Monday, June 24, 2013


From Goodreads
So, I'm not one for stories that end unhappily. I'm definitely more of a happily ever after kind of girl. If I want depressing and realistic, I'll watch the news. My reading is for escape. Which, I think I've mentioned before in one of my many tirades over what bugs me about a lot of contemporary modern fiction. But sometimes, I come across a book that has a clever enough concept that I'll read it even though it most likely isn't going to end well. Fated is one of those types of books. The idea behind it was so cool, I had to read.

Fated is the story of Fabio, aka Fate. He's gotten rather fed up with his job of trying to shepherd 83% of the population not on the Path of Destiny to conclusions that are just OK. Really, he's fed up with us because no matter how nice a fate he manages to create for us, we always manage to muck it up. Then, Fabio meets Sara, a mortal on the path of Destiny, and then Fate goes all down hill from there.

I think what I loved most about Fated was the cleverness of how it introduced its characters. At no point did it try to be too clever. A new character would walk in and Fabio would explain: "This is Dennis. He is Death. The thing about Death is he's X." X could be passive agressive, megalomanic, sociopath etc. The idea is these are the immortal beings directing things and they are completely off their rockers themselves. It made for fun introductions and interactions between Fabio and his fellow immortals. Fabio himself is likable in spite of himself. He is bored, lackadaisical  unhappy and frustrated. Even when he starts to change things up, he's a bundle of confusion and anxiety. He tries to play the straight good guy but being Fate, tends to blame others for what he's unhappy about. In that sense, he's a great depiction of Fate personified. 

The story itself sort of breezes along. There is no great adventure, no driving plot point to be solved in the end. We simply come into Fabio's life and follow it along for this limited period as he falls in love, repeatedly tries to be better and screws it up, gets called on his mistakes and then punished before finally reaching what, in the end, is an inevitable conclusion. Though it still erked me and actually kind of skeeved me out a bit how this story concluded. I can appreciate it but wish the author could have come up with a less...awkward ending.

So, Fated gets full marks for interesting premise and fun character development as well as a story that rolls along at a neat pace and tries to find a silver lining in the end which is more than a lot of books do these days. Check it out if you're in the mood for a quirky read and don't mind an odd ending now and then.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Food Stories (and a recipe!)

I've been watching, slowly but surely, the lectures from Edible Education 103, a class held at UC Berkeley last fall and headed up by Michael Pollan. I love to eat so a class looking at food and our relationship with it seemed like a good place to start looking into what MOOCs are but also, the class has just been fascinating. The one I watched last night was with NPR's The Kitchen Sisters who presented on collecting stories about the "hidden kitchens" in communities all over the country. One of their tenets of storytelling is that "Food is the New Music" - everyone has an opinion, a story, a song they want to share and food, like music, can trigger all sorts of memories.

Food is important in my family. We like to get together and eat. Most of my happiest memories involve food in some way. We have certain meals we eat at certain times of the year, we have certain foods we like to share with people, foods we hope our friends like when we bring them to parties. I've always loved sharing my family's recipes over the years with friends or being asked for them as my friends have scattered all over the world on their own adventures. I know my box and folders of recipes with titles like Grammy's Goulash  Jodi's Pumpkin Bread, Uncle Gary's Meatballs always meant I took a little piece of home with me no matter where I went.

Come summer, I pull out all the recipes for cold salads, dips and grilling. Recently, I made a batch of my Aunt Marcia's spaghetti salad. This was a dish I insisted I wanted for a grad school graduation cook-out to not only have as one of my favorite dishes, but also to share the dish with some of my best friends from school. Word of advice to the singles, this recipe makes a TON of food so halving the recipe means you still have leftovers but just not so much that you're sick of the dish by the time you are done. And hey, if you're invited to a potluck BBQ this summer, this recipe is a unique and delicious one to take along!

Perfect summer meal in my book! Burger and spaghetti salad

Aunt Marcia's Spaghetti Salad

1 lb. cooked spaghetti
1 large green pepper - chopped fine
1 red onion - chopped fine
8 oz. Kraft Zesty Italian Dressing (1 small bottle or half a larger bottle)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1 bottle McCormick Salad Supreme


1) Prepare spaghetti as noted on box. Mix together with all ingredients in large bowl.
2) Let chill for 24 hours before serving
3) Still well before serving as the vegetables tend to settle towards the bottle of the bowl over night.