It’s an overcast, cool and breezy September Seattle day with the nip of impending Fall tussling my hair when I stepped out earlier, but I’m cozy inside now with some Asian plum sauce simmering away on the stove, thanks to a sister-in-law who left a bag of plums on our door step a few days ago. Garlic and chili, and tangy-sweet plum steam is filling the house, and I can hear the burbling of the sauce as it slowly thickens, plus the near-distant rustlings of Joe being productive in the basement. And it just started to rain upping the cozy factor. It’s inspired me to pick out a book to read out of my new stack of five I bought the other day. I only had two in mind when I walked into the store, but there were others that caught my eye on the way to those.
The Last Chinese Chef is the one I will read first, thanks to the plum sauce waft, by Nicole Mones, author of Lost in Translation, which is what piqued my interest after the word Chef in the title, and the picture of the steaming bowl on the cover. The blurb at the top by the foodie, writer, Ruth Reichl clinched the deal, proclaiming it to be “…love story…mystery…most thorough explanation of Chinese food that I’ve ever read….” That and the fact it was on the Staff Picks shelves, one of my favorite perusal areas in a bookstore. I look forward to curling up with this one after I’ve finished canning the sauce, and no doubt craving Chinese food as I make my way through the pages.
Packing for Mars, The Curious Science of Life in the Void, by Mary Roach, was one of the two on my initial list. We had to get this one to go along with her other books, Stiff, Spook and Bonk on our shelves. It’s too bad she couldn’t think of a catchy one-word title for this one, too. Joe heard a story about this latest endeavor of hers about space travel on NPR a month ago and we have thoroughly enjoyed the witty writing style she employs on her coverage of scientific topics. I’m guessing Joe will get to this one before me.
Joe, Nathan and I are all big Tom Waits fans, so when we saw the Lowside of the Road, A Life of Tom Waits, all thick and juicy looking with the black and white stare of the cover, and the New York Times comment “[This] book lights up and whirls like one of the greasy carnival rides in Mr. Waits’s own sprawling oeuvre” it naturally ended up cradled in Joe’s hand. Can’t wait to submerge myself into cool.
Hannah had recently mentioned Candy Freak to me, by Steve Almond, written before Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life, so I was happy to find a used copy of this in paperback and check it out. I knew I had to own it when I saw the subtitle was A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America. Doesn’t Chocolate Underbelly just make you smile? Sound like a good band name to me.
The other book that drew us to the bookstore in the first place, was Mocking Jay, by Suzanne Collins. It’s the last in the Hunger Games trilogy, about a young girl in a dystopian world. Like most post-apocalyptic worlds it can be an ugly and violent place, but it’s a total escape from my sweet, simple and safe life in Shoreline, with strong characters and one of our read-aloud to each other stories. Being the last of anything in a series is always bittersweet though, as you’re happy and excited to get into it, yet sad and disappointed it’s the end. Kind of like waking up from a really good dream and knowing you have to get out of bed into the reality of the day.
The plum sauce has sufficiently reduced to a gravy-thick, deep mauve, delectable smelling condiment, and is begging for attention. I need to post this and do a little research on how much of a boil a 10-minute bath for canning jars is, or if it’s a boil at all. I wouldn’t think a bath would be boiling, though. After the sauce is all tucked away I can reward myself by starting that first book. Or maybe Joe can read out loud to me while I pour and seal. Sweet, simple and safe indeed.