Tuesday, July 31, 2007

What are you reading? Que estas leyendo?

I have been reading Three Bags Full but it is not as interesting as the reviewers on amazon say it is. I am still reading and hoping the story will hold my interest. In the meantime, I have requested The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones through Interlibrary Loan becuase it sounds like the chinese version of Pig Tails N Breadfruit with a little family drama thrown in the mix.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Pig Tails 'N Breadfruit

Pig Tails 'N Breadfruit by Austin Clarke is the title of a very entertaining culinary memoir that I just finished reading. Clarke is a Barbadian (aka Bajan) who loves Barbadian food aka "Bajan hot-cuisine".

I loved the conversational and humorous tone in which it is written. The Bajan vernacular is used to narrate the story in every chapter except the introduction and the last chapter.

The introduction covers the writer's childhood and how he became interested in food. This section introduces us to old time Bajan life in the 1930's and 40's. Also, this section introduces the terms he intends to use in the rest of the chapters such as "ingreasements" for ingredients. Each chapter covers a typical Bajan meal: how to select the ingredients and how to prepare the meal. One chapter is about a dish called Bakes, another about a meal called Privilege made with pig tails, okra and plain rice, yet another covered the Breadfruit Cou-cou. There are no measurements since good Barbadian cooks don't measure foods.

I found the Bajan dialect interesting. I knew that the English speaking Caribbean islands use repetition a lot and that the pattern is also a feature of West African languages. It was not a surprise that the writer used expressions like big-big, vex-vex, fast-fast, thin- thin. I was surprised however that the Bajan vernacular tripled their repetition for emphasis; as in dark-dark-dark, good-good-good and cut up small-small-small. I never noticed prior to reading this book how much Caribbean people like to use the preposition "up" in the vernacular as in: feel-up, touch- up, love-up, and slice-she-up. Some Caribbean dialects use the pronoun "she" instead of "it" so slice-she-up is not refering to slicing a person.

The friendly competition amongst the English-speaking Caribbean islands comes out in this memoir. The writer humorously explains why sharks are plentiful in Barbadian waters: they were sent from Trinidad to eat Barbadian fishermen. The writer does however concede that Guyana has the best rum and that Jamaica has the best hard dough bread. Also, he devotes a whole chapter called Pepperpot to the Guyanese, not just their food but also their political history. He almost devoted the whole chapter on Pelau to the Trinidadians.

I also enjoyed reading about the different concepts of the dumpling. Apparently every country has a different concept of dumpling and some meals require a different specie of dumpling. In the end, there are dumplings for split peas soup, dumplings for peas and rice, Jamaican dumplings, African American dumplings, and Barbadian dumplings.

There is even advice as to what music to play and what to drink while you cook. In one chapter the advice was to listen to music by Whitney Houston, most times the advice was to listen to some Bajan calypso.

If you like multicultural books, Caribbean foods and culture then you will enjoy this book.

Friday, July 27, 2007

People Recommends

The August 6 issue of People Magazine has a list of books that we can check out. Of course the Critic's Choice is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and under the Great Reads segment, there is The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud.

Also, Uncommon Arrangements: Seven Portraits of Married Life in London Literary Circles 1910-1939 by Katie Roiphe gets a 4 star rating by People book reviewer Judith Newman.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Pact

The Pact, written by three young doctors, is the book we selected for our book talk for August 17. Here is an interesting link to the three doctors' website . Interestingly, the doctors Sam, George, and Rameck, have a new book that will be released in October this year called The Bond: Three Young Men learn to Forgive and Reconnect with Their Fathers.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Matarena's Wedding Plans

I just finished reading The Breadfruit: a novel by Celestine Vaite, a Tahitian born writer. If you like multicultural family stories, you will like this book.

The story is set in Papeete, capital city of the French Polynesian island Tahiti.

The storyline is simple. Matarena, the protagonist, wants to get married and formalize the longstanding relationship she has with Pito, the father of her three children. Pito is lazy, indifferent and an alcoholic and clearly has no interest in formalizing their relationship. His only interests in life are alcohol, practicing the ukulele, and belittling Matarena. From the very beginning of the relationship he showed no affection and never used any words of endearment to Matarena. The closest he came to showing any concern towards Matarena is when she fell out of a breadfruit tree and he thought she was badly hurt. However, one night in a drunken stupor, Pito proposes to Matarena. Even though she is aware that he was drunk, Matarena, the romantic, goes right ahead planning her wedding in secret. The city seems to be populated mainly by Matarena's cousins so Matarena goes to her cousins to get quotes for the wedding cake, the music, and the transportation to and from the church. She buys a new bed and gets carpet on her floor, all in preparation for a wedding. Although this is the basic story, the book is filled with anecdotes about Matarena's children, Matarena's mother and cousins, and Pito's mother.

Breadfruit is the first of a trilogy. The writer has followed up with books titled Frangipani and Tiare.

The breadfruit, grown in tropical countries, is a versatile and starchy fruit that can be baked, roasted, fried, or boiled. When it is baked or roasted the white flesh tastes a bit like hot bread. Periodically the breadfruit is mentioned in the book. Breadfruit is a typical food in Tahiti and perhaps Matarena's story is typical of Tahiti hence the title.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Journey of Self Discovery: "Eat, Pray, Love"

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert is on the New York Times Bestsellers list. The movie version of the book starring Julia Roberts should be out in 2008. Visit the writer's official website; link here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Gore's House

Sammy's House is the name of the sequel to Sammy's Hill by Kristin Gore. Thirty year old Gore is already working on a new novel but she says it has nothing to do with Sammy. Link here to her interview.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Mark Your Calendar ... Queen Hatshepsut

On July 15 at 9:00PM, watch the Discovery channel for more on the lost Queen of Egypt, Hatshepsut. We may have to discuss the J. Suzanne Frank book again, Reflections in the Nile, at our meeting next week.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Three Bags Full

You may be wondering, three bags full of what? Well that's the title of a book written by none other than an author with the name Leonie Swann. This is a murder mystery where the sheep solve the crime. Yvonne Zipp reviewed this book, among others, on page 15 of The Christian Science Monitor, July 6, 2007.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Reading with "Diane: The Curves Magazine"

In Diane Magazine's summer 2007 issue, there is an article by Ellen Michaud in which she highlights these book titles and more; she recommends them for summer reading:

Natural Born Charmer by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. This is one of five nominees in the Quill Award Romance category.

River Rising by Athol Dickson.

The Road to Home by Vanessa Del Fabbro. This book won for the South African born writer, the 2006 Christy Award for best contemporary novel.

Key Lime Pie Murder: A Hannah Swenson Mystery with recipes by Joanne Fluke. This is the writer's 9th book in the series. Click on the writer's name to see her attractive website with the fascinating name, murdershebaked.com.

Land of Mango Sunsets by Dorothea Benton Frank. Frank is a New York Times bestselling author. In the month of July she will be participating in an online discussion of this book on B&N.com.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Pharoah Queen Hatshepsut

Remember that time traveling book we read some time ago? It was Reflections in the Nile by J. Suzanne Frank. We discussed this book in September 2006. Well there is a recent report that Egyptian authorities found a mummy in 1903 and it has now been identified as the pharaoh Queen Hatshepsut who ruled over Egypt in the 15th century. DNA bone samples are being compared to the mummy Nefreteri, Hathshepsut's grandmother.

This month, the Discovery channel will broadcast a documentary about these findings.