Sunday, February 20, 2011

#blacklitchat with Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Wow! We just finished a wonderful chat with Dolen Perkins-Valdez, author of Wench.

She was our guest author for our February 20 chat, our second one this month. And the questions and comments were flying. Wench is a New York Times bestseller and the story imagines the life of slaves who spend summers at a northern resort with their Southern masters. The novel began with a slender bit of history that Dr. Perkins-Valdez noticed in a book about W.E.B. DuBois. The resort in the novel actually existed.

The novel raises questions about the nature of love in the midst of slavery and whether or not the slaves, given the opportunity, will try to escape.

Check out the transcript.

If you haven't read it, put it on your to-be-read list. And check out Dr. Perkins-Valdez' tour schedule on her web site. One of her upcoming events is the UCF Book Festival in Orlando, April 16, so I'll get to hear her in person!

Gourmet Saturdays ...

Last week my oldest child said we should start having "Gourmet Saturdays" and pick a gourmet recipe each week and make it on Saturday. He's a true "foodie" and likes to try new foods, make up recipes and just learn about food.

Last night (Saturday night) I remembered pretty late in the day that I'd said we could start having Gourmet Saturdays. Instead of making excuses and putting it off for another night, I decided to find something simple we could make and achieve the goal.

Fortunately we'd been to the public library earlier in the day and I had checked out Rachel Ray's Yum-O! family cookbook.  While the kids played at a local playground, I looked for something easy and quick.

I chose the Farmer's Stack Pancake Dinner. The kids agreed. We still had to make a trip to the store for some ingredients, so it was a late dinner.

I know, pancakes aren't exactly "gourmet", but I knew I wasn't up for anything more complicated or with more exotic ingredients. Plus, I'm confident I can make pancakes. The kids enjoyed the pancakes and fruit / maple sauce, but not the sausage. I enjoyed the whole thing. :)

Hopefully, I'll plan better for next Saturday and we can make something that's closer to gourmet.  I love the idea and I really want to continue to support my son's willingness to try new foods and his interest in food. He's not been a picky eater and he's willing to think about healthful food options. And I'm thankful for that.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Stop and eat the roses

One of my challenges is that I delay even the things I want to choose for myself. Even simple things.

For years, since I first read that it could be done, I've wanted to have crystallized rose petals. The idea of eating sugary flower petals seems so fancy and ethereal.  What would a rose taste like?

Every year before Valentine's Day I think about making those rose petals. And I then let the date pass while I beat back my "silly" idea because:
I'm the only one who's interested.
It's frivolous.
I should wait until I have a grand dinner party.

This year, I beat back the excuses and made them. On a whim. I saw containers of organic rose petals while shopping at Whole Foods (which is my favorite place to shop even though it's expensive, impractical, etc.).

My daughter really wanted roses on stems, so we go those instead. Still organic and edible.

And that night I found this recipe on the NPR site and my son and I made the crystallized rose petals (we also used organic sugar). It was simple and the next day (they have to dry overnight) the petals were wonderful. Very light and like a little taste of beauty.

I didn't make an elaborate cake and use them for garnish or have a fancy Valentine's Day dinner. Just the rose petals. And they were worth it. I will try to remember them and remind myself not to wait for the perfect this or that; and not to diminish the wonder of everyday. Will I remember not to delay and to do even simple things just because I want to? I don't know. The rose petals are one of the things that were on my list of "I wish I had ..." and hopefully I'll take more steps to just do those things.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

#blacklitchat transcript: Aminatta Forna

I'm pretty late in posting our transcript from the Feb. 6 #blacklitchat with Aminatta Forna, author of The Memory of Love. (She is @AminattaForna on Twitter.) Here is the transcript of our conversation with her, which she made time for during her U.S. tour (she lives in England and Sierra Leone).

We're doing two #blacklitchat conversations this month, a first for us (me and @deegospel, my co-moderator). We also did the chat with Aminatta Forna at 7 p.m., earlier than usual.

And I realized a couple of weeks after we scheduled it that Feb. 6 was also Super Bowl Sunday. So many of our readers were focused on football. Some folks were able to join and we gave away a book during the chat - another first for #blacklitchat.

Reading The Memory of Love was wonderful. It's a beautiful novel and transports the reader to Sierra Leone in the years after the civil war there. My reading has been very U.S.-focused in the past few years; The Memory of Love makes me want to do more international, specifically African reading.

If you missed our chat, you can learn more about Aminatta Forna and her work via one of the links below:
Interview on BookPage
On the Diane Rehm Show
Review in NYTimes

And here are her upcoming tour dates.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

A handshake moment

I went to a reception for playwright David Henry Hwang this week. (He is a prolific writer and wrote M. Butterfly, Aida, Yellow Face and many other plays as well as film scripts.)

The reception for him was one where I was meeting nearly everyone for the first time - as opposed to an event that is filled with people from my regular circle(s). 

Thus I shook many hands.

Near the end of the reception a gentleman extended his hand to me and introduced himself. I took his hand shook it.

Then, a few moments later, he apologized. I had no idea why he was apologizing, so I asked him why. And I learned something.

He said a man isn't supposed to extend his hand to a woman first.  I assured him that didn't bother me at all and that I was not even aware of that rule.

I did think about the rule though. And I remembered moments in the past when I've met men of a certain age who did not extend their hands to me or even properly introduce themselves. 

They offended me. I couldn't imagine a reason why they wouldn't extend a hand to me other than race. 

And that may have been the case. But hearing about this handshake etiquette of men not extending their hands first to women made me think that maybe there were other reasons and other history involved. 

I'm glad this gentleman thrust his hand out and shook mine. I learned l something and will be thinking on that the next time I think a handshake is being withheld. I'll offer mine and hope they take the second chance to connect.