Lorrie Moore's Gate at the Stairs is an engrossing and quick read about the life of a college woman shortly after 9/11. The novel begins placidly but shows how quickly a normal life can become seriously screwed up. The novel takes place in a the college town of a large Midwestern university. Tassie is a potato farmer's daughter - a quirky and lonely college student, whose life begins to go awry when she takes a job as a babysitter for a strange but intriguing woman, Sarah, and her absentee husband Edward. From day one, Sarah asks more from Sarah than the average babysitter, and very few people would have stayed on the job after the first day (when Tassie is asked to accompany Sarah to meet the birth mother of the child Sarah wants to adopt). Tassie is a girl who seems to be floating through her life with a great level of ambivalence, and it is this ambivalence that causes her life to fall apart. I put together this potato tart because Sarah's father specialized in special gourmet potatoes, such as fingerlings. Sarah, the owner and chef of the university town's fancy French restaurant, especially loved Tassie's fathers fingerlings. I combined the potatoes with cheese, bacon and eggs, for a decadent and delicious brunch tart, where the potatoes are still the star of the show.
Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel, is the Booker Prize winning story of one of the most famous episodes in Tudor history, told from the perspective of lawyer and royal advisor, Thomas Cromwell. I love stories about Tudor England, and have read a lot of historical fiction about this period in history (e.g. The Other Boleyn Girl, etc...) but no book has had as much depth and emotional weight as Wolf Hall. Cromwell is famous for his rise from an extremely low birth (he is the son of a drunk blacksmith) to become the right hand of King Henry VIII during the most tumultuous period of his reign - the renouncement of his marriage to Queen Katherine, his marriage to Anne Boleyn, and her subsequent beheading. He is equally famous for his great fall from the King's man to the victim of the scaffold, after King Henry's disastrous fourth marriage to Anne of Cleves. Wolf Hall tells Cromwell's story from his childhood, to the time he served as a key advisor to Cardinal Wolsey, the most senior cleric in England during Queen Katherine's reign, and then as Cromwell rises to become the most powerful man in England, after the King. During this time, the King's marriage to Queen Katherine is annuled and he marries Anne Boleyn, who bears him Princess Elizabeth. The novel does not continue on to document Cromwell's fall, and I wish it did, because the Cromwell Mantel creates is a deeply fascinating, witty and likable character. I decided to create a medieval style dish for the book and did some research on what kind of food was available during Henry VIII's reign. I settled on fruit stuff poultry. I also added some touches to the recipe based on food that is mentioned in the book, particularly walnuts, apples and spiced wine. This spiced fruit stuff game hen with spiced wine glaze was improvised, and it turned out great. The stuffing and cooking methods would work with any poultry, it would be great with chicken or capon. Seeing as this is Thanksgiving Week, it would also work for a Turkey - you could add crumbled cornbread or regular bread cubes to the fruit along with sausage and some chicken stock and it would be a yummy Thanksgiving Stuffing.