Friday, February 27, 2015

My life is good enough

I want a piglet.
Perhaps you’ve heard, there was a kerfuffle involving the Adam Roberts Piglet review of Mimi Thorisson’s Kitchen in France. Thorisson wrote a very good cookbook that rubs some people the wrong way for reasons that have been amply discussed, here and elsewhere. Roberts produced a smart, funny review that left Thorisson feeling wounded. Thorisson reacted. Her fans reacted. Roberts’ fans reacted. He reacted to her reaction. I was a bit player. Good times. On the advice of counsel, that is the last I will ever speak of the matter.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, don’t worry about it. 

Today Dorie Greenspan restored class and order over at the Piglet with her gracious concession (it's in the comments) to Alice Medrich, whose outstanding Flavor Flours won out over her own superb Baking Chez Moi. 

I love both these books. Flavor Flours is probably the only gluten-free baking book on the planet that doesn’t shout “gluten-free!!!!” on the cover, spine, and every single page, which is why it is the only gluten-free cookbook I will have in my kitchen, at least until I’m diagnosed with celiac disease. Medrich’s approach suggests that there is more to recommend these flours -- sorghum, buckwheat, chestnut, etc. --  than just their nutritional profileI have baked only the teff brownies and they were great, though I’m not sure I could tell the difference between a teff brownie and a wheat flour brownie, which is either good or bad, depending on your point of view. Rosie Schaap’s review has convinced me to tackle the carrot cake which, “made with rice flour and oat flour, is the best I’ve ever made, the best I’ve ever eaten, just the best: moist but solidly constructed, intensely fragrant and full-flavored.” 

Sold.

Actually, not sold. Library copy, so I’d better get cracking. This is one I might buy. 

I’m a Dorie Greenspan completist and bought Baking Chez Moi within days of publication. At Christmas, I made Greenspan’s crispy-topped brown sugar bars for the cookie boxes we gave away and they were lovely. I made her sables last week and they were beyond lovely.

Two terrific books. I only wish they were both advancing in the Piglet, but it would come to a showdown eventually, so might as well be now.

On another subject completely, let’s talk about My Struggle, the multi-volume magnum opus of Karl Ove Knausgaard. Ha ha ha. Not kidding. Are you with me? Anyone? No? Knausgaard is a brooding Norwegian memoirist/novelist who writes in granular detail about his everyday life and I feel like I’ve been reading this blasted series forever. One of Karl Ove’s trips to a coffee shop can last a dozen pages and he never even talks to anyone at the coffee shop, let alone witnesses a murder, robbery, or alien invasion. And yet he keeps pulling me along. I’ll be trudging through an endless stretch in which Karl Ove discusses the breasts on the leader of his daughter’s boring playgroup and I want to throw the book across the room, then suddenly I’m in the middle of one of the most spellbinding scenes I’ve ever read. His account of cleaning out the bottles and alcoholic detritus from his dead father’s home will never leave me. 

During idle moments, like when I’m driving or whisking pastry cream, I find myself trying to capture my feelings about this singular work in a few words. Options always boil down to:

engrossing but a slog
a slog but engrossing
engrossing and a slog
a slog
engrossing

Even if I never decide on the perfect combination of adjectives, I think you have a sense of how I feel about My Struggle and can probably gauge whether it is right for you.

46 comments:

  1. The best thing about Piglet season is that we get to hear from you more often. I love going into my feedly account and seeing that there is a new post from you. (It is a banner day when both you and Shauna Reid have something new.) Thanks for the time and to effort you put into entertaining your devoted readers.

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  2. Oh Tipsy, I adore you...you are so funny. I randomly remember a line from one of your delightful posts "Isabel, you are so smart!". Makes me laugh every time. Hugs from PDX.

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    Replies
    1. Now I have to look that one up! Thanks, Samantha.

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  3. Oh Tipsy, I adore you...you are so funny. I randomly remember a line from one of your delightful posts "Isabel, you are so smart!". Makes me laugh every time. Hugs from PDX.

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  4. They're both behaving like six-year-olds. She is having a tantrum (I wasn't the center of attention and nobody told me I was prettiest!), and he deigned to respond, but he had to be snarky about it. Snarky is the wrong word.

    He had to be horrible, childish, and rude. There was no high road to take here, but he definitely took the lowest. I agree with Mimi, Adam's review of her book did seem shallow, and it appeared to come from a place of insecurity. She should have been more gracious. He should have been content to be the winner and left her alone. The only people in this whole ridiculous mess who haven't irritated me are you and Books Headley. Perhaps I'd like to try some fancy desserts.

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    1. A very sorry affair. I have bought cashews and dextrose so I can make some Brooks Headley cashew gelato and I will let you know what I think.

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  5. One of the potential losses in this whole mess is that I would have liked your discernment applied to more recipes in Mimi Thorisson's book. (wow! I don't think I've ever used the word "discernment", either in conversation or writing), but you know what I mean. I rely on you to pick out all-star recipes that I must try and also to caution me about the duds. Your judgement (discernment) is so true. Now that you say "that is the last I will speak of this", that avenue is closed. Love your comments about Dorie Greenspan and Alice Medrich. Isn't it great to have their works available for us to explore?

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    1. I'll do a run-down of everything I made from Thorisson's book. I think I can do that without wading into rough waters.

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  6. I only know about the kerfuffle from here so can't comment on that. But I will say that the apple crumble from Flavor Flours is fabulous. Melissa Clark wrote about it in the NYT, and I made it at Xmas time--I think the flour is a combo of oat and rice. I made it partly thinking of my boyfriend's daughter who can't eat gluten, but she missed her plane and didn't make it to Xmas dinner, so we ate it all without her! Mean, yes, but it's delicious. Will totally make it again whether or not there's a gf person at the table.

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    1. I saw that recipe. I'm very excited to forge ahead with this book.

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  7. BTW, the N.Y. times Magazine is publishing a series of Karl Ove knausgaard traveling through the USA. Skimming through the first story, I understand your question. Haven't read him before. There's something mesmerizing about his writing, but also kind of exhausting. I think I'll read some more.

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    1. A friend of mine was raving about the first of the articles -- I haven't yet checked them out yet. Still trying to get through vol. 2 of his Struggle.

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  8. "Good enough" is the most liberating and mysteriously frustrating, difficult to achieve unit of measure in human life, don't you think?

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    1. Definitely, but for me it's gotten easier as I get older. Instead of noticing all the fabulous things that aren't happening for me (I was good at that), I see all the terrible or just dismal things that aren't happening to me. Yet! Actually, this is part of what happened during the midlife crisis I wrote about a few days ago. The switch in perspective.

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  9. I've just read the Karl O. K. piece in the NYT and it is really quite wonderful. It's true I have a soft spot for "strangers in a strange land" kinds of pieces, for harsh winter landscapes, and for OH & MN (both places I lived many years), but his writing and his personality are mesmerizing, as someone said above. It makes me want to pick up his books, though I suspect they go on and on with no paragraph breaks, unlike this NYT piece, and that will make it harder going, for me at least. I'm quite taken with him now, though.

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  10. I'm a celiac but rarely buy "gluten free" cookbooks as I can convert most recipes with the exception of some yeast breads. Flavor Flours does look interesting and I have enjoyed learning about other flours especially sorghum.

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  11. Oh! I check in on you every now and then but sometimes forget. And now you've touched on everything I'm interested in of late. I want a pet pig! and do read the piglet and enjoyed Adam's review although did not know of the kerfuffle that followed. And now want to read "My Struggle" after reading Knausgaard's "travel piece" in the Times. Thought it hilarious and wanted it to never end. Have you seen? Probably very light reading compared to some of the slog you describe but with which you've totally convinced me to check out all his work :)

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