and making people look amazing.
Another sister caters using things that grow in her garden.
It's special garden.
The apple tree boasts fruit like crystal balls. Um, not the size, the effect.
It is a garden filled with herbs and flowers that, when cooked into breads and cakes and other goodies...evoke things you want to see or feel.

This book is magical in every sense of the word.
I loved it.
Sense is the perfect word actually--the book is about taste and smell and touch, and the way simple pleasures transform our lives.

Here are some excerpts to give you a hint:
For the past two years, ever sine he'd dragged her back from Boise, Sydney would walk into a room and smell roses, or she would wake up and taste honeysuckle in the air. The scents always seemed to be coming from a window or a doorway, a way out.
It was only one night while watching Bay sleep, crying quietly and wondering how she was going to keep her child safe when they were in danger if they stayed and in danger if they left, that it suddenly made sense.
She'd been smelling home.
(page 32)

The garden was gated with heavy metal fencing, like a gothic cemetary, and the honeysuckle clinging to it was almost two feet thick in some places, completely closing in the place. Even the gate door was covered with honeysuckle vines, and the keyhole was a secret pocket only a few could find.
When she entered, she noticed it right away.
There, in the cluster of Queen Anne's lace, tiny leaves of ivy were sprouting.
Ivy in the garden.
The garden was saying that something was trying to get in, something that was pretty and looked harmless but would take over everything if given the chance.
(page 35)

Sometimes people who had been together for a long time got to imagining that things used to be better, even when they weren't. Memories, even hard memories, grew soft like peaches as they got older. (page 50)

There was a type of craziness caused by long-term complacency. All the Burgess women in town, who never had less than six children each, walked around in a fog until their children left home. When their youngest finally left the nest, they always did something crazy, like burn all their respectable high-neck dresses and wear too much perfume. And anyone who had been married for more than a year could testify to the surprise of coming home one day and finding that your husband had torn down a wall to make a room bigger or your wife had dyed her hair just to make you look at her differently. There were midlife crises and hot flashes. There were bad decisions. There were affairs. There was a certain point when sometimes someone said, I've had enough. (page 161)

When you know something's wrong, but you don't know exactly what it is, the air around you changes. Claire felt it. The plastic of the phone was too warm. The walls were sweating slightly. If she went out to the garden, she knew she'd find morning glory blooming in the middle of the day. (page 79)

It was hot and things were out of whack. Doorknobs that everyone swore were on the right side of the doors were actually on the left. Butter melted in the refrigerator. Things weren't being said and were left to stew in the air. (page 129)

She crossed her arms over her chest and watched a maid put candles in tall glass hurricane lamps on each of the tables. Sydney listened distantly as Claire told Joanne where the roses and the fuchsia and the gladioli should be placed on the tables. "Gladioli here," she said, "where the nutmeg stuffing in the squash blossoms and the fennel chicken will be. Roses here, where the rose petal scones will go." It was all so intricate, a manipulative plan to make the guests feel something they might not feel otherwise...
"If it's love you want to portray, then roses." And, "Cinnamon and nutmeg mean prosperity."
(page 90)

"You've learned the secret to my success," Claire said. "When people believe you have something to give, something no one else has, they'll go to great lengths and pay a lot of money for it." (page 143)

this is such a fun idea!
Claire was at the kitchen island making chocolate cupcakes for the Havershams, who lived four doors down. They were hosting their grandson's pirate-themed tenth birthday. Instead of cake, they wanted six dozen cupcakes with something baked inside, a child-size ring or a coin or a charm. Claire had made candy strips from thin shoots of angelica from the garden and was going to make a tiny X on the frosting of each cupcake, like the sign on a treasure map; then she was going to put tiny cards on toothpicks with riddles as to what was buried within. (page 174)

And as a boy it was a fact that if you caught exactly 20 fireflies in a jar, then let them all out before you went to bed, you'd sleep through the night without bad dreams. (188)

He stared up at the moon, which looked like a giant hole in the sky, letting light through from the other side. He took deep breaths of the wet grass and warm roses and the black pavement from the highway that was still so hot from the summer sun that it melted at the edges and smelled like fire. (page 238) was like the way you wanted sunshine on Saturdays, or pancakes for breakfast. They just made you feel good.
(page 282)