I’ve been thinking recently about the reasons I started this blog. To eat and drink and read, yes! But, I can do that on my own, and have been for years. Why then, decide to share it with others? Why let people in on my particular weirdness? I stumbled across the answer while balling socks (true story), and I’ll let you in on my laundry-day epiphany.
With The Girl Who Ate Books, I’m attempting to recreate that sense that one has in childhood of inhabiting the world of the book one’s reading. The way that, as kids, the story didn’t stop simply because we’d close the book. We’d strap on our cardboard sword, sprinkle some fairy dust, and continue raising hell with the Lost Boys. We’d talk to our stuffed animals out of some real desperation that they may feel unloved after reading The Velveteen Rabbit. As we got older, maybe our methods got a bit more sophisticated. While spending time with Jane Austen, we’d tie ribbons under our sorry excuses for bosoms to fake the empire waistlines of Regency dresses, or perhaps let our hair grow longer to emulate the dark and sexy Aragorn, all the while hoping mom wouldn’t notice (and blithely point out that that we look like greasy bums). Adolescence brought with it doomed love affairs; we’d part our hair down the middle like Juliet, and dream of finding a black velvet dress like Anna Karenina. Okay, so maybe this seems more applicable to the girls than the boys, but don’t tell me there aren’t some guys out there that seriously jonsed for some low-slung holsters a la Stephen King’s gunslinger, or tried to affect Holden Caulfield-like disdain during every conversation of their fifteenth year.
As we get older we become critics. We start picking apart what we read. We learn about an author’s personal life and maybe we treat his/her works differently (Salinger, anyone?). We get political, we get skeptical, we stop simply enjoying it. The point of this blog, then, is to really dedicate some time to the simple joy that books can bring us, to allow a narrative to infect some of the other aspects of our lives, to keep the story going like we did as kids.
Obviously the average person doesn’t have much time to dedicate to this worthwhile endeavor, but hey, we all gotta eat right? And many of us find happy hour to be a very happy thing indeed. And so that is why, while I will don a furry hat in honor of Dostoevsky from time to time, I choose to revel in a work through culinary efforts, adding taste and smell to sound, touch and sight (though hey, books can smell pretty great on their own).
All this is just a lengthy way of explaining why you won’t see me bashing books on this site. That’s not to say I like every book I read, or that I’m not honestly enthused about what I do post, because I really, really am, it’s just that I’m not going to spend my time and money concocting food and drinks for something I didn’t enjoy. And frankly there’s enough snark on the internet already without me offering any from my personal—rather deep— well. What I’m saying here, people, is to strap on your happy face and get excited about getting excited, cuz this blog is all about hanging out in the Hundred Acre Woods… but, ya know, with alcohol.
Enough of this. Let’s get to the book. Which, maybe ironically? isn’t happy at all. The opposite really. Quite sad. Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson is a beautiful, haunting, echoing, searing, sad book. After losing his wife and sister, Trond Sander, a professional from Oslo, escapes into the country, buys a small house and a dog, and sets about creating a new life for himself, all the while retreating further and further into his past. He worries about winter, about clearing the snow from his driveway, he takes long walks and wonders about damage and where is might show: from his father, from the malevolent boy Jon, from the “sudden roar of Messerschmitts sweeping low over the roofs of the city coming in from the fjord, from the open sea and from Germany.” He wonders why he stopped reading David Copperfield. He finds, as maybe we all hope to, not answers, but some measure of coping.
Released by Graywolf Press, one of my favorite small presses, Out Stealing Horses is a pretty terrific candidate for a Small Press Cocktail. I imagine Trond quiet at night, sitting next to his wood stove, the dog beside him, having a drink while he listens to Billy Holiday. I don’t imagine him having this drink. But. Remember. This is a blog about how I experience the continued essence of a piece, not simply about how the character would do it. If Trond were to make a cocktail, which he wouldn’t, he might muddle some coffee grounds in a shaker. Add some vodka and whisky. Stir. It would be awful and I won’t do it to us.
Instead I choose to harness the Scandinavian freeze with some Aquavit, balance it out with some winter fruits and St. Germain, and add a touch of the Nordic sea with a salt rim. It’s fresh and lovely, and so I call it Lyra, after his sweet and beloved dog.
Makes one drink
1 ounce Aquavit
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed blood orange juice
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
1/2 ounce elderflower liqueur like St. Germain
Salt for the rim
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add all your liquids. Shake. Pause a moment as one always should to let some icemelt leach in. Shake some more. Take a slice of blood orange and wipe it around the rim of a chilled cocktail glass so the salt will adhere. Add a nice big pile of salt to a plate and spin the rim of the glass in your salt pile. Strain liquids into glass.