by Erin Morgenstern
I’m joining Jain at Food for Thought, a delicious blog for readers with an appetite for the written word.
“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.”
“But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.”
“True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.”
I loved this book!
I was spellbound from the opening paragraph and from the moment the gates opened admitting entrance to Le Cirque des Rêves! Full of fantasy & magic, I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat~ a fascinated spectator~ waiting in wonder of what act would unfold next. Dueling illusionists, unusual clocks, vanishing rings, ice gardens, wishing trees, flaming cauldrons and fantastic carousels~ I was captivated by the vivid details! I’m a huge fan of audio books, especially when the narrator is one of my favorites, so the icing on the cake~ or caramel on the apple in this case~ for me, was listening to Jim Dale (known for his spellbinding narration of the Harry Potter series).
His rendition and audio performance made this tale truly magical as well as memorable!
I took the time :) to set a table as part of this edible review~ inspired by the mention of Midnight Dinners.
The clocks are all set:
“Always precisely at midnight, at the moment the grandfather clock in the foyer begins to chime, the first plates are placed on the table.”
“The towering tents are striped in white and black, no golds and crimsons to be seen. No color at all, save for the neighboring trees and the grass of the surrounding fields. Black-and-white stripes on grey sky; countless tents of varying shapes and sizes, with an elaborate wrought-iron fence encasing them in a colorless world. Even what little ground is visible from outside is black or white, painted or powdered, or treated with some other circus trick.”
“Then the iron gates shudder and unlock, seemingly by their own volition. They swing outward, inviting the crowd inside. Now the circus is open. Now you may enter.”
“The whole of Le Cirque des Rêves is formed by series of circles. Perhaps it is a tribute to the origin of the word ‘circus,’ deriving from the Greek kirkos meaning circle, or ring. There are many such nods to the phenomenon of the circus in the historical sense, though it is hardly a traditional circus. Rather than a single tent with rings enclosed within, this circus contains clusters of tents like pyramids, some large and others quite small. They are set within circular paths, contained within a circular fence. Looping and continuous.”
“You step into a bright, open courtyard surrounded by striped tents. Curving pathways along the perimeter lead away from the courtyard, turning into unseen mysteries dotted with twinkling lights. There are vendors traversing the crowd around you, selling refreshments and oddities, creations flavored with vanilla and honey, chocolate and cinnamon.”
“Midnight Dinners are a tradition at la maison Lefevre.”
“At dinner, which begins promptly at midnight, each course is styled in black or white but bursts with color once pierced with forks or spoons, revealing layer upon layer of flavors.”
“… it begins to tick, the pendulum swinging steadily and evenly. Then, it becomes something else.”
“Meanwhile, bits of the body of the clock expand and contract, like pieces of a puzzle.”
“After midnight the clock begins once more to fold in upon itself.”
“But the Midnight Dinners have an air of nocturnal mystery already, and Chandresh finds that providing no menu, no map of the culinary route, adds to the experience. Dish after dish is brought to the table, some easily identifiable as quail or rabbit or lamb, served on banana leaves or baked in apples or garnished with brandy-soaked cherries. Other courses are more enigmatic, concealed in sweet sauces or spiced soups; unidentifiable meats hidden in pastries and glazes.”
“Should a diner inquire as to the nature of a particular dish, question of the origin of a bite or a seasoning, a flavor she cannot put her finger on (for even those with the most refined of palates can never identify each and every flavor), she will not be met with a satisfying answer.”
“Chandresh will remark that ‘the recipes belong to the chefs themselves and I am not one to deny them their privacy.’ The curious guest will return to the mysterious plate in front of her, perhaps remarking that, whatever the secrets, the dish is quite impressive, and continuing to wonder where the peculiar flavor might originate as she savors each bite with profound thoughtfulness.”
“In truth, Chandresh prefers not to know all the ingredients, not to understand each technique. He claims such ignorance gives each dish life, makes it more than the sum of its parts. ‘Ah,’ remarked one guest when the topic arose. ‘You prefer not to see the gears of the clock, as to better tell the time.’ “
As deliciously detailed as The Night Circus is, Food for Thought was as abundant as the circus tents… jam & clotted cream on scones… layers of pastry with cinnamon & sugar… cocoa with clouds of extra whipped cream …caramel popcorn & apples…tiered cakes layered to impossible heights… berries bursting with creams and liqueurs…figs dripping with honey…sugar blown into curls & flowers…
I opted for an illusionist’s trick for Food for Thought, with an eye on calorie consumption & portion control~ satisfying my sweet tooth with a “confection deliciously executed in chocolate and butterscotch…” in the form of a mini parfait :)
1 chocolate cupcake, 2 butterscotch pudding cups, 2 slices of angel food cake, 4 squeezes of Chocolate Amazing Glazes, 8 dollops of whipped cream, a sprinkling of toffee chips, and a few chocolate curls. . .
Layered & magically transformed into eight parfaits which manage to tickle the tastebuds but not pack on the pounds with their 2 1/2 oz. serving size :)
Vintage Clock Plates & Napkin Rings/ Pottery Barn
Tablecloth (2 Throws)/ HomeGoods
Silver Tray/ from retail days
Dinner Plates & Chargers/ HomeGoods
Small beaded Parfait Spoons/ Wild Eye Designs- HomeGoods
Goblets/ Mikasa French Countryside
Napkins/ Pier 1
Clocks/ TimeWorks from retail days
In celebration of my 2 year blogging anniversary, I’m sharing some book love and giving away the audio version of The Night Circus from Audible.com to one winner!
“Dale makes palpable the sights and smells of the mysterious night circus, guiding us with his familiar voice and ensuring we never miss a fantastical detail.” ~AudioFile
For a chance to win, leave a comment telling me what you are reading now!
A winner will be selected February 6th.
This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Cheryl!
“There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound.”
Thank you for your visit, I’m joining:
Posted in Books, Food, Tablescape
Tagged Audible.com, Butterscotch and Chocolate Mini Parfaits, Erin Morgenstern, food for thought edible review, HomeGoods, Jim Dale, Midnight Dinners in The Night Circus, Pottery Barn vintage clock plates, The Night Circus
I’m joining Jain with my Edible Book Review at Food for Thought, a delicious blog for readers with an appetite~ for the written word.
I. Heart. This. Book.
A Dog’s Purpose is told through the eyes of Toby, a pup born feral; reborn as Bailey, a boy’s beloved Golden Retriever; reborn as Ellie, a search & rescue German Shepherd, and finally as Buddy, a Black Lab. The lessons and memories of each life and incarnation are carried over to the next, until ultimately Buddy learns his true purpose. It does come with a warning though~ Publisher’s Weekly calls this “a tail-wagging three hanky boo-hooer”. I have to say the joyous parts far outweighed the sad, which made for a much happier tail :-) than The Art of Racing in the Rain for me.
I listened to the audio version from Audible, the narration which is done in first-person, or rather first-dog, was delightful. Told simply with the eternal optimism of a dog, there are many laugh-out-loud moments. The end result is a story that speaks of a dog’s capacity to love and protect. If you are a dog lover, you will lap this up.
I’m sharing my chalkware dog collection~ more shabby than chic~ and setting a table and joining Susan at Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday as part of this Edible Review. Since my canines are vintage, I’m joining Suzanne, Coloradolady for Vintage Thingie Thursday and visiting the alphabet courtesy Jenny Matlock.
A little dog & book love~ combined with some vintage & food fun :-)
My pack of dogs normally sit and stay (unlike my real life canines :-) on my bookshelves~ their purpose to keep my volumes company.
None of my chalkware dogs have a pedigree, which is more common than not for chalkware. Thought to have originated by the Pennsylvania Dutch in the mid 19th century, it was sold primarily as a less expensive version of the ceramic Staffordshire figurines that adorned the mantels of many middle and upper-class
homes. Chalkware reappeared during the great depression and was used as carnival game prizes and produced through the fifties, until this breakable plaster material was replaced with mass-produced stuffed animals. Chips, nicks, and breaks are common~ the flaking of paint and plaster on the surface is typical, and adds to their time-worn appearance that appeals to me.
Everything looks special under a cloche, so I gathered my various sized bell jars and served up my pack on plates purchased from Home Goods. Placemats & Napkins are reversible and came from Bed, Bath & Beyond.
Most of the early figures were painted by hand. In the 1920s they began using the air brush, which produced good detail and resulted in much faster production with more pieces per hour at cheaper cost. Later, to further reduce costs, stencils were used so hourly wage earners could be employed, instead of experienced, air brush craftsmen.
This King Charles Spaniel is designed as an ashtray, popular for the time period, and is serving up dog cookies. Chloe & Gracie said this was their most favorite tablescape ever :-)
Food for Thought was fun~ seeking and finding the food passages like Ellie, the search & rescue German Shepherd :-)
As a feral pup in his first life, Toby and his brothers & sister forage for food, and find among other things, bits of cheese. . .
I couldn’t resist picking up this bottle since the Lab on the label matched the book jacket . . . I thought I’d pair the wine with dog-shaped cheese, and a crescent moon.
My King Charles Spaniel is standing in as a wine coaster. . .
Buddy finds himself feeling blue:
“I was a dog who had learned to live among and serve humans as my sole purpose in life. Now, cut off from them, I was adrift. I had no purpose, no destiny, no hope.”
Bits of doggy wisdom and observations from Bailey:
You can’t get a cat’s attention unless they choose to give it to you.
Dogs have important jobs, like barking when the doorbell rings, but cats have no function in the house whatsoever.
If you’re lucky, you get to go for car rides.
Cats are definitely no fun in the car.
Talking to a horse is a complete waste of time.
Sometimes we all break out in loud barking, for no reason other than the sheer joy of it.
Ducks are dumb creatures.
Bailey has the most food experiences and over the course of his life, has encounters with several farm animals~ a donkey, horse, ducks, and the bane of his existence~ cats.
White Chocolate Popcorn, recipe here, with animal crackers added for Bailey’s benefit :-)
Bailey’s start to a great day: sleeping in, eating toast crusts, licking eggs off the plate~
“People are vastly more complicated than dogs and served a much more important purpose. The job of a good dog was ultimately to be with them, remaining by their sides no matter what course their lives might take.”
For vintage love, stop by Coloradolady ~
For book love & food fun, visit Food for Thought ~
Posted in Books, Decor, Dogs, Food, Tablescape
Tagged A Dog's Purpose, an edible book review, Audible.com, Chalkware Dogs, cloche, Eggs in a Basket, food for thought edible review, literally cooking my book, Tablescape Thursday, Vintage Thingie Thursday, W. Bruce Cameron, White Chocolate Popcorn with Animal Crackers
Broken for You ****/***** by Stephanie Kallos
I’m joining Jain with my Edible Book Review at Food for Thought, where “pages from your book magically mix with the kitchen and your camera”.
I stumbled on this book at Audible.com, searching for a book by narrator, instead of by title. As a result, I came away with a book I would not have normally chosen. Knowing little about the book and based solely on the narrator~ Kate Fleming, I knew that the audio performance would enhance the story in ways I wouldn’t be able to fully appreciate by simply reading the book. Kate Fleming, also known under the pseudonym of Anna Fields, (who sadly passed away in 2006) held me spell-bound with her gift for accents and voices. In Broken for You, she tackles Irish, British, French and Southern accents with an authentic and unbelievable ease and flair. She also does the voices of a 75-year-old woman and a toddler, convincingly. IMHO, Anna Fields elevated a 4 star read to a 5 star listen, conveying characters in a way that would have been lost on me otherwise.
“When Kate was in the booth, she would give herself over to the page,” says Lyssa Browne, Kate’s business partner in Cedar House Audio, the company she ran from her home in Seattle. “She could instantly convey the truthfulness of each character, she captured the essence of the story so quickly. It really took the guesswork out of the process for listeners.”
This story begins when 75-year-old Margaret Hughes is diagnosed with a brain tumor. Alone~ in a 15,000 square foot mansion, with nothing to keep her company but shameful secrets and rooms full of European antique porcelain, she decides to take in a boarder. Wanda, age 34 moves in, and an unlikely friendship is soon cemented.
Wanda, herself is broken~ abandoned at age six by her father, when she is sent to live with her aunt and uncle while her father searches in vain for Wanda’s runaway mother. The two women begin to rely on each other and share the burden of their secrets. As the story of Margaret’s family’s fortune slowly unfolds, Margaret begins to “collect” people rather than the valuable porcelain that has haunted her for years. Colorful secondary characters are the missing pieces and fragments of this story~ that complete and create a mosaic that is memorable and moving.
Margaret imagines being one of her many fragile stolen things:
“the Royal Worcester jardiniere, the one signed by W. Powell, Circa 1907, thirty-four centimeters tall, valued at $10,500. Perhaps is was feeling anxious and fearful. Or Perhaps, Margaret thought, her heart doing a sudden giddy-up dance, it’s delighted. Perhaps it’s pleased that it’s going to be touched again after so long a time, in an intimate, familiar way. It’s going to interact with something bedside a feather duster. Perhaps all of them–the vases and figurines, the egg cups and inkstands and game pie tureens, the wall pockets and asparagus plate, the foot bath!–perhaps they’re grateful that finally, finally, they don’t have to wait anymore. They’re going to come out of their dark niches and off their pristine shelves, into the sunlight, into human hands, to experience something riotous and passionate. Like the breaking of glass at the end of a Jewish wedding!”
Bruce is hired as chef and takes up residence in the mansion~he chooses Bon Bon, a small room on the third floor. Concerned, Margaret asks him if he wouldn’t prefer a larger room on the second floor~
“Ma’am, I’m a fat, single, gay, depressed Jewish boy from Alpharetta, Georgia. When I’m not cooking, I need to be as far away from a refrigerator as possible. If I do happen to get an uncontrollable urge in the wee small hours of the night to confuse food with love, at least I’ll have to carry myself down and up three flights of stairs to do it.”
Margaret divulges her secret of her family’s heirlooms to Wanda and her plan. . .
“My father was well-connected and wealthy, even before the war. When the Nazis began their work, he saw a great opportunity. He was skilled that way, really gifted– a kind of diviner when it came to money. So he began a new business: as a broker of fine antique European china and porcelain.”
Discovering this after her father’s death, at the age of 24 while running the family business, she closed shop and moved everything into her house: “I thought that would be enough, you see. I thought that would make it right. To not sell any of it, to not profit by it. I thought that was payment enough and that I could have a life.” Trying to return everything to surviving kin was futile~ any documentation had ultimately been lost or destroyed by the Nazis.
“These things have outlived their time, it seems to me. If all they do is sit on a shelf, no one will ever know their worth. I think it’s time for them to die. They should all be broken. I want you to do it.”
“The pieces had their own music, too, brief but distinct. A porcelain soup tureen could thud hollowly, darkly, like the striding bass notes in Monk’s ‘Round Midnight’. Shattering aperitif crystal might remind her of the crisp jubilance of a bebop trumpet. The cacophony of dessert plates dropped en masse could imitate Bird’s ragedy sax.”
“She loved the random shapes. She knew early on that she wouldn’t want to manipulate them further, unless it would be to drop them more than once and/or walk on them. No nippers, certainly. she pondered the ethics of employing hammers, deciding finally that she might use them–but only occasionally, and only as a last resort if she couldn’t get pieces sized for her purpose any other way.”
Bruce remembers his Grandma Katz, his first and finest culinary arts professor and explains that when you’re Jewish, “everything that matters happens in the kitchen” :
‘Slow down, boychick!’ she was always saying. ‘Cooking is not to rush. It’s a prayer. A gift of love. It’s family. It’s standing in the company of your ancestors and feeling their hands, helping you.’
Bruce is always preparing drool-worthy food. Instead of angel hair with hazelnut Gorgonzola, I substituted fusilli~ to make sure the cheesy creamy goodness stuck to every nook & cranny in the noodle :-)
Pasta with Gorgonzola and Hazelnuts
2 tbsp. butter
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
2 c. whipping cream
1/2 lb. Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
Freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 lb. fusilli, penne, or ziti pasta
1 c. hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 c. freshly grated Romano or
Parmesan cheese (about 2 oz.)
Melt butter in heavy medium skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in thyme. Add cream and gorgonzola and stir until cheese melts and sauce thickens slightly. Season with pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Re-warm over low heat.) Cook pasta in large pot of rapidly boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain well. Return to pot. Add sauce and stir over low heat until pasta is coated. Mix in hazelnuts. Transfer to serving dish. Sprinkle with Romano cheese and garnish with parsley if desired. Serve immediately.
Carmelized Pear Salad
Follow the directions here to carmelize your pears. Assemble with mixed greens or arugula, blue cheese crumbles, oven-crispy prosciutto, chopped walnuts and Basalmic Vinaigrette dressing.
“Listen, y’all. I have to say this. I don’t mind what everybody else does with these things, really I don’t, but I have to say that it doesn’t exactly sit right with me. I mean, my sweet grandmother almost kicked the bucket when I came out. She’ll flat-out DIE if she finds out I’m impersonating a Nazi thug breaking dishes on Kristallnacht.”
‘That’s not what we’re doing,’ Wanda spoke up suddenly, her voice serious and emphatic. ‘We’re breaking things as ceremony. We’re breaking them in remembrance.”
“She began to trust when the elements fit, when the crisscrossing roads between bits of clay, paper and glass made sense in a way that couldn’t be sensibly described and weren’t necessarily what she’d had in mind. They set up a collaboration– her hands, the Holocaust, smashed clay, and bebop. An improvisation that was underpinned with structure and technique, but played out with a pure heart open to the possibility of surprise. It was crazy, but it was right. The pieces started finding her hands more frequently. She took to filling her pockets. She sounded like a walking crash box.”
The history of Pique Assiette~ literally meaning “stolen from plate” is the technique that Wanda employs with Margaret’s china. This form of art is believed to have been originally introduced by Raymond Edouard Isadore, known as the ‘crazy plate stealer’. He discovered his bits of colored glass and pottery in the fields surrounding his house in Chartres, outside of Paris, and spent thirty years covering every surface of the inside and outside of the house and his garden area.
The idea of the Crazy Plate Academy is born~ a nonprofit teaching facility, at Margaret’s home, where classes would be offered in mosaic technique, with weekend workshops and collaborations with vocational programs and high schools.
“Mosaics also appeal to the side of us that has been reprimanded, punished, shamed. They are rescued mistakes. Vindication. Pique assiette is revenge against those who inhaled sharply when we fumbled something, lifted a hand to us in anger, called names–Idiot! Clumsy! Failure! Fool!–and said, Now look what you’ve done, what a mess you’ve made!”
“Maybe we feel such a strong kinship with pique assiette because it is the visual metaphor that best describes us; after all, we spend much of our lives hurling bits of the figurative and literal past into the world’s landfill—and then regret it. We build our identities from that detritus of regret. Every relationship worth keeping sustains, at the very least, splintered glazes, hairline fractures, cracks. And aren’t these flaws the prerequisites of intimacy?”
There were lots of decadent desserts mentioned to satisfy your sweet tooth. . .Chocolate Amaretto Espresso Torte, Creme Brulee, Raspberry Cheesecake, Caramel Flan~ but I thought Bruce’s Chocolate Ginger Cake with Pear Glaze would be fitting, since listening to Anna Fields read was a piece of cake :-)
No Bourbon sauce on this cake as in Martha’s recipe. Instead I carmelized some pear and then added pear preserves to the pan for a pear glaze.
“The next time you break something, consider the action that might not immediately come to mind: Say a prayer of thanks over what has been broken*. Then, give it a place of honor. Build it a shrine.”
*No china was deliberately broken for the purposes of this book review~ just rescued mistakes with plans to build them a shrine :-)
Be sure to visit Food for Thought and find out what everyone is reading and eating!
Posted in Books, Food
Tagged an edible book review, Anna Fields, Audible.com, Broken for You, Carmelized Pear Salad, Chocolate Ginger Cake, food for thought edible review, Kate Fleming, literally cooking my book, Pasta with Gorgonzola and Hazelnuts, pique assiette, Stephanie Kallos