I belong to a very loosely organized, sporadic book group here in the Vendée. We tend to meet when the majority are here (rather than Ireland, England, Sweden, or other 'home' country) and don't have guests… Which means not very often.
I'm the only American. (Quelle surprise!)
When we moved 'abroad' I new there would be differences in food, culture, habits and customs.
The differences become even more apparent when it comes to books, and, especially, humor.
And it's always a bit of a shock to discover just how very different I am than my English speaking friends.
Books I love: think outrageously funny, poignant or moving, they shrug off; can't be bothered to finish.
Books they think are the funniest bit of prose ever to be written put me to sleep.
Of course, it just could be me….
I have, however, been introduced to books and authors I may not have discovered living in the U.S. and certainly have read a lot on topics I may not have chosen left to my own devices.
Here are three I highly recommend. Really. READ these!!!!
'A Thousand Splendid Suns', by Khaled Hosseini. (Also wrote 'The Kite Runner')
Incredible insight into life in Afghanistan, this tells the story of two women; one convinced she is nothing, of no worth, and the other that she can be anything. Both come, through different circumstances, under the control of a rather brutish man, their husband. It gives us a look into the many Afghan conflicts as seen through the eyes of Afghans, not the English-speaking media. It gives a hint of the tragedy the Western belief in 'interference for their own good' can cause. And a page turner, to boot!
'Suite Française', by Irène Némirovsky
Published for the first time, 65 years after it was written in 1941, this consists of 2 parts of what was to be a 5 part novel depicting what life in France during the German Occupation was like for the people that lived it, rather than the armies and the politicians. Unfortunately, the author, a Russian Jew that had fled Kiev in 1918 to live in France, was killed in Auschwitz in 1942, before she she was able to finish it. Prior to the War she had been a bestselling novelist in France, but the Germans prevented her from publishing. It has been described as a 'novel about a nightmare'. Great insight not only into the War but into the French psyche… Highly recommended for anyone living in or loving France.
'Five Quarters of Orange' , by Joanne Harris (Also wrote 'Chocolat')
Tells the tale of one small village in France, on the Loire; one childhood during an exciting summer and tragic autumn of German occupation. Over 50 years later, Framboise, a widow in her 60's, returns to her childhood home under a different name and all is well until a nephew threatens to dredge up the secret horrors of the summer that destroyed her family and forever scarred the lives of the rest of the villagers. Wartime occupation is such a foreign concept to me, as an American, that this book was enlightening, as well as a damn good read!
There are even some interesting recipes and food stories.
As for me, I am still trying to encourage spring to stay for more than a day.
It was a gorgeous day on Sunday. Mon mari cleaned out the fireplace and got the barbecue grill out.
I told him it was too early.
Did he listen? Of course not.
It's been rainy and cold the last two days. April!
But I did make a Spring Pasta for Ruth's Presto Pasta Nights.
Stop by Once Upon a Feast, on Friday, to see if anyone else is feeling spring-like.
Warm Spring Pasta Salad with Grilled Chicken
4oz (160gr) green asparagus
4oz (160gr) snow peas
1/2 – 3/4 cup fava beans
4 green garlic, sliced, including green tops
1 tbs oil
3 tbs fresh, snipped chives
1 1/4 cups farfalle pasta
1 tbs Dijon-style mustard
1 1/2 tbs white Balsamic vinegar
4 tbs good olive oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tbs red wine vinegar
1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
2 tbs olive oil
Cook pasta according to package directions.
Mix marinade and pour over chicken. Let marinade for 15 – 30 minutes.
Heat a sauce pan of water to boiling. Roll cut the asparagus into 1" (2.5cm) lengths. Trim the snow peas. Remove fava beans from the pods. Blanch one at a time, in boiling water: asparagus for 3 minutes, snow peas for 2 minutes and fava beans for 2 minutes. Remove each from water and put into cold water. Shell fava beans.
Cook chicken on barbecue grill, 10 – 15 minutes, or until done. Remove and slice.
Whisk together ingredients for vinaigrette.
To Assemble: Heat 1 tbs olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add green garlic, asparagus and snow peas. Stir-fry for 2 minutes, until hot and starting to brown. Add drained pasta and toss to heat through. Put into a large bowl, add fava beans, chives and chicken. Pour vinaigrette over and toss well to combine.
I could have called this 'Green Vegetable Pasta, couldn't I?
Happy Spring – and Happy Reading!
Oh, and the books I wasn't all that crazy about? 'A Short History or Tractors in Ukrainian' (they thought it was uproariously funny; I thought it was mildly amusing and rather sad) and 'The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency' series. (They couldn't stop raving about it; I couldn't get past page 50)