Friday, March 28, 2014

Un Très Très Bon Soufflé au Fromage


Both my mom and my grandma told me to read Jacques Pepin’s The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen. I’m glad they did, because I’m not sure I would have picked it up otherwise. Pepin, the famed French chef who has hosted a number of cooking shows and penned approximately one billion cookbooks, writes engagingly of his varied and adventurous life surrounded by glorious food and some of the Western culinary world’s most celebrated figures, including Julia Child, Craig Claiborne, and James Beard. 


One of the many charming stories (and great accompanying recipes) Pepin shares is the first time his mother attempted a cheese soufflé: 
When my mother got married, she was 17 and my father was 22. She did not know how to cook, except for a few simple dishes that she had learned from her mother. Yet she was willing and fearless. My father liked cheese soufflé, so my mother graciously obliged. She had never made a soufflé before, but a friend told her that it consisted of a white sauce (bechamel), grated cheese and eggs — a cinch! To the bechamel, that staple of the French home cook, she added her grated Swiss cheese and then cracked and added one egg after another to the mixture, stirred it well, poured it into a gratin dish, and baked it in the oven. Viola! No one had told her that the eggs should be separated, with the yolks added to the base sauce and the whites whipped to a firm consistency and then gently folded into the mixture. Ignorance is bliss, and in this case it was indeed: The souffle rose to a golden height and become a family favorite. 
I have made this soufflé at least five times! Fabulous. Don’t omit the chives. Serve with a green salad and when you’re done eating, swing by the library for more of Pepin’s great blend of food and story.

Maman's Cheese Soufflé

3/4 stick unsalted butter, plus additional to butter a 6-cup gratin dish 
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
2 cups whole milk 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
5 extra-large eggs 
2 1/2 cups grated Swiss cheese, preferably Gruyère (about 6 ounces) 
3 tablespoons minced chives 

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Butter a 6-cup gratin dish and set it aside. Melt the 3/4 stick of butter in a saucepan, then add the flour and mix it in well with a whisk. Cook for 10 seconds, add the cold milk in one stroke and mix it in with a whisk. Keep stirring with the whisk until the mixture thickens and comes to a strong boil, about 2 minutes. It should be thick and smooth. Remove from the heat, and stir in the salt and pepper. 
  2. Break the eggs into a bowl and beat well with a fork. After about 10 minutes the white sauce should be cool enough to proceed. Add the eggs, cheese and the chives to the sauce, and mix well to combine. Pour into the buttered gratin dish and cook immediately, or set-aside until ready to cook. If setting aside for a few hours, the soufflé can remain outside at room temperature. If assembling a day ahead, refrigerate and bring back to room temperature before baking.  
  3. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until puffy and well browned on top. Although it will stay inflated for quite a while, it is best served immediately.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Americanah

It will be over far too soon – my love affair with Ifemulu, the young Nigerian woman presented by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie growing up in Africa and coming to America. Those are large terms – America, Africa. Adichie distills them through Ifemulu’s experience into small, daily details we can understand. And she pours honey all over it in her latest book, Americanah.

Ifemulu’s life is enchanted. She is beautiful, intelligent, and witty. When she is with a man, he is the best one around, black or white. When she comes to America, she has an auntie to stay with, one who is studying to be a doctor. Although she initially struggles to find a job, when she does find one, it is ideal.

Ifemulu’s largest discovery in America is that she is Black. A journalist by education, she begins a blog. One of the first entries is titled “Understanding America for the Non-American Black: American Tribalism.” Her voice contains none of the anger and struggle of American Blacks so earnestness isn’t required. Her writing is as disarming as she is and features short, piquant observations of how race figures into American life, black with black, black with white, white with black.

Occasionally Adichie switches to the life of Obintze, the childhood sweetheart Ifemulu left behind in Nigeria. Obintze goes to England and observes not so much the English people as his Nigerian friends in England. Adept at showing depth of experience and feeling in a few intimate events, Adichie follows Obintze’s struggle to find work, struggle to understand why his Nigerian friends consider themselves Brits, and struggle to avoid deportation, one he eventually loses.

Moving easily forward and back in time, continent to continent, Ifemulu to Obintze, Adichie maintains a sound story, providing the security of foreshadowing with enough surprise to delight the reader. I don’t want this book to end and I can’t wait to find another by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

~ Guest review by Wyma Rogers

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness

From the title, it sounds like this could be horror, but it's not. A Monster Calls is a tearjerker, a full-tissue-box-at-your-side kind of book, but please, don't let that scare you away. This is a short, powerful, beautiful story that will appeal to those who find that fiction sometimes holds the deepest truths.

 Brian is thirteen, and his mum is undergoing chemo. His dad moved to America a while back with his new wife, and they have a new baby-- visits have been becoming rarer and rarer. So it's just Brian and his mum. But he can handle it. He thinks he can handle everything, despite the nightmare that lurks in his every sleeping hour and the pity-filled isolation that's sprung up around him at school.

Of course, he can't handle it, not at all. Not the grandmother who wants him to live with her. Not the father who leaves. Not the part of himself which knows things he doesn't want to know. In the end, it's his nightmare that will break him-- or save him.

A Monster Calls was conceived by Siobhan Dowd, who died of terminal cancer before it was completed, and written by Patrick Ness. It won the Carnegie Medal and the Greenaway Medal in 2012. The Newport Library keeps in it the Young Adult section, but this is a story for adults as well. It's also available as an ebook, which includes the beautiful illustration by Jim Kay, and as an audiobook, through Library2Go.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Home Ownership and You


My man and I have recently dipped our toes into the perilous waters of house buying, which has been alternately exciting and terrifying. So much to consider! Location, price, age, condition, resell value, and on and on and on. True to form in the face of adversity, I turned to the nonfiction stacks of the library and got crackin’. 

Our library has some great and up-to-date resources to help you navigate the choppy seas of home ownership. Along with the must-have Home Buying Kit for Dummies, we also have one that I found very informative and easy to understand, called Buying a Home: The Missing Manual

An aspect of buying a home that I didn’t at first consider is the dreaded home inspection. Mike Holmes’ book, The Holmes Inspection (see what he did there?), is stellar at highlighting the most important things to watch out for when looking at a potential house. It is full of helpful takeaways, quick tips (one neat trick I learned to see if the bathroom fan is adequate is to put a tissue up to it while it’s running and see if it stays put), real-life examples, and plenty of demonstrative pictures. 

We haven’t bought a house yet, but the apparent moral of the story is to educate yourself as much as possible before making the leap into home ownership, and in this arena as well as others, the public library is your friend.

Monday, March 17, 2014

New Magazines for 2014




Newport Library has added several new magazine titles to its subscription list this year. These include:

Brides
Cooking Light
Lapham’s Quarterly
Men’s Health
Parabola
Poetry
Runner’s World

And in the Children’s reading room:

Odyssey

Stop by Newport Library and browse almost 200 titles covering a wide variety of interests, from health and current events journals, to crafts, antiques and do-it-yourself project magazines. Back issues are available for checkout.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Second Hike Up The Magic Mountain




I am now halfway through The Magic Mountain, Thomas Mann’s 700+ page novel that I first read 34 years ago as a student at the University of Heidelberg. Begun in 1912 and not published until 1924, The Magic Mountain has been hailed as a masterpiece of German literature, a complex look into a country and culture thrust, sometimes kicking and screaming, into the 20th century.

After the main character Hans Castorp settles into his comfortable but chilly room at the Berghof sanitarium, the first thing the reader notices is that absolutely nothing happens. Nothing of any dramatic consequence, at least. Characters eat five gourmet meals a day, take walks, indulge in a little gossip now and again and saunter down to the village for the occasional shopping excursion. 

The most important parts of the day are the twice daily rest-cures on the patients’ private balconies with alpine views. And it is during these rest-cures that Hans ruminates: on life, death, illness, art, wildflowers, the weather, on whatever his fevered imagination can conjure.

What Hans Castorp thinks about most is time. How, when one is bored, minutes and hours slow down, but weeks and months fly past. How desire can affect the passing of time. And why we all experience it so differently, even though we are all equally subject to its passing.

After the first few hundred pages, I thought I’d get tired of the endless internal monologue. But I was quickly drawn into Hans Castorp’s brain, into this Everyman’s deepening intellectual and emotional maturation. Like Han’s own revelations on time, I find the pages turn rather slowly but the chapters fly by. It is a book rich and rewarding, but demanding of your full attention.

I read a review on Goodreads that claimed the book ‘“really gets going around page 686.” I can’t wait, only 300 pages to go! Yet even now I find myself looking forward to returning to the Magic Mountain each evening to immerse myself in the rarified air of the Berghof sanitarium and discover what Hans Castorp will think about next.

If you’d like to read about what Hans Castorp is thinking, you can reserve The Magic Mountain here.



Monday, March 10, 2014

Through David Copperfield's Eyes


The March Literary Flick selection is the 1935 version of the Charles Dickens classic, David Copperfield. I’m embarrassed to say that until now, I had never read it, but I recently downloaded the audiobook from Library2Go and am enjoying it immensely.

What struck me from the beginning was the rich detail Dickens brings to each character through the eyes of the titular David Copperfield. He’s a young innocent, sent into the world of work by his stepfather after his mother dies. Arrangements are made for him to board with Mr. Micawber.

I went in, and found there a stoutish, middle-aged person, in a brown surtout and black tights and shoes, with no more hair upon his head (which was a large one, and very shining) than there is upon an egg, and with a very extensive face, which he turned full upon me. His clothes were shabby, but he had an imposing shirt-collar on. He carried a jaunty sort of a stick, with a large pair of rusty tassels to it; and a quizzing-glass hung outside his coat,—for ornament, I afterwards found, as he very seldom looked through it, and couldn't see anything when he did.


While David strives to see the good in Mr. Micawber, his description of the man hints at character flaws that are revealed throughout the story.

Another colorfully described character is Uriah Heap, a clerk who works for an attorney.

… I saw a cadaverous face appear at a small window on the ground floor … It belonged to a red-haired person—a youth of fifteen, as I take it now, but looking much older—whose hair was cropped as close as the closest stubble; who had hardly any eyebrows, and no eyelashes, and eyes of a red-brown, so unsheltered and unshaded, that I remember wondering how he went to sleep. He was high-shouldered and bony; dressed in decent black, with a white wisp of a neckcloth; buttoned up to the throat; and had a long, lank, skeleton hand, which particularly attracted my attention, as he stood at the pony's head, rubbing his chin with it, and looking up at us in the chaise. 


Uriah is portrayed as a writhing, slimy, shifty-eyed person, whom David mistrusts from first meeting.

David O. Selznick and George Cuckor directed and produced the 1935 version of the film. They selected a cast of stellar actors to bring Charles Dickens’ characters to life. Stars include W.C. Fields as Mr. Micawber, Roland Young as Uriah Heap, Basil Rathbone as Mr. Murdstone, Lionel Barrymore as Dan’l Peggoty, Jessie Ralph as Peggoty, Maureen O’Sullivan as Dora, and Edna May Oliver as Aunt Betsy. The role of David Copperfield went to Freddie Bartholomew after an extensive talent search in Canada and Great Britain by Selznick and Cuckor.

David Copperfield will be shown in the McEntee Meeting Room on Tuesday, March 11, at 6:30 p.m. I look forward to seeing how the story matches my imagination. I hope you can join me!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Deconstructing Rembrandt


How many times have you strolled the corridors of art museums, casually viewing paintings without fully appreciating the stories behind them? Author Nina Siegal, breathes fresh life into one of Rembrant’s early paintings, “The Anatomy Lesson,” in her forthcoming novel of the same name.


Set in 1632 in Amsterdam, the story opens on the day Adriaen Adriaenszoon (alias Aris the Kid) is to be hanged. A recidivist thief, Adriaen’s body bears the scars of a life of abuse and punishment. He has no idea that circumstances are converging to immortalize his sad life.

A local curio dealer, Jan Fetchet, has arranged to bring a body to the Surgeons’ Guild that evening, so Dr. Nicolaes Tulp can give his annual autopsy lecture to a distinguished group of physicians. In addition, they have commissioned a young artist, Rembrandt Harmenzoon Van Rijn, to commemorate the occasion.

While most of the city celebrates the day of “Justice” that will lead to the hanging and autopsy, a young woman named Flora struggles to reach Adriaen before it is too late. She is carrying his child, and hopes to convince the judge that his crimes do not merit the death penalty.

The story is told through the prism of each character’s perspective, combining to shine a bright light on the genesis of a notable painting. The Anatomy Lesson, which will be published on March 11, will be an excellent choice for book discussion groups. And it may inspire you to look at art in a new way!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Sharing a love of picture books

Froggy
If you don’t have children in the house, it may have been a long time since you’ve read a picture book. Remember Curious George, Babar, Corduroy, and Clifford? They are still very much favorites of many children, but they have been joined by many new friends: Arthur, Peedie, Spot, Froggy and more.
Peedie
I invite you to share the wonder of some of literature’s most wonderful creative minds, old and new. Children’s stories use tales to inform, inspire, and teach a lesson in the most time honored tradition, storytelling. Beautiful illustrations add depth and meaning.  You might remember award-winning illustrators Margaret Wise Brown, Maurice Sendak, Eric Carle, who are now joined by Steven Kellogg, Jan Brett, and Michael Hague.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar
If you have a small child whom you cherish in your life, I hope you will consider introducing them to wonderful picture books, old and new, throughout the year. If you’re not sure what’s available in the current world of children’s literature, the staff at the Newport Library would be happy to show you our many favorites.
--Jan
Curious George

Monday, March 3, 2014

More Julia Glass!


I blogged about Julia Glass’ 2002 National Book Award winning novel Three Junes last summer (last June, actually), writing how much I enjoyed it. Just a few days ago I discovered that I could get a pre-release copy* of her new book And The Dark and Sacred Night, which incorporates the story of Fenno, the gay, bookish, parrot-owning Scot from Three Junes.**

Besides her much-admired subtlety (a difficult thing to write about in a review such as this), one of Glass’ many strengths as a writer is her ability to portray a range of characters in a way that is both believable and captivating. She writes from the point of view (actually from the third-person limited perspective, to be a wonky English major about it) of everyday people dealing with both the ordinary and the extraordinary events that make up a life. She skillfully interweaves the past with the present and seamlessly switches from one character to the next, making it clear (to me at least) that she is one of America’s premier authors. Give her a try, if you haven’t already!

*An awesome perk about being a public librarian is having access through various channels (a secret handshake and a knowing look is de rigueur) to books before they are published. And the Dark and Sacred Night is scheduled to be released on April 1.

**As one of the readers of the blog informed me when I wrote the Three Junes post, Fenno also shows up briefly in Glass’ 2006 novel, The Whole World Over.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Family Storytelling Class

Author Rosanne Parry will teach Writing Family Stories in Newport Public Library’s McEntee Room on Wednesday, March 5th at 7 p.m. The class focuses on families and writers talking and sharing the stories that shaped their own family history.  All ages are welcome to attend.

Parry will be touring Lincoln County schools March 5 & 6, to talk about her book, Second Fiddle. Chosen as a title for the 2014 Oregon Battle of the Books, Second Fiddle has been read by sixth graders throughout the county. Set in Berlin and Paris at the end of the Cold War, Second Fiddle explores the changes wrought by the fall of the Berlin Wall, as three friends face danger when they rescue a Russian soldier left for dead by his superiors. Parry lived close to Berlin during that historic period and her experiences bring the story to life.

 Rosanne Parry spent her first years as a teacher in Taholah, Washington, on the Quinault Indian reservation. While living there, she found herself hearing stories told every day and it is that experience she credits for making her a writer for young people. Her first book, Heart of a Shepherd, tells about a family dealing with military deployments and what it’s like to be left home to take care of a ranch in a father’s absence. Her newest book, Written in Stone, is set on the Quinault reservation in the 1920’s during what was to be the last Makah whaling voyage until 1999.

Parry’s visit to Lincoln County is supported in part by a grant from the Oregon Cultural Trust, investing in Oregon’s arts, humanities and heritage, and the Lincoln County Cultural Coalition. The grant was used to buy 150 copies of the book so that teachers would have classroom sets to prepare their students for Parry’s visit. Additional partners in this community literacy project are the Optimist Club of Yaquina Bay, Newport Public Library Foundation and the Lincoln County School District. For more information about this and other Newport Public Library events and classes, check online at www.newportlibrary.org or call (541) 265-2153.