Never Let Me Go

THE BOOK:

cover-never-let-me-goThis is my first Ishiguro. I don’t know why it has taken me so long to start. Recently  I googled something like ‘which Ishiguro should I begin with?’ so when this title came up, I immediately put it on hold at the library. I also read that I shouldn’t read any reviews, or even the blurbs on the book itself, to go into it completely blind about its content. I’m so glad I did that. It was interesting trying to connect the dots without any hint of where the narrative was headed. I might try that more often with other books. In the end, this wasn’t what I expected from this author, but I wasn’t disappointed, just surprised. The writing was understated, so much so that I really didn’t pay attention to it, but it was very easy to read. Having finished reading it four days ago, I find that the details haven’t dimmed at all in my memory. I’m still very much connected to Kathy and Tommy and Ruth and their story. The central theme that impresses me now is what does it mean to be human?  Ironically, I had just finished reading Han Kang’s Human Acts, which asks the same question, but in a completely different context, loosely based an historical events.

On a completely different note, Ishiguro is British, so there were references that I  didn’t get. My favorite was when they crossed the street at the pelican. I’ve been to London several times, and never heard that expression. A pelicon (note the spelling) is a blend of other words. Pedestrian light controlled crossing. There are also panda, Pegasus and toucan and puffin crossings!

THE BEAUTY:

While the three protagonists were at Hailsham, their boarding school, they heard repeated references to Norfolk, the lost corner of England. In the students’ minds, this quite literally meant that all the things people lost wound up in Norfolk. There was a particularly sweet moment that Tommy and Kathy shared in Norfolk, when they visited years laters as adults, out on their own. To say more would spoil the story.

Beach at Mundesley, Norfolk, showing coastal erosion, England.
The town they visited in Norfolk was unnamed, but it was seaside, had cliffs, and some quaint shops, so I chose Mundesley after looking at photos of several other seaside towns.

THE FOOD:

When Tommy, Ruth and Kathy left Hailsham, before they began their donations, they lived at a place called the Cottages with people who were slightly older than them, and had attended a different boarding school. One of the women, Fiona, made a huge stew, to feed the small crowd who lived there. Here is a crockpot version of a beef stew that is so convenient to prep when you use frozen vegetables.

Beef Stew
Serves 6
Cooking Time: 9 to 11 hours on Low or 5 to 7 hours on High

2 C frozen chopped onions (or 2 onions, minced)
3 T tomato paste
2 T vegetable oil
1½ tsp garlic powder (or 6 garlic cloves, minced)
2 tsp minced fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1 C low-sodium chicken broth, plus extra as needed
1 C beef broth
8 oz. baby carrots
¼ C soy sauce
2 T Minute tapioca
2 bay leaves
3 lbs. beef steak tips
Salt and pepper
1 pound frozen roasted potatoes
1 C frozen peas

Microwave onions, tomato paste, 1 tablespoon oil, garlic powder, and thyme in bowl, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened, about 5 minutes; transfer to slow cooker.

Stir chicken broth, beef broth, carrots, soy sauce, tapioca, and bay leaves into slow cooker. Season beef with salt and pepper and nestle into slow cooker. Cover and cook until beef is tender, 9 to 11 hours on low or 5 to 7 hours on high.

Transfer beef to cutting board, let cool slightly, then shred into bite-size pieces. Let stew settle for 5 minutes, then remove fat from surface using large spoon. Discard bay leaves.

Microwave potatoes with remaining tablespoon oil in bowl, stirring occasionally, until thawed and warm, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir warm potatoes, shredded beef, and peas into stew and let sit until heated through, about 5 minutes. (Adjust stew consistency with additional hot broth as needed.) Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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