Tag Archives: food

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

I remember first hearing about this story a long time ago watching the Simpsons. I then came across the film, and I remember watching it and thinking, huh. This seems like perhaps it’s a lesbian romance. Turns out I was on the money, so I decided to actually go and read the book. I’m not quite sure where I got my copy of this book from. Somehow it just manifested itself on my bookshelf. There’s no pricetag on it so maybe it was a donation? Either way, it turned out that my bestie and I were reading the same book at the same time, so we thought we’d make it an extravaganza and watch the film together as well.

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“Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe” is a novel by Fannie Flagg that spans from the 1920s to the 1980s in Alabama, USA. Jumping back and forth through time, and told through little vignettes and articles, the novel is a sweeping story of a small town and the people in it through the Depression and World War II. In the 1980s is Evelyn, a woman who is losing her identity, her sense of purpose and even potentially her marriage now her children have moved out of home. When she meets the reminiscing Mrs Threadgoode at the same retirement home as her mother-in-law, Evelyn is revitalised by her stories. In particular is the story of incorrigible tomboy Idgie, how she came to meet the beautiful and kind Ruth and the life they built together at a little cafe.

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Flagg is a natural storyteller and this is the perfect book to pick up and read a couple of the short chapters at a time, then come back to again later. It’s a great balance of diverse and interesting characters against charming little stories. Reading this book, you can’t ignore that it was published in 1987. In some ways it absolutely broke ground, especially with respect to disability, women’s rights, homelessness and legitimising LGBTIQ relationships. I loved the character of Stump and how his community and his family rallied around him to help him thrive after his accident. I loved how accepting everyone was of Idgie’s gender identity and of her relationship with Ruth. I loved how much humanity Flagg injects into this novel, especially using the character of Smokey to explore homelessness, alcoholism and a transient lifestyle. In other ways this book has aged a bit, especially regarding the racial commentary. At time it’s hard to separate Mrs Threadgoode’s well-meaning yet archaic comments about African American people, and Flagg’s own views.

I can’t talk about this book without mentioning my favourite part. If you follow this blog, you know how I feel about books with recipes in the back. This book has SO many recipes in the back. Food is such an important part of the story, both in the present and in the past, and really give the book a sense of place. Having the opportunity to cook some of those recipes, including the titular fried green tomatoes which my bestie nailed, really added to the whole experience.

A fun, lighthearted story with some more serious aspects at time, I enjoyed the book a lot and enjoyed cooking the recipes even more.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Cookbooks, General Fiction, Historical Fiction

Aya of Yop City

I reviewed the first in this graphic novel series back in 2015. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I knew that there were others in the series, but for some reason I had gotten the idea that only the first had been translated into English. I was so surprised when I found a copy of this one in Canty’s graphic novel section and I bought it immediately.

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“Aya of Yop City” is a bandes dessinées by Marguerite Abouet and illustrated by Clément Oubrerie picks up almost immediately where the last one left off. It’s the 1970s in the unprecedented prosperous time of the African nation of the Ivory Coast. While Aya strives to become a doctor, she is roped into helping her friends deal with their dramas. Adjoua has had a baby and the identity of the father isn’t going to be a secret for long, while Bintou has been swept of her feet by a stranger from France who perhaps isn’t quite what he seems.

These graphic novels really are an absolute joy to read. A perfect blend of soapy drama, humour and culture, this series is as entertaining as it is educational. I liked the first one, but I felt like the story consolidated even more in this one. I remember I had some reservations about the artwork in the first one, but even that too has grown on me now. One of the things I was looking forward to the most was the afterword with some little cultural tidbits about life in the Ivory Coast and I wasn’t disappointed. In addition to a glossary, instructions on how to carry your baby on your back in a pagne and how babies and new mothers are welcomed back into the community after the birth was a new recipe for me to try. I actually outsourced the cooking on this one, and my partner made for me the chicken kedjenou which he liked so much he’s asked for it to be put on our rotating menu.

A delightful series that should be on the list for any lover of graphic novels, or anyone who wants to learn more about a different culture.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Graphic Novels

Aya

I love graphic novels, and this one caught my eye in Canty’s a couple of months ago. I’d never heard of any African graphic novels, and, always interested in reading diversely, I was intrigued.

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“Aya”, written by Marguerite Abouet and illustrated by Clément Oubrerie, was translated from its original French and is set in the Ivory Coast in the late 1970s. This African nation was undergoing a period of exceptional prosperity following independence in stark contrast to many of the other countries in the region. “Aya” is about the eponymous protagonist and her friends living in “Yop City” as the economic boom draws to an end. Aya is a level-headed and ambitious teenager who is often called on to help her more foolhardy friends who get themselves into all kinds of mischief when it comes to boys.

This book was probably one of my better finds this year. It was such a fabulous, humorous and heartfelt snapshot into a time and a culture that I otherwise wouldn’t have known anything about. “Aya” is filled with cultural insights and explanations and all of the colourful cast of characters burst off the page around the more reserved and sensible Aya herself. My absolute favourite part of the book is the gorgeous touch of adding pages at the end sharing instructions on how to engage with pieces of Ivory Coast culture including wearing a pagne, sashaying while you walk and traditional recipes.

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I adore trying new recipes, so I decided to have a go at the Peanut Sauce recipe – a sort of beef stew with peanut butter and tomatoes. The critics gave it rave reviews, including “not too bad” and “pretty edible”, but I thought it was pretty good!

I think the only thing that perhaps lets this down is that the art is sometimes a little underwhelming. It’s almost too cartoony for my taste, I think, and maybe doesn’t quite capture the spirit and nuance that the author clearly inlaid in the story.

“Aya” is really something you don’t see every day. I learned so much reading this book and engaging with the recipes at the back, and I’m definitely going to be keeping an eye out for the other installments in the series.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Graphic Novels