If the thought of starting in a 1,000 page book is daunting to you, fear not, Ken Follett's Fall of Giants is a breeze to read. It is one of those books that causes you to miss your subway stop, for real. Yes, the book, as I find generally with Follett's work, is a touch trashy - it spoons the "medicine" of real history down with some soap opera "sugar" of lusty sex scenes and dramatic romance. The book starts in the years leading up to World War I, focusing on a great house in Wales, Ty Gwynn, and its inhabitants, Earl Fitzherbert ("Fitz") and his sister, Lady Maud - both young, nobles. Fitz is conservative, perhaps a bit dumb, and married to a difficult Russian Princess, Bea. He is also a randy fellow, and soon after the novel begins has a (classic) inappropriate affair with the help - in this case, Ethel Williams, a young working class woman from the mining town of Aberowen who is the able head housekeeper at Ty Gwynn. Maud is a feminist and liberal, but also very much an aristocrat. Also a focus of the story is Ethel's brother Billy, who starts in the Aberowen mines at 13, and is a smart independent thinker, often clashing with his overbearing father, the local labor leader. Fitz's friend from school Walter, a German diplomat and aristocrat is another major character, along with Gus Dewar, a son of a U.S. Senator and aide to President Woodrow Wilson. Finally rounding out the story are Russian brothers Grigori and Lev Peshkov, orphans and peasants in St. Petersburg. Grigori is a good buy and works hard to take care of his younger brother Lev, a cad, gambler, drinker etc… - he is bad in every way that Lev is good. Once all these characters are introduced, we see the build up to World War I through their perspectives, and then experience the war through these perspectives too – from all sides of the conflict and different social classes. The best parts of the book are the detailed, yet thrilling accounts of the war and the politics of the time, and the imagined interactions between the major players – Wilson, Kaiser Wilhem, Lenin, Lloyd George, King George. It is the accounts of these major historical figures that I loved so much. The romance and sex parts of the novel are so predictably written and a little silly sometimes than I often cringed through them (though I hungrily kept turning the page!) That said, the book was still a great success for me. Part of what is amazing about it is that Follett turned known history – I mean, we all know what happened leading up to WWI – into a suspenseful, I can’t wait to see what happens next novel. This book is the first in the so called “Century Trilogy.” The second installment comes in the fall of 2012 and when I finished Fall of Giants I despaired that I would have to wait so long to find out what happens next! Of course we all know what happens next – World War II– but I am genuinely anxious to see how the characters Follett has created experience history. This is a great book and is perfect hibernation reading as winter sets in.
Salvation Army Doughboy Donuts"official" recipe is not really suited for the home cook, as it involves 18 cups of flour, and 9 eggs and 7 and half cups of sugar, among other ingredients (including lard, evaporated milk). I used a recipe adapted for modern use and tweaked it a bit by adding a little bit of reduced apple cider to give an apple cider taste. I used Crisco to fry the donuts. I know shortening is evil, bad, yucky, etc... and I feel guilty when I open the container, but man, is that stuff the perfect frying substance. A clean, grease less fry every time.
Salvation Army "Doughboy" Doughnuts (makes about 15)
Adapted from Salvation Army Chicago Website.
3/4 cup apple cider
2 1/2 to 3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon shortening
1 and 1/2 cups sugar (maybe more for coating)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup milk
Shortening, lard or vegetable oil for frying (I used about 4 cups shortening)
- Put cider in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, cook until the cider is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
- Combine the flour and baking powder in a medium bowl.
- In a mixer, combine the shortening, 1/2 cup sugar, salt and spices and cream until combined.
- Add milk, egg and cider and mix on low speed until combined.
- 2 and 1/4 cups of flour and mix until just combined.
- The dough will be wet, turn it out onto a well floured board, add the 1/4 cup of flour and fold over until the dough is more dry and workable.
- Pat dough out until it is about 1/4 an inch thick.
- At this point, heat your shortening in a heavy pot until it is 375 degrees.
- Cut the dough out into doughnut shapes. I do not have a doughnut cutter so used a 2 inch round biscuit cutter and a the bottom of a pastry tip to cut out the inner circle.
- On a plate, combine the remaining sugar and a teaspoon or so of cinnamon.
- Carefully drop 2 or 3 doughnuts into the frying liquid at a time, fry until each side is golden brown. For me this was about 1 minute or less a side. My oil was probably too hot.
- Immediately roll the fried doughnuts into the sugar to coat, serve immediately.