Whether you like Twilight or not, you have to say, this is pretty fantastic.
Apparently there’s an “Edible Book Contest” and this was the submission made by “Pikko” over at Adventures in Bento Making.
I stayed up several nights until 1 am reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett. At a hefty 464 pages, it might be surprising that I wished it would have gone on for 400 more.
The story is told in various voices, but it is not at all confusing as each chapter heading states the character’s name. Set in Mississippi during the 1960’s and the early days of the civil right’s movement, The Help is the story of the black women who served as household domestics and nannies in the homes of rich white people. When one young white woman starts to become uncomfortable with the help’s treatment, she tries to be-friend the wary maids in the homes of her friends to interview them about their lives but the last thing they want to do is spill their secrets to a white lady which would be putting their very lives at risk.
The chapters told in the voices of two of the maids, Aibileen and Minny, use African American vernacular which is so authentic that you’ll do a double take when you see the author’s photograph, (she’s white.) The writing is flawless and beautiful with so many perfect lines that I had to constantly stop and re-read them for the sheer pleasure of it.
Despite the serious subject matter, and sometimes tragic, heartbreaking scenes, The Help is somehow also full of laugh-out-loud humor. Just thinking about some of the stuff the character Minny said and did still makes me snicker.
This book is a total package and definitely, without question, one of the best books I’ve ever read.
Now, somewhat off topic, the book mentions quite a bit of southern cooking, and I never fail to get literary induced cravings, sometimes for foods I’ve never even tasted before. This time it was Minny’s Caramel Cake. This cake was mentioned several times in the book, as Minny was known around town for making the best Caramel Cake.
Well, I never had Caramel Cake before, but that had to change! … So today I sought out a recipe, and while I can’t say whether it’s an authentic southern recipe or not, I can tell you it is AMAZING. One of the best cakes I’ve ever made. If you’re interested, the recipe is over at this food blog called “Piece of Cake“. She actually made cupcakes. I followed the recipe exactly except that I poured it into a round cake pan. (Note: The batter fits in 1 round cake pan, but, um… when it bakes, it sort of overflows… a lot… So if you make a cake instead of cupcakes, use TWO round cake pans and make 2 cakes.)
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer is a thoughtful examination of where food, (meat and meat products specifically), come from. Most Americans are quite divorced from the fact that the “meat” in their sandwich, was once an animal. Most of the meat we eat doesn’t even resemble or remind us of its origins. Cold cuts, nuggets, hot dogs, individually frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts. It’s easy to eat it and forget, but when what we eat affects our health, the environment, other living creatures, and probably grossly contradicts our beliefs, shouldn’t we take the time to remember?
I have been a meat eater all my life, but I still remember the reluctance I felt as a child, seeing the red juices of a medium rare steak on my plate. “Is it blood?” I asked my mother.
“It’s a steak. It’s meat – just eat it,” she answered, waving a hand in the air.
“But, what animal does it come from?”
My mother’s fork and knife clink loudly against her plate. “We don’t need to discuss THAT at the table. Just eat!”
I’m sure many children have similar memories of the first time they realized that “meat” meant “animal”, and feeling revulsion. But like me, most children are told, “just eat”, and we do.
After reading this book, I don’t think I can “just eat” anymore. If the animals we call food were raised and slaughtered humanely, I think my love of meat would win at the end of the day — but in today’s world of “factory farming” and “agribusiness”, animals are raised not as living creatures, but as a commodity. Little thought is given to the miserable lives and deaths they face. Not to mention how the unnatural hormones and antibiotics the animals are pumped full of, end up in our bodies, adversely affecting our health.
Despite my strong feelings after reading it, Eating Animals is not an outright case for vegetarianism. The author takes pains to represent and research every imaginable aspect of the topic, and fairly so. This book is without a doubt, one of the most important books of the year, and a necessary read for all consumers.
I can’t tell you if a week from now I will conveniently “forget” what I have read, if I will file it away in a quiet part of my mind where I can ignore it so I can enjoy the food I love without guilt – but at this moment in time, I see the book as life changing and it’s hard for me to imagine anyone being able to read the book and continue eating mindlessly, with no thought as to where their food came from, and wrestling with that knowledge.
The motto of Zumba creator, Beto Perez, is “Ditch the workout. Join the party!” and that is exactly what Zumba feels like.
I am an avid hater of exercise, especially aerobics classes. (I am forever traumatized by the Jazzercise my Mom made me take as a child.)
Zumba is like nothing I’ve tried before. It’s fun, contagious and addictive. I never thought I would look forward to exercise until I took Zumba classes and this kind of enthusiasm is incredibly common amongst other “converts” to the Latin dance craze.
One thing I loved about Zumba was that the instructors are trained to let everyone take things at their own pace. My class was a mix of young sorority girls, stay-at-home-moms, business women, and women old enough to be my grandmother – not to mention we were all different shapes and sizes and at all different levels of fitness. One woman had a professional background in dance, one claimed to have no sense of rhythm, another hadn’t exercised in years. None of this mattered. Everyone put into it what they were able to and at the end of the hour long class, every single one of us were hooked.
As for the book itself, it’s a great introduction to what Zumba is for those who are not familiar. A short DVD is included which gives brief instruction on a few of the moves and has samples of a few songs on it as well.
The book contains the life story of Beto Perez, which is inspiring, as well as information on Zumba itself and a meal plan with a few recipes if you’re interested. The meal plan is not the secret crash diet you’ve come to expect from fitness books, but is a very well rounded, sensible diet of whole grains, lean meats, fruits, vegetables, etc. (Basically common sense eating but it may be helpful to have every meal written out for some people.)
If you’re looking to get in shape, or just have some fun, I highly recommend Zumba.
The book that really hooked me on reading was The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Our second grade teacher sat in a rocking chair as we assembled ourselves on the rug at her feet, and she read it to us. I felt transported to Narnia and part of me wanted to believe in magic wardrobes, even though I was already old enough to have begun doubting in such things.
I didn’t learn of the religious symbolism until I was an adult, and had already read the book repeatedly many times without suspecting such a thing. I’m glad I didn’t know of it. It seems to me it would have spoiled the magic of the story.
Now I’m reading this book to my boys, one chapter each night. I tell them to lay in their beds and close their eyes as I read it. Imagination is so much better than Hollywood made movies, if you ask me.
When I got to the part where Edmund was stuffing his face with Turkish Delight, my boys were intrigued and it brought a smile to my face. This too, was one of my favorite parts. When my teacher read that book to me, I had no idea what Turkish Delight was, and I still haven’t had the opportunity to try it, but I’ll be darned if I didn’t feel my mouth fill with saliva at the mention of it.
To this day, I remain highly susceptible to craving foods mentioned in the books I read. If a character is enjoying a glass of red wine, even though I don’t often drink, I find myself wanting one, too. Sometimes, if I have the food on hand, I’ll interrupt my reading to go get it before continuing. If I don’t have it on hand, I’ll usually make it and eat it within a few days. One of my favorite books, Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel had me constantly craving, (and thankfully included recipes for the luscious meals described.)
Right now I’m reading a book called For Grace Received by Valeria Parrella, (translated from Italian by Antony Shugaar.) It contains four stories that take place in Naples. The writing is incredibly unique. Some lines are so alive with imagery, some are such clever metaphors, that I have to stop and re-read them a few times and really savor them. In one of the stories, the characters lunch on macaroni frittatas. I didn’t know what those were but it didn’t stop me from wanting one. Now you know what I’ll be making for dinner sometime this coming week.
I got this in a fortune cookie the other day:
I like you by Amy Sedaris is one of the weirdest books I have ever had the pleasure of owning. This book on hospitality gives advice on topics ranging from the expected, (etiquette, recipes, organizing a dinner party), to the bizarre and inexplicable, (such as, how to put on a pair of pantyhose, felt crafts requiring almost no skill, and information on caring for a pet rabbit.)
This book is not for the easily offended and should be kept out of the hands of little ones but adults will enjoy Sedaris’ dead pan, off color humor. Sometimes it’s hard to tell when she’s joking or not and at first I wasn’t quite sure if the recipes were edible, but they are, in fact, her cupcakes and cheese balls are apparently somewhat famous.
I was especially entertained by the abundant illustrations and photos. The photos are particularly hilarious because they seem to have gone through a 1970’s time warp. This is the kind of book I would expect Martha Stewart to write if she had a nervous breakdown and ended up in a mental facility, (which is my way of saying it’s really good.)