Books and Baked Goods 2

I know, I know, late again. And I don’t even have a good excuse. I just forgot.  I also didn’t mention how far I’d be going–to the end of chapter ten. Mea culpa. As usual, just consider it a weekend-long book club.

To make amends, here is an easy recipe that I cobbled together out of necessity a week or so back. It’s kind of a weird pie/crumble/pudding hybrid of apple tart tatin in a graham cracker crust, and I, at least, thought it was delicious.

Make a graham cracker crust, and let it chill for an hour or so. I have no idea why, but my graham cracker crusts always hold together best when I chill them. For this recipe, I would dial back the sugar you put in the crust, and throw in some cinnamon and nutmeg. Peel, core, and quarter (I am from the Edmund Campion school of baking) 6-8 apples, more or less depending on the size of the pie pan you’re filling. Combine a stick of butter and cup of sugar in a saucepan or skillet over low heat. Arrange the apple quarters in the sugar-butter mixture, convex side up, and turn the heat on high. Let everything boil away for 15-20 minutes or so, flipping midway through, or as long as you want. If you just want the apples cooked tender and sweet, simmer them for less time. If you want them really caramelized, though (and this is my strong preference), wait until the apples turn brown on each side and the butter and sugar starts thickening into dark delicious caramel. Remove from heat, and while they cool, whip yourself up a big vat of whipped cream (ok, maybe vat is a little much); while you’re whipping, why don’t you throw a little bourbon in? I mean really, why not? Also, my fanaticism for whipping the cream yourself and preference for not adding too much sugar are both completely justified for this recipe.

Put the apples in the graham cracker crust, and if the mixture has caramelized, pour over. Top with tons and tons of fresh whipped cream. Be careful to wait till the apples are completely cooled, though, or they’ll melt the cream. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, as I discovered. Do whatever else you need to do to make things pretty, and serve!

*****************************************************************************

Ok, Middlemarch, chapters 5 to 10.

Here are some links I thought might be useful. Ok, random thoughts, here goes:

1. What is with the constant religious allusions, particularly the juxtaposition of religious traditions opposed to each other? Like when Dorothy treats Casaubon as a “Protestant pope.” I think it might have something to do with Dorothea and the sort of jumbled and conflicted state of her religiosity. She has this intense religious impulse, but no actual outside creed by which she can give it structure and direction. She can only be more religious than the people around her–sort of endlessly aspirational rather than personally rooted and growing. Which is maybe why she makes herself this little idol of out the awful awful (but seriously did you notice how every time he opened his mouth you wanted to crawl in a hole or punch him?) Casaubon. It’s kind of neat to me that Casaubon and Dorothea’s story follows in many ways the pattern of a doomed or adulterous affair, with religion replacing love and marriage replacing adultery. Powerful, transcendent human impulse loses/lacks proper object, cannot grow and give life, turns inward on itself, throws itself under train. Or, in Dorothea’s case, under creepy clergyman.  I think that’s why we constantly get references to English religious strife, and I think this mutual mirroring of personal and political is going to be a pattern.

2. Like, for instance, with these intense growing pains and bewilderment of Dorothea, and the English political energy and post-industrialized roiling Eliot keeps drawing our attention to. We’ve already seen tensions stemming from new societal arrangements: Mrs. Cadwallader’s disgust for the vulgar rich, and Brooke’s reluctance to let his nieces meet “the daughter of a manufacturer” (helloooo industry!). I think Dorothea and England are both painfully trying to form some kind of identity in the absence/irrelevance/failure of old norms, and Dorothea’s fate seems somehow caught up in Engand’s.

3. Will Ladislaw. He sketches. He pouts. Anyone else think he is just begging to be played by Leonardo DiCaprio circa 1999?

4. Speaking of sketching, if Dorothea has an actual creed it’s lower-case puritanism–which is in itself kind of endlessly aspirational. She can’t understand or relate to the pictures in Casaubon’s house–certain kinds of beauty, particularly that relating to the body, she has no access to. This is interesting , because we saw on the first page how defining bodily beauty is for women, not only in Victorian England, but in the text itself. It also sheds further light on CasauBrooke (yup, that’s now a thing.) Mrs C. reviles Dorothea for “entering a nunnery,”–but in fact she’s entering into the opposite: marriage, which is both exactly what she’s supposed to be doing as a good little woman and the only way for her to escape that role. The nunnery, hated by good puritan protestants, channels and sublimates female sexuality in a way that Dorothea’s loveless, sexless marriage cannot. Mrs. C and Dorothea are both puritans, both trapped in this cycle of restriction, futile rebellion, and punishment. The irony is so gorgeous I need to get a beer.

Also–Will Sketches, Renaissance art freaks Dorothea out. Interesting.

5. Mrs. Cadwallader–I really love her–the way she has no problem telling Brooke and Chettam what’s what on politics and their love lives, and pays zero attention to the macho Brooke falls back on to disguise how much sharper and more capable she is. I think she has a little of the “I’m the only girl cool enough to be in the boys’ club” thing going on, which may be part of the reason she likes Celia and not Dorothea? Another thing I love: in Mrs. Cadwallader’s critiques of Dorothea you see both Dorothea’s absurdities and Mrs. C’s narrowness revealed–and yet the author’s fondness and I think admiration for both characters remains undimmed, as does mine. Eliot’s genius is sympathy.

5. Nevertheless, Eliot is very, very angry. You see it in her measured, quiet, absolutely withering depiction of Dorothea’s limitations and their social enforcement–in half the words that come out of Brooke’s mouth. She never slips into spite or completely rejects any of her characters, though, and I think this is what makes her anger so powerful, so righteous.

Ok folks, that’s all from me. I’ll leave you with this quote, then feel free to take it away.

“After all, people may really have in them some vocation which is not quite plain to themselves, may they not? They may seem idle and weak because they are growing.  We should be very patient with each other, I think.”

PS- Ok if we go up to chapter 20 next week?

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8 thoughts on “Books and Baked Goods 2

  1. This is my first time commenting, but wanted to say that I made the key-lime pie you linked to in your other post, and it is sitting in my refrigerator right now waiting for me and my sister to eat it.

    Also, can I join your Middlemarch book club?

  2. I’m kind of cheating, since I’m working from memory (having “read” the book via audible a couple months back while commuting) but…

    I too was struck by how much religious (and in particular Catholic) issues came up in Middlemarch. When it comes to Victorian novels I’m more of a Trollope and Dickens fan, and there you generally don’t hear anything about Catholics. So that surprised me a good bit.

    Now, maybe I’m just being cynical, but I couldn’t help wondering if the Catholic imagery was partly being used to underline the idolotrous and self abnegating qualities of Dorothea’s approach to love. Rather like Saint Teresa in the Prelude, there’s an element of Dorothea being a very young woman going out looking for a cross to be martyred on. And Casaubon is, of course, pretty much perfect if what you’re looking for is totally unrequited self-abnegation.

  3. I can get to Chapter 20 by next Friday, easily.

    This is my first time through the book, and it seems like Clare knows something about Casaubon that I don’t. I’m a fellow who likes books, so I suppose I’m inclined to cut the man some slack. Though I suppose Eliot knows that most of her readers aren’t going to like the man at this point: she devotes all those paragraphs to his defense in chapter 10 (“Poor Mr. Casaubon had imagined that his long studious bachelorhood had stirred up for him a compound interest of enjoyment, and that large drafts on his affections would not fail to be honored…”). I could certainly learn to dislike the man more.

    The weirdest thing just happened. I was going to say that Will Ladislaw strikes me more as a Rufus Sewell type than a Leo DiCaprio type… and then while searching around for a link to a picture of young Rufus Sewell, I find that I’m not the first person to think that, as he’s just the guy who played Ladislaw in the 1995 adaptation. But I’m sure y’all knew that already.

    Anyways, I’m still figuring this crazy book out, and the things I’m thinking about most are things we’ll be discussing next week, so I’ll leave off here.

    (Sorry for smashing the book club gender barrier.)

  4. William, Darwin smashed the gender barrier before you.
    And I know we already talked about this on gchat, but it’s not just that Casaubon likes books, for me. It’s has selfishness, his complacency–the way he wonders what could be wrong with Dorothea if she fails to stir up passion in him, patronizes or ignores her attempts at intellectual engagements, parrots bromides about the special task of women being sweet self-abnegation, or something like that. Arghhh.

    • My apologies to Mr. Darwin. And I’ll be recanting on Mr. Casaubon when we discuss a later chapter…

  5. Pingback: Books and Baked Goods 7 | Babes in Babylon

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