In the Midst of Winter

51lKIT-x2jL._SY346_     In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende is a wild ride in the middle of a snowstorm to dispose of a dead body in the trunk of a Lexus. The life stories of Lucia, Evelyn, and Richard as they tell each other about their past are more compelling than their adventure.

At the end of the ebook on my iPhone, I found  a summary for the reading group guide  – I could not have said it any better.

“A blizzard in New York City brings together three strikingly different people, each burdened with a difficult past. Lucia, an aging Chilean writer who has survived political exile, disease, and betrayal, is marooned with her dog in a basement apartment in Brooklyn. Richard, an academic chairman at NYU, is a broken man haunted by guilt for his fatal failures as a husband and father. And Evelyn, a brave young Guatemalan woman, is an undocumented home health aide who fled her native country due to gang violence, which claimed the lives of her two brothers and very nearly destroyed her own.

Over the course of several days, these three—each a misfit in a different way—are forced by circumstances into a rare level of intimacy. As the result of a shocking crime, they depart on a precarious epic journey that reveals their painful inner demons and ultimately enables them to forge a tentative peace with their pasts.”

My favorite quotes from the book:

  • {Despite the} “atrocious weather, fleas, food poisoning, his ulcer, and his own and the moose’s shit,” Richard falls in love with Lucia.

  • From Albert Camus: “In the midst of winter, I finally found there was within me an invincible summer. ”

And, I found Lucia’s recipe for  comforting Chilean cazuela – homemade stew made with beef, potato, pumpkin and corn on the cob – click here to see it.

Allende cleverly connects immigration, political turmoil and history, family loyalty, and cultural divides, through a murder mystery.  The murder with the disposal of the dead body in the trunk of a car in the middle of a snowstorm and the revelation of whodunit at the end is almost an aside to the harrowing backstories of the three who become friends under strained circumstances.   Despite the confusing jumps back and forth through lives and times,  the journey of the three disparate lives, as they reveal their backgrounds, is the real story, providing important history and information; the murder plot and the final reveal of whodunit is secondary.

In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite

As I browsed through Melissa Clark’s 150 recipes, I found a few that looked worth trying.  In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite offers  her stories of eating her way through life, from famous restaurants to  her family kitchen – along with recipes.  Clark, who writes a food column for the New York Times, starts her culinary adventure book with inspiration I often emulate…

“The first best thing about adulthood is being able to order three desserts for two people.  The second is having breakfast for dinner whenever the urge for pancakes pulls harder than pork chops.”

Each recipe has a personal story, and sometimes the recipe is familiar, e.g., “the mysterious David Dares pancake,” which turned out to be one of my favorites – Hawaiian David Eyre’s German pancake with lemon butter.  The one page introduction to this pancake has her mother cooking Sunday specials, with the reason behind her misnaming the dish.

Twelve chapters of recipes include vegetables, fish, chicken, sandwiches, cheese…but, of course, I headed straight for the desserts in “My Sweet Tooth and Me,” and “There’s Always Room for Pie (and Tarts).”  Some recipes mix unlikely ingredients – lemon curd with rosemary; others are too much trouble (unless you have an ice cream maker) – “Ridiculously Easy Maple Walnut Ice Cream.”   One I did make, with the salt but without the pepper – Kate’s Impossibly Fudgy Brownies – from Kate Krader, editor at Food and Wine magazine. Tastes like fudge.

With a mix of her own as well as famous resources, Clark’s book offers a variety of “food you love.”  The one page introductions are not always as interesting as the ingredients in some of the fare, but you can skip those, and go right to the table of contents or the handy index.

I check out any cookbook from the library before committing, to see if it’s worth buying, but it’s hard to find a cookbook I do not like…

The Answer Is In the Stars

NASA engineers have been telling us for years that space travel research has applications here on earth.  Easy to recognize Tang – that doubtful substitute for orange juice, but now the rescue of the Chilean miners has redeemed all those flights into the unknown.

Not only the space travel capsule which went down instead of up, but also NASA’s help with a “rescue diet,”  an exercise regimen, and best of all – giving the miners night and day – a way to control circadian rhythms that we all know can wreak havoc (jet lag?)

Congratulations to NASA – great PR – and most of the miners came out ready to play soccer.

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