Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fallen off the face of the earth.

Wow, it's been near forever since I posted. I'm totally blaming Neal Stephenson, but more on that in a bit.

what's happened in the last month? the snow melted, more snow fell, and that snow melted. I made awesome ravioli, i had a ravioli disaster, and then made some nearly awesome ravioli.

Ravioli lessons learned:
1. better to overflour your dough than underflour
2. a pasta machine that doesn't quite attach to your table is no help
3. wet filling is bad. really, really, disasterously bad
4. better to slightly overcook fresh ravioli than undercook
5. when using a pasta machine, there is such a thing as too thin.
6. when rolling out by hand, there is no such thing as too thin.

with Passover around the corner, I'm already looking at matzo cake flour pasta recipes. and stacks and stacks of other Passover yummies. and those five pounds that I lost? Yeah, I gained 'em all back, so I'm not real happy about that, but whatever.

I found a new (well, new to me) author, and she's old skool awesome. I recently finished Lois McMaster Bujold's Falling Free. Have you ever seen Mario Batali on TV? He's pretty cheesy on Iron Chef America, but if you can catch one of his cooking shows, it's worth it. I bring this up because he's always talking about how high quality, simple fresh ingredients treated without too much complication make the best food. And McMaster Bujold's writing style is like Mario's cooking: simple ingredients and not complicated, but some of the most satisfying reading I've had in a long time. Although written later, Falling Free is a prequel to McMaster Bujold's long running Miles Vorkosigan series. Suffice to say, there will be more McMaster Bujold in my future.

I am terrible at, and do not enjoy (or maybe it's the other way around), but here's a go at Falling Free, so you have some clue what it's about. 800 some years in the future, zero gee engineering expert Leo Graf arrives at corporation owned station expecting to teach engineering and welding to young recruits or colonists. What he finds are the “quaddies”, a genetically engineered and company owned new race of humans. Specifically designed for use in zero gee, the quaddies have and extra set of arms and hands instead of legs and feet. They have no parents, no home, no privacy, and no rights. The company designs them, breeds them, and controls everything they see and learn. When a new technology becomes available, the quaddies become perfectly obsolete and useless, and the corporation decides to quietly cancel the program, and dispose of the “experimental tissue cultures”.

Yes, the Quaddies are nothing more than genetically engineered creations, modern frankenstiens, if you will, but as Leo finds out, they are real people, with dreams, fears, and natural children of their own. Leo becomes their unlikely hero, and to that end, this is a fairly predictable story. About half way through, I had some idea as to who (if anyone) would survive to the end, and I was right. That's part of the “old skool” style: the white hats are white hats and the black hats are foaming at the mouth black hats, violence and death are only implied if they happen at all, and it is a damn good story well told.

Lois McMaster Bujold is to Mario Batali as Neal Stephenson is to Molecular grastronomy: Uncomplicated and good vs insanely complicated.

and that is one of the reasons i have fallen off the face of the earth lately. Damn you Neal Stephenson, you make me batshit crazy, but I can't stop reading your stuff. some of your pages bore me to tears, but others bring me to tears with their clarity and genius. Half way through The System of the World, and after this, i really, really, really need to take a break from Stephenson. maybe read something that isn't going to fry my brain. Like some McMaster Bujold!


jonathandanz said...

Gotta love Mr. Stephenson. I've only read the first book of the Baroque Cycle. After turning my brother on to it, it's time to shell out the bucks for the next two books. Anathem was a revelation - and a stand alone novel! Anyway, just wanted to share.

Redhead in the Kitchen said...

Hi Jonathan! Welcome and thanks for commenting! So far I'm finding that the 2nd book in the series, "The Confusion", is the best one, and the only one I shelled any money out for.

Have you read Cryptonomicon? It was my first Stephenson. Marketed as a stand alone, I think it's really an official 4th book in the Baroque cycle.