Reading may seem like a solitary pleasure, but we do not believe it is so. As we read, we intimately interact with writers, the worlds they create, and our own inner selves as well as the real world that surrounds us. Some of us are also blessed enough to have friends to share the experience with.
While discussing the idyllic village of Three Pines and the captivating characters author Louise Penny created in the Inspector Gamache books, we were aware of the sensory pleasure to be had in the meals described. Olivier’s Bistro, Gabri’s baking, and dinners at the Morrow’s can easily make us salivate while reading the books… Louise Penny's books, are a wonderful entrée into a sensual world, where each book is a season, capturing its mood and flavours, and contributing to the layers of meaning about the characters, who are marvellously revealed over the series.
At one point, a daydream of going through the series with a notebook in hand, writing down all these meals and later cooking them, took shape. This is our "notebook". We hope you enjoy this literary-culinary-sensory-philosophical journey.
Saturday, October 29, 2016
It's "Another FINE Mess", which is brilliant - as is to be expected from Louise Penny!
Carry on... and thank you Lynn!
Friday, October 28, 2016
Lovable Curmudgeons & a Salad (and Burgers, Cheese, Rolls, Brownies, Cakes, Pies, Pastry, and Cookies)
** Note: I’m blogging about a scene in A GREAT RECKONING, but I will avoid the spoilers in the scene, so for those (few) of you who are Penny fans and have not yet read it, I promise I don’t give the mystery away. For those who read the blog and haven’t read the books, I don’t suppose it matters, right?
“Ruth says she wants a name for her cottage,” said Nathanial. “She asked me to choose one.”
“Really?” asked Myrna. “She asked you?”
“Well, more told me to find one,” he admitted. “And told me not to fuck it up.”
“So what’ve you come up with?” asked Clara.“We’ve narrowed it down,” said Huifen. “It’s between Rose Cottage” – she pointed to the sweetbriar roses around Ruth’s porch – “ and Pit of Despair.”
“I dare you,” said Clara, laughing […].”
Who hurt you once so far beyond repair…
“That element of tragedy which lies in the very fact of frequency, has not yet wrought itself into the coarse emotion of mankind; and perhaps our frames could hardly bear much of it. If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence. As it is, the quickest of us walk about well wadded with stupidity.” (GEORGE ELIOT – MIDDLEMARCH)
The blog Brain Pickings (a rabbit hole if there ever was one) has a wonderful essay on genius and the ability to face despair. Link here: Brain Pickings.
“There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health.” (Prov 12:18)
“What were you looking at?” Jean-Guy asked Armand, as they stood on the village green eating burgers off the huge grill Olivier had set up. A long table had been brought out, filled with salads and fresh rolls and cheeses. Across the green was another, longer table with all sorts of cakes, pies, pastries. Cookies and brownies and candies and children.”
Friday, October 21, 2016
“Why in the world would you confront Inspector Beauvoir? Especially now?”
“It’s difficult to explain.”
“Honestly, Thérèse, can it matter at this stage?”
“Does he know what you’re doing? What we’re doing?”
“He doesn’t even know what he’s doing,” Gamache said. “He’s no threat.”
Thérèse Brunel was about to say something, but seeing his face, the bruise and the expression, she decided not to.
They’d already eaten, but saved some for Gamache. He carried a tray with [lentil] soup and a fresh baguette, pâté and cheeses into the living room and set it in front of the fire.
“Why did you go to Beauvoir?”
“I had to try, one more time.”
She looked at him for a long moment. “You mean one last time. You think you won’t get another chance.”
They sat for a long moment. Thérèse kneaded Henri’s ears while the shepherd moaned and grinned.
"You did the right thing,” she said. “No regrets.”
He walked straight toward his goal. Once there, he didn’t knock, but opened the door and closed it firmly behind him.
Beauvoir looked up from the desk and Gamache felt his heart constrict. Jean-Guy was going down. Setting.“
Come with me,” Gamache said. He’d expected his voice to be normal, and was surprised to hear just a whisper, the words barely audible.
“Get out.” Beauvoir’s voice, too, was low. He turned his back on the Chief.
“Well, take your fucking perfect life, your perfect record and get the fuck out. I’m just a piece of shit to you, something stuck to your shoe. Not good enough for your department, not good enough for your daughter. Not good enough to save.”
The last words barely made it from Beauvoir’s mouth. His throat had constricted and they just scraped by. Beauvoir stood up, his thin body shaking.“
I tried…” Gamache began.
“You left me. You left me to die in that factory.”
He’d clung to Gamache’s hands, and to this day Gamache could feel them, sticky and warm. Jean-Guy had said nothing, but his eyes had shrieked.
Armand had kissed Jean-Guy on the forehead, and smoothed his bedraggled hair. And whispered in his ear. And left. To help the others. He was their leader. Had led them into what proved to be an ambush. He couldn’t stay behind with one fallen agent, no matter how beloved.
He’d known the unspeakable comfort of not being alone in the final moments. And he’d known then the unspeakable loneliness Beauvoir must have felt.
Armand Gamache knew he’d changed. A different man was lifted from the concrete floor than had hit it. But he also knew that Jean-Guy Beauvoir had never really gotten up. He was tethered to that bloody factory floor, by pain and painkillers, by addiction and cruelty and the bondage of despair.
Gamache looked into those eyes again.They were empty now. Even the anger seemed just an exercise, an echo. Not really felt anymore. Twilight eyes.
“You left me to die, then made me a joke.”
Gamache felt the muzzle of the Glock in his abdomen and took a sharp breath as it pressed deeper.
“You have to get help.”
“You left me to die,” Beauvoir said, gasping for breath. “On the floor. On the fucking dirty floor.”
He was crying now, leaning into Gamache, their bodies pressed together. Beauvoir felt the fabric of Gamache’s jacket against his unshaven face and smelled sandalwood. And a hit of roses.
“I’ve come back for you now, Jean-Guy.” Gamache’s mouth was against Beauvoir’s ear, his words barely audible. “Come with me.”
He felt Beauvoir’s hand shift and the finger on the trigger tighten. But still he didn’t fight back. Didn’t struggle.
Then shall forgiven and forgiving meet again.
“I’m sorry,”said Gamache. “I’d give my life to save you.”
Or will it be, as always was, /too late?
“Too late,” Beauvoir’s words were muffled, spoken into Gamache’s shoulder.
“I love you, Armand whispered.
Jean-Guy Beauvoir leapt back and swung the gun, catching Gamache on the side of the face.
“I could kill you,” said Beauvoir.
“Oui. And maybe I deserve it.”
“No one would blame me. No one would arrest me.”
And Gamache knew that was true. He’d thought if he was ever gunned down, it wouldn’t be in Sûreté headquarters, or at the hands of Jean-Guy Beauvoir.
“I know,” the Chief said, his voice low and soft. He took a step closer to Beauvoir, who didn’t retreat. “How lonely you must be.”
He held Jean-Guy’s eyes and his heart broke for the boy he’d left behind.
“I could kill you,” Beauvoir repeated, his voice weaker.
“Leave me,” Beauvoir said, all fight and most of the life gone from him.
“Come with me.”
|I stole one of my husband's sunset pictures - he's obviously a better photographer than I am.|
Armand Gamache had always held unfashionable beliefs. He believed that light would banish the shadows. That kindness was more powerful than cruelty, and that goodness existed, even in the most desperate places. He believed that evil had its limits. But looking at the young men and women staring at him now, who’d seen something terrible about to happen and had done nothing, Chief Inspector Gamache wondered if he could have been wrong all this time.
Maybe darkness sometimes won. Maybe evil had no limits.
He walked alone back down the corridor, pressed the down button, and in the privacy of the elevator he covered his face with his hands.
|Just sharing the autumn mood - only decorated corner of the house - on this chilly day perfect for a bowl of soup!|
** The scene that follows is not a spoiler, but if you'd rather not read anything from the latest book, skip and go to the recipe!
“I thought I had the world figured out. Then everything I knew to be true, I started to question. And I hated him for it. […] But then the hate shifted,” said Beauvoir, speaking as though telling him a fable, a bedtime story. “I began to hate the very people I’d trusted. The ones who told me the world was filled with terrible people and that brutality was the same as strength. I’d learned to hit first and hard, and fast.
The world turned upside down,” Beauvoir continued. “It was at once more beautiful and more frightening than you’d been led to believe. And suddenly you didn’t know what to do. Who to trust. Where to turn. It’s terrifying. Being lost is so much worse than being on the wrong road. That’s why people stay on it so long. We’re too far gone, or so we think. We’re tired and we’re confused and we’re scared. And we think there’s no way back. I know.”
“When someone shoots at us, we return fire,” said Jean-Guy.
Now Jacques did nod.
“But it’s equally important that when someone is kind to us, we return that as well,” he said quietly. Careful. Careful not to scare the young man off.
“It took me a very long time to come to that. The hatred I felt for Monsieur Gamache, and then the others, shifted again, and I began to loathe myself.”
“Do you still?” Jacques asked, finally turning from the window, from the wasteland. “Hate yourself?”
“Non. It took a long time, and a lot of help. Jacques, the world is a cruel place, but it’s also filled with more goodness than we ever realized. And you know what? Kindness beats cruelty. In the long run. It really does. Believe me.”
He held out his hand to the young man. Jacques stared at it.
“Believe me,” Jean-Guy whispered.
And Jacques did.
Friday, October 14, 2016
Beauvoir had never liked dark chocolate. It seemed unfriendly. ... And on the wooden counter sat small mounds of very dark chocolate. Long rows of them, like tiny monks. He picked one up, turning it this way and that. Then he ate it. (The Beautiful Mystery, Kindle, p.64)
Gamache picked up a chocolate and held it between his large fingers. It looked microscopic there. Then he ate it. And Beauvoir smiled to see the astonishment, and delight, on Gamache’s face. “Blueberry?” Beauvoir nodded. “Those tiny wild ones. Chocolate covered. They make them by the bucketload here. I found the chocolaterie when I was looking for the monks. Seems like the better find.” (The Beautiful Mystery, Kindle, p.84)
Beauvoir now seemed happy. Indeed, happier than Gamache had ever seen him. Not the feverish, giddy highs of the addict, but a settled calm. Gamache knew it was a long and treacherous road back, but Beauvoir was at least on it. Gone were the mood swings, the irrational outbursts. The rage and the whining. Gone were the pills. The OxyContin... (The Beautiful Mystery, Kindle, p.34)
They were a good team. A great team. Suppose he isn’t happy? The question snuck up on Beauvoir, out of the woods. Suppose he doesn’t want Annie to be with me? But that was, again, just fancy. Not fact. Not fact. Not fact. (The Beautiful Mystery, Kindle, p.22)
However Beauvoir and Gamache's familiar camaraderie as the investigation initially proceeds, his appetite for the monastery food, and his care and playfulness with Annie are reassuring.
“I found some more chocolate-covered blueberries and brought them back to my cell. I’ll save some for you.” ... “I miss you,” Jean-Guy wrote. “ Merde! All the chocolates are gone! How did that happen?” Then he rolled over, the BlackBerry held lightly in his hand. But not before typing, in the darkness, his final message of the day. “ Je t’aime .” He carefully wrapped the chocolates and put them in the nightstand drawer. For Annie. He closed his eyes, and slept soundly. (The Beautiful Mystery, Kindle, p.105)
Beauvoir thought about the tiny pills the size of wild blueberries. The ones still hidden in his apartment. And the burst they brought. Not of musky flavor, but of blessed oblivion. (The Beautiful Mystery, Kindle, p.186)
Then he wrote back, describing where he was. Telling her they were making progress. He hesitated before hitting send, knowing while he hadn’t exactly lied, neither had he told her the complete truth. Of how he was feeling. His confusion, his anger. It seemed both directed at Francoeur and undirected. He was mad at Frère Raymond, mad at the monks, mad at being in the monastery instead of with Annie. Mad at the silence, broken by interminable masses. Mad at himself for letting Francoeur get under his skin. (The Beautiful Mystery, Kindle, p.240)
“Most people don’t die at once.” ... “They die a bit at a time,” ... "They lose heart. They lose hope. They lose faith. They lose interest. And finally, they lose themselves.” (The Beautiful Mystery, Kindle, p.277)
Jean-Guy looked down as they banked. A few monks were outside the walls, picking wild blueberries. He realized he didn’t have any of the chocolates to take back to Annie. But Beauvoir had a sick feeling that it no longer mattered. (The Beautiful Mystery, Kindle, p.371)
Last year two dear friends and I toured the Eastern Townships region and visited the Abbaye de Saint-Benoit-du-Lac. It was Louise Penny's inspiration for Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups. We were fortunate to witness a service in Gregorian chant, but alas, the Abbaye had run out of the chocolate-covered blueberries for which they are renowned!
Friday, October 7, 2016
“Clara had put the shepherd’s pie and apple crisp in the fridge. They’d been her own comfort food, after Peter had gone. She’d followed the casseroles back to sanity. Thanks to the kindness of neighbors who kept baking them, and kept bringing them. And who’d kept her company.
And now it was Clara’s turn to return the comfort and the casseroles and the company.”
“I didn’t want to disturb you,” Clara said, cradling the dishes. “But I know how much energy it takes to get out of bed in the morning, never mind shop and cook. There’re a couple bags of groceries in the trunk. They’re from Monsieur Béliveau. And Sarah sent some croissants and baguettes from her boulangerie. She says you can freeze them. I wouldn’t know. They never last that long in my house.
Clara saw a hint of a genuine smile. And with it a slight relief, a loosening of the tight bands holding Evie Lepage in, and the world out.”
“How’re you doing?”“It feels like my bones are dissolving,” said Evelyn. And Clara nodded. She knew that feeling.”[…]“Al won’t come in here,” she explained. “I have to keep the door closed. He doesn’t want to see anything to do with Laurent. But I come up, when he’s outside.”She swung the door open and stepped inside. The bed was as Laurent had left it, unmade. And his clothes were scattered about, where he’d tossed them.The two women sat side by side on Laurent’s bed.The old farmhouse creaked and groaned, as though the whole home was in mourning, trying to settle around the gaping hole in its foundation.“I’m afraid,” said Evie, at last.“Tell me,” said Clara. She didn’t ask, “Of what?” Clara knew what she was afraid of. And she knew the only reason Evelyn had allowed her past the threshold wasn’t because of the casseroles she carried in her arms, but because of something else Clara carried. The hole in her own heart.Clara knew.
“I’m afraid it won’t stop, and all my bones will disappear and one day I’ll just dissolve. I won’t be able to stand up anymore, or move.” She looked into Clara’s eyes. Clung to Clara’s eyes. “Mostly I’m afraid that it won’t matter. Because I have nowhere to go, and nothing to do. No need of bones.”
And Clara knew then that as great as her own grief was, nothing could compare to this hollow woman and her hollow home.
There wasn’t just a wound where Laurent had once been. This was a vacuum, into which everything tumbled. A great gaping black hole that sucked all the light, all the matter, all that mattered, into it.
Clara, who knew grief, was suddenly frightened herself. By the magnitude of this woman’s loss.
They sat on Laurent’s bed in silence, except for the moaning house.”
“Tell me about him.” Clara walked back to the bed and sat beside Evie.
And she did. Abruptly, in staccato sentences at first. Until in dibs and dabs and longer strokes, a portrait appeared. Of an unexpected baby, who became an unexpected little boy. Who always did and said the unexpected.”
Clara knew that grief took a terrible toll. It was paid at every birthday, every holiday, each Christmas. It was paid when glimpsing the familiar handwriting, or a hat, or a balled-up sock. Or hearing a creak that could have been, should have been, a footstep. Grief took its toll each morning, each evening, every noon hour as those who were left behind struggled forward.
Clara wasn’t sure how she’d have managed if the grief of losing Peter was accompanied not by shepherd’s pie and apple crisp, but by accusations. Not by kindness but by finger-pointing. Not by company and embraces and patience, but by whispers and turned backs.
“We thought they were friends.”
“You have friends. Lots of them. And we’re defending you,” said Clara.
It was true. But it was possible they could have done a better job. And Clara realized, with some shock, that part of her wondered if the gossip wasn’t perhaps, maybe, just a little… true.