A friend whose taste in books is similar to mine recommended this book, and I’m so glad she did. Some of my favorite books have been YA recently, (young adult) as is this. It really transported me back to my own high school experience, although, I truly don’t remember the drama as it appears here, but I know it’s true to form. It has to be. I read it in a book. Five students arrive at detention one September afternoon, the usual suspects and some unlikely transgressors, but only four make it out alive. This is not a spoiler, it’s on the the inside front cover summary. The book continues from there chronologically, from the point of view of each of the characters involved. I have to admit, I did have an inkling about the who and why-dunnit, but it didn’t spoil the ending for me at all.
THE BEAUTY: One of the characters plays piano, and this piece, “Variations on the Canon,” represents a touching scene in the book. You’ll see. The piece is meaningful to me because when my husband and I were dating, we once heard this playing in a store or restaurant. He turned to me and asked, “Who wrote this?” I replied, “Pachelbel.” “Taco Bell?” he exclaimed. And believe it or not, because of this lovely piece of music, we actually went to a Taco Bell for the first time. Also, I came down the aisle to this music at our wedding.
THE FOOD: It had to be something with peanut oil, so I had very wide latitude in selecting a recipe to represent this book. Through this blog, I’ve become fond of homemade Indian cuisine.
For the garam masala
1 T cardamom seeds (if you can’t buy the seeds then buy cardamom pods and shell them yourself)
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp black cumin seeds (you can use regular cumin seeds if black aren’t available)
1 tsp whole cloves
1/3 of a whole nutmeg (you can break a whole nutmeg by placing it on a cloth and bashing it with a meat mallet or rolling pin)
a medium stick of cinnamon, about 2in-3in, broken up into 3-4 pieces
For the pullao
1 C basmati rice
thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger
3 T peanut oil
½ tsp brown mustard seeds
1 hot green chili, finely chopped
4oz potato, peeled and cut into ¼” dice
¼ carrot, peeled and cut into ¼” dice
1½ oz green beans, cut into ¼” segments
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp garam masala
1¼ tsp salt
1 pint water
For the garam masala, put all the garam masala spices in a clean coffee grinder
or other spice grinder and grind as finely as possible. Store in a tightly lidded jar,
away from heat and sunlight. This makes about three tablespoons.
For the pullao, wash the rice in several changes of water then drain. Put the rice in a bowl, cover with water and leave to soak for 30 minutes, then drain
Peel and finely grate the ginger. Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan (with a tight
fitting lid) set over a medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the mustard seeds. As
soon as they begin to pop – a matter of seconds – add the chilli, potato, carrot and
green beans and stir. Add the turmeric and garam masala and stir for one minute.
Add the ginger and saute, stirring, for another minute. Drain the rice and add it to
Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir the rice very gently to mix it into the
other ingredients and coat it with the oil and spices. Cook this way for two
Add the 1 pint water and the salt and bring to the boil. Cover the pan with a very
tight-fitting lid (if you don’t have a very tight-fitting lid then cover the pan with foil
then a lid) then turn the heat to very low and cook for 25 minutes. After this time
try a grain of rice to see if it’s cooked – cook for a few more minutes if necessary.
Once it’s cooked you can leave it with the lid on and the heat turned off for up to
half an hour before serving. Or serve at once on a serving plate. I served this as a main course, but it woud be good paired with a simple protein like grilled chicken.