Thursday, October 30, 2008

books and soup

Recent Reads
recent reads
What Was Lost, by Catherine O'Flynn
This is a first novel, and it was long-listed for the Booker prize, which is a pretty major accomplishment. It has a very fresh and thoughtful narrative voice. A lonely girl's disappearance has repercussions that affect a number of intertwined lives. At first the structure is reminiscent of The Lovely Bones, as it's initially told from the girl's point of view, but I think it's a much more interesting book. Highly recommended.

Atonement, by Ian McEwan
Once again, a book where a decision made by one character affects an entire family. What interested me is how McEwan is able to present how young people form judgments based on their limited information and life experience. The book is set up in a way that's perhaps a bit too clever/precious for my taste, but a good read nonetheless. I haven't seen the movie version -- is it worth watching?

Pomegranate Soup
, by Marsha Mehran (a gift from Mia!)
This charming book is set in small-town Ireland in the 1980s. It centers around a trio of sisters who have made their way from Iran after the revolution. They're haunted by their pasts, but they're also blazing a trail for a new, more cosmopolitan Ireland as they open a restaurant and broaden the horizons of the townspeople. It's reminiscent of Maeve Binchy, but with a more exotic flair (complete with recipes).

Confusion (Vol. 3 of the Cazalet Chronicle), by Elizabeth Jane Howard
The Cazalets carry on during WWII, through the war effort, marriages, pregnancies, and affairs. Howard draws upon her own experiences in these books. Seeing the changes wrought by the war in society is fascinating. WWII seems to have marked a sexual revolution in a way.I definitely came to these books with an idealized picture of England during WWII based on books from my childhood -- precocious children sent to the countryside (discovering portals to other worlds), secret gardens with sick boys hidden away, victory gardens, etc.

This article about Howard is interesting -- I had no idea she had been married to Kingsley Amis (whose Lucky Jim I'm reading right now). If you like the Cazalet Chronicle (or are even interested), you'd most likely enjoy The Chamomile Lawn miniseries (initially recommended to me by Hilary).

In the kitchen
Curry pumpkin soup with a mug of hot apple cider makes a perfect autumn lunch.
the perfect fall lunch
Curry Pumpkin Soup
(adapted from Better Homes & Gardens, Nov. 2008)

2 T. butter
2 medium onions, chopped (1 cup)
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 tsp. curry powder (add more if you like curry flavor)
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 15-oz cans pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
4 C. chicken broth (could sub veggie)
2/3 C. water
1 C. half-and-half or light cream (could sub low-fat plain or Greek yogurt)
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
salt, to taste

In a soup pot melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and carrots. Cook, 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add curry powder and pumpkin pie spice. Cook and stir 1 minute. Add pumpkin, broth, and water. Increase heat to medium-high; bring to boiling. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, covered, 15 minutes. Remove from heat; cool slightly.

Option 1: Run an immersion blender through the soup until it's almost smooth but still has a few small chunks in it.
Option 2: In food processor or blender, add one-third of the pumpkin mixture at a time, cover, and process or blend until smooth. Return all pumpkin mixture to soup pot.

Stir in half-and-half, salt (if desired), and pepper into pumpkin mixture; heat through.

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