Saturday, February 27, 2010

Cook This, Not That (David Zinczenko & Matt Goulding)

Cook This, Not That is the latest book about healthy eating from Zinczenko & Goulding. Eat This, Not That was hugely popular, and this one is proving to be as well. What the authors do so right is include ingredients and foods that real people actually want to nonfat whipped cream or tofu in sight. The colorful pictures and easy to follow directions make this a no-brainer. Any ordinary cook can whip up something far healthier than a chain restaurant in less time than it takes to drive there or have it delivered.

I would never recommend a cookbook that I wouldn't try, so I have tried many recipes from Cook This, Not That. The ones that I have cooked have been delicious, from appetizers to desserts. Olive Garden's Fettucine Alfredo (A.K.A. Heart Attack on a Plate) rings in at 1,220 calories. The same taste can be gained from using a few tablespoons of butter, milk, flour, and good Parmesan for 540 calories. The Cheesecake Factory's Macaroni & Cheese? 1,482 calories PER SERVING. Or you can cook it at home for 480.

No wonder we live in such an unhealthy world today with portions and ingredients that are served in these restaurants. Is there any appetizer that is not cooked in a deep fryer? Would you rather have Chili's Fire Grilled Chicken Fajita Quesadilla for 1,480 calories (FOR AN APPETIZER???) or make them at home in a cast-iron skillet for 310? It takes just as much effort.


Monday, February 15, 2010

The Glister (John Burnside)

I would really like to get inside John Burnside's mind to see how this novel came about. The premise is extremely interesting...sinister and unsettling. What exactly is going on in Innertown, a place where no one ever visits and no one ever leaves?

Innertown is known for exactly one thing...a decrepit, condemned chemical plant, which many consider to be the cause of strange diseases attacking its residents. It is not known to the outside world that Innertown is also the place where five young boys have disappeared. Morrison, the insecure constable, found the first boy, but made a regretful mistake in the aftermath. This mistake has changed his life and will ultimately be his demise. The book goes back and forth among different narrators and even tenses.

This novel was such a paradox in that I couldn't stop reading it, yet I still don't know if the mysteries were solved. The reader is under the assumption that what happened to those boys is the central mystery of The Glister. However, I was left with more questions than were answered. I would hope that Burnside did this intentionally. If so, he certainly met his mark, because I was left utterly confused. Read this if you care about a good plot but not a satisfying ending.


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Sunday, February 7, 2010

White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson & Thomas Wentworth Higginson (Brenda Wineapple)

I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us — don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

This is all I remember about Emily Dickinson, reclusive poet extraordinaire. One of my English teachers in high school would start her class every single day by making us recite this poem. A little strange, but I guess she didn't want any of us arrogant teenagers to get a big head. We're "nobodies".

The subtitle of this book says it all. This is the story of the odd "friendship" (although I don't know if I would call it that) between Dickinson and Higginson, an extreme abolitionist. Dickinson, who lived a hermit-like existence, never venturing beyond her father's gates, sent Higginson, an occasional contributor to various publications, some poems for critique. Calling him the "master" and herself the "pupil", Dickinson respected his opinion immensely. Higginson was one of the only visitors she would ever allow to see her, begging him to visit her in Amherst. We learn many things as both of their lives intertwine, including the fact that Higginson was the leader (not Robert Gould Shaw, as the movie Glory would attest) of the first Union regiment made up of ex-slaves. We are also introduced to Dickinson's family, who most of the time respected Emily's need for solitude, as well as Mabel Todd, Emily's brother's mistress. Todd and Higginson published Dickinson's poems posthumously, editing with a heavy hand. Since Emily only published on her own terms, the reader is made to wonder if she would have preferred to remain unknown, even in death.

Wineapple does a fine job of thoroughly researching her characters. However, while Emily Dickinson herself is a fascinating study, a 318 page book about a friendship can get a little dull.


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