Mid-week Wisdom

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What did you do in the war, Mom?

nightingaleThis book put me right back in occupied France during WWII. I told myself I wouldn’t go back there after reading Sarah’s Key, All the Light We Cannot See, and In Enemy Hands. And yet here I am. Again.

This was my parents’ war. Is that the draw? I knew their stories of lost loved ones and rationing. A recipe for butterless, sugarless, eggless cake. No silk stockings. Hemlines raised to use less fabric. My mom worked as a Rosie the Riveter. My dad joined the Amphibians and served in the South Pacific. But still, the war wasn’t here at home. Enemy soldiers weren’t living in our homes. History classes, television documentaries, and movies provided the rest of my knowledge. For the most part, it was the leaders’ stories I learned.  And mostly it was the story of men.

What all the novels here do is tell the very personal stories of the women forced to cope with the circumstances and deprivations over which they had little control. Their very survival was an act of courage and determination.

In Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale are two estranged sisters, one of whom has survived to old age. She is telling the story for the first time. It is particularly a story of how two very different young women coped with the brutal Nazi occupation of their small village in France. There were few men left, because they’d all gone off to fight. When France surrendered (or reached an “agreement” with Germany) they were imprisoned elsewhere. One sister’s day-to-day interactions with Nazi officers forcefully billeted in her home are intimately and vividly contrasted with the other sister’s choice to join the resistance, leading downed pilots over the Pyrenees to safety.

“Men tell stories,” I say. It is the truest, simplest answer to his question. “Women get on with it. For us it was a shadow war. There were no parades for us when it was over, no medals or mentions in history books. We did what we had to during the war, and when it was over, we picked up the pieces and started our lives over.”

Secrets and intrigue abound here as Hannah tells of the heroic and many times ignored or misinterpreted efforts of women to provide for and protect their loved ones, not to mention to fight against their own Vichy government and Germany. Recommend.

Dad’s Nevada Day Posole

 

Another entry in the recipe scrapbook, this time from Annie’s dad, Jack.

posole 1

Chicken Posole

from the kitchen of Jackson Cooper, Esq.

This Posole became a Nevada Day tradition at our house when friends stopped by after the parade.  Libby always makes several pans of cornbread to accompany it. It’s easy to make ahead. I think it tastes better on the second day anyway. Moreover, the recipe can be readily multiplied and adjusted to suit  individual tastes and dietary preferences. In fact, I’m not sure anyone knew the difference the year I made one pot of a vegetarian version for our Nora. I simply left out the chicken, subbed veggie broth and replaced the chorizo with Soyrizo. 


1 lb. chicken thighs

1 lb. chorizo (sometimes this is a little too spicy, so maybe 1/2 pound)

1 each green and red pepper

1 onion

2 c dry white wine

1 large can green or red enchilada sauce. (I usually use red)

1 large can hominy

1 can tomatillos (or tomatoes if you can’t find them)

1 large can chicken broth

Assorted garnishes prepped and ready to add when serving: Shredded lettuce or cabbage, chopped onion, cilantro, avocados, tortilla chips, sliced radishes, and limes cut into wedges.

  1. Cook the chicken and debone.
  2. Sauté the sausage, peppers, and onions.
  3. Throw it all together in a big crock pot, soup pot, or Dutch oven with the wine, enchilada sauce, hominy, tomatillos and broth. Let it simmer all day.
  4. Let individuals serve themselves, topping with condiments as desired. Squeeze on a little lime juice. Serve with cornbread. posole condiments

Sylvia’s Chicken Salad

In Sylvia’s generation, most women didn’t work outside the home. She did. As a single mother, she had to. Nonetheless, she always made it look easy. Sylvia may have appeared serene, but she was paddling like mad beneath the surface.Waldorf-Chicken-Salad-3_thumb

Cashew Chicken Salad

From the kitchen of Sylvia Jordan

This is a lovely salad served on a bed of lettuce or croissants as a sandwich. Make it in the morning and let it chill while you are getting yourself and the house ready for company. 


 

1 whole cooked chicken, cooled

3-4 cups seedless grapes, halved

4 stalks celery, chopped

4 green onions, chopped

1 cup cashews, coarsely chopped

1/8 tsp. tarragon

3/4 tsp. celery seed

1/2 tsp. paprika

1/8 tsp. salt

1 1/2 cups mayonnaise (substitute some plain yogurt for part, if desired)

  1.  Pull all the meat off the whole chicken. Cut into ½ to 1 inch chunks. Place into a large bowl.
  2. Add celery, onions,  grapes, and cashews to the bowl.
  3. Add in mayo and seasonings. Mix well.
  4. Cover and chill at least an hour before serving.

 

chicken-salad-recipe-with-grapes-fi

The names have been changed…

screaming coverScreaming in Paris by Brian Lageose

“Once upon a time, an extremely dysfunctional family decided that it would be a splendid idea to take a trip to Paris. In past adventures, this family has been unsuccessful in simply visiting their local grocery store without potential incarceration, so the prospect of descending upon another country should have sounded alarm bells. It did not.”

So begins this book about international travel with a particularly dysfunctional entourage consisting of eight related or nearly-related people: Brian’s mother and two sisters; one brother-in-law; one close friend; and Brian’s partner and said partner’s sister. Five women.Three men. And to add just a bit to the scale-of-difficulty, one of his sisters is confined to wheelchair. “Unwieldy” seems a bit of an understatement. Furthermore, because this is his actual family, and to keep lawsuits and restraining orders to a minimum, he gave them all French pseudonyms. Yeah, it’s that kind of tell-all.

First you need to know that Brian blogs over at Bonnywood Manor and that he was put in charge of this tour because he’d been to Paris before and spoke a little high school French. He could also read a map and tell time. What’s that old adage? “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” Brian took the job seriously, perhaps a little too seriously. Whether he liked it or not (many times not) the gang looked to him for guidance. Or a decision. So, he’s the one looking at maps and schedules while trying to keep folks safe, together, and moving along.

Brian puts readers into each uncomfortable situation with great skill. He crowds us into to cramped restaurants and cajoles us into eating unfamiliar foods. Intestines? Sure. Why not?! He gives us an up close and personal view of the sights (and smells!) of our fellow humans. We get quite drunk.

Of course, the challenges created the opportunities for humor:  An evil concierge who gives them inaccurate directions resulting in an epic journey through much of France in a rented van as they set off to visit a castle in a nearby city. Certain people (you know who you are, Tatum) dawdling and pawing through every souvenir shop. Walking. Standing outside numerous restaurants trying to get eight people to agree on where to eat. Riding the crowded Metro with unfamiliar crotches and backsides pressed against faces and other crotches. Walking uphill. Making transfers on the Metro. Dawdling. Walking. Waiting in line for tours of churches. Walking. Dawdling. Climbing the Eiffel Tower with not one, but two acrophobics. And did I mention the walking and dawdling?

Two things that they could always agree on were the hotel’s divine breakfast buffet and drinking beer on the hotel’s patio. Food and drink are consistent themes, with inherent humorous or embarrassing side effects. And hey, as bad as it gets, guess what? They’re still in Paris!

Brian’s genuine love and affection for his family shines through the humor, though. In spite of his rants, he writes…

“It had been a hell of a week, being responsible for getting these people everywhere they needed to be, and making sure that nobody got lost or was arrested or ate things they shouldn’t.”

In conclusion, if you like your travelogues funny, with dose of sarcasm and snark (think David Sedaris’s Me Talk Pretty One Day or J. Maarten Troost’s The Sex Lives of Cannibals) you might enjoy this little tome as well. Or perhaps you’re planning a trip to Paris. Or maybe you simply want to affirm your belief that all families are just a little crazy. In that case, spending a vicarious week in Paris with Brian’s  family will show you just how right you are. As a bonus, you’ll probably come away grateful for your own family’s special brand of crazy.

While he does go on (and on), the only thing that truly bothered me was the lack of photographic evidence.

Brian also reminded me that in the most aggravating and embarrassing of situations, with the most aggravating and embarrassing of people–one’s own family–it’s best not to follow our own possibly criminal instincts. We should take a breath and see the humor. And if we’re going to write about them, for godsake, change their names.