Papillon (Pasta) de Printemps avec Poulet; A Few Good Books

Spring Pasta with Chicken

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

Vinaigrette
1 tbs Dijon-style mustard
1 1/2 tbs white Balsamic vinegar
4 tbs good olive oil

Grilled Chicken
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Marinade
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)

26 thoughts on “Papillon (Pasta) de Printemps avec Poulet; A Few Good Books”

  1. Thanks for the book recommendations Katie! But being european, should I give them a chance? He, he, just kidding!
    It’s great you recommend these now, because as you may know, the 23rd of April is Sant Jordi here in Catalonia… if you don’t remember what we do that day, just drop by my blog on the 23rd, will you?

  2. Nuria, have you read Shadows in the Wind? It’s about Barcelona during the War – wonderful book. I’d give it to you for St. Jordi…but that would be not be right… Yes I remember, and I’ll be sure to visit on that day.
    Pille, ALL of my Eruo friends love them, too! I just couldn’t get into it… Maybe it was my mood. I still have one, I’ll give it another try.

  3. Thanks for the book recommendations. I’ve been looking at Suite Francaise for a while now, trying to decide whether to a) pick it up, and b) go through the hassle of getting my hands on a copy that hasn’t been translated. Maybe that’s part of the problem here: I tend to find books (or movies, or plays) that have been translated lose half of their humor. Try reading “La Cantatrice Chauve” in English or “Rozencrantz and Gildernstern are Dead” in French. It just isn’t as funny! (well, sometimes the translations are, but usually that’s not intentional!).

  4. I could gobble up every last bite of that pasta — yummmmm to the max!
    As for the books, Suite Francaise has been on my list for a while now. Had a friend whose taste I trust, who read it and adored it. Would also love Five Quarters of Orange – I’ve seen it but haven’t gotten to it yet. And as for the Thousand Splendid Suns, I read The Kite Runner and thought it was fabulous, but I’m not certain I’m ready for this one yet.

  5. I’ve just started reading Suite Francaise and love it. I’m with you on the Ladies Detective Agency series – I was given the set for Christmas and just cannot get past the first few pages.
    Great pasta! I’m still waiting for my fava blossoms to turn into beans. 🙁

  6. Isn’t it funny how culture colours our outlook, even as far as our sense of humour? I find the same when I am in North America. The stuff I find funny, my friends don’t, and vice versa. But we’re starting to learn 🙂
    Heidi

  7. Lydia, blank stares are common…
    Neen, the translator is familiar with the authors other works if that’s any help… ad she does describe her approach.
    Pam, it was nice (for me) to read some books with depth – rather than my usual crap…
    Toni, A Thousand Splendid Suns was wonderful… I was actually crying when I finished it – unusual for me.
    Christine, you have your very own fava plants??? Lucky girl!
    Heidi, I would not have thought(before living here) that ir could be so very different… More people need to experience more cultures – maybe there would be fewer misunderstandings.
    Tanna, the 3 are wonderful! I keep waiting for summer…or spring… We had a fire again tonight to warm the house!

  8. Three of the ladies at work belong to 3 different book clubs, I borrow their books and read them. Glad you dug out the barbie..it only means that summer is aropund the corner!!!

  9. thanks for the titles. I need to read more. I hate that I have let life get in the way. And I taught English! Shame on me.
    This pasta looks scrumptious! Love Favas!

  10. I aborted “Suite Francaise” after a couple of chapters – I think I pretended it was the translation that bothered me. And I felt so shallow for not loving it. But I haven’t read any of the other books you mentioned to know which camp would be giving me blank stares about the books I have loved. I am assuming that I would like the Hosseini though and I now have hold #188 of 188 at the library for “A Thousand Splendid Suns”.
    Your bowties look delicious.

  11. Great book list and great looking recipe!
    I’ve started Suite Française and absolutely love it! And I thought Five Quarters of the Orange was a wonderful story.

  12. Great book list, and thanks for sharing another great recipe with Presto pasta Nights. As for Spring…here in Halifax I’m told I should be grateful for the few springlike days we’ve had…more than usual, I understand ;-(

  13. Well at my age and this point in my life I am with you, all about humor. So most of the books I read are what I call fun books. There is enough sadness and crap on TV and in the news, so I choose to skip those types of books. I have also been reading some of the foodie mystery books that I find amusing like “Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder”, or “Strawberry Shortcake Murder” both by Joanne Fluke. Nice fun light reading. Thanks for sharing your book list!
    Love the looks and color of your pasta dish. All the spring goodies in one bowl!
    Have a great weekend and hope spring stops back by your place!

  14. Kevin, I should have called it ‘Spring Green’ lol…
    Val, I have a friend in the U.S. in a club too, that helps for recommendations (different than the Brits’)
    Chris, I read on my erxercise bike…. the only way I can fit both in!
    Elizabeth, it’s not nearly the page turner that ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ was – i found it a bit of a struggle, but worth it in the end…maybe ’cause I live here.
    Loulou, loved Five Quarters – not at first, but really got hooked.
    Ruth, I think sprind is merely an ephemeral concept….
    Chris, on my way to look…
    Deb, thanks for the titles – I’m in need of something fun!

  15. I’ll read anything by Joanne Harris! “Suite Francaise” is moving, sad.
    For a bit lighter reading, I like “The Virgin Blue” by Tracy Chevalier.

  16. Katie! Of course I read La Sombra del Viento. It’s such a good book!!! And now the author has edited a brand new one… I’m buying it for Sant Jordi♥ I’ll let you know the tittle, don’t have it now right here.

  17. Mimi, thanks for the author… I put the Joanne Harris on my Amazon Wish List….which is way too long.
    Nuria, yes, please let me know!

  18. Thanks for the book recommendations. I hope to get a lot of reading done this summer. I may post your titles as a kind of “comment from myself” on my And So Forth post begging for book recommendations. It’s kind of an ongoing project.

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