Thursday, August 26, 2010

Song of the Lioness

Every book in Tamora Pierce's first two quartets is falling apart on my shelf. They're even more tattered than my Harry Potters, and I intend to keep rereading them until they've fallen to dust. If you are too old for them, read them anyway. If you know someone who's just the right age, give them as a gift.

I learned a great deal about relationships--both romances and friendships--from these novels, and I also learned a great deal about swords, animal behavior, human facial expressions, and how to decide when to be honest and when to be silent. Rereading them this past week (and dozens of times in the last thirteen or so years), I smile every time I come across a bit of syntax or a word that I remember learning from these books, and recognize (as an adult) how very smart Ms. Pierce made her heroines--they have complex emotional lives, they practice safe sex, they laugh at themselves the few times they drink to excess, they are fiercely self-reliant but accept love when it's offered. In each book I find at least one 'lesson' that I now consider an integral part of my worldview.

I found The Immortals first, because there was a horse on the cover of the first book. Within a week, I'd read every Tamora Pierce book in print, and spent the next few years gleefully anticipating each further release. I lost interest in her new stories a few quartets later, but the early two are as familiar to me as my siblings and my teddy bear (and considerably more portable). And yesterday I realized how much Alanna (heroine of Song of the Lioness), looks like Christina Hendricks on the covers of her books (at least the editions I have, which I think are the best). You learn something new every day. [Photo]

Garlic Knots

I love garlic knots. Lots of pizza places sell five for a dollar, and I find myself buying them as a post-work snack every couple weeks. Over the summer, craving their knotty goodness but lacking the excuse of a commute, I decided to make some for myself. And today, out of sheer craving, I made them again. And they were delicious. Very simple and unimpressive recipe, but scrumptious.

Garlic Knots

1 can refrigerated breadstick dough
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons garlic powder*
3 cloves garlic, pressed or diced
1 heaping teaspoon dried basil
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 375F and place a piece of foil on a cookie sheet (it's worth doing this, these things crisp on the bottom and make the sheet itself a horrible pain to clean). Crack open the can of dough and separate the breadsticks. Mix olive oil and 1 teaspoon garlic powder in a small dish, and brush onto one side of each piece of dough. Fold into loose knots and place on the foil. Bake for five or six minutes, until puffed but not yet browned.

While baking, melt butter in the same dish as the leftover olive oil. Stir in garlic, basil, and remaining garlic powder, mixing well. When the knots are puffed up, take them out of the oven. Create a depression in the top of each and spoon in a bit of the butter mixture. Top with a sprinkling of parmesan and put back into the oven for a further five or so minutes, until the knots and cheese are a bit browned.

* I probably used at least another teaspoon on top of this, but I'm deep in the clutches of a serious garlic addiction.

If you want smaller knots, cut the dough pieces in half and stretch out to knot. Reheat like they do in pizza places, wrapped in foil in the oven. Microwaving makes them mushy. Perfect party food, undoubtedly excellent drunk food as well, and ready in about fifteen minutes. What more could you ask?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

from "The Book of Hrabal" by Peter Esterházy

'Why do you drink, Aunt Georgina?'

'I told you, my pet. Just call me Georgie. Don't be so formal, like that mother of yours. Who, as you know, couldn't stand the sight of me. But take my word for it, I never made a pass at your father. Though not because of your mother, either. And I don't just drink, I drink to excess... I've been drinking pitchers of beer for thirty-five years now, but not for the sake of drinking, no, I detest drunks, I drink because it helps me think, so I can get to the bottom of the text better, because I don't read for entertainment, merely to pass the time, or to help me fall asleep, I who live in a country where fifteen generation learned to read and write, I drink so that I should never again be able to fall asleep from reading, to make the act of reading send shivers up and down my spine, because I happen to share Hegel's view that a valuable person is rarely noble, and that a sinner is seldom a murderer. If only I could write, I would write a book about the great, great unhappiness of humankind, and it's great happiness...'

On page fifty-eight, the truest of the true. All typographical errors preserved from the original text. Grandeur comes from an accompanying scent of old library book and thoroughly-enjoyed cigarettes. I suspect I must now go drink a glass of wine. Appreciate Mr. Esterházy's glorious cloud of hair and the fact that Haydn composed music in the (gorgeous) palace built by his family. [image]