Broken for You

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, 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 :-)

 Chocolate-Ginger Cake, recipe courtesy Martha Stewart

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!

  8 comments for “Broken for You

  1. June 4, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    Everything looks simply scrumptious! And the book sound interesting as well- on my list it goes!

  2. LL
    June 4, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    Smiling at familiar bits and pieces of china….. Those recipes look yummy as usual – Have a good weekend!

    • June 5, 2010 at 7:03 am

      Yes, as I was pulling them out I gave myself a lecture about procrastinating! I promise to do something with them soon, but they did come in handy & I have contributed to your pile :-)

  3. June 5, 2010 at 9:38 am

    good morning, its my favorite time again! i have had this on my to read list for ages… i did get her book sing them home on my kindle that i need to read too.

    oh you are so good with the broken china… i LOVE READING WITH YOU! and osha! my husband is an engineer, i hear him say that way to often, i am cracking up with the glasses~ ok did you take up china breaking because of the book? you must have had a blast! oh this books sounds like my kind of read, what was i waiting for?!

    just understanding the title now gave me chills…

    i love your quotes, oh this book looks so good to me~

    speaking of good looking, yowzer to the pasta! i am craving pasta and this looks fantastic! your pics are always perfection and what a perfect salad combo!

    the more i read your the review, the more i am ready to kindle it this minute!

    and we get dessert too! oh yes come to mama! its dawn and i am craving this book, dessert and pasta, i would say this is a 5 star review to peak all my senses!

    really truly a work of art review, i am forever grateful you play so well and share!

  4. June 5, 2010 at 11:13 am

    I will certainly be requesting this book, Mary, based solely on your description of Anna Field’s verbal talents.

    I can’t wait to try your recipe for Pasta with Gorgonzola and Hazelnuts. It looks fabulous!
    You were cooking up a storm, Woman.

    I am cringing at all this beautiful broken china, though. I could cry! I have ONE floral plate that was my Mother’s & it has a big crack in it. She used it under a plant for many years. I always intended to break it up & make a mosaic out of it but I can’t bring myself to take a hammer to it. :-(

  5. LL
    June 5, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    I have yet another broken dish for you: this time, a blue & white patterned ramekin….Holy Smokes…. :)

  6. June 6, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    All that broken china…. I am quite distressed! So relieved to read that no pots were deliberately harmed in the creation of this blog.
    What beautiful photographs, I have to go and find myself something to eat now.

  7. June 10, 2010 at 8:06 pm

    Oh, how I enjoy the posts you share! Each one is sheer delight. I’m going to get the audio of this book asap. I’m always looking for a good audio book for long car trips to visit my mom. The broken china made me think of the box of bits and pieces I kept for several years thinking I’d some day use them in a mosaic. The box finally went to someone else. :-)
    Loved this one! Thanks for sharing your talents. ~ Sarah

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