Sunday, April 22, 2007

Epic fantasy in 30 seconds, done by bunnies

I finally finished Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World. Finally. Will I read the next installment? And the next? And the next? Probably not. Don’t get me wrong, it was a fun read. He’s a great author. A master.

My beef isn’t with Jordan. My problem, I think, is with hero-quest fantasy in general. I’ve read, maybe 10 or less traditional epic fantasy novels. Perhaps this is simply what hero-quest fantasy is, but they all seem to read the same.

Observe: a young man (or 2 or 3) are informed they have a magical power/object/anscenstor that the supreme bad guy will do anything to get his hands on. Assisted by a witch/wizard/healer said youngsters leave their village to go to the source of their magical whatever, which is not only as far as possible from where the live, but it’s probably also in the basement of the uber bad-guys house. The teenagers see their world, become men, meet girls, and find out their village really is a podunk shit-kicker pimple on the edge of the universe. They will be joined by other characters who will aid them in their quest, via hidden talents that the quest couldn’t be completed without. One of these characters must be of a race the humans think are ugly, stupid, scary, and shouldn’t be talked to, or about, but everyone will learn people of that race are normal, nice people. The band must include a healer, a master of magic, a warrior, someone who can talk to animals, a de-throned king/price, an archer, and a damsel in distress type chick who has a super awesome magical power she may not be aware of. The good guys will eventually win, and very few good guys will die. The de-throned king/prince will get the girl.

Sounds like the perfect team for any World of Warcraft quest, or whatever they call them in that game.

So whose fault are these stereotypes? Or is stereotype simply part of what fantasy (or at least hero-quest fantasy) is all about? Tolkien? Jordan? Fiest? I don’t think it’s any of their faults. A friend told me I thought hero quest fantasy all read the same because I didn’t have a good enough imagination to appreciate it. That’s fine. I didn’t argue with that, and I’m not going to, either. I do wish more fantasy authors would have a good enough imagination to get away from the stereotypes. I know some of them do it (Martin, Lovecraft, Moorcock, anyone?), why can’t more? But I guess those guys don’t really write the traditional epic hero quest fantasy, do they?

Now that I’m foaming at the mouth about fantasy, it’s time for some good french style food. Something that makes me drool at the mouth, not foam at it. The english name of this dish is “chicken chaser”, which sounds pretty uninspiring. You might know it as chicken catchettore, or the provincial french name, Poulet Chasseur. Whatever the name, how could chicken simmered in wine and butter be anything but incredible?

You’ll need:
Big skillet or large heavy saucepan
Olive oil
3 tbsp butter, divided
about 3 lbs chicken peices
3-4 shallots, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp flour
5-6 oz sliced mushrooms
1 cup white wine
2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
tarragon and parsley
salt & pepper
crusty bread

heat some oil and 2 tbsp butter in the skillet. Add chicken pieces and brown them on all sizes. Remove the chicken from the pan. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook until soft. Stir in flour and mushrooms. Keep stirring, the flour will brown slightly. Stir in tomatoes and wine. Bring to a boil, and keep stirring it! Return chicken to pan, season with herbs and salt and pepper. Cover and cook over low heat for 50 minutes. Remove chicken, and bring the sauce to a boil to thicken it somewhat. Reduce heat and stir in remaining butter. Pour sauce over chicken and serve hot, with plenty of crusty bread to sop up all that amazing sauce

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