Eligible

THE BOOK:

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Never having been on the Jane Austen bandwagon, I had to read the Sparks summary of Pride and Prejudice to familiarize myself with the book, despite having seen at least one film version. Sittenfeld appears to have remained true to Austen’s intent, and this was an enjoyable read, with memorable characters and an interesting plot. I loved learning a bit about Cincinnati, and its decline as railroad travel took a backseat to air travel. In this version of the Bennet family, older sister Jane is a yoga instructor while Liz , closest to her in age, is a magazine writer in New York city. Both women are approaching forty when they return home after their father’s heart attack to help with his care. Liz is very quick-witted with a sharp tongue and keen observational skills. Prejudice is alive and well in “Queen City” society as Mrs. Bennet looks forward to meeting “Eligible” Chip Bingley, a newly transplanted doctor, who is rather publicly looking for a wife. At the introductory barbecue at Dr. Lucas’s home in the posh Indian Hill neighborhood, Liz overhears Fitzwilliam Darcy, Bingley’s good friend, severely disparage the women of Cincinnati and thus begins their hate fest. I had never heard of hate sex before, but I am seriously afraid to google it, so I’ll just have to accept that there is such a thing in this modern era of which I am so not a part! Mr. Bennet is rather disengaged from the family, but has a reasonably close bond with Liz as she takes charge of family business. Younger sisters Kitty and Lydia are remarkably crude and jobless. Mary, the middle daughter is working on her third Master’s degree and won’t reveal to the family what she does every Tuesday night.

People who know me will understand why I particularly like the following passage from page 29:
“That her mother devoted extensive attention to housewares was not news …
So, no, it wasn’t a secret that her mother fetishized all manner of domestic decor, but the sheer quantity in Jane’s former bedroom, plus the fact of so many boxes being unopened, raised for Liz the question of whether some type of pathology might be involved.”

The book came to a satisfying end but was a puzzlement for me about why the conclusion was so focused on Mary. Having just read chapter 61 of Pride and Prejudice, I still don’t get it.

THE BEAUTY:

When I started thinking about images to represent beauty in Cincinnati, I settled on Liz’s running route: past the country club, right onto Madison Rd., right onto Observatory Ave., right onto Edwards Rd., and back to Grandin Road. Then I googled Cincinnati, and the first thing that came up was that Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren were having a rally at the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal. Further googling revealed these stunning images of a beautiful public space.

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View of the rotunda from the Cincinnati Museum website.

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Segment of the history of Cincinnati mural from http://www.justabovesunset.com.

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Detail of the portrait of Blackfoot Mike Little Dog from The Wolfsonian–Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection. URL: 84.12.2.JPG

Winold Reiss created two 22 foot high by 110 foot long color mosaic murals depicting the history of Cincinnati and a timeline of U.S. history for the rotunda. In addition, he created twenty more murals for other parts of the building, and a large world map.

THE FOOD:

Members of the Bennet family continually reported seeing Darcy at Skyline Chili on Madison Rd. in Oakley. I am a hot dog lover and purist who would never defile a dog with chili, but since this was the perfect food to represent this book, defile I did, and it was good!

Copycat Skyline Chili
2 lbs ground beef (I used flap meat [steak tips], cut into 1 inch chunks, frozen for 15 minutes, ground in food processor)
2 cups chopped onions
4 cups beef stock
2 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce
2 -3 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1⁄2 ounce grated unsweetened chocolate or 2 3⁄4 tablespoons cocoa
2 teaspoons instant minced garlic
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon ground red pepper or 1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1⁄4 teaspoon ground allspice
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 bay leaves or 1⁄8 teaspoon bay leaf powder

Toppings:
chopped onion (optional)
finely shredded cheddar cheese (certainly NOT optional)
kidney bean (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Brown ground beef and onion. Drain. Add beef stock to beef mixture and simmer 10 minutes. Add remaining 13 ingredients, simmer uncovered 1 hour.
Remove bay leaf, skim off extra fat.
Serve over hot spaghetti, or hot dogs in buns for chili dogs.
Top with plenty of cheese and other optional toppings.

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