About four years ago, I was on a plane seated next to a twenty-two year-old woman. We struck up a conversation. She was bright and funny, and her self-confidence just illuminated her whole being. I was both envious and joyous. Envious, because I so wished I could go back in time—knowing what I know now—and redo some major life choices, so I could be more like her. Joyous, because I knew this woman would never have to go through what I did.
She spoke about her mother , and how frustrated she was with her, because her mother would never stand up for herself, wouldn’t speak out if wronged. I tried to explain it might have to do with how her mom was raised and to find out what she could about that.
As we talked on, she asked about my life, too, and it occurred to me that she might not be aware of what life was like for so many women when her mother and I grew up. I kept it brief, merely saying that I was strongly encouraged to be a wife, mother, and happy housekeeper. And it was impressed upon me that I wasn’t smart enough to do anything else. She looked horrified. I suppose her mother or the women of her family never discussed such things. Mine didn’t.
So, I thought I’d horrify her further by plucking an old fact from my recesses. I told her about the dawn of credit cards. Until 1974, credit card companies denied single women access to the cards. They were reserved for men and married women—who had to have their husbands cosign for them. I remember my parents discussing whether or not my mom should have one for his account.
Well, you’d have thought I told her I ate my children. She just shook her head and said, “No way.”
I went a step further, hoping I wouldn’t insult her, and asked if she knew what women in this country went through to get the right to vote. That it didn’t happen until 1920. Again, she looked shocked. I guess American history wasn’t her strong suit in school?
When we deplaned, I asked her to do something for me—please read up on women’s history and do her part to inform others her age? Only by doing that will they not take what they have for granted.
Why review an award-winning book that's been out since 2000? Because the story & its characters have stayed with me that long. I've reread it since, and I still love it. I'm sure my assessment will fair poorly in comparison to the others who've reviewed it all these years. You should read it, if you haven't already.
Here's the first paragraph of The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood:
Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge. The bridge was being repaired: she went right through the Danger sign. The car fell a hundred feet into the ravine, smashing through the treetops feathery with new leaves, then burst into flames and rolled down into the shallow creek at the bottom. Chunks of the bridge fell on top of it. Nothing much was left of her but charred smithereens.
The story is set in Southern Ontario and spans the life of Iris Chase Griffen in the twentieth century, with most of the action happening in the 1930s and 40s. With her family's affluence and standing diminishing rapidly, her father seems to have zero interest in interrupting the decline, and his subsequent decisions are devastating to his daughters.
What I love about this book: The characters are human - quite flawed - but not overdone. The girls' father is horrible with how he lets them down, but Atwood makes you feel his despair and depression. It's an examination of human tendencies and faults - the truth of how people react to situations, and it hits us where it should. I think because we all have family members who have not risen to the occasion. We get it.
The story is layered, revealed little by little. The Blind Assassin story inside the main story is done so well, the reader is also eager for the respite it provides, along with the characters.
Atwood's use of similes and metaphors is wonderful. The comparisons aren't forced and used only when it truly helps to further convey the mood or situation. 'The leaves of the maples hang from their branches like limp gloves . . .' is one example. There are many.
It's a great read.
Before you complain—please understand I know there are many exceptions, I (and my guests) are speaking of what a large number of women experienced, and we know they are not universal experiences.
I so admire young women today. They’re strong and confident. Traits I wish I had at their age. It’s important for today’s young women to understand what went before and what shaped our lives. Women born in the 50s/early 60s and before were roundly discouraged in so many ways. The blog entries in this category are meant to help us understand each other better.
I was born in the late 50s and grew up in a tiny New Jersey town, where most the moms stayed home with their children. I remember, and can count on one hand, the moms who worked outside the home. Few subjects were ever tackled head-on in my world. I learned what my place in the world should be by inference.
A mom who worked at a paid job got whispered about. Her mom has to work. It was a scandalous thing. The unmistakable inference was they were too poor, the husband didn’t make enough money to support them, and wasn’t that a shame? Clearly, the kid gossip was created by the overheard conversations of our mothers.
One of my friends had a mom who worked. Her parents were clearly way smarter than any others I knew. Her mom actually went to college and had some sort of important job. So did her dad. I felt intimidated when I went to her house. They had a beautiful home, drove way nicer cars, and the level of discourse at their dinner table was light years above ours.
It all confused me. I was supposed to feel sorry for my friend, because her mother worked. But she had really nice clothes (new, not hand-me-downs like mine.) They went on great vacations—even to other countries! My family never went out to dinner. We couldn’t afford it. I can recall maybe three times we went to dinner as a family. Maybe. And we didn’t take family vacations. Ever. Not until I was older and out of the house did my parents take the family/younger siblings anywhere.
But my friend’s mother got whispered about? Looking back, I understand the subliminal—and constant—messages hammered into my brain and how they influenced my (truly awful) decision making as a young woman.
I was encouraged/prodded/expected to marry early, have children, stay at home, clean the house, become a thrifty and clever wife and mother, a great cook, and a perfect hostess. As a teenager, I read etiquette columns with the best hostess-ing hints. My father firmly believed that educating women was a waste of time and money. I grew up believing that was the way it was. When I entered high school, I still harbored a dim hope of becoming an architect. By the time I was a junior, I’d given that up. My dreams and ambitions were finally drilled out of me. All I expected in life was to hopefully marry someone who would take care of me.
Gaining approval was everything to me. I was so needy for acceptance. So, I did what I was told. That did not work out well, but that’s fodder for a lot more stories.
It seems a bit silly to write a review of a book that already has too many to read, but here's my two cents. I also know I'm bucking the popular trend by not raving about it.
I did love the premise & how it showed the parallel lives of two children all the way to the end of WWII. Each from very different circumstances. There have been soooo many books about the war, so this was a very fresh perspective to see it from.
The author did a fantastic job of showing life for the average French and German citizens during the build up to war and during - the ongoing terror of being involved just because you were alive.
What I didn't love was the ending. I won't spoil it, but after all the sadness, tragedy, and ever-grinding stress the characters go through, I think they (and the reader) deserved a little bit happier ending. It didn't need to be sparkles and rainbows, but yikes.
I'm also not so fond of the colons, semicolons, and the endless loose and run on sentences. Yes, I am aware this is 'literary', but 100-150 word sentences that comprise their own entire paragraphs are annoying to read. (IMHO, of course.) I had to keep going back over them, to be sure I understood the author's intent/implication with that sentence. They took me out of the story more times than I can count.
The bottom line is it is worth reading - for the unique perspective alone.
I’ll start with this:
Joanie was sitting on the bus and looking out the window when the truck hit George.
It’s not a compelling sentence, much less a great first sentence. It doesn’t tell us if Joanie actually saw the truck hit George, does it? It uses the boring ‘was sitting’ and ‘looking’ verbs, too.
So—I’ll begin with what I’m trying to say. Here are the facts the author knows, but so far, the reader does not:
Joanie’s on a bus. What kind? School bus. Where is it? Boca Raton, Florida. Where was she seated? Second row behind the driver—window seat.
Who is she? A public school attendee. How old? Fourteen. Where is she going & why? She’s headed home after school, presumably to have a snack & do her homework.
Who is George? A young man from Texas. How old? Twenty-five. Was he in a car or in the street when he was hit? He was running and darted into the street. Does Joanie know him? No.
What kind of truck was it? An F150, black. Who was driving it? An old man. Did Joanie see the accident? Yes.
Where were they when the accident happened? On Palmetto Park Road heading west.
That’s enough facts to get me started with a better opening. I don’t have to use all those facts in the first sentence (or in the first paragraph), of course, but I do want to pique the reader’s interest.
So, second attempt:
Yawning, Joanie shifted in her seat as the school bus jolted over the train tracks and returned to staring out the window.
Okay, it’s better—way better—especially the verb choices, but is it compelling? Starting a book with a yawn may not be the best thing to do, either. Unless the sentence becomes overly long, the action involving George (and other details) now has to happen in subsequent sentences. And that’s okay. But if I want a power-packed first line, this won’t do it.
As Joanie relieved her boredom by staring out the school bus window, a dark-haired man ran from the sidewalk into oncoming traffic, and a huge black pick up slammed into him.
Still ‘eh’. Also starts with an ‘as’. And it sounds ‘passive’—like the storyteller is bored telling it. It doesn’t put the reader into the scene. The reader is merely watching from afar.
Stop for a moment and assess—what are the most important facts to establish?
Joanie’s young. George gets hit. Joanie witnesses it.
I’ll try again:
Bored and tired, Joanie switched her gaze from her phone to out the school bus window just as a dark-haired man darted from the sidewalk into traffic, and a huge black pick up slammed him into the air.
I’m getting close. We know Joanie’s a kid, because it’s a school bus. We know George gets hit. We know Joanie doesn’t know him, or the sentence would use his name—being in Joanie’s POV.
I’m going to add ‘screaming’ to George’s description—to show he wasn’t simply careless. Something was terribly wrong that made him think his only option was going into the street. I’m taking out ‘out’ because it’s an extra word that doesn’t need to be there. We can assume when she switches her gaze to the window that she’s looking out of it. I’m taking out ‘just.’ It’s a word that almost never needs to be there. ‘As’ tells us the action happens at that exact moment.
Bored and tired, Joanie switched her gaze from her phone to the school bus window as a screaming dark-haired man darted from the sidewalk into traffic, and a huge black pickup slammed him into the air.
This works for me. It tells me it’s a normal day. Whether Joanie’s either on her way to school or on the way back (morning or afternoon) will be established soon. She looks out the window in time to see a crazed man running into traffic and get hit by a truck.
To assess, we have to put ourselves in the reader’s head. What questions come to their mind immediately? What question comes first?
I think the first is—what was so wrong that a man would risk running in front of a truck? Then—because of the word ‘slammed’, not ‘hit’—oh, my God, where did he land? Is he alive? The reader is seeing the carnage in their head without my having written a word about it. What was he running from? Was someone/something chasing him?
Next is concern for Joanie, the school girl. No one ever wants a kid to witness that. Did any of the other kids see it? What about the driver? Does the driver stop the bus?
It’s safe to say by re-writing it the way I did, I’ve piqued the reader’s interest, yes? I’ve gotten them involved in the story from the first sentence.
Let’s look at the verb usage. Switched, darted, and slammed. No ‘was watching’, ‘ran’, ‘looked’, ‘changed’ or ‘sat.’ The verbs are dynamic, not boring.
Notice I didn’t say ‘up into the air?’ Directional words are extras that aren’t needed and slow down your writing. There is no other way but ‘up’ if you’re tossed into the air (from Earth, that is), so it’s not necessary.
I used ‘huge black pickup’ instead of F150 because we’re in Joanie’s POV, and most fourteen-year-old girls don’t know or care about truck models. (Your character might, but mine doesn’t.)
I didn’t use the word ‘crazed’ in the sentence, because that’s a judgment call on Joanie’s part, and that’s also telling, not showing. By saying a screaming man darted into traffic, I’m showing that he’s crazed.
Also notice I didn’t describe how anything looked, other than George’s dark hair and the fact the truck was black. We have to put tiny bits of detail into the sentence, or the reader can’t create as full a picture. I picked dark-haired, because Joanie’s fourteen, and she’d most likely notice his hair, as his face might have been a blur, since it happened so fast. The truck’s color is black, because it paints a more ominous picture than a red or white truck, or no color mentioned at all. We don’t really care what anyone’s wearing at that moment, or whether Joanie is black, white, purple, blonde, brunette, or a redhead. Keeping the description to a bare minimum keeps the action going. Details of all sorts can be added in subsequent sentences.
And voila! I have a first sentence. Next time, I’ll work on what comes after.
If you haven't read Kling's Seychelle Sullivan series, you should. Seychelle, besides having the best first name ever (she and her siblings were named for islands, how cool is that?), is a smart and clever woman who can't stand injustice. That last part is probably why I like her so much.
I'll tell you the worst I can about these books:
Seychelle can take a licking and keep on ticking - sometimes to excess, and I have to suspend my disbelief at those times. (Happy to do it, BTW.) And - there are plot points that seem a might too convenient. That's it.
But!! Kling's writing is so clean. She gets you rooting for the underdog. She makes you love her characters. And she always has a good, solid mystery.
Mourning Tide is the 5th in the series, and yes, you can read it without having first read the others - it will stand alone very nicely. Seychelle owns a tugboat, so Kling takes us to places we'd never see or know about because of it, and that is a big draw, in my mind. Seychelle's efforts to find a friend's missing sister & who was responsible leads her into the world of a smarmy money-grubbing 'preacher' and his cult-like followers. Things are even slimier than they first look, and Seychelle inadvertently endangers her sweet little family - boyfriend B.J. Moana & their adopted, adorable son, Nestor.
Kling herself is a life-long sailor, has a zillion stories to tell, and I hope she keeps doing so. Check out her other series, too - The Shipwreck Adventures - featuring another great female lead character, Maggie Riley.
That’s what my older sister, my dear departed Stephanie, labeled the weird phenomenon of always—as the old knight in the Indiana Jones movie said—choosing poorly.
You walk into a bar with a few friends. There are enough vacant stools, all looking perfectly fine. You choose one. While the others in your party take their seats, you hang your purse on the hook under the counter, then boost yourself up on your stool. And it’s the one with a leg shorter than the other three. It’s the tippy barstool. Every bar has one, and you’ve picked it. Again.
My family excels at this. Welcome to our world. A world where your brand new package of three pairs of socks has a sock missing. You have five socks, not six. The package hadn’t been opened—it was simply a freak from the factory. Or your seat on the plane is in front of the only kicking toddler on board. You get the idea.
Nowhere does Tippy Barstool Syndrome kick in as hard or as often than at the grocery store. First you select a cart. So many to choose from, yet you take the one with the sticky wheel. The next has loud, squeaky wheels. A third has gum stuck to the underside of the handle. Around you, other shoppers are putting no thought at all into cart selection. They simply grab one, and off they go happily—on silent and gliding wheels.
As you peruse the store, placing items in the cart, Tippy hovers like Eeyore’s dark cloud. The first bag of flour you lift has a rip on the bottom that you don’t notice until it leaves a trail of white powder and the floor feels slippery. You glance down to notice your new shoes are dusted white. The first jar of jam you select has its little safety bubble already popped. The yogurt container’s sealed top has a slit in it. The bag of M&Ms was opened via the bottom seam by somebody sneaking some out, and they spill everywhere when you pick it up.
You’ve completed your list. Now you scout out the shortest or fastest line. You zip past all open lanes. For each line of customers, your brain is calculating, rapid-fire, what types of people are in that lane and how much they’ve got in their carts. A line may have fewer people with fewer items, but experienced shoppers know if more than one of those waiting are elderly, skip that queue. You don’t want to be smiling politely while grandpa can’t figure out the debit card or granny endlessly searches for her checkbook, then takes five excruciating minutes to write the check. Are there any harried moms with screaming toddlers? Does the cashier look new? Does the bagger pack slower than sludge? So many factors, and your brain calculates them brilliantly.
The analysis from your logical quadrant reports in, and you get in a line. Two people soon stand behind you. And this is when TBS kicks in. The customer at the register realizes she bought a wrong thing. She panics, says “I’ll be right back,” dashes out of line, and disappears down an aisle. The rest of you make small talk about the drivel on the gossip magazines’ covers in the checkout rack. Which, I have to say, are so unfair. Either the celebrities are too skinny or they’re too fat. Whatever the starlet weighs, it’s never good enough for the tabloids. Alien babies and people selling their grilled cheese sandwiches that look like Jesus, however, are never criticized on those covers.
I’m digressing. After a few minutes of us showing incredible patience and restraint in resisting eye rolls and sighs, the lady scoots back, apologizing. Those who can’t fake a nice reply merely nod. She pays and vamooses. The next person does everything right, but the register runs out of receipt paper.
It continues like that as the lanes on either side flow effortlessly along. I often tell people I meet in line to memorize my face. If they ever see me in line again, they’d be smart to get in a different one.
A Note: My beautiful sister Stephanie passed away from a particularly ugly and aggressive throat cancer, 4 years ago this week. She was so flipping fun and funny.
I begged her for years to quit smoking. She always said, "I'm going to. I promise." She never did. Please, if you smoke, quit now. Find a way. If you could see the pain it caused all of us, but especially our mother, you'd do it. Maybe you'll beat the odds, but why take that chance? We want you here - with us.
This is an essay from 2014 - and it appears on page 74 of my book, A Little Bit Sideways - but it (sadly) never grows old. There's a whole new generation of young (and older) men who are ridiculously clueless when it comes to romance and Valentine's Day in particular:
My new editor asked me to write my February column about romance. Borrowing from the great Bugs Bunny – “She don’t know me very well, do she?” Poor thing probably hasn’t had time to read many back issues and doesn’t realize what my track record is.
But I take pride in doing what I’m told (sometimes). And I relish relaying romantic tales. So here goes.
Valentine’s Day means a lot. To women. Not so much to men. Most men do what they’re told to do by their woman in order to maintain the household peace. This I know with certainty, because I have three adult sons and have had three semi-adult husbands. I believe this makes me an expert in the romantic gifts and gestures department, or—perhaps more accurately—what not to give the woman in your life if you ever expect to have intimate relations again.
After all, every man hopes that giving the right gift will lead to what we women call romance. The men call it something else that I can’t say here. The smart ones realize that a thoughtful, mushy gift will open a woman’s heart and make her feel all warm and tingly inside. Which leads to a long walk in the woods, then some playful swapping of baseball caps, then a relaxing soak in twin bathtubs outside in the yard while watching the sunset. Oh. Wait. No. That’s a special pill commercial.
Most men these days do know that most women are wired differently and require a little schmoozing. They don’t understand it—because, honestly, all they need is a simple nod toward the bedroom, and they’ll be out of their boxers and under the sheets before you take three steps down the hall—but if some affectionate gestures and canoodling make his woman want to jump his bones, a man will comply. But this is where some of the worst stories come into the picture. Seems that even what comprises those gestures is a mystery to men. Just when they think they’ve got it nailed and are doing something romantic, it can all blow up in their faces, poor things. A few things not to do:
Shoulder rubs are wonderful and most women will welcome one—but not when standing at the kitchen sink scrubbing pots—you’re likely to get hit over the head with a frying pan. Better idea? Gently nudge her away from the sink, dry her hands, pour her a glass of wine, and you finish the job. By the way, this only works if you do a good job of it, not the old - I’ll do a crummy job, and she’ll never ask me to do it again ploy. Because that just pisses her off worse and gets you further from your goal. Much further. You have no idea how much further. One of the best pieces of advice for a male cohabitating with a female is to learn early on how she likes certain household tasks done, then actually DO them that way. If more nookie is what you’re after, listen and follow my directions. Doing chores badly only makes her think of you as she would an irresponsible teenager. Someone she needs to supervise—so she’s still on duty, not relaxed. And if your woman is the weird exception that finds a grown man who acts like a petulant teenager a turn-on, well, it’s up to you, of course, but I say there’s a whole lotta trouble coming your way. If you stay, then you deserve what you get. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Don’t tell her you’ve planned a romantic evening, have the wine poured, get her all comfy on the sofa, then have a porn movie start playing when you hit the remote. (Unless you know, for a very, very, solid fact, that she’s into it. Come to think of it, get that in writing and have it notarized.) Women will compare themselves with the gorgeous, but anorexic, girl with huge boobs on the screen and wonder why you need to look at her to get turned on. Which leads to massive feelings of inadequacy and lower confidence and not so much fun in the bedroom—if the door hasn’t been slammed in your face already.
Do not write her a poem that has any words rhyming with bucket. Just don’t.
In addition, do not give her the following ‘gifts’—all courtesy of my exes: Fencing lessons when she’s never expressed ANY interest in it. A white yarn mop head (without even the accompanying mop stick to put it on). Yeah, wish I was kidding you on that one. A box of real coal chunks in a pretty box from the most expensive jeweler in town. No jewelry hidden inside, just the chunks. A used coffee mug. A scrub brush for the car. And a framed picture of your mother.
You are welcome.
One of my greatest fears from early childhood was that I’d fall into the three-quarter-inch gap in the seaside boardwalk planks in Asbury Park, New Jersey. We lived a few miles inland and would go to the boardwalk amusements every once in a while. I remember so vividly the smell of tar mixed with the tang of salt air. Every time I smell tar, I go back to childhood and the boardwalk. Here’s the weird thing—I love when that happens. I love the smell of tar. But for some reason, the little gap in the boards absolutely terrified me. In my mind, they were a foot wide.
Such is the strangeness of childhood fears. What’s also strange is how we all remember what those crazy fears were. So, I’ve been asking people about theirs, and, to a person, they had no trouble dredging up an example from early in their lives.
One man was completely freaked out by Winnie the Pooh. Screamed bloody murder when he saw the cartoon or, heaven forbid, came face-to-face with a stuffed one in the toy store. He can’t figure out why, though. Tigger, Eeyore, Piglet? No problem. Only the cute little soft-voiced, gentle bear made him cringe.
A more common one was mannequins. That, I can understand. Some of them creep me out, even now. Especially when they’ve been made to have facial expressions. I saw one recently whose face was cast in a freakish wide-mouthed laugh. He had heavily painted eyebrows that pitched together over his nose and way-too-bright blue eyes. He looked maniacal, like something the Joker would leave around to taunt his next victim. How that mannequin was an asset in selling men’s clothing was beyond me. What store owner would buy him? I ponder the good judgement, not to mention the sanity, of such a business owner. He’d be the type to have a trap-door in the dressing room or a secret two-way mirror.
An older man confessed to a paralyzing dread of chalk as a kid. Chalk? He had this fear long before the jumping into Bert’s sidewalk chalk drawings happened in the Mary Poppins movie, so we can’t blame Walt Disney or Dick Van Dyke. Maybe his mom banged the dust out of chalkboard erasers near him when he was an infant?
One little girl went nuts if she saw colored sprinkles. All-brown chocolate ones were okay. Just the happy and festive multi-colored sprinkles gave her nightmares. In an unexpected side note, clowns, known for multi-colored faces and outfits that universally give us the willies, didn’t affect her at all. You’d think they’d trigger the same reaction.
Speaking of nuts, a boy had a near-panic attack if confronted by peanuts. Not peanut butter, but the nuts. He didn’t have an allergy. All he can fathom now, as an adult, is the Mr. Peanut icon spooked him.
Product mascots when we were young were everywhere and pretty bizarre, come to think of it. The Jolly Green Giant? I was leery of him. Thought he was always about to squash those cute little green sprouts dancing around him. Speedy, the Alka-Seltzer boy? On the old black and white TV, he looked like a demented ventriloquist’s doll, and I hated those things. The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man with his stupid tilted sailor’s cap? I can’t explain why he creeped me out, but he just did. And why did he look so much like The Michelin Man? And for the life of me, I couldn’t comprehend Mr. Clean. An adult man who helped women clean the house? Oh, Please. My dad never cleaned anything, except the grill and the lawn mower. None of us kids fell for that one.
We were supposed to like and trust these icons? We were supposed to be happy to eat Charlie the Tuna’s friends? I submit that maybe the reason for our childhood terrors had more to do with the Madmen's three-martini lunch where they dreamed up such stuff, rather than anything actually being wrong with us.
Have you ever seen the aftermath of an exploded, spoiled can of cranberry sauce?
When I was a kid, I didn’t like the taste of cranberries. Mom taught us how to string them with popcorn to make Christmas tree garlands, but eating them? Nah. By my teen years, my palate had matured, and I realized Mom’s homemade cranberry relish was pretty darned good. Made with oranges, a few spices, and not too much sugar, it became my go-to for consuming cranberries. This was way, way before sweetened dried cranberries—Craisins—were temptingly dangled in front of us on TV like the California dancing raisins’ long lost cousins.
The problem with having a mother who made most things from scratch, and very well at that, is almost nothing served by others—individuals or restaurants—measures up. So I tend to take a pass on canned anything. Sometimes my Thanksgiving guests will come with donations for the dinner, which is so very thoughtful and nice. For the record, I prefer fresh flowers or wine as a hostess gift. But once in a while, that donation is a can of cranberry sauce, which I conveniently forget to open and serve. At the end of the meal, I’ll politely slap my forehead and apologize for forgetting. While cleaning up, I feel heartless just tossing it, so the can gets shoved to the back of the pantry. Perhaps my guilt will go away, and I’ll throw it out in a week or two?
Several years go by. I legitimately forget all about it, and if I haven’t cleaned out the pantry (which I almost never do), disaster strikes. Purplish-red gooey stuff goes everywhere. It’s sticky, and it stains, and it’s a pain in the rear to wash absolutely everything down. True confession here, though—it’s only happened once. But once was enough. Some might say I got what I deserved, but I really, really, really hate serving that gelatinous goop. I don’t know why they call the jellied stuff that slides out of the can cranberry sauce. It looks and acts more like Jello. I suppose it tastes like cranberries, in a way. But it’s a far cry from real cranberries.
Another reconfigured and reconditioned Thanksgiving food I can’t stomach is fake mashed potatoes. There are people who buy a box of dried potato flakes (I guess they’re flakes, I really don’t know), mix them with water or milk, and the resulting mush is supposed to be instant mashed potatoes? It’s shocking. That sounds blasphemous on top of unappetizing. Plus they have all sorts of chemicals added to them. I guess I don’t understand, because boiling potatoes, then mushing them up with some milk and butter, is one of the easiest things to do in the world of cooking. There’s nothing complicated about it.
The English and Irish were able to do it, for crying out loud. No offense meant to either nationality, but you are not famous for your great food. We love you for other reasons. (I do have English and Irish in my mixed-mutt heritage). And real potatoes taste good. So I don’t get it. According to info I found on the Internet, instant mashed potatoes have been through ‘an industrial process’ of cooking, mashing, and dehydrating—resulting in ‘a close approximation’ of mashed potatoes. Ewwww. Sounds yummy. Not. Unless you’re cooking for Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters, where he uses a gallon of mashed potatoes as a sculpture medium, please try to do it yourself at least once. Your grandmother would be so proud.
What I never figured out was—why Teri Garr made enough potatoes to satisfy a famished fire department when they had three little kids who each probably consumed a couple of forkfuls. But then Spielberg would have had to make Dreyfuss raid his kids’ Playdough stash, and that would have been too hard?
There’s a lot I don’t understand about movies. Like why Bryce Dallas Howard’s heels didn’t snap and break while doing all that running from dinosaurs—through the forest, over rocks, on asphalt—those were some impressive shoes. Or why babysitters open the closet or basement door, when they know darn well what’s behind it? I spent much of my adolescence in babysitting mode, and that is just plain insulting.
I suppose there’s much I don’t understand about a lot of life’s mysteries. But I do understand the wonders of homemade, from scratch—food.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
I believe the only way to get through the slings and arrows life throws at all of us is to find the humor.