Thursday, June 9, 2011

Re-Post - Literary Bite: Peace Like a River

This post is from October 2009. I'll be back with new posts next week! 
“Once in a great while, a book comes along that has such wonderful characters and marvelous prose, that you read it as much for the pure joy it offers on every page as to find out how it ends.”
-       Tom Walker, The Denver Post
Agreed, Tom Walker. Peace Like a River by Leif Enger is a really good book. Usually the statements on the covers of books are silly and just generally uninformative (e.g. “Terriffic!” - The Washington Post…um, like, that doesn’t tell anyone anything.). 

The “Once in a great while” part is a bit of a stretch, considering I read a really good book last week…and another really good book a couple weeks before that. But I forgive him his exaggeration. Perhaps Tom has been going through a dry stretch in good reading.  

Anywho, my mom mailed me this book, and so far I am really enjoying it! However, I am hesitant to pass final judgment, because she hinted that it gets kinda weird at the end. I hope not – a bad ending is a major bummer. The book is going so well thus far, but I am afraid that the author will dig himself too deep into the story and be unable to tie it up with a satisfying conclusion…we shall see…

The story takes place in Minnesota in the early 1960s. It is told from the perspective of an 11-year-old boy, Reuben, who lives with his almost super-humanly nice father, older brother, and younger sister. I don’t want to give anything away…so for now I will just leave you with that. If you want a more revealing plot summary, check out this site.

 The younger sister, in my opinion, is the best character. She is 9 years old, and completely obsessed with Westerns. And she is constantly writing poems/epics/novels in verse. I feel that’s a bit of a stretch (but then, there are some really smart 9–year-olds out there…). For example:
From Peace Like a River, pages 160-161
The blizzard shipped in from the west like a grin
On a darkened, malevolent face,
And the posse that sought Mr. Sundown was caught
In an awfully dangerous place.

For their horses were sore and their chances were poor
Of locating warmth or repose,
When the sweet sudden sight of miraculous light
Shone die in the dark and the snows, my lads,
A light through the dark and the snows.

And the lady who answered their knock at the door
Had answered another, an hour before. . . .

She bid them to stay, in her courteous way,
And insisted they sit by the fire,
And she poured them all brandy and sang them a song
And they slept as though lulled by a choir.

The sheriff next morning was first to awake
And he called all his men to the chase,
For a dream had suggested their quarry sought rest
In the hay in the barn on the place, lads—
He’d slept in the barn on the place.

But when they crept into the building to spy,
Gone horses, gone lady, gone outlaw, goodbye!

It reminds me of a novel in verse I once read, called The Golden Gate by Vikram Seth (one of my all-time favorite authors). It takes a bit of time to settle into the rhythym of a book written in that style, but I have found that once you do, it is really fun!

So anyway, I am up to page 167 out of 311. Stay tuned – next week I will let you know if the ending is good!

PS: It's being made into a movie with Billy Bob Thornton (not sure how I feel about that). Check out IMDB.

Hmm…now let’s talk about food. Thus far, the book takes place in fall and winter in Minnesota and North Dakota. So we’re talking cold. Some of their food sounds great – Mid-Western hearty breakfasts, including peach pie! But my question is, how were they getting peaches in late fall? Are we talking canned peaches here? I don’t do that. 

But this book did put me in the mood for something hearty, warm, and comforting. And thanks to my recent photograzing, a new winter squash possibility has entered my radar. Stuffed Squash.

I took inspiration from this recipe, but really what I ended up making was completely original (as far as I know). So here it is, the first ever, Mollie-Exclusive Stuffed Squash. Enjoy!

-       Butternut squash (I just used the fat end of one because I had already eaten the “neck”)
-       1 cup cooked short grain brown rice
-       ½ cup mushrooms
-       2 Tablespoons blue cheese crumbles
-  Small handful chopped walnuts (DO NOT LEAVE THESE OUT - I think they're the best part!)
-       4 Tablespoons Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper soup (I always have the Trader Joe’s kind on hand)
-       Splash of vegetable broth
-        1 ½ cups roughly shredded greens (I had Swiss chard – spinach would work fine too)
-       Paprika
-       Salt and pepper

  1. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds (to make two little “bowls”
  2. In a small saucepan, sautee the greens and mushrooms until they’re wilted (you can sautee them in oil, or add a bit of broth). Add the walnuts in with this to toast them.
  3. Add cooked brown rice and season with paprika, salt, and pepper. Remove from heat.
  4. Pour about 2 Tablespoons vegetable broth into each half of the squash.
  5. Stuff butternut squash with mixture, sprinkle with blue cheese, and carefully pour Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper soup over the top.
  6. Bake at 375* for about 40 minutes, or until squash is tender.
  7. EAT!