The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

15 07 2009
angels-game

Oh, how I wish I loved you more

Bring me a story I have not read before and, if I have read it, bring it to me so well written and narrated that I won’t even notice.-Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Angel’s Game

There’s a scene in the Pixar movie Ratatouille where Remy is talking about how different flavors interact and the animation shows these great little fireworks dancing around and exploding into amazing colors and shapes.  I love this – it isn’t even really a scene, I guess – this snippet of film.  Because that’s what my brain feels like when I read something absolutely magical.  Sometimes I read a sentence or a paragraph and I have to take a moment and close my eyes and wait until the explosions stop.  This happened so many times while reading The Angel’s Game that I should probably be worried about a brain tumor.

Carlos Ruiz Zafon wrote one of my favorite books of the last decade, The Shadow of the Wind.  I loved it, gave it to my sister who doesn’t read fiction and she loved it, then she gave it to my stepmother who loved it, she gave it to my father…who hasn’t read it yet because he doesn’t believe me when I tell him things are awesome (but then will come to me 6 months later and be all ‘Hey, El, have you heard of blah-bitty-blah? It’s so good!’ and I have a different sort of explosion in my brain).   The story is a Gothic mystery set in Barcelona in the early 1900s and revolves around books and their secrets.  It was heaven for me.

The Angel’s Game is a Gothic mystery set in Barcelona in the early 1900s…and revolves around books…and their secrets.  Hmmm.  So, Carlos Ruiz Zafon has a formula and he’s sticking to it.  Which would be awesome if this book was…better.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s packed with sentences that overload my brain with joy, but the story itself?  It just never really came together for me.  There were so many things thrown in there – love and betrayal and ghosts and a weird old house and illness and more love and more betrayal and strange dreams and horrible childhood and some more love and some more betrayal and religion and books and writing and murder (most foul!) and some more weird old houses and OMJEEZUS what the hell happened to the friggin’ plot?  And the ending?  Hooozy-bozy-ho…it just, I just, I don’t…well, it was an ending!  Because there were no more pages!  So it was obviously over!

What can I say?  I had high expectations.  I wanted more from this book.  And, as I should know from my own relationship with my parents, it isn’t always fair to push your hopes and dreams on someone or something else.  It’s just going to end in disappointment – and maybe a tetch of a drinking problem.  So, if you’ve never read anything by Senor Zafon, you must get The Shadow of the Wind.  And go ahead and read The Angel’s Game as well because the man can craft a sentence.  Just don’t expect too much.





Oops! Or How I Made Delicious Vegan Banana-Blueberry Muffins Completely By Accident

14 07 2009
Do you prefer your muffin buttered? Can I...butter your muffin?

Do you prefer your muffin buttered? Can I...butter your muffin?

I was going to start off this post by talking about awesome shit that I’ve made by accident. Then I realized this is the internet and my kid could read this someday. So I took it in another direction: Here’s the thing: my friends and I? We are distrustful of vegans, to say the least. Not only do they not make any goddamn sense whatsoever, they also almost always come off as self-righteous blowhards who would lecture you on the evils of eating a piece of warmed Brie. They just aren’t right in the head because WARMED BRIE, PEOPLE. Also, cheese of all types, hollandaise sauce, ice cream (srsly, Tofutti Cuties are not that good, especially when compared to Haagen Dazs Mayan Chocolate), and flax seed meal is gross. Now, this isn’t to say I’m some environment hatin’, whale killin’ nincompoop. I’m just too poor to buy organic. And I am soy intolerant, which is rad, because I don’t ever have to eat tofu! ANYWAY, that said, I have some vegan friends who are not self-righteous blowhards (but are not quite right in the head), and I like to make things sometimes that everyone can enjoy. So imagine my surprise tonight when I went to make these yummy muffins and I totally flaked and forgot to put an egg in there. Well, that wasn’t a surprise. I forget shit all the time. But the SURPRISE was that these can be made COMPLETELY VEGAN and are FUCKING DELICIOUS.  How did it happen? Shit if I know. I’m not a goddamn magician! Or FOOD SCIENTIST! Do I look like motherfucking Alton Brown? (If you say “Yes” I will punch you right in the gullet.) Point is, these muffins are good, so if you ever have some self-righteous blowhard vegan friends over for vegan cocktails, serve these vegan muffins and maybe they’ll spare you a lecture. Maybe. (Oh, also, for some reason, I always seem to have some sort of vegan milk product in my fridge. I do not know why. But that helps. Or you could just tell your vegan friends it was made with rice milk. I doubt they would notice.)

Banana-Blueberry Muffins (adapted from Betty Crocker’s Cookbook)

  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup blueberries (oh, just go ahead and get fresh ones. They’re AMAZING.)
  • 1/3 cup milk (regular, goat, soy, rice -whatever’s clever. I had some rice milk hangin’ out, so I used that.)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg (or not – it really doesn’t make a damn bit o’ difference. Really. You don’t even need substitute.)
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar (I used dark, but I think either will work)
  • 1 cup mashed bananas (about 2 medium-large)
  • splash of vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 400. Grease muffin tins with spray, or whatever you usually use to grease your muffin cups. I’ll grease your muffin cups – I thought I was your Snack Pack! Wait, what?
  2. Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Mix in blueberries.
  3. Using a stand mixer, hand mixer, or your own brute strength and a whisk, mix together remaining ingredients so they’re all nice and lumpy.
  4. Toss the dry into the wet and mix it up til the flour is damp (that sounds like an old-timey saying…) DO NOT OVERMIX MUFFIN BATTER. I AM NOT KIDDING. YOU WILL REGRET IT FOR ALWAYS, LIKE THAT STUPID TATTOO YOU GOT YOUR FRESHMAN YEAR OF COLLEGE.
  5. Divvy up the batter into the 12 muffin cups and bake away for 20 minutes. I like to rotate the pan once. But I’m not here to tell you how to live. Except when it comes to over-mixing the muffin batter.
  6. Let ’em cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then pop ’em out on to a wire rack and proceed to wow your friends. Just, if you have Kona over, don’t tell her that they’re vegan.






El and Lo Bake. Together! And Get a Little Drunkity. Mostly Drunkity. But There’s Some Baking. Really.

7 07 2009

Sorry for the hiatus. I had a vacation, and then had to sit shiva for the deaths of Farrah and the King of Pop. Then it was the 4th of July weekend which meant something awesome: I had a 4 day work week after my vacation! Oh, and El was coming down to the RVA to see off our good friend as she moved across the world. And to get a wee bit waste-y. With me! Jealous?? You should be. After some debate as to what we should bake for said friend’s send-off, we drank. And then I let El look at my Dorie Greenspan book. HOO-BOY, did she ever get a baking boner! We finally decided on Dorie’s Perfect Party Cake because El had a hankerin’ for some lemon and berries and I’m easy like Sunday mornin’ when it comes to baked goods. We used blackberry preserves and blackberries because Kroger is a den of lies and SAID it had raspberries but CLEARLY did not. I was stoked because I love to zest lemons and squeeze the life out of them, and because I’d never made Swiss Meringue Buttercream before. It’s not that hard. And pretty tasty. Delicious, in fact. SO DELICIOUS that El was ready to leave her single life and settle down with that cake.  They would make little cake babies and then, I suppose, El would eat those too. That’s a little weird… So without further ado, here is our dramatic pictorial of how we spent our summer vacation: Wait, no. How we spent our weekend while being the teensiest little bit hungover. Ahem:

Lo's kitchen before the storm.

Lo's kitchen before the storm.

Mmm! Egg yolks! There were 8 of these leftover, so I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies and I'm going to make pastry cream for BOSTON CREAM PIE CUPCAKES. Jealous??

Mmm! Egg yolks! There were 8 of these leftover, so I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies and I'm going to make pastry cream for BOSTON CREAM PIE CUPCAKES. Jealous??

Action shot! El adds....extract. Of some sort. Caught on film!

Action shot! El adds....extract. Of some sort. Caught on film!

Pretty much our mantra all the time. But especially when we're together! (Thanks to Kona for the awesome apron!)

Pretty much our mantra all the time. But especially when we're together! (Thanks to Kona for the awesome apron!)

What do you do with leftover batter? Cupcakes, of course! We used less than 8" x 2" round cake pans, so we had leftover batter. We put coconut on these since the guest of honor isn't a fan. LOVE the coconut. Just pop 'em in the oven for 15 minutes or so.

What do you do with leftover batter? Cupcakes, of course! We used less than 8" x 2" round cake pans, so we had leftover batter. We put coconut on these since the guest of honor isn't a fan. LOVE the coconut. Just pop 'em in the oven for 15 minutes or so.

Making the purty layers. This was all El. Because I am a bad decorator. And I was asleep at this point.

Making the purty layers. This was all El. Because I am a bad decorator. And I was asleep at this point.

The almost-finished product....

The almost-finished product....

And TA-DA! It's all finished! Way to be, El!

And TA-DA! It's all finished! Way to be, El!

Mexican Thumb Wrestlers say: "Dos pulgares arriba!"

Mexican Thumb Wrestlers say: "Dos pulgares arriba!"