Tales From A Hungry Life

March 6, 2014

Dinner and An Author Book Club Meeting

by Maria Schulz

I was reading the newspaper the other day when I came across an interview with Chelsea Handler: comedian, late night talk show host and author of “Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/02/books/review/chelsea-handler-by-the-book.html?action=click&module=Search&region=searchResults%230&version=&url=http%3A%2F%2Fquery.nytimes.com%2Fsearch%2Fsitesearch%2F%3Faction%3Dclick%26region%3DMasthead%26pgtype%3DHomepage%26module%3DSearchSubmit%26contentCollection%3DHomepage%26t%3Dqry730%23%2Fchelsea+handler&_r=0

The interviewer asked Ms. Handler a number of questions, like: If you were stranded on a desert island, what 3 books would you bring? What are your literary guilty pleasures? If you were having a dinner party, which authors—dead or alive—would you invite?

We'll need fancy munchies

We’ll need fancy munchies

Of course, I immediately latched onto the dinner party idea, since it’s always more fun to share a meal with people while prying into their thoughts and feelings than it is to just sit there with your little notebook and pen, without a bite of food in sight.

Since this week is the NEA’s “Read Across America” celebration, I thought it was the perfect time to think about which authors I would invite to my literary brouhaha.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner:

Jane Austen

Sylvia Plath

Dorothy Parker

Flannery O’Connor

Willa Cather

Harper Lee

William Shakespeare

Ernest Hemingway

F. Scott Fitzgerald

James Thurber

Oscar Wilde

Me

This will be especially amusing to my English major/writer/avid reader friends. For those of you who are not so inclined, just channel your inner High School English student and think of your old teachers droning on and on about Romeo and Juliet and The Great Gatsby, and you may get a laugh while all of these writers come rushing back to you.

Now, I’ll need a really big table with cushy chairs, and everyone has to bring a covered dish. Unfortunately, I don’t have any Italian writers on the list (except for myself), but I will deal with the English food if it means I get to talk with some of my favorite authors. I’ll just make sure I have wine on hand.

Makes any book club better

Makes any book club better

I hope Ernest Hemingway doesn’t bore us all with stories about running with the bulls, or threaten to punch Oscar Wilde in the nose when he makes fun of him. I may have to tell James Thurber to put away the sketchpad and I will probably need to hide the sharp knives since there are several very depressed folks around the table. However, since almost all of them are already dead, it shouldn’t be an issue.

I will keep the food coming at constant intervals so no one goes hungry and no one has time to pick a fight. Well, not too many fights, anyway. The book under discussion will be: Tales From A Hungry Life: A Memoir With Recipes. Why? Because it’s my party and I’ll make ‘em read my book if I want to.

Now available on amazon.com

Now available on amazon.com

7 Book Club Questions I’d Ask My Favorite Authors:

1. First of all, thank you for reading my book. I am truly honored. Now I’d like to know, what’s your favorite part of Tales…?

William Shakespeare: I like the imagery of good and bad memories being released by a valve and flooding in together.

Dorothy Parker: that chapter on the Sizzler was pretty funny.

Flannery O’Connor: I liked the scenes with the priest too. Those were hilarious.

Jane Austen: I thought it was an interesting look into the manners, mores and customs of a very large family from the late 20th century into the 21st century. I was very glad that your father had sons. It would be a shame to see his entire estate entailed away.

Me: Um…yeah, right.

2. So…if you could ask one character from my book a question, what would it be?

Oscar Wilde: where can I get your Uncle Sal’s comedy album, “If I Insulted You, It Was Intentional?

Uncle Sal in his Vaudeville days

Uncle Sal in his Vaudeville days

Harper Lee: I would ask your mother why she never cooked any Southern dishes.

Flannery O’Connor: I concur.

Ernest Hemingway: Questions are for sissies.

Me: Thanks for that insightful answer. Anyone else?

James Thurber: I would ask your English teacher who his favorite author was and why.

Me: It was you, Mr. Thurber, because you were a witty, wonderful writer.

James Thurber: Smart man.

3. Tales… is essentially a coming-of-age narrative set in the not-so-distant past. Which of your books/plays/poems most closely resemble your lives?

Sylvia Plath: My book, The Bell Jar is semi-autobiographical. There is great pathos there and, at times, a deep well of humor, even amidst the pain. I see both of those qualities in your book.

The-Bell-jar

Jane Austen: All of my books closely resemble my life, except for the getting married part.

William Shakespeare: An author always puts a piece of his own life into everything he writes, doesn’t he? Your actions inform your words.

Me: Yes, that’s true.

Dorothy Parker: Especially in her case, since it’s a memoir.

Ernest Hemingway: Speaking of actions informing your words, A Farewell to Arms was based on my life as an ambulance driver during World War I. I got shot and had to go to the hospital, where I fell in love with my nurse. She dumped me so I got her back by killing her off in the book.

Oscar Wilde:  You showed her.

Dorothy Parker: We’re not at the Algonquin Round Table anymore, are we?

Now this is the Algonquin Round Table

Now this is the Algonquin Round Table

4. Moving on…which 3 works would you recommend (besides mine) if you could?

William Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night, The Merchant of Venice

Ernest Hemingway: For Whom The Bell Tolls, To Have and Have Not, The Old Man and The Sea

Harper Lee: To Kill A Mockingbird. That’s it. Read it three times if you so desire.

To_Kill_a_Mockingbird

5. Do you have a favorite recipe from Tales…?

Willa Cather: The shepherd’s pie is my favorite. That’s something my main character from My Antonia would have enjoyed.

Jane Austen: I liked the pretzels.

Pretzels!

Pretzels!

Sylvia Plath: The torrone was delicious. It is the best candy I’ve ever tasted!

F. Scott Fitzgerald: I loved that too! I especially liked the spaghetti sauce recipe. It reminds me of all those times my wife, Zelda, and I were kicking around Italy…

Ernest Hemingway: No one cares, Fitz.

F. Scott Fitzgerald: Oh, so I suppose everyone is just dying to hear more about you running with the bulls again?

Ernest Hemingway: Well, there was this one time that a bull was about to gore me…

Run, Ernest, Run

Run, Ernest, Run

Dorothy Parker: Oh, please. No more bull stories!

Ernest Hemingway: So what can I talk about?

Me: Do you have a favorite recipe from my book, Mr. Hemingway?

Ernest Hemingway: Yes! I like the Alabama Slammers.

6. Okay everybody, let’s switch gears. What’s your favorite movie adaptation of your book, or your favorite movie about you?

Shakespeare_in_Love_

William Shakespeare: Shakespeare In Love was my favorite. Truly, it was a stroke of genius having Joseph Fiennes play me.

Oscar Wilde: Yes, because the two of you look so much alike.

William Shakespeare: Jealous? You’re just mad that they botched the movie for The Importance of Being Earnest.

Dorothy Parker: Yes, you’re probably right. That, and you don’t look anything like Joseph Fiennes.

Me: People! Stop fighting. Just answer the question.

Dorothy Parker: I loved the Judy Garland version of A Star is Born. The Little Foxes with Bette Davis wasn’t so bad either.

Oscar Wilde: Show off.

[Awkward Silence]

Me: Anyone else have a favorite?

James Thurber: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty with Danny Kaye. Not the new one!

Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. The A&E version.

This is the one

This is the one

Harper Lee: To Kill A Mockingbird with Gregory Peck. How could you not love Gregory Peck?

7. Finally, which actors would you cast to play the main characters in Tales…The Movie?

William Shakespeare: Judi Dench gets to play your grandmother. I’d like to see her play an Italian American. I think she has the chops for it. Rita Moreno can play your Puerto Rican grandmother.

Ernest Hemingway: You sir, are an idiot.

William Shakespeare: At least I know how to write a descriptive sentence.

[Ernest Hemingway jumps up, lunges for W.S.]

Me: Sit down, Ernest. You’re a writer—you can’t punch William Shakespeare! People, please! Get back on point…

Harper Lee: Gregory Peck can play your father.

Now starring Gregory Peck

Now starring Gregory Peck

Dorothy Parker: Oh, Harper. Give it a rest already.

James Thurber: If Judi Dench plays your grandmother, I think Carey Grant should play your father and that Iris Chacon should play your mother.

Willa Cather: Leah Remini should play you as an adult.

Jane Austen: Steve Buscemi as Jude! I love him in Boardwalk Empire. Matthew Broderick as Tony. Jason Alexander as Louie. George Clooney as Paul. Vince Vaughn as Joey. Fred Savage as Chris.

Dorothy Parker: George Clooney as Paul? Fred Savage as Chris? Oh, please…

F. Scott Fitzgerald: Perhaps your brother’s band could be played by Big Time Rush. They’re always looking for engagements. I heard one of them is going to be on Dancing With the Stars.

Oscar Wilde: Colin Firth should play one of your brothers! He was the only good thing about The Importance of Being Earnest.

Me: I don’t know. There seems to be too many English actors playing my family members.

Flannery O’Connor: Charles Durning should play the priest.

Oscar Wilde: Flannery, did you happen to notice all of the stories in the book that had nothing to do with Catholicism?

Flannery O’Connor: I can’t say I did.

Dorothy Parker: Of course not.

Sylvia Plath: this entire conversation is depressing me.

Me: Well, that’s all we have time for right now. Thanks for answering my questions and most of all, for reading my book. Now let’s eat!

Whew…that group discussion thing would really be hard work. Maybe I’ll invite some current day authors to my next book club discussion. Hopefully, Stephen King, James Patterson, JoJo Moyes, J.K. Rowling, Danielle Steel, Anne Rice, Mary Higgins Clarke, E.L. James, Markus Zusak, John Green and Ken Follett are all free.

I hope someone brings cake.

Recipe:

Herb Crusted Pork Tenderloin

So good.

So good.

This is always a hit at barbecues and parties. I hope my author friends enjoy it. I was going to make ham for them, but I thought they might figure out the metaphorical inference. Pork seemed like a safer bet.

Here’s a recipe from Paula Deen:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/herb-crusted-pork-tenderloin-recipe.html

And here’s my recipe…

Ingredients:

2 lbs. pork tenderloin

4 cups breadcrumbs

½ cup parsley

1 ½ tablespoon rosemary (chopped)

1 teaspoon bay leaves, crumbled

3 eggs

3 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375º F. Mix breadcrumbs, parsley, rosemary and bay leaves. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Whisk egg. Season pork with salt and pepper, and then dredge in eggs. Dip into breadcrumb/seasoning mixture and coat well. In a large skillet, melt butter and oil over medium-high heat. Add pork; brown on all sides (about 5 minutes). Roast on grill for about an hour-to an hour and a half or until golden brown and thermometer reads 170º F. Let stand 5 minutes before slicing and serving. Enjoy.

So Hungry Lifers…if you could talk to any authors, who would you choose? What would you ask? Do you like pork tenderloin? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!

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4 Comments »

  1. A few of my high school teachers were really fun to be with. My favorite was Mr. Grossfeld later to be known as Mr. Grey always was witty, sarcastic and cutting while being funny and extremely instructive. Most of the books I read then were sports books besides Classic Comics which served for my informative book reports. I would imagine the famous ball players having a hot dog with me and asking me to fix their batting slumps or improving their fielding. I do digress don’t I? I loved the post.

    Comment by Bglou — March 6, 2014 @ 10:36 am | Reply

  2. OMG! I have to stop reading your blog at work. I almost busted a rib trying not to laugh out loud.
    “Harper Lee: To Kill A Mockingbird. That’s it. Read it three times if you so desire.”
    Stop!!!! LOL! Okay, I’d have a similar party…all my faves, too, especially Jane, Flannery, Dorothy and Oscar! Oh how could I ever leave out Ernest and F. Scott.

    Comment by wordimprovisor177 — March 6, 2014 @ 1:37 pm | Reply

  3. I’d love to come to your book club, Maria! Great post!

    Comment by Grace — March 10, 2014 @ 11:03 pm | Reply

  4. Maria, I loved the way you captured the personalities of each author. That dinner party seemed to be going down hill as the questions progressed. I wouldn’t invite any author for a dinner party because most (not you dear sister) are crazy and full of themselves. I know enough people like that who I can eat with on a daily basis. All those books bring back memories from the past, most of which had me trying to escape from reading them. Now when I read I do so for pure escapism. The authors who write my books (i.e. Anne Rice) paint pictures of the world as they see it and as they believe it is seen. Sometimes they are the same and other times they are quite different.

    In reading this blog I laughed at who would play the family and think Bette Midler is morphing into Lena as we speak. When the book does become a movie lets see who is around to play the old folks. New stars are arising, lets tap into them.

    Comment by Tony Lagalante — March 13, 2014 @ 3:30 pm | Reply


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