My Brilliant Friend

Book cover showing a bride and groom from behind, walking towards the sea

My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante, Europa Editions 2013

Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend is the first of a trilogy about a pair of friends living in Naples in the second half of the 20th century. My Brilliant Friend covers the youth and adolescence of the pair, Elena and Lila, and various other characters from their neighborhood who slide in and out of their lives, at times as enemies, at times as lovers.

Readers of Days of Abandonment will be familiar with the psychological brutality of the narrator. Here it seems the natural offshoot of a violent childhood. “We lived in a world in which children and adults were often wounded, blood flowed from the wounds, they festered, and sometimes people died.” After delivering a litany of ways she knew people to die or be injured, she reveals how deeply these dangers affected her as a writer. Words themselves became representative of danger.

“Our world was like that, full of words that killed: croup, tetanus, typhus, gas, war, lathe, rubble, work, bombardment, bomb, tuberculosis, infection. With these words and those years I bring back the many fears that accompanied me all my life.”

Elena’s rightness in fearing her world is proven time and again throughout the book. Young Lila’s appearance is defined by her various cuts and scrapes and lack of proper nourishment. There’s violence amongst children, but it is neither viewed shallowly nor given artificial deepness. The children themselves do not know why they are hurting one another; they stand and throw stones at one another until blood is drawn and then want to pair off as boyfriend and girlfriend the next day.

As they grow older, the threat of violence remains, but its form changes. Lila learns from a friend the words ‘Fascist’ and ‘Nazi’. Suddenly everything in the neighborhood has new meanings. Where did the grocer get the money to invest in his business? Why can this family afford a car when others cannot? What did our parents do in the ‘before’, the time that no one talks about?

Puberty introduces new forms of violence as well. As with the rest of her life, this violence is also dictated by economics. Elena’s first experience with sex is when a boy pays her to see her newly-formed breasts. Her second is when a pair of brothers buy a flashy new car and, one day, force a neighborhood girl into it. They drop her back off in the neighborhood a few hours later.

“‘You know why the Solara brothers think they’re the masters of the neighborhood?’”, Lila asks Elena.

“‘Because they’re aggressive.’

‘No, because they have money.’”

And why did they choose that particular girl as a victim? Because she “‘doesn’t have a father, her brother Antonio counts for nothing, and she helps [her mother] clean the stairs of the buildings.’”

This could book could easily become bleak, but Ferrante’s writing never dips into despair and only occasionally into sentimentality. Instead, as her narrator transforms from a child to a young woman, she maintains the naïvities and bewilderment of that age, youth’s acceptance for the world as it is. When the boy pays to see her breasts, his motives are unclear so she has trouble assessing how she should feel towards him. The grown Elena, who is recording all of these events, does not editorialize and allows the reader to make her own judgement.

The unflinching portrayal of youth is what make this book a true masterpiece. At the core of this portrayal is, obviously, the friendship between Elena and Lila. Ferrante acknowledges the truth that childhood friendships are rarely based on the qualities we associate with ‘friends’. ‘Amicable’ comes from the same Latin root as ‘friend’, as witnessed by the Italian ‘amica’, part of the book’s native title. But childhood friends are not amicable. They are jealous, violent, fearful, generous, shameful, serendipitous. While staying true to the central characterizations, Ferrante manages to show the friendship as a microcosm of the world at large, showing how all of these adjectives apply too to Italy itself. We live in a world, she suggests, that has not lost the cruelties of youth, but has lost the idealism.

 

 

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First Page: Days of Abandoment

Book cover showing a nude woman looking at herself in a mirror

 

A few months ago, I had a post where I talked about two books I had barely began to read at the time, The Blue Book and A Tale for the Time Being.  Thanks to ‘samples’ in ebook stores, I’ve more than ever been judging a book by its first few chapters, deciding if I want to purchase it or, more importantly, continue reading it.

Last night, unable to sleep because of my continuing cough, I downloaded the sample of Elena Ferrante’s Days of Abandonment and began to read. I’ve never read any Ferrante, and by the end of that first, fairly short chapter I decided that I was going to binge read as many of her works as I could.

The writing is the sort that seems unaffected, with no obvious literary frills, as if the narrator is just using the most expedient means to telling her story. This is an illusion that takes great skill. She maintains the aura of reality even while taking writerly detours, like describing the view from the balcony of their new home, something unlikely to come up in an everyday recitation of events.

And I truly do buy into the reality. Halfway through chapter one, I realized my brain is thinking that this narrator is Elena, that she’s only reminding me of her husband Mario’s name because I already know him. I often forget fictional characters aren’t real, but usually this happens with television shows where I have spent years in their lives. Here I’m a few paragraphs in and my delusions are already settling in.

Today I stopped at the library and picked up Days of Abandonment, My Brilliant Friend, and then bought The Story of a New Name. As I was checking out at the library, the clerk smiled as if she had a secret, then said quietly, “You’ve found some good books.” I hope that I have.

 

Thoughts on Commentary

Book cover showing a gray background with black geometric lines embossed on top

Commentary by Marcelle Sauvageot, translated from the French by Christine Schwartz Hartley & Anna Moschovakis (France; Ugly Duckling Presse)

Commentary is an epistolary memoir that begins with the author, Marcelle Sauvageot, on a train to a sanitarium where she  hopes to treat her tuberculosis but instead fears she will be merely trapped inside with other sick people. She writes (or addresses in her head) her lover, whom has grown distant as a result of her illness. A month into their epistolary friendship, she receives a letter that announces, “I am getting married… our friendship remains.” She writes back, a retrospective on their relationship together. It is more than a commentary on their relationship, it is also a commentary on the state of relations between men and women in the early 20th century. As such, she decides to publish it. A year later, she succumbs to her illness one last time.

This slim book is filled with the kind of honesty and poetry that might be in our hearts but that we never speak aloud. When we hear it, it is from the mouths of characters, feelings once removed. Sauvageot must have sensed her ending and realized that she had no reason to censor herself. As a result, she gives us beautiful passages like these,

In Corsica, after a long walk through the scrub brush, I came upon an open path. I held my horse by its bridle; its head was above mine, and I was barely visible between two arbutuses. I was holding pink peonies against my breast. I wish you could have been there to smell the fragrance of the brush; you would have understood the taste I have for the wild sometimes; you would have been simple and wild like me and we’d have loved each other. I held my horse tightly in my arms and crushed the peonies. There was no one around to love what I loved.

Her style reminds me of the musings of Colette or one of Nin’s more quotidian heroines, but less sensual than either. Her concerns are usually more in the interplay of ideas and words than sensations. This is not just a commentary on her relationship, but also a critique of her lover’s letters. She pulls out certain phrases and reviews them over and over, manipulating them and their meanings in ways only possible because he is not physically present; he is merely represented by the static set of words he put in the mail for her.

He gives her the same treatment, ‘scour[ing] the past for sentence in which I seemed to say I no longer loved you.” Illness and distance reduces their relationship to a transcript.

Maybe more than Colette, it reminds me of Knausgaard. The unflinching examination of everyday life and of oneself. The way a single train of thought allows time travel from the present and the view out the window to youth and the streets of the past to interior landscapes and reams. The belief that if every rock of thought and observation is overturned, we might eventually find more underneath than just beetles.

We read the book waiting for a revelation in her feelings, her coming to a conclusion, to an actionable take on her past. The revelation happens at the beginning, though, in her deciding to write at all. In her taking advantage of the severance to finally speak freely. She notes repeatedly that she was always the one in the relationship who obscured her feelings. He was the romantic whereas she was “clumsy”, “with a single ironic sentence I destroy the impression I’ve created.” Commentary is the act of her disregarding her usual irony. ‘Irony’ might be the defining word of the 21st century, of generation ‘i’, so Sauvageot’s work comes to us as a gift from a different time. It is too late for Sauvageot when she writes this, but her hindsight gives us a chance to look at ourselves honestly and openly, to love without irony.

Best Translated Book Award Link Roundup 2: The Longlist

Cover of Horses of God

Horses of God by Mahi Binebine, translated from the French by Lulu Norman (Morocco; Tin House)

“Poor Fuad, though, had no one to defend him; he had nothing but his legs.”


Cover of Blinding

Blinding by Mircea Cărtărescu, translated from the Romanian by Sean Cotter (Romania; Archipelago Books)

“There were days when the only people I saw on the streets were blind.”


Cover of Textile

Textile by Orly Castel-Bloom, translated from the Hebrew by Dalya Bilu (Israel; Feminist Press)

“It was not only avoiding thoughts of home that helped the good sniper to carry out his mission…”


Cover of Sleet

Sleet by Stig Dagerman, translated from the Swedish by Steven Hartman (Sweden; David R. Godine)

“When you’re the child of a small family farmer your back grows crooked already at an early age from you trying to bear as much on it as the grown-ups. “


cover of story of a new name

The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante, translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein (Italy; Europa Editions)

“It was hot, I opened the window. I listened to the chickens pecking, the rustle of the reeds, then I became aware of the mosquitoes. I closed the window quickly and spent at least an hour going after them and crushing them with one of the books that Professor Galiani had lent me, Complete Plays,by a writer named Samuel Beckett.”


Cover of Tirza

Tirza by Arnon Grunberg, translated from the Dutch by Sam Garrett (Netherlands; Open Letter Books)

“Button it,” Hofmeester said, “your shirt. I can see everything. I don’t want to see everything. I’ve seen too much as it is.” Ibi was standing at the door, her upper body swaying rhythmically back and forth. She was crying without a sound.

The tenant buttoned his shirt, all the way to the top.”


Her Not All Her Cover

Her Not All Her by Elfriede Jelinek, translated from the German by Damion Searls (Austria; Sylph Editions)

“From the art of poetry war has arisen: People were bored by what they knew but they didn’t want to ask anything either. They wanted to answer right off. But there’s one thing they know for certain: Always conquer new ground! “


Cover of My Struggle Book 2: A Man in Love

My Struggle: Book Two by Karl Ove Knausgaard, translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett (Norway; Archipelago Books)

“‘We’re going to stay a bit longer,’ Linda said. ‘And look, now you’re all getting some goodies!’Was she was referring to the vegetables on the board?

She had to be.

They were crazy in this country.”


Seiobo There Below Cover

Seiobo There Below by László Krasznahorkai, translated from the Hungarian by Ottilie Mulzet (Hungary; New Directions)

“…and you should not come back if tomorrow, or after tomorrow, dawn breaks, because for you it will be much better for there to be no tomorrow and no day after tomorrow; so hide away now in the grass, sink down, fall onto your side, let your eyes slowly close, and die, for there is no point in the sublimity that you bear, die at midnight in the grass, sink down and fall, and let it be like that — breathe your last.”

I think this is surely the most reviewed book of the bunch. I would have guessed My Struggle.


Cover of Autobiography of  a corpse

Autobiography of a Corpse by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, translated from the Russian by Joanne Turnbull (Ukraine; NYRB)

“An old Indian folktale tells of a man forced to shoulder a corpse night after night—till the corpse, its dead but moving lips pressed to his ear, has finished telling the story of its long-finished life.”


Book cover featuring ink drawing of paper scrolls

The Missing Year of Juan Salvatierra by Pedro Mairal, translated from the Spanish by Nick Caistor (Argentina; New Vessel Press)

“This is where everything begins to be flattened by the gusting wind of time. People are suddenly horizontal, swept along by the invisible current.”


Book cover showing a close up of a man's dress shirt

The Infatuations by Javier Marías, translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa (Spain; Random House)

“But why do I say “too late,” I wonder, too late for what? I have no idea, to be honest. It’s just that when someone dies, we always think it’s too late for anything, or indeed everything — certainly too late to go on waiting for him — and we write him off as another casualty. It’s the same with those closest to us, although we find their deaths much harder to accept and we mourn them, and their image accompanies us in our mind both when we’re out and about and when we’re at home, even though for a long time we believe that we will never get accustomed to their absence. From the start, though, we know — from the moment they die — that we can no longer count on them, not even for the most petty thing, for a trivial phone call or a banal question (“Did I leave my car keys there?” “What time did the kids get out of school today?”), that we can count on them for nothing. And nothing means nothing.”

If Sieobo There Below is the most reviewed, this might be reviewed by the most diverse set of publications.


Cover showing a red and yellow pattern

A True Novel by Minae Mizumura, translated from the Japanese by Juliet Winters (Japan; Other Press)

“A miracle happened to me two years ago.”


Cover showing a strange blue 3-d shape and a man walking along it

In the Night of Time by Antonio Muñoz Molina, translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman (Spain; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

It’s strange how much trouble I’m having finding reviews and information about this book, considering it was published by one of the big five and you would think they would have marketing skills and budget. Maybe it’s just too large for reviewers to get to in time.


Book cover showing an owl eating a frog

The African Shore by Rodrigo Rey Rosa, translated from the Spanish by Jeffrey Gray (Guatemala; Yale University Press)


Book cover showing a black diamond on a white background

Through the Night by Stig Sæterbakken, translated from the Norwegian by Seán Kinsella (Norway; Dalkey Archive)

“I looked at her, the lovely renewed Eva. The just right level of tipsy Eva. The slightly nonchalant, amenable Eva. Whenever I dreamed of her, she was wearing the red dress she’d had on the first time we went out, to that Chinese restaurant. Yes, I think the two of us will always be together, I thought. What else could we possibly want?”


Book cover showing a gray background with black geometric lines embossed on top

Commentary by Marcelle Sauvageot, translated from the French by Christine Schwartz Hartley & Anna Moschovakis (France; Ugly Duckling Presse)

“This corner of myself judged you, measured you; and in judging and measuring you I saw your weaknesses, your insufficiencies; where is the harm in my staying, in my accepting these insufficiencies, in my loving them? O, Man! You always want to be admired. You do not judge, you do not measure the woman you love. You are there, you take her; you take your happiness, she seems not to belong to herself anymore, to have lost all sense of anything; you are happy.”


Blue book cover

Leg Over Leg Vol. 1 by Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq, translated from the Arabic by Humphrey Davies (Lebanon; New York University Press)

“‘The Arabs have set the standard for both orientation and osculation, for to kiss the brow, as the Franks do, is meaningless. But why is the kissing of parts other than the mouth and the cheek devoid of the pleasure that the kisser experiences at those two spots?’ ‘Because,’ he replied, ‘one who is thirsty cannot quench his thirst by planting his mouth at the top of the water pitcher or on its side.’”


Book cover featuring the name Sjon in bold letters

The Whispering Muse by Sjón, translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb (Iceland; FSG)

“So clattering crockery and clinking cutlery formed my lullaby on my first ‘night’ as a guest on board the flagship of my benefactor, Mr. Magnus Jung-Olsen.”


Cover with strange painting

The Forbidden Kingdom by Jan Jacob Slauerhoff, translated from the Dutch by Paul Vincent (Netherlands; Pushkin Press)


Book cover featuring a grid with soviet, nazi, and jewish symbols

The Devil’s Workshop by Jáchym Topol, translated from the Czech by Alex Zucker (Czech Republic; Portobello Books)


Book cover that shows the title growing like vines

The End of Love by Marcos Giralt Torrente, translated from the Spanish by Katherine Silver (Spain; McSweeney’s)

“Why doesn’t anybody tell us that we are not always the same, that it takes time for us to become who we are?”


Book cover showing the back of a man's head

Red Grass by Boris Vian, translated from the French by Paul Knobloch (France; Tam Tam Books)


Book cover showing two photographs of Los Angeles

City of Angels, or, The Overcoat of Dr. Freud by Christa Wolf, translated from the German by Damion Searls (Germany; FSG)

“Very softly, and quickly repressed again, the question came to mind: What had actually made me come here?—just loud enough for me to recognize it the next time it announced itself, already more urgent than before. In any case, the scaly trunks of the palm trees glided by as though they were reason enough. The smell of gas and exhaust. A long drive.”


Cover of Sandalwood Death

Sandalwood Death by Mo Yan, translated from the Chinese by Howard Goldblatt (China; University of Oklahoma Press)

” If a dog grunts, it is still a dog, and when a pig barks, it remains a pig. And a dieh is still a dieh, even if he does not act like one. Grunt grunt, arf arf. The noise drove me crazy. They knew they would be dead soon. So would my dieh.”

#readwomen2014

Just discovered #readwomen2014, an initiative to get more folks reading women authors.

A specific yearly reading goal can bend your reading in interesting ways. In this case, if nothing else, one would find out how few or many women authors they already read by noting how difficult it is for them to adjust to this goal.

Or, one can just skim through the huge list of suggested authors and see how many they have read or even heard of.

Afro-Vegan: Bridging Traditions

Cover of Afro-Vegan

Vegan cuisine lacks tradition.

There are examples of veganism or extreme vegetarianism going back to as far as ancient Greece and India, but most cases represent isolated individuals, not a lineage. There are few rare examples of near vegan cuisine being culturally sustained–Shojin Ryori and multiple Indian foodways for instance–but those are exceptions in the gastronomic world. Instead, veganism is more often associated with eschewing what came before, a deliberate turning away from a culture that shares different values.

As a result, most vegan cookbooks are instructional. The average reader is statistically probably unfamiliar with vegan cookery and in fact may have never had to prepare their own meals before, coming from a culture where meat-laden dishes can be delivered or picked up from a drive-thru. It is risky for a vegan cookbook to dive deeply rather than pan broadly, to presume even basic kitchen skills. This means we are treated less often to rich and uncompromising works like the beautiful and omnivorous Burma: Rivers of Flavor or Gran Cocina Latina.

Bryant Terry has always resisted these trends in modern veganism, seeking to ground his food in history, even an omnivorous history. Starting with Vegan Soul Kitchen, he has linked his recipes to family stories, century old traditions, and modern cinema and music. In his latest work, Afro-Vegan he goes further than ever. He maintains the habit of suggesting other cultural works like songs to tie into each recipe, and of “remixing” classic recipes with new twists, such as combining Southern skillet cornbread with North African dukkah. Unlike his past books, however, he goes further in emphasizing the linkages between what he cooks, traditional African American foodways, and the cuisines of Africa.

The book organization shows his emphasis on African and New World ingredients. “Okra, Black-eyed Peas, and Watermelon” get lumped together in one chapter, while “Grits, Grains, and Couscous” share another. Every recipe showcases some element of African cuisine but no recipe seems explicitly foreign. Terry reworks every ingredient or technique until it fits our modern expectations. Okra is grilled to make a spicy finger food, African black eyed pea fritters appear in a more traditional form and as softer patties for sliders. A whole chapter is devoted to cocktails, demonstrating that this is not intended to be a manual to recreate some kind of authentic African experience, but rather to incorporate tiny bits of tradition into modern life.

Terry does not talk down to his audience or spend much time explaining what’s needed in a pantry or how to deep fry. Because of this, he doesn’t need to water down his vision. Every dish works in concert, delivering a pitch perfect demonstration of Terry’s style. Sometimes this requires uncompromising instructions. Making Slow-braised Mustard Greens–which I would usually toss into one pot and call it a day–requires one pot and two pans, but the result is the creamiest mustard greens I’ve ever had. Za’atar Roasted Red Potatoes included more steps than I would expect from roasted potatoes–including taking the potatoes out halfway through to re-season, then laying each piece back on the baking sheet “cut side up”–but my boyfriend declared them, “the best anything. Ever.” The specifications may seem particular, but in each case Terry reassures that this is worth it. When describing how to meticulously remove the skin from every black-eyed pea used in Crunchy Bean and Okra Fritters, he suggests inviting guests to help. Even in the preparation, he manages to work in ways to make vegan food more about community building than dividing, furthering the book’s message.

Bryant Terry’s Afro-Vegan is one of the few vegan cookbooks I own that both explores a cuisine deeply while elevating it to new heights. It’s one that I’ll grab when I need inspiration for something new and exciting, as well as the one I’ll dog ear and bring to Louisiana on family visits. Hopefully other chefs will be inspired as well, and we can further the cause of integrating veganism into our communities and family histories.

Best Translated Book Awards Link Roundup 1

The readers for the 2014 Best Translated Book Award will begin making decisions soon. It’s time to quickly read any front runners that you want to argue about and join the betting pools!

This post will be a link roundup for discussion about the 2014 BTBA. Please let me know any links I missed in the comments. Once the longlist is posted, I will update with reviews and more information about each of the contenders.

BTBA 2014 site
Contains posts from the readers riffing on different nominees.

The Mookse and the Gripes BTBA discussion forum

Database of all 2013 translations (xlsx file)

Clues so far:

Speculation and Lists:

Chad Post’s personal predictions

The Mookse and Gripes’ predictions (and more scattered about the forums)

The Complete Review looks ahead to potential competitors (from May 2013)

Writers No One Reads 2013 preview (part 1)

Writers No One Reads 2013 preview (part 2)

Potential Long-listers

 

Bedtime reading

I have barely had any time for reading lately. I checked out a handful of books from the library months ago and some are still unread. They are due back this month, so a week ago I decided that I HAD to read them, and I finally dived into one: Mo Yan’s Sandlewood Death.

Soldier firing  a rifle

I wish I had started it sooner. It’s a fine book to read when you don’t have time. I’ve been averaging about 5 pages a night, but this book is so rich that in those five pages I usually have already marveled at some myth or experienced a trauma. There is no exposition that doesn’t link back into the greater themes that Mo Yan is attempting to touch on. There is no scene that doesn’t cause me to laugh or grimace.

I am enjoying this book so much that I am actually reading even less than I would given my time constraints. I always alight upon a sentence that’s too exquisite to read once. I have to backtrack and read it aloud to my boyfriend. This usually leads to confusion on his part–“Wait, why is there a beard contest?”–and then I have to backtrack and retell the story in my own words. He’s come to look forward to updates on the lives of Sun Bing and Magistrate Qian and Sun Meiniang. I certainly didn’t expect to get this sort of pleasure out of what appears to be a rather grim tome (the plot conerns painful forms of torture), yet my boyfriend and I are reacting to it with the same enthusiasm that we usually reserve for our latest Netflix binge du jour.

(As an aside, Sandalwood Death is on my list of predictions for the 2014 Best Translated Book Award.)

Soup’s On!


Cover of 30 Minute Vegan's Soup's On

Soup’s On by the 30-Minute Vegan–a.k.a. Mark Reinfeld–is pretty much what’s described on the tin: a variety of soup recipes all designed to be completed under thirty minutes. Soups are known for being fairly simple to make and for gaining flavor through time; here the simplicity is preserved and time saved by listing the flavor developing steps as “optional”.

The first chapter, “The Art of Soup Creation”, concerns how to make a soup, the kind of basic cooking instruction that beginning home cooks need and I wish more cookbooks provided. The usually cited foundational techniques for building flavor are skimmed over, however. Instead the focus is on using recipes as a template, explaining how to take a soup recipe, break it down into its requisite parts, then rebuild it with different ingredients. The book ends with another instructional chapter on soup finishing techniques, including recipes for garnishes like Vegan Crème FraÎche and Candied Pepitas as well as a few sides including ‘Cosmic Cornbread’ and Herbed Bread Sticks. Intervening chapters are organized by type of soup, such as “Creamy Blended Soups” and “Soups and Stews with Grains, Legumes, and Pasta”.

In addition to the recipe chapters, the book contains multiple appendices of varying usefulness. There are seasonal growing charts, but which climate zone they apply to is unknown, and the relevance of gardening in a book that implies 5 minutes can’t be spared to brown an onion is unclear. Another appendix contains a call to action against GMOs (the book is full of unsubstantiated health claims that seem out of place). More useful is a chart showing recommended soaking times of nuts and another chart showing measurement equivalencies for different natural sweeteners, allowing you to easily substitute agave nectar or brown rice syrup for sugar in any recipe. This is the kind of information that allows beginners to feel more confident in a kitchen, which seem appropriate to a book like this.

Less instructional are the recipes themselves. Everything I tried tasted delicious, especially a cauliflower soup that tasted like a velvety vegan cheese sauce. Producing that deliciousness, however, required me to make many judgement calls. Each recipe lists a few optional ingredients and cooking methods. In some cases the ‘optional’ method felt vital to me so I went with it, and I can’t be sure what the result would be for a novice following the bare bones version of each recipe. The recipe for Indian Chutney Stew with Tamarind, for instance, begins with pouring vegetable stock in a pot and then tossing in a slew of raw vegetables to boil. The main ingredient, tamarind paste, was to be one to three tablespoons. For such a pungent ingredient and the main flavor component of the dish, I would have appreciated a more specific suggestion. Meanwhile, adding a sweetener to balance the sourness of the tamarind was listed as optional. I found the soup almost inedible without this ‘optional’ ingredient. By following the ‘variations’ that involved sautéing the vegetables first, as well as adding some agave nectar, I ended with a delicious soup. The result was fantastic, but the recipe as written would not be something that I would recommend.

The target of this book appears to be inexperienced home cooks, but such cooks would be better served by learning more traditional ways of building flavor rather than how to throw things in a pot and boil them according to a recipe. If you are looking for some quick but tasty soup suggestions, I would recommend this book only in exchange for a promise to always take the 5 extra minutes to follow the optional instructions.

Site update

Hello all,

Just wanted to pop in and explain my recent lack of posts here. I’ve been busy with a side project that I’m working on–a video game that I’m coding solo, top to bottom.

In the new year, I’ll review a few cookbooks that I have my eye on. I still have to eat everyday, after all. Literature reviews will continue to be slow, though, as I don’t have the time to do the in-depth reading that I normally do for a review.

See you in the new year!

Sara