Thursday, November 29, 2007

Thanksgiving(s)

Thanksgiving dinner went pretty well--the kids ate a little of the food I made (though Ian insisted on a cheese omelet for dinner...), the crunch factor helped me enjoy the meal, and best of all we didn't burn down my parents' house or burn ourselves with the deep fried turkey:
I made him wear the face shield...and yes, our turkey was rather wee.

But rather than dwell on a meal that even at its best is never going to be my favorite, I'd rather talk about a meal that is way more my kind of Thanksgiving, namely what we ate at the latest meeting of my book group:
We got together the week before Thanksgiving to discuss The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea and eat Mexican food. First off, the book is wonderful and I'll be sending it to British relatives for Christmas this year (since The Welsh Girl--the book I had been planning to gift--was nominated for the Booker Prize I'm pretty sure my relatives will have already read it.) Urrea has the unique ability to write about religion, mysticism, and miracles without getting the least bit pompous or excessively reverent in tone--not an easy thing to do in in a book chock full of commentary on leftist politics, class, revolution, national identity, faith, and love. It helps that the book is over 500 pages so it can pack in a hell of a lot, but the thing that struck me even more than many instances of lyrical beauty of the writer's prose, is the humor in the book. I'm having trouble remembering the last time a piece of literary fiction made me laugh out loud as much as this one did. And a lot of the humor is centered on the stupid things that men do. Urrea makes his male main characters sympathetic, flawed and hysterical at the same time and the female characters, particularly Huila, powerful, warm and cantankerous.

There is plenty to say about magical realism and history (the main character, Terisita, was a real woman and also the author's great aunt) but what struck me most about the book was the number of times that I thought we were headed to a somber scene and instead finding myself surprised by laughter. I doubt that anyone can read the letters between Terisita and the self-proclaimed "Pope of Mexico" and not crack a smile.

Enough of your blathering, Kate! Get to the food!

We started out with a large quantity of guacamole and some homemade roasted tomato salsa (adapted from Lynne Rosetto Kaspar's version) that I brought along with wonderful tortilla chips from Ann Arbor Tortilla Factory (available at both Morgan and York and Arbor Farms), and Lea brought out some (non-Mexican but really tasty) green olive and pomegranite tapenade with pita chips:Then we had some creamy-spicy butternut squash soup that Ami picked up from Prickly Pear Cafe,followed by chicken with pumpkin seed mole sauce, rice, tortillas, plantains, and salad.For dessert we had coconut sorbet, two kinds of ice cream (dulce de leche and chocolate) and pineapple with chile powder.The pineapple with chile came straight from the book--Don Tomas buys paper cones of tropical fruit sprinkled with chile a number of times--and each time I read it, I wanted to try it. And the result? Terrific! Something so simple, but really lovely. You could swank it up a little if you made a pineapple, mango, papaya salad and topped it with slivered mint and chile powder, but for ease simply cutting up a ripe pineapple and sprinkling on a little chile powder can't be beat. I highly recommend stocking the house with pineapple and chile so you can snack on it while reading the book.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I want to know what you had to drink with that mexican food?

I recently had a shot of tequila in a salted glass, chased by a shot of dill pickle juice.

It was surprisingly tasty!

SheCrochets said...

Thanks for the book review. I hadn't read anything about this one; it sounds like it might be a nice fit for my book club. :-)

Kate said...

Let's see--I started out with a Dos Equis beer, then we had some sort of red wine--tasty, but I can't remember what it was, and then someone brought some Sangria too. We tend not to do hard alcohol on week nights since a lot of us have to wrangle small people the next morning!