Thursday, August 27, 2020

Rediscovering Short Stories

Modeling clay Ganpati bappa made
by my sister and nephew! 

I started to write a post about my idli recipe- and it was getting so long-winded that I removed the book portion to post here separately. Idli post to come in a couple of days! Meanwhile let's talk about books.

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Image: Goodreads

Something that really brightened up my week was this book- Ghost Summer: Stories by Tananarive Due. Sinking your teeth into a well-written book is just so delicious. The Read Harder challenge continues to force me to read new authors and explore new genres and when I reluctantly do so, I am sometimes richly rewarded. The prompt was "Read a horror book published by an indie press" and I drew a blank. Horror is not really my favorite genre. And honestly, I wouldn't know an indie press from any other kind of press. On the community forums, this book kept popping up as a suggestion so I requested it from the library with a let's-check-this-box attitude. 

But Tananarive Due's book is SO GOOD! She knows how to tell a story and I am here for it. As a nice bonus, many of the stories are set right here in Georgia and Florida. The stories fall into 4 sections; "Gracetown" features three ghost stories set in Florida, the "Knowing" had 5 stories of uncanny events, 3 of which I loved; "Carriers" has 5 stories all with pandemic themes (!) and "Vanishings" ends the collection with two stories. I was blown away by several stories in this great little collection.

It has been a while since I read a book of short stories. They were my very favorite genre as a teenager and young adult. Several of the short stories that I loved and still remember decades later are available to read online in their entirety, like O. Henry's iconic The Gift of the Magi and his hilarious story of a kidnapping gone wrong, The Ransom of Red Chief. Roald Dahl is best known for his children's books but his short story Taste is outstanding. Edited to add: I just remembered another one of Dahl's classics- Lamb to the Slaughter. Other memorable short stories: the futuristic There will Come Soft Rains by Ray Bradbury, the moralistic The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant, the highly unsettling The Lottery by Shirley Jackson and Truman Capote's poignant A Christmas Memory

A few collections of short stories that I have enjoyed over the years- Jigs and Reels by Joanne Harris, Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, Malgudi Days by R. K. Narayan, No Comebacks by Frederick Forsyth, I, Robot by Isaac Asimov and Tales of Firozsha Baag by Rohinton Mistry. 

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Two pieces of inspiration- a child of the slums becomes a food scientist, and this young ballet dancer from an unlikely dance academy

Tell me what you're reading, and what's inspiring you these days. 

Friday, August 14, 2020

Impossible quiche

We're halfway into August and the pandemic summer goes on and on. It is Friday now and this week has been a routine and uneventful one. But last week felt very anxious and discombobulated. There was a COVID scare in our household, then one of our kids fell and dislodged a front tooth and needed urgent dental care. We heard from three people close to us who have all lost family members either to COVID or other illnesses. 

Most of the cooking since then has been in the form of soups, soft scrambled eggs, khichdi and smoothies because of the aforementioned dental misadventure. But one evening I took over some dinner to friends as a condolence offering- tortellini vegetable soup and quiche.  

To make the quiche, I adapted this recipe, looking through the pantry and freezer to come up with some ingredients. I found a box of frozen spinach and a container of fried onions and somehow that odd combination worked out really well. This is one of those "impossible" quiches which is crustless, but a small amount of flour in the mixture settles and magically forms a crust of sorts for the quiche. Instead of making a large quiche, I made two smaller ones, one for our family and the other, in a foil pan, to share. The quiche mixed up quickly and turned out beautifully- it sliced well and held its shape. I knew I had to jot down the recipe so I can make it again.

Impossible quiche

Preheat oven to 400F.

Lightly whisk 6 large eggs and set aside.

Grease 1 or 2 baking dishes. In the baking dish(es), divide 1 package chopped spinach (thawed in the microwave and squeezed somewhat dry), 1 scant cup shredded cheddar cheese and about a cup of fried onions

In a large bowl, mix together 1/2 cup all-purpose flour and 1 tsp. baking powder

Stir in 1.5 cups milk, 2 tsp. dijon mustard, salt and pepper to taste, whisking to make sure there are no lumps. 

Pour the mixture in the prepped baking dishes. 

Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the mixture is just cooked in the center (test with a knife tip). 

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What else have I been doing? I've surprised myself by keeping up with an exercise routine since my beloved gym classes and pools shut down in mid-March. The classes and the gym have always been a crutch for me as I maintained that I could not and would not exercise if left to my own devices. Well, now I have learned to do just that. Four or five mornings a week, I either go for a 30 minute run or do a 30 minute workout on YouTube- my favorites are Fitness Blender (there are dozens) and workouts by Lita Lewis (there are 3, and I have done each one many times over). My approach to exercise is to do it consistently and enjoy the process without any expectations. 

I've been watching a few movies that are leaving Netflix at the end of this month- Groundhog Day, which I highly recommend because it is funny and feels topical, and United 93, which tells the story of Flight 93 which was hijacked on 9/11- a hard-hitting and very well-crafted movie. 

And, tomorrow, Aug 15, 2020- Happy Independence Day, India. After many decades, I watched this video today- the original and superb Mile Sur Mera Tumhara.

How is August treating you?