In other news, this is how I spent my past week:
Suzie's Tanzanian Ugali: This one comes from the Julie & Julia follow-up by Julie Powell, her tsk-tsk memoir "Cleaving." In one of the better parts of the book, she travels to Tanzania and tries Ugali, and included a version of it in the story. Boil water, slowly dump corn flower into the water until it is thick and doughy. Plop that sucker onto a plate, and eat it with a mix of cooked onions, tomatoes and greens. She suggests pulling parts of the dough, making an indentation to use as a scoop, and eating with your hands. I lasted about one go-round with that approach. I even eat pizza and sandwiches with a fork.
I like the idea better in theory.
So, this was super hard. At least the doughy part. My flimsy muscles struggled to stir it. There was much swearing. It's very filling, and the dough part just tastes like a giant dumpling or less flavorful mashed potatoes. It is good to know that if we have an empty cupboard, I can probably make something using this as a base. Then we can just save our taste buds for another day.
"It looks exactly how it tastes," as Chuck said.
Polenta Pizza: This was a hit. I made polenta mixed with a bit of parm, and spread it on the bottom of a springform pan (not just for cheesecake anymore. Good thing Chuck didn't run it over like he threatened to after the great Pumpkin Cheesecake incident of aught-9.) TIP: If you wait for the polenta to cool just an iota, it spreads a lot better. I topped it with some chicken sausages, tomatoes, arugula, onions and some disks of moz, then baked it for like a half hour. Totally good.
Greek Chicken and Orzo with White Wine Cream Sauce: I felt like a mad scientist when I made this. I made orzo, meanwhile mixed up some onions, garlic, white wine and just two dashes of heavy cream. When I sampled it, my mouth almost exploded. Inspiration comes from a local Greek restaurant that serves this with beef tips. I just made mine with chicken, which was meh. I'm not huge into chicken anyway. But the Orzo! Oh ... the orzo.
Jennifer's Body: Oh, Diablo. You did it. This might just be my favorite movie of 2009. It's an insta-Cult classic, rich in hokey dialog, (When the Succubus has suffered a torso wound in a scuffle, she turns to her friend and asks for a tampon), and sickeningly delicious. This got panned by people who know things about movies, but seemed to have missed the point. It has a strong USA Up All Night vibe (Chuck pointed this out, I totally agree), but is so so so clever. Sometimes the dialog sounds like it is actually making fun of Juno. I'm going to choose to think this is on purpose.
Drag Me to Hell: Huh. This kind of sucked. But I got my high score on Bejeweled Blitz for iPhone while ignoring it. There are some totally disgusting scenes. I like the part where the old woman sticks her fist directly into the protagonist's face.
Too Much Money: A Novel by Dominick Dunne: "Too Much Money" reads like an advanced season of the Upper East Side teen drama "Gossip Girl," a place where rumors run as fast as opposable thumbs can text them. In his final novel, Dunne revisits characters from "People Like Us," which he wrote in the 80s, featuring thinly-veiled versions of his friends, enemies, and acquaintances from the fancy schmancy moneyed world of NYC dinner parties.
Gus Bailey is an embedded journalist walking among people whose donations to the city's library surpass his legal fees from his public insinuation that a certain congressman was more involved in the death of a young woman than he is admitting. Bailey is a person people tell things to (much like Dunne always described himself when he was writing for Vanity Fair and covering things like the OJ Simpson trial).
Dunne writes about these characters as they make chess-like moves through society.
Full review will be on Minnesota Reads.
Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler: Anne Tyler's 18th novel "Noah's Compass" is more twee than Zooey Dechanel wrapped in the orange and brown tones of a home-knit afghan.
This one comes out this week. The review will be on Minnesota Reads.
Big Machine: A Novel by Victor LaValle: Maybe you just broke up with your boyfriend. Maybe you haven't had a boyfriend in, like, eons. Along comes this guy: good-lookingish, sorta funny, kinda interesting. People you like also like him. You shrug and give him a whirl. You just cannot catch the fever, though. There is something off. Cogs that don't match up or something. Trying to cram a square peg into a round hole. He becomes a placeholder. Someone to sit next to in relationship's waiting room.
That, for me, was what it was like to read Victor LaValle's "Big Machine."
This will also be on Minnesota Reads.
In other book news, here is my top 10 books that I read in '09.