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Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Loveby Lara Vapnyar
Synopses & Reviews
Today, it's a different picture. It's been raining nonstop, and it's suddenly cold outside. I'm wearing jeans and a sweater and my husband's thick socks--I can't believe I was sweating in a tank top and shorts just a few days ago. The gas heater in our trailer has been broken for years, and the owners won't bother fixing it. They never live here themselves, and summer renters apparently don't need heat. It's a rundown trailer, my husband says. What do you expect? We rent it for seven weeks for the price of what you'd typically pay for two, and I'm usually happy with the bargain. Not on a day like today, though. We tried an electric heater, but it was expensive and seemed to warm only the ten-inch area around it. What we do is this: We turn all four stove burners on and put four large pots of water on to boil. (We could try baking pies, but there are mice living in the oven, and I really don't want to go there.) While the water is boiling on the stove, we cuddle with the kids under a huge blanket and watch Young Frankenstein on my computer. (We never get tired of watching Young Frankenstein.) Well, I think, since we need to keep four large pots on the stove, why not cook borscht in one of them? I can cook and still keep an eye on Young Frankenstein.
3 or 4 fresh beets
3 or 4 potatoes
1 medium carrot
1 medium onion
3 stalks of celery
2 tablespoons tomato sauce
2 quarts beef broth
Salt and pepper
1 or 2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon white vinegar
Chopped parsley and garlic (optional)
1. Chop vegetables and saute them right in the soup pot, in a little olive oil and the tomato sauce, for 15 to 20 minutes.
2. Pour the store-brought beef broth over the mixture. When it starts to boil, add salt, pepper, a bay leaf or two, and vinegar, and let the soup simmer until everything is tender, which sometimes takes so long that Young Frankenstein ends before my borscht is ready.
3. Hot borscht is served with sour cream just like cold borscht. I like to chop some parsley and garlic, smash the two together with a pinch of salt, and sprinkle this over a little island of sour cream in the bowls.
For some reason, it always seems warmer in the trailer when you make borscht than when you simply boil water. And there is another advantage. We don't have enough space at the table, so we eat balancing our hot bowls in our laps. And the laps get warm too.
A Bunch of Broccoli on the Third Shelf
Another one, seduced and abandoned, Nina's husband said, pulling a bunch of wilted broccoli from the refrigerator shelf. He held it with two fingers as if it stank, his handsome face scrunched in a grimace of disgust.
It doesn't stink, Nina thought. She blushed and hurried to take the broccoli--to throw it into the garbage. It isn't fresh, but you can't say that it stinks. She didn't say these thoughts aloud. She said she was sorry, she was busy all week and didn't have time for cooking. Nina worked in Manhattan. By the time she came home to Brooklyn, it was already seven thirty, sometimes eight, and she felt too tired to cook. The most she could do was fix a sandwich for her husba
Exploring the private worlds of Eastern European migrs, heart-warming short stories capture characters who seek solace in their new lives in America through the tastes of home, including Nina, who finds in the abundant New York produce markets her own fresh hopes and dreams, and Sergey, who enjoys the borscht made by a paid female companion more than her sexual ministrations. 15,000 first printing.
Each of Lara Vapnyar's six stories invites us into a world where food and love intersect, along with the overlapping pleasures and frustrations of Vapnyar's uniquely captivating characters. Meet Nina, a recentarrival from Russia, for whom colorful vegetables represent her own fresh hopes and dreams . . . Luda and Milena, who battle over a widower in their English class with competing recipes for cheese puffs, spinach pies, andmeatballs . . . and Sergey, who finds more comfort in the borscht made by a paid female companion than in her sexual ministrations. They all crave the taste and smell of home, wherever-and withwhomever-that may turn out to be. A roundup of recipes are the final taste of this delicious collection.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Table of Contents
A bunch of broccoli on the third shelf — Borscht — Puffed rice and meatballs — Salad olivier — Luda and milena — Slicing saut
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