Archive for March, 2010

26th March
2010
written by Steph

In Edgar Allen Poe’s classic story “The Tell-Tale Heart”, the sound of a still beating heart represents the manifestation of a murderer’s guilt.  The rhythmic pounding riles and incites Poe’s narrator, ultimately driving him to confess his crime in order to gain a reprieve from his torment. However, not all heartbeats are torture.  To me, listening to Tony’s heart beating as we lie in bed at night is one of the most soothing and gentle sounds I know, lulling me softly into the arms of sleep.  The heartbeat is life’s soundtrack, and Gilead – an epistolary novel recounting a dying preacher’s thoughts on life – is like reading a heartbeat. I don’t think it is strictly true to say that Gilead is a narrative without a plot; there are specific stories that Reverend Ames wishes to share with his young son through his letter, but the action is quite fractured, often interrupted by long reflections on faith, family, love, forgiveness and life. The things that happened over the course of Ames’s life are important insofar as all of our experiences shape our present person.  But although such moments are frequent in novels, do real people often have a single moment that defines who they are, just one story to tell?  When looking back on your life, could you easily pick just a single thing as the most important event that transpired all the years that you lived?  Such clarity would probably make for a good story, but it alone might be the very basis of fiction. Regardless, although Gilead may not be the kind of narrative most readers are used to, it is a narrative.  We learn much about the men in the Ames family, starting with John’s grandfather.  John comes from a family of preachers, so he spends a lot of time discussing the many ways in which they have all struggled with issues of faith and applied God’s teachings to their own lives.  Another storyline that features quite prominently is John’s lifelong friendship with a fellow preacher and the difficult relationship John has developed with the man’s troubled son (happens to be named after John and is his godson).  We learn early on that John is very wary of his godson, but it takes most of the novel for us to learn why exactly this is. (more…)
25th March
2010
written by Steph

Lamb kofta & vegetable stew

When Tony and I were in New York back in November we ate a lot of amazing food. Obviously.  But hands down, our favorite thing we ate was a lamb kofta from a halal street meat vendor.  It was a taste sensation, and I rue that we only ate there once AND that Tony would shove as much of it as possible into his gaping maw while pushing me into oncoming traffic to prevent me from doing the same.  I know the man loves me, but I am no match for that kofta.

Since then, I have been having intermittent cravings for that delicious dish, but who knows when we’ll have a chance to head back to New York.  So I set out to try and recreate it at home.  And as with so many attempts to replicate dishes, I came nowhere close to that now-almost-mythical kofta… but thanks to this recipe over at TasteFood I did make a pretty damn good dish anyway.  It doesn’t really taste anything like the thing we had in New York, but it’s tasty, filling, and healthy, so try it out! (more…)
24th March
2010
written by Tony

Good book, ugly, ugly cover.

“‘To be born again,’ sang Gibreel Farishta tumbling from the heavens, ‘first you have to die.’” These are the first words in a book that manages at once to confound expectations and be more than simply infamous. I must confess that I knew next to nothing about this book when I picked it up and I brought it home — if nothing more — for the novelty of having that book. You know the one. The one that made the Muslims so mad. The book that killed 40 people and put a, now irrevocable, fatwa into existence calling for all good Muslims to kill or, if unable to do so themselves, direct others to kill, anyone associated with this book. It’s a book that you feel a little nervous reading, say, on an airplane. Or in public. It has a stigma attached to it that is hard to get away from. It’s a book that sent its author into hiding for nearly a decade. I expected this book to be challenging on nearly every level. Something that could cause so much hate had to be either a blinding work of secular clarity and religious disavowal, or so basic and insulting that no one could read it and not feel tainted. In a way, it was neither. The language is stunningly accessible, and at times is almost sing-songy. If you’ve ever watched a Bollywood movie you’ll understand the verbal melody that Indian English becomes, how nearly everything becomes an idiom and the nonsense forms a meaning outside of accepted bounds. This is that feeling, put onto paper. Tune up the sitar and put on the hand cymbals and you could sway your hips in time with the writing. (more…)
22nd March
2010
written by Steph

I don’t write about it very frequently on this blog, but many of you know that by day (and sometimes by night) I am a PhD student in Psychology.  My research interests have fluttered about over the years as can only be expected in a five-year program, but within the expansive field of psychology and cognitive neuroscience, I’ve always focused on examining cognitive processes related to visual perception (read: how the brain processes things that we see).  The department I’m in is great for all things vision, perhaps to the detriment to the four other senses, which is something visiting speakers and researchers ALWAYS joke about… what can I say: in academia, the jokes are rarely good. Anyway, all of this preamble is simply meant to establish that when it comes to the topic of vision, I may be slightly more passionate than the average person. I didn’t know much going into this novel, other than the obvious – a mysterious plague besieges humanity, causing everyone to go blind.  Other than that, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen or where the story would go, and I’m kind of glad for that, so I don’t think I’ll say much more, other than the fact that one person is saved from this blindness and it is through her eyes that we see the devastation that results when humankind is robbed of sight. (more…)
19th March
2010
written by Tony

News flash! Now both Steph and myself are reviewers for BookPage! I'm excited to be a part of such a venerable publication, to wit, here is a link to my very first review. I'm currently reviewing more titles as we speak, so more links will be forthcoming in the coming months. I enjoyed getting to read The Solitude of Prime Numbers and benefiting from the talent of BookPage's marvelous fiction editor (and wonderful human being) Abby. I'm looking forward to reading more titles and certainly keeping everyone up to date on every new book!
18th March
2010
written by Steph

Scrumptious Breakfast Burritos!

If I were to pick my favorite meal of the day, it would have to be breakfast.  I love breakfast foods, and even back in my past life as a college undergrad when I pretty much did not cook, I could still be counted on to rock a Sunday breakfast in grand style.  Heck, I love breakfast so much that “breakfast for dinner” is a frequent occurrence in the S&TI! household. Of late, one of my most beloved breakfast offerings has been the breakfast burrito.  After much trial and error, I think I’ve found the perfect combination of flavors and ingredients that result in a hearty and satisfying way to start your day (or end it, because they’re filling enough for dinner!), and best of all these burritos are never soggy! (more…)
16th March
2010
written by Steph

The Sea, The Sea was my first book by Iris Murdoch, and I’m not ashamed to say that I approached it with my tail between my legs.  I was intimidated.  Having never read anything by Murdoch before, I was certain I was in for a challenging and demanding read; I worried I wouldn’t be up to the task, that Murdoch’s writing would be too avant garde or erudite for my mere mortal brain.  I summoned my courage and decided to tackle it, but I was scared it would conquer me. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that The Sea, The Sea, while dense and demanding was actually pretty painless to read!  I don’t think anyone could call Murdoch an easy read, but my fears that she would be inaccessible and opaque were pretty ill-founded.  In fact, the thing I struggled with most while reading this novel was myself.  I had to keep reminding myself not to psych myself out and to keep reading, repeating to myself “You can do this!  There’s nothing to fear here!”  It’s crazy how much our preconceptions can sway us and influence our reading experiences.  I was never fully able to relax while reading The Sea, The Sea, but I did make it all the way through, and ultimately found it a rich and rewarding reading experience. (more…)
15th March
2010
written by Steph
We know the excitement is killing you, so let's just cut to the podcast! Featured this week on What We Watched: Highlights from the podcast:
  • We pontificate on what Franka Potente’s audition must have been like for Run Lola Run
  • No, your eyes don’t deceive you.  We really did watch Labyrinth again.  But this time, ON THE BIG SCREEN!!!
  • We discuss the various ways in which A Perfect Getaway was anything but perfect
  • Steph reveals another girl crush when discussing A Mighty Wind
  • Tony threatens to end our marriage when he discovers another egregious lapse in Steph’s movie watching history which is revealed when we discuss Assassination of a High School President

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11th March
2010
written by Steph

Guilty confession time: this was my very first Maugham!  And not only that, I walked in pretty blind.  Not just in terms of what the book was about (though it’s true I didn’t read the back cover blurb and instead just dove right in), but also in terms of Maugham himself.  For some reason I thought he was a less contemporary author, one who had deeper roots in the Victorian tradition.  Imagine my surprise then when the book starts off in the roaring ‘20s!  I don’t know what all this confusion on my part was about, but I guess maybe in my mind, having never read either of them, I was conflating Maugham with de Maupassant?  Really, your guess is as good as mine. (more…)
9th March
2010
written by Steph

Chicken Tikka Masala (aka "Heaven on a plate")

If you’re anything like Tony and I, then you list Indian food as one of your favorite ethnic cuisines.  Coming from Toronto, I was used to a surfeit of wonderful and authentic Indian restaurants (I’ve heard tell from people from India that some of the best Indian food they’ve ever eaten they’ve had in T.O.!), so you can imagine my dismay when I moved to Nashville and found the Indian restaurants here less than inspiring.  The few places that existed tended to season every dish the exact same way (chicken korma should NOT taste the same as aloo gobi!), and often left me feeling bogged down yet oddly bereft once I was finished.  Sure there’s a great veggie Indian place just down the street, but we’re omnivores, and sometimes we crave meat.  Thankfully a WONDERFUL Indian place opened up across the street from our apartment about a year ago and Tony and I have never looked back.  Generally speaking Bombay Palace now takes care of all of our Indian needs, but there is something oddly rewarding about creating great Indian food in your own kitchen.  This recipe that I’ve adapted from over at the Pioneer Woman’s site will allow you to do just that!  Think Indian food is too hard to make at home?  Think again! (more…)
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