Sunday, December 03, 2023

In My Life

Reading and Watching

Environmentally and socially responsible collection.

Quotes from The Best American Food Writing 2023

From the introduction by editor Mark Bittman:

"It could have happened sooner, but for decades food writers were actively discouraged from thinking about food as anything other than pleasurable. Those late-twentieth-century food writers could produce all they wanted about continental luxury hotels and their restaurants, about authenticity in Mongolia, about potatoes in Peru, about the mysterious ways of Japan, about the availability of sea urchin by mail, or how a home cook could produce deer—or tofu!—jerky, and so on, but they were for the most part forbidden from treading on the fields of sustainability, environmental pollution (food writers decidedly did not cover Rachel Carson), the decline of nutrition, the horrors of processing or labor: Leave those more serious and less-enchanting and -delightful subjects to your colleagues in Business or Health or Agriculture." (The Best American Food Writing 2023, p. xxi).

From "What Counts as Fresh Food?" by Bee Wilson: 

"The great miracle of our modern food system has been to supply us with the freshness of spring all year round—or at least with an approximation of it. ... Our entire food supply is based on the idea of 'fresh' and 'keeping things fresh.' But to keep things fresh is a kind of contradiction or deception, because something can only be truly fresh when it is right out of the ground or just cooked. (p. 19-20)

From "What We Write About When We Write About Food" by Ligaya Mishan: 

"Still, when contemporary food writers (and, I suppose, I am one) stray from celebrating flavors to probe the larger issues surrounding the parade of dishes to our tables—exploitation of labor, abuse of animals, climate change, the homogenizing of cuisines and cultures under globalization, systemic injustices that allow millions of people to go hungry each year—some readers complain. Food should not be political, they insist. Food is universal; food unites us. Let us have our cake in peace." (p. 132). 

Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo: new translation.

This is a highly regarded book published in 1955. It's always been obscure, never a blockbuster but literary critics seem to love it as did Gabriel García Márquez. It's all about dead people who are still very active and present in a strange little town. But it's not a ghost story, it's maybe an early example of magical realism. The narrator is on a quest to a town that "sits on the burning embers of the earth, at the very mouth of Hell. They say many of those who die there and go to Hell come back to fetch their blankets." (p. 15). 

For example, a man's wife dies one evening, and in the morning he goes to buy some strong drink; the drink seller offers him two for the price of one on the condition: "But tell your dead wife I always liked her and ask her to keep me in mind when she gets to Heaven. ... Tell her before she gets all cold." (p. 129). 

A review last week in the New York Times by Valeria Luiselli, "A Masterpiece That Inspired Gabriel García Márquez to Write His Own" pushed me to buy and read this obscure tale; summarizing its influence thus:

"Jorge Luis Borges said it was one of the greatest works of literature ever written. Susan Sontag called it one of the masterpieces of the 20th century. Enrique Vila-Matas has said that it is the 'perfect novel.' Roberto Bolaño’s '2666' would probably not exist without it. The book shows its readers how to read all over again, the same way 'The Waste Land' or 'Ulysses' does, by bending the rules of literature so skillfully, so freely, that the rules must change thereafter."

Just one thing: as I read, I appreciated the numerous brief mentions of birds. These lighten the very dark mood of a town of the dead. Examples —"A roadrunner, señor. That’s what they call those birds." (p. 16) ... "I’d seen the still air shattered by doves flapping their wings as if they were breaking free of the day." (p. 17)  ... "I wish I were a vulture so I could fly to where my sister lives." (p. 28)... "Through the hole in the roof, I watched flocks of thrushes pass overhead, those birds that flutter about in the late afternoon just before darkness closes the roads." (p. 62) ... "Returning from its flight around the fields, the mockingbird crossed in front of him and let out an anguished howl." (p. 71) ... "There weren’t any seagulls, only those birds they call 'ugly beaks,' the ones that growl as if they were snoring and then disappear when the sun comes out." (p. 105). 

Count me as clueless. But I did finish reading it. 

Streaming ... 

"Lessons in Chemistry" on Apple TV.
Very good series!

Final episode of Great British Baking Show (no photo of finalists -- no spoilers).
Some review I read said this season was like watching bread rise.
Yes, but it's so soothing!

Time to think about annual donations

From the Washington Post

A little color at a grey time of year

Morning sky as we occasionally see it in winter. Mostly we see only grey clouds. No auroras yet.

 Blog post © 2023 mae sander


Harvee said...

High praise from Borges and Garcia Marquez for that book! It must be something to read!

Our neighbor across the street had his gigantic spreading old oak tree taken down as it was hanging over a neighbor yard and also over the street. I can now see the sky days and nights from my windows, and can't wait to catch the full moon without those dark branches obscuring it.

Jeanie said...

I don't have AppleTV so no Life in Chemistry for me right now but even if I did, I'm hesitant. The book was so wonderful and so fresh in my head. I'm a little afraid to view. (By the time I get Apple that will probably pass.)

Helen's Book Blog said...

I liked both Lessons in Chemistry (even though it was different from the book. I did mis Six Thirty's voice) and the British Baking Show.

Cloudia said...

Thank you for sharing something interesting with us all! Aloha!

eileeninmd said...

Thanks for the reviews! Pretty sky capture!
It is sad that our great country has a high rate of poverty and children going hungry. Take care, have a wonderful week!

Jenn Jilks said...


My name is Erika. said...

The more or less obscure book in Mexico sounds wonderful. And I enjoyed the Bake Off this year, but it wasn't my favorite season. Happy new week Mae. hugs-Erika

Tandy | Lavender and Lime ( said...

Your morning sky is so comforting! We have yet to get the season of the GBBO you have just watched. I look forward to it :)

sillygirl said...

I was really pleased to watch Lessons In Chemistry - and after having read the book. One of those rare times the series was wonderful! I rarely do that as usually that doesn't happen.

thecuecard said...

Oh good are you liking the series Lessons in Chemistry? We have watched about 5 episodes and are liking it ... and I liked the book too. Brie Larson is good as Zott right?

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

Every time I drive to East Texas I am struck by the poverty I see. Every small town has just three things: liquor stores, dollar stores, and Baptist churches.

I feel like I need to spend time talking to people there and see what is going on.