Toni Morrison’s Beloved: The Pie to End All Pies

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First things first.  It drives me completely BANANAS that the blog title formatting does not allow for underlining or italics. Sure, I could put book titles in quotations to differentiate, but that would be wrong, and would make this self-proclaimed book nerd look like an ignorant book nerd, and I just couldn’t stand for it.  So for the record, yes, I know it should be italicized, but there’s nothing I can do about it.  (Welcome to my head —-a real go-with-the-flow type place.)

Whew.  Felt good to get that off my chest.  Now, Beloved.  This made the reading list cut for a few reasons: I wanted to see how to write ghosts and keep it literary, I’ve been looking for texts that tread the line between realistic and surreal fiction ( this text throws in a little gothic bonus, too), and because it’s Toni Morrison—- ‘nuf said.

Deciding what to make for this novel was easy: of course it had to be a blackberry pie!  It was the pie heard ’round the neighborhood, the pie to end all pies (my idioms hurt, that’s all I’ve got).  When something—- maybe it was Sethe’s successful escape from slavery, her small newborn wrapped in a boy’s old coat —-possessed Stamp Paid to battle the thorns and thistles of the blackberry thicket near the river, it set in motion an unlikely chain of events.  Baby Suggs outdid herself, making enough food for the entire neighborhood—- including several pies from Stamp’s blackberry offering.  She had no idea that her gesture of impressive hospitality and kindness would instead be taken as prideful, reeking of excess.  She shared everything she had, the neighborhood ate, then decided it was boastful of her to make so much food.

“It made them furious. They swallowed baking soda, the morning after, to calm the stomach violence caused by the bounty, the reckless generosity on display at 124. Whispered to each other in the yards about fat rats, doom and uncalled-for pride.The scent of their disapproval lay heavy in the air.”

Who knew that pie ever caused anything but unicorn-frolicking-through-marshmallow-forests kind of stomach-y delight?!

Rest assured, you can make this blackberry pie without insulting anyone.  The recipe is from Epicurious, because they’ve got kitchen ethos like nobody’s business.  Check out the original here.  (I make recipes, but I don’t make recipes, if you know what I mean.)

Ingredients

    • Pastry dough (I used this recipe)
    • 6 cups blackberries (1 3/4 lb)
    • 1 to 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
    • 1/4 cup cornstarch
    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    • 2 tablespoons water
    • 1 tablespoon quick-cooking tapioca
    • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
    • 1 tablespoon sanding (coarse) or granulated sugar

*Note*

I opted out of the quick-cooking tapioca and used about a tablespoon more cornstarch.  Fewer ingredients make for a happy blogger.

Directions

    1. Make pastry dough.
    1. Place a baking sheet in lower third of oven and preheat to 400°F.
    2. Toss together berries, granulated sugar to taste, cornstarch, butter, lemon juice, water, and tapioca. Let stand, tossing occasionally, 20 minutes.
    3. Roll out 1 piece of dough into a 14-inch round and fit into a 9-inch pie plate (4-cup capacity). Trim edge, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Chill shell while rolling out top.
    4. Roll out remaining piece of dough into a roughly 16- by 11-inch rectangle. Cut crosswise into 11 (1 1/4-inch-wide) strips with a fluted pastry wheel or a knife.
    5. Stir berry mixture, then spoon evenly into shell. Arrange strips in a tight lattice pattern on top of filling and trim strips close to edge of pan. Roll up and crimp edge. Brush top and edge with egg white and sprinkle all over with sugar.
    6. Bake on hot baking sheet until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes. (Check pie after 45 minutes: If edge of crust is browning too quickly, cover edge with foil or a pie crust shield and continue baking.) Cool completely on a rack before serving.

Enjoy your gateway pie; you’re officially nearing holiday season.

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Cormac McCarthy’s The Road: Carrying the Fire

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One of the qualities that most impresses me about this book is its contradictory style.  At its core, it is pared down, stripped like the decaying world it depicts: it lacks most punctuation, the dialogue is short and utilitarian, and the mood is monotone and bleak.  Yet, it’s also rich with vivid description and emotional depth, defying the aforementioned sparseness.  The juxtaposition of the choppy, unadorned passages with the intermittent lyrical prose–the crossroad, if you will– is where the magic happens.

For those who like an eerie, dark read that does not fall within the “horror” category, the imagery McCarthy presents in this novel is beautifully disturbing.  And like many good dystopian and post-apocalyptic reads, much of the unease is created in the visceral feeling a reader gets from the possibility that in circumstances so dire, human nature might devolve to such sinister lows.

Here the “man” and his son have come across an abandoned home.  They approach with trepidation, as they’ve learned sometimes seeking shelter is more dangerous than being out in the open.

“You’re the scout.  I need you to be our lookout…

Do you think somebody is coming?

Yes. Sometime.

You said nobody was coming.

I didnt mean ever…”

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“He walked out in the gray light and stood and he saw for a brief moment the absolute truth of the world.  The cold relentless circling of the intestate earth.  Darkness implacable.  The blind dogs of the sun in their running. The crushing black vacuum of the universe.  And somewhere two hunted animals trembling like groundfoxes in their cover.”

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The Handmaid’s Tale: Offred at the Wall

Oh, the things we take for granted when not living under a totalitarian regime: lipstick, Netflix, bubble wrap. Perhaps one of the most easily overlooked items is color. When oppression strips one of their freedom and dignity, color can become a luxury, but it can also become the oppressor.

In the novel, Atwood writes, “Everything except the wings around my face is red: the color of blood, which defines us.”  Blood’s connotation varies widely depending on the context.  It can be linked to life, the blood coursing through one’s veins, but also death or injury.  It can be seen as passionate and loving, but also as sinful.  In one short line, Atwood has embraced all such implications.  The sole duty of handmaids is to reproduce.  In that way, they can be considered walking wombs, the life-force of this dying society.  However, within that society the margin for error, for autonomy, is nonexistent, so there is also the ever-present threat of death that sits like a fog over the city—the red of the brick wall from which people are hanged. 

Here Offred stands at the wall, a place that is meant to inspire fear, but that Offred visits seeking relief, hoping not to recognize the salvaged.

“By telling you anything at all I’m at least believing in you, believe you’re there, I believe you into being. Because I’m telling you this story I will your existence. I tell, therefore you are. So I will go on. So I will myself to go on.”

IMG_5659No, I will not sell you the winged bonnet–I don’t care how sassy it would look with your fanny pack.