Friday, July 23, 2010

Food&Fiction: The City of Ember and Poor Man's Gumbo

I actually got this book from my local thrift store for only 75 cents. How could I resist that?

The City of Ember and Poor Man's Gumbo

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"The only light in the dark world."
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Title: The City of Ember (The Ember Series, #1)
Author: Jeanne DuPrau
Genre: Dystopian/Apocalyptic, Young Adult

Summary: (from Goodreads)
The city of Ember was built as a last refuge for the human race. Two hundred years later, the great lamps that light the city are beginning to flicker. When Lina finds part of an ancient message, she’s sure it holds a secret that will save the city. She and her friend Doon must decipher the message before the lights go out on Ember forever!
Review: I don't know why, but that exclamation point at the end of the summary just cracks me up.

Anyhoo, The City of Ember is the story or a city...named Ember. Ember was built for reasons only alluded to by people referred to only as the "Builders." Built deep underground, Ember is running out of resources fast. Worse then being forced to survive on canned goods though, is the fact the city's only source of light, a massive generator, is starting to fail. The City of Ember follows 12-year-olds Lina Mayfleet and Doon Harrow as they draw lots for their jobs on Assignment Day and try to find a way to survive. When Lina find a mysterious message hidden in her grandmother's closet and Doon stumbles upon the mayor's secret, finding a way to survive becomes a quest to escape. With nothing but darkness as far as the eye can see, escaping will take all the wit Lina and Doon can find.

Overall I enjoyed The City of Ember. I found the book to be a light read that I whizzed right through. Lina and Doon are both likable characters, but for different reasons. While I loved Doon's questioning cynicism, Lina's dedication to her family was really touching I thought. Lina has the habit of thinking a little too good of everyone around her, but it counter balanced Doon's pensiveness and the oppressive atmosphere of Ember.

There were some aspects of the book that I think could have been expanded upon, but overall I think this book was a good first book in a trilogy. If the story doesn't get much better in the sequel then I will probably be a bit disappointed, but on its own this book it good. I look forward to reading this one to Holden when he's a little older as well. If you're looking for a hard hitting post-apocalyptic story, then this isn't for you. But if you're interested in a quick read with an interesting premise then The City of Ember will do.

Rating: 6. Good, but might not be for everyone

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The City of Ember does mention specific meals in the story, but none of them sound very appetizing. This recipe for Poor Man's Gumbo came to mind though because it relies mainly on pantry staples and simple ingredients. This dish is not the type of dish I'd ever make for company, but I think it's perfect for those days when I don't feel like putting too much effort into dinner and I'm too lazy to go to the store.

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I got this recipe from Rachael Ray (which I find amusing since I said I wasn't too fond of her recipes and then posted a bunch of them). I know the picture is really boring, but it is what it is.

Poor Man's Gumbo

Ingredients:

12 slices bacon (about 1/2 pound)
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
One 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
One 12-ounce can solid white tuna packed in water
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 jalapeño chile, seeded and chopped
1 teaspoon filé powder, such as Zatarain's
1-1/4 cups rice

Directions:

1. In a large, heavy skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate.

2. Drain off all but 1/4 cup bacon fat and return the skillet to the heat. Add the celery and onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, tuna and its liquid, tomato paste, jalapeño and 1 cup water and simmer until thickened, about 20 minutes. Whisk in the filé powder; remove from the heat.

3. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring 2 1/4 cups salted water to a boil. Stir in the rice, cover, lower the heat and simmer until the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Serve the gumbo over the rice and crumble the bacon on top.

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