21 July 2010
Beach Read ... The Sugar Queen
What person hasn't eaten to comfort themselves at some point in their lives? I think we all have 'been there, done that' to an extent. The Sugar Queen explores the idea a bit further, though. What if eating some illicit goodie was your way of rebelling against authority, of taking ownership of your day-to-day life, of going to a place that no one can control or schedule ? This is the life of our protagonist, Josey Cirrini. Josey lives a North Carolina resort town - in a big house with all the creature comforts and very few of the emotional ones. She is the caretaker for her elderly mother - a Southern widow with an embittered past and an iron will. Josey and the housekeeper maintain the home to Margaret's strict standards, but at a cost. Poor Josey needs to 'get a life' ... and as the story unfolds, she gets one in the most magical fairy tale way.
Sarah Addison Allen has a way with dialogue. Her characters sound their parts and she has a funny twist of the vernacular that rings true. Josey and her mother have all the banter of the dutiful daughter and domineering mother. Chloe and Della Lee, Josey's friends have their own distinct voices and the combination of Josey's mysterious introverted life and their dramatic relationships weave together to make for a sticky, gooey taffy twist of a story.
Of course, food is a part of the descriptive force of the story and the more healthful incidental events that bring the characters together ... sandwiches at a lunch kiosk bring Josey and Chloe together. They get to know each other over the counter, as Chloe makes Josey's sandwich orders ... grilled tomato and cheese, fried egg sandwiches that gradually replace the Pixy Stix, Little Debbie oatmeal pies, candy corn, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Caramel Creams on which Josey has sustained herself, over the years of her duty-bound life. Della Lee guards Josey's closet food stash, but what is she doing living in Josey's closet? Her quirky way of dealing with Josey heads her on the way to a healthy relationship with people in her life and the food she puts into her body ... the Sugar Queen grows up and out of her Rapunzel-like existence.
A sweetly satisfying read ... no Anna Karenina, but just the read for a lazy day on the beach followed by an evening on a cool porch couch ... maybe with a grilled summer tomato sandwich and a cold glass of milk!
sliced Sesame Rustic Bread - or a crunchy-crusted bread with good body that you love
grated or thinly sliced Colby Jack and Cheddar cheeses
small amount of mayonnaise
Lightly butter the bread and lay cheeses on the buttered halves.
Lay the tomatoes and 'ribboned' basil ' onto one half and sprinkle with plenty of black pepper.
Spread a bit of mayo onto the cheese of the other half and flip the whole thing together.
Lightly butter the outside of the sandwich and place in a pre-heated pan that sits on medium heat.
Let your grilled sandwich sizzle it's way to 'melted cheese and crispy golden crust' stage.
Plate and cut with a sharp serrated knife ... you can stick a toothpick into the halves to hold them together, if you wish.
Eat .... smack lips .... enjoy! Make another!