Tuesday, August 28, 2012

How book bloggers enhance Heat Wave

The actual text of Richard Castle's Heat Wave is a pretty standard light police dectective-centric murder mystery.  Someone dies, attractive female detective is on the case, gets threatened herself, most clues are red herrings, and the murderer is eventually confronted and the attractive female detective prevails.
My experience reading Heat Wave last week was greatly enhanced by three things:
1) I have watched Castle, the TV show (for two episodes, and my mother keeps me updated).
2) I read blogs about books that occasionally contemplate things like voice and notice conceits of novelists whose fictional characters write their books (see, for instance, a discussion here on Wuthering Expectations about Fitzgerald's author-character, Nick Carraway, who wrote The Great Gatsby or the posts about Ferdinand Pessoa, who created at least three poet personas that wrote very different types of poetry)
3) Richard Castle wrote a personal note to The Mister on the cover page of the copy I read.

Richard Castle* is a character on the TV show Castle.  He is a mystery writer in NYC who follows Beckett, a female detective, around.  (He's also played by Nathan Fillion, a big plus in my estimation).  Beckett is continually annoyed by the presence of Castle, but is very attracted to him.  Heat Wave was one of his big breakthrough books.
So I knew going in to Heat Wave that the book was the shlocky product of a tv character.  I did not know that Heat Wave was a barely fictionalized account of the relationship between Beckett and Castle (cleverly disguised as "Rook").  This allows the book to be far cheesier, and far more fun, than an average detective novel, because Heat Wave is Castle's fantasy of his life and relationship with Beckett.  Rook, a pulitzer prize winning journalist, not a pulp novelist like Castle, has stamina and powers of attraction Castle could never muster.  Castle's mother is an over-bearing soap-opera diva; Rook's mother has several Tonys.  I can imagine Castle trying to use the book to impress Beckett.  And Beckett muttering, "Oh please" and walking away.
Except, of course, that Castle and Beckett are themselves creations of some writer.  And one doesn't know who actually wrote Heat Wave (I think Nathan did the book tour).  Perhaps the same person who wrote his very complete wikipedia bio?  

Altogether, silly fun made more fun by admiring the circularity of the invention.  By the way, MiL and FiL, I think you'd like Castle.
*Also the name of The Mister's father-in-law, who, as it happens, gave him the book for Christmas.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Bacteria Good: Tripping Bad

 As I've previously mentioned, sometimes the universe shouts a message to me through sheer repetition (I'm sure many political advertisers shout through repeition as well, if only I lived in a contested state and watched television).
From reading The Elecric Kool-Aid Acid Test and dooce.com, being awakened by my children, and from looking at photos of celebrity fashion "don'ts", it is clear to me that I should never do acid*.  Heather Armstrong of Dooce likened the experience of child-caused-sleep deprivation to an acid trip (although, like me, she has no first hand experience with the latter) which concurs with Tom Wolfe's description.  It makes me wonder why anybody would ever intentionally enter that state, especially knowing that it could sneak up on them unawares later in life.  Message received, universe.  I'll stay away from those guys hanging out around the playground and their stickers**.
When The Wall Street Journal, Parents Magazine, Conservation Magazine, Best Science Writing 2011, and The Art of Fermentation all, within a week, instruct that bacteria can be beneficial, how could I ignore the message?  I must surely breast feed my baby, allow my children to get dirty, refrain from germaphobic sanitizing, and not take antibiotics uncessesarily.  Okay, I already do all of those things.  Why is the universe telling me this now?
Maybe the prompter the universe hired to give me personal messages is on vacation and we're into reruns for August?

By the way, Janet and I are discussing lots about Electric Kool Aid.  If you read it and want to join us, please let me know.

*Even though my attractiveness went way up to a friend of a friend when he learned I'm into acid this year and plummeted when he learned that it's "not that kind of acid".

**Was anyone else instructed in elementary school to stay away from unknown adults encouraging you to lick stickers because they might have LSD on them?  I was.  The Mister thinks this is crazy.  He does have a point.  While I know that LSD can make people do weird things, I'm pretty sure going a long way out of the way to give away acid to third graders was not high on most of their lists.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

But who's counting?

Dianthus is not impressed by Long's Peak.
This summer prairie dog crossed the Continental Divide at least six times.  In one day in Rocky Mountain National Park we saw 5 moose, 6 elk, about 15 big horn sheep, a few deer, 5 marmots and some chipmunks and ground squirrels.  Aster turned one.  Dianthus turned three.  Aster's first three molars made their way into his mouth (making them tooth 9, 10 and 11).  Aster and Dianthus each had their hair cut.  Dianthus rode free gondolas six times and also rode a mountain bus, a city bus, two miniature trains and one commuter train.  In the last two weeks, 11 shots were divided among the five household members (cat is included).  Mean 11/5.  Mode 0.  Median 2.  How many shots did each family member receive?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Why I Can't Write Food Fiction: A Vinegar Example

As mentioned below, I want to write fiction and write about food.  At first glance it appears I have what it takes: passion for food and writing; an awareness of detail, an inherited talent for spinning stories*, and the ability to construct good sentences; but something is seriously missing, both at the palate and the pen end of things.
Take vinegar, for example.  I've wanted to write about vinegar for acid year for months.  I have a collection of 16 vinegars in my house: white, industrial cider, Canadian artisanal cider, coconut, champagne, sherry, opal basil, rice, black Chinese, ume plum, red wine (Rioja), malt, lesser expensive balsamic, really nice balsamic and Spanish white wine.  I have tasted and used all of these except the ume plum and coconut (both of which, to the uninitiated me, just taste sharp and nasty).  The really nice balsamic can actually be sipped as an aperitif and is smoother and sweeter than the big bottle of balsamic. The sherry is my favorite for most things: bracing and tart but complex, smooth, and not the least bit like cleaning solution or old wine.  Artisanal cider vinegar is nothing like Heinz cider and Heinz cider tastes more apple-y and real (less like industrial cleaning solution) than the Walmart Great Value brand which is useful to know, if one is going to try to drink a spoonful of vinegar before each meal as a dietary tonic.  They all taste different and they all taste acidic.

Yep, that's about the best I can do.  Months of working with these vinegars and thinking about them and how I should blog about them and what do I come up with?  A list.

Something is missing from the great food (or fiction) writer I would like to be.  Let's hope it is just time.

*some might call a high BS factor.  It permeates both of my parents' families.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I want to write food fiction

Author's Note: This was first written on July 15.

Last night the Mister and I took my mother, father, brother and sister-in-law to a dinner sponsored by Slow Food Denver featuring dishes highlighting grass-fed Colorado cheese (mostly from Windsor Dairy) and paired with Colorado wines (and, for one course, beer).  Chef Michael managed to include lots of other local products, sweet corn from Brighton in the cold corn chowder with the mini-grilled cheese (with Fat Tire Sunshine Wheat), grilled Denver peaches gleaned from residential street trees with the Haystack Mountain fresh chevre over fresh greens, Boulder bison, St. Lois Valley quinoa, . . .
Preparing to attend Slow Foods Dinner
I bought the tickets at a silent auction during the Society of Ethnobiology conference I attended in Denver in April and was a little nervous about attending a function at a giant private house in the foothills, knowing nothing about the "typical" attendee at such an event.  Fortunately, slow food brings out friendly sorts and my parents can talk with anyone about wine and cheese.  Well. let's face it, my mother can talk to most anyone about anything, and by the time the ricotta mousse with sand plum sauce came around, she had invitations to a harvest party at a Pallisade winery from one woman at our table, and over Chocolove chocolates and Evergreen Winery port on the patio (made from Norton grapes and as complex at the dinner as it is at the winery [which is somehow much better than when one buys a bottle and brings it home and it just tastes syrupy]), she set up play dates for my nieces in Germany.  I learned a great deal about what's being produced on the front range and all together it was a was a lovely evening with good food and good company.

Except it didn't happen.  The whole Slow Foods dinner was a ruse to get my parents to a friends' house for a surprise anniversary party*.  They were surprised.  Sixty four people showed up to wish them well and drink wine.  It was a lovely evening with good food and good wine.

A few friends are disbelieving that there never was a Slow Foods event, or that I envisioned this much detail into the event (these friends apparently don't receive my April Fools e-mails).  But my parents are like me.  We like anticipation.  I knew that they would look up Windsor Diary after I started talking to them about it.  I printed directions to a specific house (I found it on Zillow-- it was for sale for 1.9 million) that was just the right location (in the foothills, giant, 20 minutes from the friend who was going to babysit) because I doubted my father would head to any event without directions.  Of course, I didn't reveal all of this detail.  I was spinning a story.  Authors sometimes need to know their characters breakfast choices.  Readers rarely do.  I want to write food fiction.

Happy Anniversary (in a few weeks) Mom and Dad.  I'm glad you married each other.  Thanks to everyone for making a great event.

*Hint, if you want a surprise party to be a surprise, throw it at a time removed from a big event.  My father did not see his surprise 43rd birthday party coming.  My mother was a little taken-aback at her surprise 50th birthday party, because, well, her birthday was in June and the party was at the end of August.  Similarly, Mom and Dad did not expect a 45th anniversary party a month and a half before their anniversary (and, as it happens, I would have thrown the party this year had it been 44 or 46 . . . it was that my family and my brother's family were both in town). 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Long Weekend

Ahhh.  Monday morning.  Finally.  I thought the weekend would never end.
Someday, I am sure, on a Monday I will again lament how quickly two days can pass by.  [Actually, I am sure that will happen as I walk into my Monday morning lecture every Monday for the rest of my working life, but let's leave underprepared lectures aside for the moment.]  But somehow I don't see that someday coming until at least one child is potty trained, or both children have full sets of teeth, or ragweed is not blooming, or both children sleep all night in their own beds, or daytime highs are under 100, or we have friends with whom to play, or some auspicious combination of the above.
Someday I'll look at Dianthus and Aster and the Mister on Friday afternoon and think about the great possibilities of two days to spend together.
But probably not in August while they are 1 and 3 and 39.
For now, I'll just savor Monday morning.

Friday, August 3, 2012

"Lactic acid is a foodies' new BFF"

So read the subhead of a July 14 Denver Post article.  Fermented food is apparently making a "big bubble" on the scene.  I had no idea I was so with it.
The Mister and I gleaned from the article that we needed the book it kept referencing, The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz, as this year's anniversary present.  We ordered it to arrive at our house just as we did (yesterday).  So now we are home and contemplating the romance of starting a big batch of anniversary Kraut-Chi or some back-to-school noni or smekra in the 110 degree heat.  The book is hefty, so in the right light I suppose it could be considered a desk set (because it's certainly not copper, wool or brass).
We also ate some fabulous meals while on the road, and stayed two different nights in hotels away from our kids, so instructions for promoting beneficial bacteria are not the only way we celebrated, just the most amusing.
I'll keep you posted on acidification results.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

One year and ten teeth

And the bit of hair was chopped off so he can't have quite the mohawk any more.