Saturday, February 09, 2008

Continuing that book and food theme...

I finished The Zookeeper's Wife just in time for Chinese New Year and another book-food combo.
My book group decided that the next book we'd tackle is the Ann Arbor/Ypsi Community Read: William Poy Lee's The Eighth Promise: An American Son's Tribute to His Toisanese Mother. Reading two non-fiction books in a row is pretty atypical for me, though the food link definitely helps keep me engaged.

I think this memoir will be fast and interesting, but again, I think I'm going to find the writer's style a bit annoying. I don't think it'll bug me in the same way as Ackerman's digressions and flowery language, but Lee's prose seems a little awkward and conversational at times. When a pretty down to earth book suddenly starts a paragraph with "Oh..." I get the feeling that he couldn't think of another way to express his (genuine) emotions but by lapsing into conversational writing. If the whole book was told this way, that would be one thing. But I find it a little jarring to hop back and forth.

Anyway, on Thursday the kids wore the padded satin outfits Brian brought them back from Shanghai last year (quite perfect for our current cold weather) and I made some Chinese-ish food for dinner: fried tofu with boc choy and shitake mushrooms in an orange/ginger/garlic sauce, fried rice, and dumplings from the freezer chest at the Asian grocery store.
It was pretty decent for homemade Chinese food, but the amazing thing was that Ian ate it; except for the boc choy and mushrooms, he had a decent sized portion of tofu, fried rice with peas and scallions and dumplings that were pork but had a lot of green stuff in there too. I was flabbergasted--this kid usually has me jumping through hoops and dreading how he'll express himself when he sees what is on his plate. If the pickiest eater in the house starts off the Year of the Rat this way, maybe it'll be a good food year for us all.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

fat fat fat fat

Happy Fat Tuesday!

Not that any of us need to get any fatter (Ok, Ian could use a little more fat, but he's the only one), but Fiona and I happily made our way to Copernicus Deli this morning to buy some strawberry and prune filled paczki. Fiona was amazed to discover that the trays of paczki were stacked taller than her:
They trucked these, and many more like them, in from Hamtramck and they were tasty--yeastier than a regular donut and the not-overly-sweet prune filling helped my grown up taste buds handle the sugary richness.

Of course, we couldn't leave with just a few paczki, so I also picked up some sauerkraut with caraway, a baton of polish sausage and some mushroom-filled pierogi. We'll have those for dinner later this week.
The book I'm reading right now fits in perfectly with this splurge of Polish delicacies, Diane Ackerman's The Zookeeper's Wife. I really like the content of the book about the Polish family who ran the Warsaw Zoo and the ways they helped hundreds of Jews escape and hide during the Nazi Occupation.

But I am struggling with Ackerman's writing style. Her prose is florid, which I've appreciated in other settings (there is a lovely poem about pink Amazon river dolphins in her book The Moon by Whale Light), but which I'm finding distracting here. There are tons of digressions, some of which have scientific or historical information, but which also make following the progress of Jan, Antonina and their "guests" hard to follow. I feel like Ackerman is trying too hard to convince us of Jan and Antonina's heroism with this laden prose--their actions speak very clearly to their courage and I wish the story was told simply. Instead I find myself skimming and dodging through the book, trying to follow the narrative and not get side tracked.