Sunday, July 26, 2015

Plain and Simple

This month almost all of us (except for your humble scribe and librarian) read Plain and Simple: A Woman's Journey to the Amish by Sue Bender.

The group seemed pretty split on this book. Some of us could really identify with her falling in love with the quilt and wanting to get to know the culture more, and thought it was courageous that she was open to learning and might want to work in Amish country ourselves, at least for a week or two. People liked learning about the Amish and found the book easy to read, nicely spaced and enjoyed the summaries and cute little pictures.

However, the other half of the group didn't like her as a narrator, and found her to be judgmental, shallow, and too concerned with being an Artist. What was so wrong with her that she needed to escape from her life? Tormented artist, or overachiever world getting her down? The problem with people talking about their spiritual journeys, is that "other people's spiritual journeys are boring." Plus she romanticized the Amish, wanting them to conform to her stereotypes. At least they helped her learn to stop trying to stand out so much and just be with everyone and enjoy life. But it was too bad she didn't try to incorporate any of what she learned into her art.

People were also mixed on the dolls, which some thought were cool, others creepy. Everyone agreed that there was nothing droolworthy in this book, she barely talked about food at all.

Katie S. brought some relevant cookbooks to share:

Grandma’s German Cookbook
Amish Cooks Across America (particularly interesting was a bit on page 106 about starting new Amish communities).
An Amish Garden

Other random things we talked about:
• Amish suspenders - is there a really a code?
Breaking Amish
Bundle courting
• Amy Schmnader interviews an Amish woman
Amish dolls
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

As usual, we had an awesome feast:

Bobbi – salad with beets and goat cheese

Dawn – Pineapple

Deanna - veggie soup and homemade bread and Amish butter

Heather McN – chicken and cheese enchiladas
Katie S. – tomato bread ham and cheese sandwiches
Katie W. – pickled asparagus & spicy homemade lemonade.

Laura – homemade strawberry ice cream and raspberry sorbert

Madeline - corn on the cob
Sonja – Amish Pineapple Cake
Sunny S. – fruit tray, garden salad/coleslaw, cake

For next month, we are reading another book by local author/blogger Molly Wizenberg: Delancey - A Man, A Woman, A Restaurant, A Marriage. Sno-Isle Libraries has it in eAudiobook, hardback (4 people waiting as of this writing), and large print (1 waiting). Also you can get it from for only a few bucks! Looking forward to seeing you soon.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Museum of Extraordinary Things

This month we read The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman, which wasn't a foodie book per say, but was super interesting and people did eat.

 The daughter of a Coney Island boardwalk curiosities museum's front man pursues an impassioned love affair with a Russian immigrant photographer who after fleeing his Lower East Side Orthodox community has captured poignant images of the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.  

We were a bit split on this book. Most of us really loved this NYC history this book explored, and appreciated that it featured a freak show, but wasn't mean or trying to scandalize the readers (unlike Geek Love by Kathrine Dunn, which one person in the group had recently read (and I adore - DMR)). The exploration of social injustice was really fascinating, and still rings true today, but also reminded us of when we read The Kitchen House, and how so many of the characters were slaves to the society they live in and the roles they inhabit.

At least one person felt this was their favorite book we have shared, and many agreed the author is terrific. However, those of us who listened to the audiobook felt that it revealed some flaws in the writing that readers did not seem to feel, perhaps brought out by the sometimes confusing trifecta of narrators (it was often unclear the difference between the Coralie's perspective and the overall narrator) and some repetition in the recalling of the plot that seemed unnecessary and distracting.

While this book was overall some pretty serious literature, it was the lighter spots that endeared it to us, such as the love between Eddie and his dog, the fashionable and heavy set "wizard", and many of the descriptions of old Brooklyn and clothing of the day.  The food was rarely appetizing, alas.

Katie had a favorite line that resonates the spirit of the book so nicely: "He raised his eyes, as if I was a stranger. And in fact, I was." This book explores strangeness in many forms, but especially the strangeness we encounter in ourselves when the expectations of the world confound us and we seek to make new ways of living.

Dinner was lovely, as always:

Barbara – wine and chicken

Dawn – Pear Cobbler

Deanna - Ruebens and chips, pink lemonade

Heather McN – Mashed potatoes and meatball pizza. Lemonade and tea.

Katie S. – stuffed cabbage rolls, deli health salad, cheese/pear/bread.

Laura – Nuts and dried fruit, pesto pasta salad

Madeline - Cod with herb crust and sage butter.

Sunny S. – Watermelon

For July 8, 2015 we are reading Plain and Simple: A Woman's Journey to the Amish by Sue Bender.

Looking forward to seeing you soon!