Hello my friends...or perhaps just the great ether, either way--
If you have been paying attention to me lately you will know that I just met with my local girls for our January Late Night Bookies book club and some epicurean delight at The Red Iguana in Salt Lake City, Utah.
First, let's get the book out of the way. We read The Liar’s Club by Mary Karr. I liked it in a depressing, life-sucks-but-her-life-really-sucked kind of away.
A childhood full of alcohol, psychosis, meanness and a little bit of child abuse and molestation. Not awesome. But, the book must have hit me at the right time (mostly up in the middle of the night, can't sleep for the pain, 2 a.m. cramptacular-I'm-sick-to-my-stomach readings while suffering with a touch of a bug of one sort or another), because I got caught up in the drama of it. Mary was a tough little girl, tougher than little girls should ever have to be, and she was mean. But I don't begrudge her her meanness...she had to watch out for her own self because everyone else was working in the oil refinery or drunk, or maybe sometimes both.
One of the parts that made me smile in appreciation, in a yeah-you-go-little-girl-you-get-them-sumbitches-back kind of a way was when she said she got use to fighting. She wouldn't back down no matter what, even when she knew she was going to get her butt whupped. She said the one satisfaction she had was that, even if she got a bad beating, she was meaner and remembered longer. She'd come back with punishment when the odds were in her favor, even if it was weeks later, and people would pay.
One particular instance was when this neighbor boy was really mean to her--and like a true living-in-the-wilds-of-the-poor-oil-refinery-town-feral-Texan-child that she was, she climbed up in a tree in the middle of the field and pot-shotted the kid and his family with a bb gun when they went out for a picnic.
I laughed out loud and not because I think it's right to do that all of the time...but some of the time...maybe once in awhile when people are horrible and mean and low, even though they act like they are so much better than you are just because they believe in Jesus, maybe they earn a little bb zing. The piece de resistance was when the dad of the boy told her to get on down out of the tree. She retorted with an adult language type of a reply and refused to comply and I thought "Good for you girl...don't let those bastards get you down."
One of the realizations I had while reading this book was that people are just living their lives, mostly the best they can--even when their best is not the best. We're all just trying to make it through, and sometimes when we are young, and even when we are old, we make less than stellar choices, sometimes choices that border on criminality, but hey, sometimes it's all just too much.
It's not a cheerful read, but despite the abuse, the alcohol, the poverty and the pain, it felt like there was a little bit of hope...mind you not a lot...but little kids are resilient and somehow they mostly cope the best they can, even if they become alcoholics at 13. Mostly the book is a story of survival and the inner workings of a family. I'm sure there are stories that mirror it across the world and through the ages, the names or circumstances may change, but the story is there, just like it has always been.
It seemed like a good portion of the book club didn't really care so much for the book, which made for an interesting discussion just like always when we have some divergence. For me though--I am glad I read it. I can't say I "liked" it, because how do you "like" this kind of a personal tragedy and I don't recommend it, purely because it's depressing and graphic and loaded with adult language and that's the kind of thing you have to make a judgment call about on your own. I read what I read and sometimes I tell people about it, then they make their own choice as to whether to add it to what is in their own brains or not.
So be forewarned about it, but, if you like memoirs or tragedy or stories about families that don't necessarily have a happy ending but that kind of work out, because everyone keeps moving forward and makes their own life, then, maybe then, you might like to pick it up and give it a read.
Now for the part of book club that was not tragic or sad but rather absolutely delightful and delicious...We went to The Red Iguana in Salt Lake City for dinner. We had reservations and were seated fairly promptly in the midst of party central. The restaurant was buzzing with noise and teeming with people, which was perfect for the mood most of us were in.
Here is a run down of the epicurean delight we all enjoyed, by person (and with descriptions from their actual menu...just so you can see the deliciousness and just in case it's lunch time for you now and you're starving) ... ;)
Most everyone had the virgin Mango Margaritas which were spectacular, there were a couple of Sangrias (one white wine and one red) tossed in for good measure.
We also all had fresh chips and salsa that were brought to the table shortly after we were seated. I also ordered a cup of Chile con Queso to share and try out and it was most tasty (Chile Con Queso: Anaheim chile, fresh jalapenos, onions and tomato cooked with two types of cheese)
My food was as follows:
Enchiladas Verdes: Two sour cream chicken enchiladas topped with mole verde and melted jack cheese. Garnished with green onions, diced tomatoes and black olives.
Mole Verde: Fresh chile poblano, chile guero and jalapeno, blended with pepitas, sesame seeds, basil, onions, zucchini and avocados.
**Now, I liked my food, but it was different from what I expected. I have to say though, that as much as I enjoyed it the night of, it was even better for lunch a couple of days later when I took it in to work. The flavors had melded and really, it was superb.
Encurtidos: Four pickled jalapenos filled with shrimp and queso fresco, dipped in egg batter, fried and topped with salsa Espanola, served with guacamole
**Let me note now that the Encurtidos, which Anna shared all around, were FABU...as in FABUlous. Hands down one of my favorites of the night.
Anna and Melissa both enjoyed the Cochinita Pibil: Pork loin rubbed with achiote, vinegar, lime juice, orange juice, paprika and salt, slow roasted, then shredded and simmered in the roasting juice. Served with black beans, rice of the day and tortillas.
**I tried a little bit of the Cochinita, and it was absolutely excellent. Next time I go, this may be what I order...either that or the Shrimp Sonora that Kristin had.
Tiffany and Michele both had the Enchiladas Amarillas: Two enchiladas stuffed with pork carnitas topped with mole Amarillo, melted jack cheese and drizzled with crema Mexicana. (Mole Amarillo: Golden raisins, yellow tomatoes, yellow zucchini, chile guajilo and dried seasonal yellow chiles, makes this mole a fiery favorite.)
**Michele indicated that it was a little too spicy for her pallette, and Tiffany indicated it was so much spice it burned her twice. ;)
Kelly had the Chicken Fajitas: Grilled chicken served sizzling on a platter with onions and peppers. Pico de gallo, guacamole and a jalapeño finish this popular dish. Topped with hot flour tortillas.
Carnitas: Tender pieces of succulent pork cooked in its own juices, with spice and orange pulp, then fried with beer and a hint of milk.
**Mary said that it was most excellent. I thought it sounded good too. She was at the direct opposite end of the table or I might have finagled a piece or two away from her to try it. But Mary has good taste in food, so I'm going with it that it was a great dish.
Shrimp Sonora: Seven large tiger prawns sautéed in garlic and butter with lemon and a hint of pepper. Served with Mexican white rice, black beans, & tortillas
I have to say most of us indulged, enjoyed and shared some delightful dessertery as follows:
Xango Cheese Cake: A fried cream cheese pastry (which is what I had and it was excellent the next morning for breakfast...oh yeah, I ate it for breakfast.)
Homemade Sopapillas: Golden fried fritters topped with cinnamon, sugar and honey (Anna ordered these and they were HUGE...could have fed the whole table. As far as I know she had hers for breakfast the next day too.)
Fried Ice Cream: A flour tortilla filled with vanilla ice cream, shredded coconut, cinnamon and sugar; fried to a golden brown. (Mary said it was most excellent.)
After this we repaired to Anna and Mary's apartment for more book chatter and visiting and a pleasant end to the evenings events. It was a great night. Thanks chickies--you rock! ;D