Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Brown Velvet of Days Gone By

The Brown Velvet Book Group was born late in 2010.  We first met on December 19th of that year (at my house!) and originally we had two other members, making for ten total (those two both withdrew within a few months).  We've been the same eight for more than two years.  Between then and now, we have read 25 books, at around the rate of one every month to a month and a half.  In the beginning we picked the books by some sort of consensus: people would come to BVBG with suggestions, we would debate them, and then we would settle on something.  After reading a bunch of bad books by people we had read previously and loved, we decided to try a different way: each member would have the ability to choose a book that s/he was invested in and the rest of us would read it. I'm not sure that this system has resulted in fewer bad books (see the previous entry on The Astronaut Wives' Club), but it has streamlined our selection process.   Throughout we have cooked to the theme of the book, if there was one discernible.  Looking back over the list, some are more memorable than others.  Whoever picks the book is also the host.

Without further ado, I give you the previous 24 books (well, 23 books and 2 plays, which we combined for one meeting):

Patti Smith, Just Kids
Jennifer Gilmore, Something Red
Siobhan Fallon, You Know When the Men Are Gone
Gabrielle Hamilton, Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef
Meg Wolitzer, The Uncoupling
Barbara Ehrenreich, Bright Sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America
Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary, trans. Lydia Davis
Sarah Ruhl, The Clean House and Tracy Letts, August: Osage County
Tom Perrotta, The Leftovers
Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot

It was after reading Wolitzer, Perrotta, and Eugenides, authors many of us had previously enjoyed, that we decided to switch the selection process.  (We all pretty much hated The Uncoupling, The Leftovers, and The Marriage Plot.)  From then on we have moved alphabetically through the group (though we sometimes switch it up, as we did the first time, if the next in line can't host and needs to postpone her/his selection): 

Justin Cronin, The Passage
Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Chad Harbach, The Art of Fielding
Lauren Groff, Arcadia
Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Lady Audley’s Secret
Erik Larson, In the Garden of Beasts
Helen Oyeyemi, White is for Witching
Joseph Roth, The Radetzky March
Katherine Boo, Behind the Beautiful Forevers
George Saunders, Tenth of December
Mary McCarthy, The Group
Isak Dinesen, Out of Africa
J. Courtney Sullivan, The Engagements

Monday, September 9, 2013

September 2013

Hosted by: Rosie Merlin

Book: The Astronaut Wives' Club

Meal Theme: Midcentury

Minutes of the Meeting:  Eight out of eight thumbs down.  This was probably our group's least favorite book to date, with Radetsky's March a close second (sorry Molly).  Everyone agreed that it was poorly written, that the author would jump away from anything interesting after barely glancing at it, that she should have followed up by interviewing these women later and spending more time on fewer characters, going into greater depth with their stories.  There was also a general agreement that the repeating names was irritating (though not the author's fault) and made the poor characterization and development an even greater issue.

That said, the meal was (as always) tasty and included:

Nick's savory little wieners with their daubs of mustard.  (Precipitating a conversation about the wiping of the penis and whether it's necessary or superfluous.  I propose "wiping the penis" as a new version of the expression "gilding the lily."  Feel free to use it).

"Midwest sushi," which is cold cuts wrapped around cream cheese and pickles.  I may be the only person who truly loves this salty little treat, but since I'm the minutes taker, I'm putting it down.

Eric's salad, with its tasty miso dressing.  Not sure why it took an hour to assemble, or that those astronauts' wives were eating anything with miso, but it was good.

A very strange ball (Natalie) consisting of mashed shrimp, anchovies and butter.  I think she deserves bravery points for having blended this all together--and we do for having eaten it.

A very tasty tuna noodle casserole that had no mayonnaise in it and delicious panko topping.

A very boozy chocolate bundt cake, and a perfect pineapple upside down cake, courtesy of Robin, who managed to make it look like her usual pinup dessert.  (Dessert as pinup model, I mean.  Not only can this woman bake like the best of them, she could also double as a food stylist any day).

Rosie's icebox cake.  I've always wanted to try this concoction, and was NOT disappointed.

Dana's green bean casserole, minus Campbell's.  Robin declared the trashy version tastier.  Dana expressed dissatisfaction with the results.  But I think she was too hard on a perfectly good dish.

My own version of my mother's layered salad.

OVERALL: the meal was definitely leagues above the book, but that's how we roll in BVBG.


Guest appearance by Dahlia

Boxing with Rosie's extremel ill-mannered cat

Cocktails in Mason jars on the beautiful deck of the beautiful new(ish) house