Thursday, June 14, 2012

Food for Thought

A beloved but simple minded man dies in the working class neighborhood of Lambeth and it is to Maisie Dobbs that the local costermongers go to help solve what they believe is a mysterious death.  This is the basic premise of Elegy for Eddie, the latest installment in the series by Jacqueline Winspear.  It isn’t long before Maisie realizes that yes, this is murder, but also that there are much greater forces of power involved.  This is, after all, London in the pre-war period of the 1930’s, and though they don’t know it yet, life will be changing dramatically in the not too distant future.   
Maisie Dobbs is having a hard time.  No part of her life seems to fit and she’s struggling for identity.  She doesn’t quite fit into her old neighborhood nor is she comfortable in her beau’s upper class world; a world where she comes across many powerful and influential people and just possibly even some connections to her case in Lambeth.  Furthermore, though a recent inheritance has greatly improved her circumstances, she’s uncomfortable with the money and tries to use her new found wealth to help those she loves.  Even that backfires.   

We watch as Maisie grapples with reconciling the various aspects of her life into the woman she is now. 

I understand that.  In the last few weeks I have also encountered a few different elements of my own life.   One weekend I was camping with friends here in Washington and the next was spent hanging out in with old high school and college friends in the other Washington.  

It was a bit surreal, this stepping back 35 years in time.  I recognized the person but the skin didn’t quite fit the same.  The time went by so fast that I was home before I knew it and I found it all a bit disconcerting.  I felt a little like a kaleidoscope; turn the dial for the picture of pieces and colors of who I am today, turn it again and it will show a slightly different me tomorrow. 

One thing that brought both worlds together was that in each, there was much conversation over meals.  I noticed that happened in the book as well.  Food is a common bond.  We meet people for a beverage or a bit of lunch and it brings us a little closer together.  

Personally, when I'm feeling a little out of sorts, I frequently turn to cooking for friends; it is one of the ways I work out the dichotomies of my life and attempt to figure out who I am, at least for the moment.   

Of course, it’s a crap shoot as to what I’ll make, or if it will be any good!   

Sometimes I’ll make up recipes on the fly, like the chicken surprise I made recently for a friend.  It was an experiment based on some odd bits and pieces in my fridge which turned out surprisingly well (hence the name).  Other times, I may actually look in a cookbook for fun ideas.
My current favorite new cookbook, The FOOD52 Cookbook by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, has seasonal recipes for each of the 52 weeks of the year.  Looking at the summer weeks, figuring that if I pretend it is summer, summer will come to the NW, I am contemplating whether I should go with the watermelon and goat cheese salad or the corn salad with tomatoes and snap peas.  Peeking at a few entrees, there is spicy shrimp or eggplant parmesan or even smoky pork burgers.  It all sounds good.  Then there’s the peach cake.  Yum!  Oh, and did I mention they have some fun cocktails as well, like ginger sangria? 

Okay, now I’m hungry and need to invite a few friends over.  And I've gone completely off point! 

Getting back to the book, Maisie does solve the basic mystery but her life questions are not as easily resolved.  The more she contemplates it, the more complicated it gets.  I think there are many of us who also haven't solved our life mysteries by the end of the book either.  Yet a chat with good friends over a tasty meal does somehow make it all a little easier, especially if some wine is involved.  

So, who wants to come over for dinner?   I’ll cook and even try to use a real recipe, though I’ll still probably start with my latest experiment, veggies served with some Sriracha mayonnaise.

After all, if I’m going to figure out who I am, I do want to play a little along the way…


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