30 September 2004

Reads & Listens, September 2004

Reads:

Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return by Marjane Satrapi
Originally published in France as Persepolis 3 and 4. More brutal than the first collection and extremely moving.

Wall Around Eden by Joan Slonczewski
I enjoyed Door into Ocean and Daughter of Elysium so I purchased this book with high expectations. Ah well, it wasn't awful, but it also wasn't good. Fair to middling, perhaps. Post-apocalyptic Quaker teen angst with strange geography (where's Africa and the Middle East?) and unappealing attitudes toward homosexuality?

Sushi for Beginners by Marian Keyes
Found this in the catalog under "sushi -- fiction" (along with Rosemary Wells's Yoko) and just had to try it. Sushi for Beginners would probably make a good travel read in that bits of it are repetitive enough you're not likely to forget who is who or what is what and, while the story is familiar enough that you know there won't be any nasty surprises, it's also nice enough (or funny enough) you don't care how predictable everything is. My only real complaint is that, despite the title, sushi barely factors into this book.

First Book of Sushi by Amy Wilson Sanger
Part of the World Snacks series from Tricycle Press, this is a most adorable little board book about sushi. Each page describes a particular kind of Japanese food in bouncy rhyme -- "I see take-out tekka maki, kappa maki packed to go. Temaki-style hand roll with uni urchin roll. Miso in my sippy cup, tofu in my bowl. Crab and avocado fill my California roll." The heavily textured paper collage illustrations work well with the text. Japanese names are used for most of the dishes and there is a glossary on the back cover.

Everday Low-Carb Slowcooker Cookbook by Kitty Broihier & Kimberly Mayone
I'm not a great fan of the low-carb trend, but I am a sucker for slow cooker recipes so it was with mixed feelings that I borrowed this book. Well, it's probably one of the best slow cooker books I've ever used -- the recipes use readily available "real" ingredients and have very simple, straight forward directions. Even better, the results all tasted good (I copied so many recipes down, I might as well have bought the book).

The Autumn Equinox: Celebrating the Harvest by Ellen Jackson & illus. by Jan Devy Ellis Discusses the importance of harvest festivals among various peoples. Includes coverage of the August Moon Festival, the American Thanksgiving of 1621, the Green Corn Dance of the Iroquois as well as Pongal and Sukkot. Also, there is a section of recipes and crafts in the back. Book isn't very detailed, but it does act as a good introduction.

The Boy Who Looked Like Lincoln written by Mike Reiss & illus. by David Catrow I picked this book up mostly because of Reiss's op-ed in the Los Angeles Times about how dirty-minded people don't like his book. Generally speaking, this is a pretty innocuous story with an interesting illustrative style. Okay, well, Brother Dickie's head does look a lot like a scrotum/penis combo, but most caricatures of Nixon do. My only really concern is that I don't know if most kids will get the reference. On the other hand, is this book really meant for children or is it just another picture book marketed to their parents?

The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip written by George Saunders & illus. by Lane Smith The gappers love the goats, you see, but the gappers make the goats rather nervous and they stop producing milk so the children of Frip spend their days collecting gappers in their gapper-sacks and throwing them into the sea. Of course, it can't go on this way forever, and one day the least stupid gapper realizes something brilliant ... well, brilliant for gappers, anyway. Marvelously strange and slyly instructive with lyrical prose that's perfect for reading aloud. Must buy.

06 September 2004

Good Company & Good Food

The Best Friend came down from the wilds of New Hampshire over Labor Day weekend and we had a grand old time. Lots of talk and mass consumption of good food including lots of sushi. As she pointed out, the drive is not that bad and there's no reason we shouldn't see each other more often. I can't see getting up there more often this year, but there's hope for next year. Just another thing to look forward to once I finish the bloody degree.

As I mentioned, we ate a lot of sushi while she was here. We both like sushi, but neither of our significant others do. The Husband wouldn't care if I ate sushi in front of him, but I find I need a co-conspirator to bolster my courage when it comes to actually ordering the lovely stuff. Thank god for The Best Friend, eh? Friday night we had a really nice "New York" style maki sushi at Nanami -- salmon, apple, and avocado. Yumm. Had been a little worried about re-visiting this restaurant as it was supposed to be under new management, but everything was just excellent. The miso soup, was some of the best I've had anywhere -- rich and smoky with generous amounts of tofu and seaweed. Happily, while not a chopsticking master, I managed not to throw most of supper down my front.

Sunday, we visited Singapore's Grill. Didn't know it existed at all until I saw its booth at the garlic festival -- then realized the restaurant was all of five minutes from my house. Service was almost overwhelmingly friendly and, based on staff recommendation, we tried the dynamite roll -- salmon, carrot, scallion, and veg. rolled with the seaweed and the rice and then dipped in tempura, deep fried, and topped with a spicy sauce. Really incredible. The outside was just a little crispy and warm while the insides where all crunchy and cool. Someday soon I will go back and try the other sushi the staff recommended, because they all sounded really scrumptious.

Lest it sound like we did nothing but eat, we did visit the Lyman Allen Museum -- beautiful building that must have had a fantastic view before industrialization and the highway intruded. Not a bad collection of art, either, and good company to be viewing it with. Some of the colonial era portraiture was very dour, but the landscapes and historical themes (more my thing) were very interesting. The Nut Museum exhibit was just obscene. I know I have very juvenile sensibilities, but I dare you to tell me there was nothing naughty about those nuts. Less giggle fit inducing was the traveling Centennial Tree Exhibit -- some really wonderful pieces highlighting the diversity of artwork that be created from a single oak tree.

Yup. A pretty great holiday weekend.