No one has ever had to twist my arm to read a book. I used to cross streets while reading a book, bring a book to the dinner table, and every trip I went on, my blue and pink plastic Tweety Bird suitcase came with me, stuffed almost to the bursting point with Goosebumps and Boxcar children and Julie of the Wolves. When I meet people who have never voluntarily cracked open a book, it’s almost like I’m talking to someone from another planet. It’s like a vegan and a meat-lover trying to understand one another. That’s why I try to encourage people I know to read by showing them books that they can relate to or that I’ll know they’ll like. And that’s one reason I’m really enjoying these book dinners. Because whoever comes to these dinners becomes involved in these books whether they realize it or not. By eating the venison stew or the Buche de Noel, they’re becoming part of the book itself. Books for the people. Just thought I’d share that little tidbit of Chicken Soup for the Booklover’s Soul with you. You’re welcome. 🙂
Down to business. Last night, I made a really tasty Italian meal a la Don’t Move. I made the chicken scalloppini that Timoteo eyes untrustingly in the cafeteria of the hospital, while waiting for Elsa to give birth to Angela. I made the spaghetti aglio e olio that Italia makes Timoteo on the first night that they’re lovemaking becomes less assault-like and more consensual. Luckily, the dinner was much more fun than the depressing angstiness that pervades the novel, but I still felt a little closer to the characters, and that’s part of the whole point of doing this.
In the morning, I woke up and started making chai biscotti to complement the affogato that we would have for dessert that night. Whoever said that baking was therapy was right. I’ll admit I have a little pent up aggression right now, and whipping those eggs and beating that dough was nigh on cathartic. Even the electric mixer took on the depression from the book when it tried to commit suicide from trying to whip up the super thick biscotti dough. I had to abandon it before it exploded in my face and knead the dough by hand, which was quite the workout.
But it turned out really pretty (and tasty!) and my arms could use a workout, so I feel that it was well worth the effort. I found the recipe for this at Kitchen Trial & Error. As the biscotti cooled, I went and bought the rest of the ingredients for dinner. Then I went home and killed time by drinking dirty martinis and reading the next book on my list, The Corrections, since my guests weren’t arriving until six and the menu was simple enough that I didn’t have to start until they got there. When they finally did arrive, I wowed them with the fruit of my pre-packaged labors…cold cuts! and olive tapenade! and a baguette! Oh my!
If you’ve ever had scalloppini before, you know that, whether you’re using veal or chicken, you have to pound the meat to within an inch (actually 1/8 of an inch) of its life. I delegated that job to my friend Diana, who apparently also had some pent up aggression she wanted to take out on the poor chicken.
Chicken having been sufficiently flattened, I made the rest of the scalloppini sauce, throwing in some green onion here, some lemon juice there. My mom took over the spaghetti, since I kind of have a fear of burning garlic. The reason being that one time I tried to make this seemingly simple orzo dish which involved shelling A LOT of peas (did I say simple?), and after that was all done, I ruined it all by burning the garlic. Hence, the fear. But finally, dinner was ready, and it was a hit. If it was possible to make this dinner any more nerdy, we took it to a whole ‘nother literary level by using the Pride and Prejudice wine charms I got my mom for Christmas.
The scalloppini sauce was super flavorful and the spaghetti aglio e olio had just the right amount of zing. The recipe for the chicken scalloppini, by the way, comes from Creative Culinary…
…and the spaghetti aglio e olio originally came from Evan’s Kitchen Ramblings, though my mom kind of commandeered it since she considers herself the resident expert on all things Italian.
For dessert, we had affogato, which is vanilla ice cream and fresh espresso. It’s delicious, and really easy. If you’ve never tried it I definitely recommend it. And my chai biscotti were a big hit! So, thoroughly stuffed, we decided to play a game already notorious from The Last of the Mohicans dinner…Fax Machine! Hilarity ensued of course. I’m pretty sure affogato came out of not a few noses.
All in all, it was a great dinner, and my quest through the 1,001 Books list continues to be a success! Laughter really does make everyone feel better. Italia could have used a little more laughter in her life, that’s for damn sure. Until next time…