The Book Thief (and Liesel’s Pea Soup)

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still. By her brother’s graveside, Liesel Meminger’s life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Grave Digger’s Handbook, left there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordion-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever there are books to be found. But these are dangerous times. When Liesel’s foster family hides a jew in their basement, Liesel’s world is both opened up and closed down.

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak is one of those books that should be required reading.  It contains everything that I want from a book.  I laughed.  I cried.  I laughed while crying.  I was invested in the characters, the gruesome narrator, and the little town it is set in.  In short, I LOVED THIS BOOK.  I wanted to read it at the stoplight when I was driving.  I snuck peaks at it while sitting in a movie theater during the previews.  I woke up at 3AM just so I could read more. 

Find this book as soon as possible.

You may be wondering why, on the back cover, death is capitalized so that it is “Death.”  That, my friends, is because Death is the narrator of this book.  Yes, you read correctly, Death.  Not just some person named Death.  This narrator is in fact the entity that comes when you die to take your soul away.  Instead of being terrified by him (I think it’s a him?), I found myself amused at his sarcasm and dry wit.

Who would have thought that Death would be funny?  I guess people never hang around long enough to get to know him, poor thing. 

Anyway, I’m going to cut this short so you can go about your business trying to get yourself a copy of this gem.  Happy hunting!

Liesel’s Mama’s Pea Soup

One of the only foods that is mentioned in this book, and it is mentioned repeatedly, is the pea soup that keeps these hungry people going.  Since they are very poor, it is described as a meager soup that is not incredibly tasty, but it is nourishing. 

 I prefer my pea soup tasty, so I added in a few ingredients to kick it up a notch.

Ingredients:

  •  Peas (I shelled mine since they are in season but you could just as easily use frozen)
  • Enough chicken broth to just cover the peas in the pot
  • Lemon juice to taste
  •  Olive Oil to taste
  • Smoked Paprika to taste

Procedure:

  •  Put the peas in a pot with just enough chicken broth (or water if you want to make this vegetarian) to cover the peas over medium heat.
  •  Cook for about 20 minutes, until the peas are cooked through, but slightly al dente.
  • In a blender, or with an immersion blender, liquify 3/4 of your mixture.  Thwen add in the rest so that your soup has some texture.
  •  Squeeze in some lemon juice.
  • Place back on the burner until the mixture is the consistency you like.  You’ll notice that mine is rather thin, but if you left this on the burner for longer, it could easily be much thicker.
  •  Pour into a bowl and top with some smoked paprika and olive oil.
  • Serve with some sort of crust bread.  The one pictured is a bagel thin broiled with parmesan cheese. 

My Favorite Things: Part 8

I have a lot of favorite things so here we go…

1)FRESH TOMATO IN THE HOUSE!!!  This was my dinner.  Bagel, cream cheese, tomato, salt and pepper.  Heaven on a plate.

2)  It is Father’s Day and I got to spend yesterday and today with my dad (and the rest of my family).  He is pretty awesome and I am so lucky to have him.  Happy Father’s Day to all of you dads out there!

3)  I have five days left until the end of the school year.  Those five days will be filled with grading and grading and (did I mention?) grading.  Then, the sunshine of glorious summer will spill down on my and blissful frolicking through rainbow-lit fields are going to follow.

4)  You may have noticed that I have been really absent over the past few weeks.  That is going to change in the very near future.  I have certainly been reading enough.  My cereal-for-dinner diet has to change so I can post real food.  And if you must know, the winning cereal combo is Life cereal, cinnamon, walnuts, and almond milk.  You can see why I have forsaken dinner cooking for that, right?

 

StoryThyme: Curly Locks (and Strawberries with Cream)

Welcome to a new feature here called StoryThyme, a celebration of Mother Goose poems, fairy tales, and children’s stories.  In true Hungry Bookworm tradition, I am going to create a food inspired by these magical texts.

Today’s poem “Curly Locks” is almost always included in compilations of Mother Goose nursery rhymes.

Curly Locks, Curly Locks,
Will you be mine?
You shall not wash dishes,
Nor feed the swine,
But sit on a cushion

And sew a fine seam,

And sup upon strawberries,

Sugar, and cream.

Origin:  This rhyme has no set origin, but it seems to be linked to the Victorian era.  During that period, curly hair was so in demand that having it could determine your life’s social status.  If you didn’t naturally have curly locks, you sought to acquire them, either through curling or wigs, as soon as possible.

Thoughts: You know, as a straight-haired person, I’m not sure whether I should feel offended or not!  Does this mean that I am going to have to feed the swine?  And **gasp** wash dishes?!!!  That seems like hair discrimination to me.

What, am I forbidden strawberries too?

Maybe I just need to go out and get my hair curled…

Except for the fact that the last time that happened, I was in third grade and it made me look like a poodle.

Do poodles, then, get strawberries and cream? Is that good for them?

Dulce de Leche Strawberries

In defiance of Mother Goose, I decided to sup upon strawberries, sugar and cream anyway.  In a gesture of solidarity, I suggest that all of you straight, wavy, spiked, and bald-headed people (oh and heck, come along curly-haired people) make this recipe as soon as possible.  With a tiny bit of preparation, we can all enjoy Dulce de Leche Strawberries, thank you very much.

You may be wondering, what is Dulce de Leche.  Basically, it is milk and sugar that is cooked until it thickens and caramelizes.  It is a very popular around the world and it seems to have originated in Argentina and Mexico (correct me if I’m wrong).  There are many ways to make this delicacy (that you will just start eating by the spoonful), and I decided to follow the advice of David Lebovitz since I trust him in all food matters.  This will take 1.5 hours of almost-completely passive time and will give you a whole lot of joy, especially when you dip strawberries in it, or put it on your tea, or spread it on your toast, or…you get the picture.

Ingredients:

  • 14 oz of sweetened, condensed milk (I used skim)
  • As many strawberries as you can eat

Procedure:

  • Preheat the oven to 425° F.
  • Pour condensed milk  into a shallow baking dish.
  • Set the dish within a larger pan, such as a roasting pan, and add hot water until it reaches halfway up the side of the pie plate.
  • Cover the pie plate  with aluminum foil and bake for 1 to 1¼ hours. (Check a few times during baking and add more water to the roasting pan as necessary).
  • Once the Dulce de Leche is nicely browned and caramelized, remove from the oven and let cool. Once cool, whisk until smooth.
  • Dip strawberries in this heavenly concoction and eat.  Then grab a spoon and just dig in.  Swoon.
  • Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Warm gently in a warm water bath or microwave oven before using.

My Favorite Things: Part 7

Videos that become funnier and funnier as you watch them repeatedly

Sometimes, the first time you watch something, you are not terribly impressed by it.  If you give it a chance, though, and watch it again, all of a sudden, it becomes really amusing.  Some movies that I experienced this with are:

A Christmas Story

Robin Hood: Men in Tights

Office Space

This is also common with YouTube videos.  To see my latest favorite video, click below.  It makes my heart happy, especially with the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie coming out.

What movie/show/video was better for you once you re-watched it?

Will Grayson, Will Grayson (and Tiny’s Chicken Parmesan)

will grayson meets will grayson. One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two strangers are about to cross paths. From that moment on, their worlds will collide and lives intertwine.

-Back Cover

One of the most important ideas that I learned in teacher school is that every single teenager is “at risk.”  Sure, some teens are at more risk than others, but, overall, teens go through a time that I have named the “Self-destructive hormonal tornado” phase.

For some, this phase does not last very long.  They are inherently confident and self-aware.  Others are not so lucky.  Questions like, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” and “Who are you taking to prom?” lead to code red lockdowns.

Only once you leave your little microcosym and look out at the world can you begin to see that your problems are not so bad.  Try comparing some of your high school issues with other world issues.

You don’t have the latest fashion v.  Sex trafficking

Crush rejects you v. Bombs destroying your village

Ahhh the beauty of perspective.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson, co-written by John Green and David Levithan, delves into this teen angst and shows us two “versions” of Will Grayson.  One version is a straight, middle-class kid trying to coast through life.  The other is a terrified introvert who suddenly realizes that he is gay.  Told in alternating chapters, it is up to the reader to distinguish between these two characters.

Are the two versions of Will Grayson the result of a schitzopherenic episode in an attempt to balance his two personalities?  Are there actually two Will Graysons?  Only time, and the reading of this book, will tell all.

This is a book that has content which is at times difficult to read, yet it is worthwhile for teens (and adults trying to understand teens).  It shows teens that they are certainly not alone when it comes to identity confusion, and even offers up some helpful (but not preachy) solutions to some of the code red level problems.

With that said, it is definitely not my favorite YA book.  That would most likely be this or this.  While I could identify with what the characters were going through, I really did. not. like. any. of. the. characters.  Chances are, I would not be friends with them because they remind me of people who annoy the heck out of me.  Perhaps I don’t have a lot of patience for this since my job description should include listening to teenagers whine, but I got really sick of the amount of moping done in this book.

No, I’m not saying it is easy to be a teenager.  I do think that some tough love does wonders.  Will Grayson(s), stop the whining and do something productive with your time!  Ahhhh!

Tiny’s Chicken Parmesan

Will Grayson’s mother makes a special dinner when he introduces her to his boyfriend, an absolutely giant fellow named (ironically) Tiny.  She is aware that he is a big eater, so she makes the quintissential dish for big eatin’ and elegance- chicken parm.  Tiny LOVES it and his enjoyment of it made me crave some myself. 

There are many ways to make chicken parmesan and I certainly can’t claim that this is the “authentic” or “best” way, but this is the way that I enjoy it the most.  It isn’t health food, but it doesn’t clog your arteries or make your stomach hurt with an insane amount of cheese. 

An additional perk for the busy cook, I make this in less than 30 minutes from start to finish.  Take that Rachel Ray!

Ingredients:

  • 2 chicken breasts, cut in half so that you have two thin, and flat pieces of chicken, 4 pieces total
  • 3/4 cup unseasoned bread crumbs (I like Panko crumbs)
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • Enough oil to fill a pan 1/2 inch (if you are pan frying the chicken)
  • 1 ripe tomato
  • pinch of salt

Procedure:

  • If you are going to bake the chicken breasts, preheat the oven to 450 F.
  • Get out 3 bowls.  In the first, put the flour.  In the second, beat the eggs together with the milk.  In the third, put the bread crumbs and cheese.
  • Set these bowls up as an assembly line, with an empty plate at the other end. Dip the piece of chicken in the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumb/cheese mixture.  Shake off the excess and settle it on the plate.
  • Repeat this for all pieces of chicken
  • Once you have completed this, get all of the assembly line materials out of the way, preferably in the sink or dishwasher.
  • If baking, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, lay the chicken out flat and cook for 20 minutes, turning once.
  • If frying, heat the oil in the pan until it sizzles when you drip water into it.  Place the chicken in there and cook for 3-4 minutes.  Then flip and cook for another 3-4 minutes.   Once done, take the chicken out of the pan and place it on a paper-lined plate to drain any residual oil.  If you cook the chicken in hot enough oil, the end result will not be oily.
  • Meanwhile, dice up the tomato.  I don’t like the skin of a tomato so I skin it first and then chop it up.
  • When everything is ready, top your chicken with the tomato and serve with a yummy side dish (like the roasted asparagus seen here).