, September 12, 2006
(view all comments by richiespicks.com)
"And Lucy attended detention -- an after-school club for the activist!"
"We can change the world, rearrange the world,
It's dying to get better."
--Graham Nash, "Chicago"
The fact is, I can totally enjoy the humor when a children's book author uses the concept of tofu for Thanksgiving as the butt of a joke. Amy Timberlake's THAT GIRL LUCY MOON now joins Denys Cazet's hysterically funny MINNIE AND MOO AND THE THANKSGIVING TREE in that regard. But you have to also figure that if I'm going to speak up about this awesome tale of a sixth-grade activist named Lucy Moon then, as a fellow activist as well as a vegetarian for 28 years, one who has been grateful to consume tofu for many a Thanksgiving, I'm going to take advantage of this opportunity to begin educating y'all about the wonders of having a tofu feast with all the trimmings. And so I'll share with you the Richie method of preparing tofu that everyone around here (hard-core carnivores included) always comes grabbing seconds and thirds of:
1 lb. packages of tofu (The ultimate in my part of the world is White Wave Tidal Wave Organic Extra Firm)
Red Star Large Flake Nutritional Yeast
Extra virgin Olive Oil
San-J Organic Wheat-Free Tamari
Directions: Drain tofu and slice each one pound package into eight slices. Heat skillet on medium high and pour in sufficient olive oil to cover the bottom of the skillet. When the oil is hot, arrange the tofu slices in the skillet and fry until they are completely golden on the first side. Just before flipping over the tofu, spoon a generous covering of the nutritional yeast over the uncooked side of each slice. Flip over the tofu and add a bit more olive oil so that the yeast doesn't scorch. When the tofu slices are golden on both sides, lightly splash tamari over them, wait 30 seconds, flip them over one more time, and then remove them from the skillet.
(If you're figuring on having mashed potatoes with the tofu, then a gravy can be made with the tofu "drippings" by using some of the potato water, some thinned-down red miso, along with a bit of corn starch and water if you want to thicken the consistency a bit.)
That this year's holiday will turn out to not be a stellar Thanksgiving for Lucy Moon will have relatively little to do with her misguided attempt to prepare a tofu main course without the benefit of Richie's recipe for killer yeast tofu. At such a pivotal juncture in her life -- the beginnings of junior high -- Lucy is facing the mysteries and new dynamics of school, along with the sudden development of her best friend Zoe, all without the benefit of Lucy's mother. Mom, an artsy and idiosyncratic photographer who clearly must have been there to support Lucy's well-documented activist past in elementary school, has set out on a trip around the country to take pictures of clouds over a variety of landscapes. But instead of returning when she is supposed to, as has always been the case with previous years' photo excursions, Lucy's Mom will opt to both indefinitely extend her adventures and to distance herself emotionally as well as geographically from her only child and from Lucy's dad, the town postmaster.
"And the strangeness of junior high didn't stop there. No, as the weeks went on, the sixth graders had developed other signs of junior-high sickness. When teachers turned their back, notes about who liked who traveled palm to palm, and books with dog-eared pages describing people 'doing it' were read under lips of desks. In elementary school -- only five months ago -- everyone had acted normal. Now, after a summer and a couple of months in junior high, they were cliched characters from a drippy teen movie!"
It will be an interesting debate among those middle schoolers who have the good fortune to read THAT GIRL LUCY MOON in a class or book group. Question: Is Lucy's biggest obstacle to serenity and success in middle school going to be overcoming the boys' obnoxious hallway bra checks (with a number 2 pencil), other annoyances engaged in by her harmonally-challenged peers, along with the formation of cliques and the boy/girl groupings; OR is it going to be dealing with the damage suffered as the result of the war of wills in which Lucy becomes engaged with Miss Ilene Viola Wiggins, the town's moneybags matriarch, who apparently decides to show Lucy who is really in charge of Turtle Rock, Minnesota?
Aided by the story's lack of malls, laptops, and contemporary communications devices (The two best friends keep in touch by walkie-talkie, while communication with Mom consists of phone calls and letters.), author Amy Timberlake does an exceptional job of setting up Turtle Rock, Minnesota as its own little world, a town unto itself. Furthermore, the author gives the impression that she must have spent a bit of her own childhood happily entertained by Garrison Keillor, for we encounter clever, folksy references to what the local radio station is playing and the Minnesota climate quickly settles in as one of the story's omnipresent and colorful characters:
"After that first November snowstorm, the clouds continued to bring snow to Turtle Rock -- no blizzards, but steady, steady workaday snow. There was light, dry snow -- barely visible, but making the air and everything seen through it sparkle. There was the kind of snow that came assembly-line fashion, one snowflake rushing after the next. This snow lasted all day and into the night. And then there were the big flakes that floated out of the sky, drifting like daisy petals -- 'She loves me...She loves me not...She loves me.' The snow piled up in curbs, outlining trees, causing the tops of pines to genuflect under the weight. When the wind blew, long strands of snow combed over land and road."
When faced with an onslaught of adversity as a result of her activist impulses, Lucy Moon is compelled to consider why she is inclined to act in such a manner. To watch how she engages in self-reflection in regard to that behavior will undoubtedly cause many astute young readers to ask why they act (or fail to act) when they encounter injustice in their own lives.