Note: I have been stuck in New England for a couple of posts now, next time we will be heading to Ethiopia (Cutting for Stone) and the spicy chicken stew – Doro Wat!
For book review and recipe
Olive Kitteredge by Elizabeth Strout
Olive Kitteredge is a so called “novel in stories” about the residents of Crosby, Maine. Each chapter is about a different character, with several stories focusing on Olive Kitteredge, at different points in her life. Even in the stories that are purportedly not about her, Olive usually shows up at one point or another, leaving her indelible mark. Olive is without a doubt one of the most interesting characters in fiction I have come across. Olive is a difficult woman. She is a math teacher, married to an extremely kind pharmacist who seems to have the exact opposite temperament as she does. She has an estranged relationship with her son, which causes her a lot of pain internally, but her outward actions toward him are like a bull in a china shop. I would say bull in a china shop is generally a good way to describe Olive, but inside she is extremely sensitive and reflective and it is interesting to see the disconnect between how she acts towards other people and how she feels. It is painful in particular to observe her lash out at her husband and son, seemingly like some sort of tic, when her love for them is so apparent from the readers perspective inside her head. The stories all deal with people who are all damaged: a pianist/lounge singer who has performed in the local bar for decades, an older woman who realizes her beloved husband had an affair many years ago, the mother of a man who committed a horrible crime. I loved the whole book, but some of my favorite chapters were a couple where Olive interacted with former students or young people. One in which she barges into the car of a former student, Kevin who has returned to Crosby to kill himself. As Kevin sits in his car contemplating his next move, staring out into the Crosby harbor, Olive sits her self down in his car, puts the seat back and makes her self comfortable and talks his ear off. Although we don’t know in the end what happens to Kevin, it is likely Olive’s presence helped him. In another story, Olive (who is overweight) spends time with a girl suffering from anorexia – exclaiming when she sees her “you’re starving!” and says “I am too, why do you think I keep eating these donuts.” It is Olive’s lack of filter before she speaks which often breaks through to the truth of what is going on, and what makes this book, and
Olive, so compelling.
Indian Pudding with Wild Maine Blueberry Sauce
Adapted from “Recipes from a Very Small Island” by Linda Greenlaw (the woman fisherman from The Perfect Storm) and Martha Greenlaw
Indian Pudding is a cornmeal and molasses pudding which is baked. If I didn’t serve this with blueberry sauce I would add golden raisings, probably half a cup. I changed the recipe only to add some cinnamon in addition to the ginger. I liked this Indian Pudding, but when I make it next time I will definitely cut down on the molasses. I like molasses but I think half a cup is too much here. I would do a third of a cup, maybe even a quarter and switch the white sugar to light brown. I used frozen wild Maine blueberries in the sauce. I think they make a much better sauce than the big jersey berries available in super markets now. In august when you can get wild blueberries (at least that is the timing here on the east coast) , use fresh instead of frozen. This recipe is very easy and a great simple dessert.
4 cups cold milk
1/3 cup cornmeal
½ cup dark molasses (next time I would use 1/3 of a cup)
¼ + 1/3 cup white sugar, separated
¼ cup unsalted butter
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups frozen wild blueberries (I used “Wyman’s of Maine” brand)
1 lemon (use juice of half, and 1 teaspoon of lemon peal)
Whipped Cream for serving
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Butter a 2 to 2 ½ quart casserole.
Heat 2 cups of the milk in a saucepan over medium to medium-high heat till scalding but not boiling. Scalding is like steam coming from the pan and little tiny bubbles on the edges. Put the cornmeal in the top of a double boiler set over rapidly simmering water and slowly pour the scalded milk into it, stirring until thicken.
Cook for about fifteen – twenty minutes (I did fifteen), stirring with a whisk to prevent any burning on the bottom. Add molasses, ¼ cup of sugar, butter, eggs, ginger, cinnamon, and salt and mix well. Pour this into the casserole dish. Add the remaining 2 cups of milk (it should be cold) but do not stir (look how pretty!).
Bake for 1 ½ to 2 hours (mine took the 2 hours) or until the pudding is set and lightly browned. It will not be totally set in the middle.
For the blueberry sauce, put the blueberries, ½ cup of sugar and juice of 1 half a lemon in saucepan, simmer until sauce is bubbling and thickened, about 15 minutes. Stir in lemon peel. Refrigerate.