This is my third contribution to Food For Thought, a fortnightly meme where books combine with food in a post, hosted by the wonderful and talented Jain of Food For Thought, Food With Style and Once in a Blue Moon.*****
THE GIVER ~
THE GIVER ~
This book came with an ending that I could never quite forget. Not because it was spectacular, unexpected or odd but because it was warm, inviting and absolutely welcoming. It was a beginning.
When you read about people who think about love as being meaningless or obsolete, when their life is black and white and grey, literally or otherwise, when pain and suffering has been lost to a world long ago that the wisdom that comes with it is no more, you begin to ponder on the purpose of their existence.
This is a childrens' modern classic. It is a book that has become required reading in schools across America and in Germany while at the same time arousing debate and controversy over the suitability of its mature themes such as euthanasia, infanticide and suicide for children.
My son was working on it in his 6th grade while he was studying at the Taipei American School in Taiwan and after he was done with it I had picked it up and found that it could not be put down until I had finished it. It is a book that will haunt me and then compel me to read it again every once in a while.
Lois Lowry pulls you into a community of sameness where citizens are observed, marriages are perfectly matched, jobs are assigned, food is centrally provided, children are allotted to couples, where there is no pain and no suffering, no angst, no differences, even of opinions, no hills and no valleys, no choices, not even basic primitive sensations and where the weak are released all because there are no memories.
It is the survival of the fittest in its most organized form. It is a Utopia that Plato would have been proud of. It is totalitarianism at work.
Twelve year old Jonas's selection to be the next Giver and his training to prepare him for the most honourable position in the community gives him the knowledge of a world where once there was war, pain and suffering and also of love and joy and colour. And for the first time Jonas experiences these sensations and begins to question the 'perfected ' world that he is a part of.
Lois Lowry makes you sense rather than know that something is not quite right with the world. She gives no explanation about how things came to be. She lets you wonder in suspense. And when you're finally done reading it you're left ruminating in a disturbing pool of thought.
It is a short novel, simply and skillfully written while being powerful, profound and simply unforgettable. I could not finally put it down without experiencing a weighty brooding sensation hovering in my thoughts over the next few days. A five star book indeed.
Jonas's very first glimpse of colour was red; provoked by an apple that he was tossing in the air. Later he was stirred by the redness of a girl's hair and later on still he was disturbed by the colour of crimson blood.
This is a very challenging book for Food For Thought because it contained no food for pleasure. It was only in the mention of the apple that I had had to work on and to make the most of. So I made apples and for added colour some pears in miniature form.
The recipe ~
The first time I had made this was about 11 years ago after having been invited to a delightful Thai lunch. After a wonderful meal of spicy Tom Yam soup, some green chicken curry and a fabulous mung bean vermicelli and chicken salad the meal ended with a dessert of some sticky sweet cakes and then by these entrancing miniature fruits that simply sparkled and twinkled madly at me.
I felt my heart pounding in my chest prodding me to ask for the recipe. And of course I did. Then I went home very carefully just so the recipe wouldn't spill out of my head.
Their whimsical glossiness ever since have added a sublime sparkle to my life.
Although it uses food colouring and is completely edible I do however avoid eating them. I do try as much as possible to avoid additives and especially the unnecessary consumption of food colouring. Something that we all use in icing and fondant of course. But if you're not averse to it this makes a delightful, frivolously fanciful and deliciously colourful dessert.
After a long hiatus I had also forgotten some useful tips that I had gained from my very first experimentations. So this was a project of frustrated joy.
They are made from boiled mung beans, drained and then mashed and mixed with coconut milk and sugar. Very much a bean paste and its texture perhaps akin to marzipan albeit not oily.
I'm quite aware that the pears I made are twice the size of the apples. Loooong story.
You would have thought that apples would be the easiest thing to shape and sculpt but let me tell you ~ I'll never make apples again! Simply because it was very difficult to form the depressions realistically. I was never satisfied over each attempt but I just had to be by 3 am when I thought I saw a pair of eyes blinking outside my kitchen window.
But when I poked the 'leaves' into them it did raise my spirits a little. So I went to bed a reasonably happy and obsessed woman.
Now for the recipe..........
2 cups skinned mung beans, boiled and drained
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup sugar
Place the boiled and drained mung beans, coconut milk and sugar in a food processor. Blitz until the bean mixture becomes a smooth paste. Remove and scoop the paste into a heavy bottomed medium pan. Cook over low heat and keep stirring until the paste dries and becomes a thicker and firmer paste. Remove and transfer to a bowl and shape into fruits. Paint and let the colour dry a few minutes before dipping int he gelatin mixture.
2 T gelatin powder (I used 1 T agr-agar powder)
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups water
Boil all ingredient and stir until the sugar dissolves. Sieve through a fine sieve. Dip the shaped fruits into the gelatin mixture and leave to dry a few minutes and repeat process at least twice more.
A 9 inch round or square styrofoam board
cocktail picks or toothpicks
small and soft paint brushes
flat plate or paint palette for mixing colours
a small bowl of water
Kaffir lime leaves, each leaf trimmed to size to suit the apples or other fruits that you would like to adorn with leaves.
* Shape the fruits until you have done as many as you desire before starting to paint.
* Once the fruits have been shaped pierce with a toothpick and make them stand on the styrofoam. Let them dry a little, five or ten minutes but not too long or they may start to dry and crack.
* Paint one type of fruit at a time then move on to a different type of fruit. It makes for less mess. Once painted let them dry a few minutes, about 8-10 minutes.
* Dip the fruits into the gelatin while the gelatin is still quite warm and do one type of fruit at a time so that just in case the colour runs you will not ruin other fruits of a different colour.
* Make a new batch of gelatin mixture if it gets stained by a contrasting colour.
* I find agar-agar firmer and sets faster.
* Best made on the day of serving.
* After keeping in the refrigerator overnight I found the glossiness reduced, its surface looking a little sandy and the fruits had dried out a little. After 2 days they cracked from dryness.
*MUST use skinned mung beans or else the paste will be a greyish colour and lighter colours like yellow to paint on for mangoes or pink for rose apples will be difficult to achieve in a pretty shade.