Monday, May 27, 2013

Love Can Wait - Reprise

A toddler playing with a keyboard could have come up with a more interesting title for this book.  Better yet, a blindfolded toddler.
A blindfolded toddler monkey.
A blindfolded toddler monkey with one arm in a sling.
You get my drift.

How about if we give a shot at renaming it?  
Here's my blindfolded, one arm in a sling attempt: Kate Cooks up Some Romance! 
Your turn.


Betty Debbie


Love Can Wait is a boring title.  It just is. The memorable story is briefly obscured by the vanilla title and, just by way of freshening things up, I suggest forever-after thinking of this asClaudia Gets a Kiss-Off.  You're welcome.

...and a Cup of  'Blog about Betty whenever you want'...
Editorial Note: (Today, I begin with editorializing.) I am going to allow myself to succumb to the enormous temptation, since our heroine is a professional cook cum housekeeper, to shoehorn this review into one of those darling (cough*tacky*cough) recipes for a Happy Marriage that someone near and dear to you might have worked in embroidery as a wedding gift and which currently hangs in the guest bathroom (aesthetic purgatory) above the decorative towels with heavy beading.  
(Oh dear. When you speak of me, speak of me kindly...)  

Recipe for a Happy Marriage:
...a tall Cordon Bleu with generous curves...
Take One gorgeous Cordon Bleu cook.  For our purposes, a well-seasoned 27-year-old with generous curves and a predisposition to hard work is just right.  If you can find one with a sickly mother, crushing financial obligations, and a snobbish employer, then all the better.  (You may call her Kate.)
Gently fold in 14 stone of James Tait-Bouverie brand Rich English Paediatrician (35-year-old vintage).  This superior brand comes with an aloof nature, an aesthetic appreciation of curvy working-lasses, is wedded to his work and possessed of relations littered over the British countryside.
Dump in one Tiresome Aunt.  Though both class-conscious and penny-pinching, this is the glue that holds our dish together long enough to let it set.  Lady Cowder is to Kate and James what the movie Footloose is to Kevin Bacon and Sarah Jessica Parker--an unhappy if integral link in the chain that connects our star-ingredients.  (Of course I'm joking.  I love Footloose.)  
Claudia takes one too many cheap shots...
Add one Maraschino cherry.  The combination of sweetness and toxicity, coupled with its improbably scarlet color will add just the zest needed to make this dish a winner.  Since this ingredient, we'll name her Claudia, is highly reactive when combined with Cordon Bleu cooks, it may be necessary to chop it up into tiny bits (though that may not be enough to mollify La Cordon Bleu, as she would prefer 'strangling', 'dumping soup on' and putting a dead rat in her bed.)
Stir together with a Dash of Indifference and a Pinch of Attraction.  Any social occasion may serve to stir the pot, so to speak, but ones in which our heroine does all the cooking with little support and scant gratitude (Argh.  That Tiresome Aunt is getting lumpy again.  Beat it!) would work well. If your Rich English Paedetrician is not beginning to integrate with La Cordon Bleu, you might throw them together (like taffy).  I have always found the fjords of Norway very handy for this sort of thing.
Chill.  Ah, so you took my advice.  We're in Norway and though the consistency of La Cordon Bleu is curdling from too much overexposure to Tiresome Aunt (and her incessant bridge-playing and enforcement of segregated dining times), this mess can be mitigated by adding teaspoon-fulls of iced Brit Paeditrician.  
Car wreck?! BAM!
Knead the Dough (which is a euphemism for getting involved in a multiple-car car wreck in a tunnel (like a sausage extruder!) and suffering the outraged put-out-ed-ness of a disapproving employer).Through the violence of tossing about the dough, the material begins to yield results. ('He knew as he watched her smile that he was going to marry her.')
Throw in some Hard-boiled Eggs(Kate is mugged (those thugs!) and loses her savings (100 pounds!) just as she is on the point of delivering it to the bank which would have enabled her to set up her own 'cooked-meals service'.  (Cut her some slack.  She's a recipe ingredient.  She doesn't do math.) ) At that, the souffle has fallen flat.
Pour in Generous Amounts of Salt-Water, Mop up with British Superfine Wool  What's a crisis if it doesn't end in tears and a painfully avuncular embrace?
Cool the Pie on a the Window Sill of an Old Poppet  All that sturm and drang is upsetting your mixture.  Time to move it.  Find another aunt with deeper pockets.  Persuade her to employ La Cordon Bleu.
Shake it Up (Throw a party, introduce a future mother-in-law into the mixture and have Kate's mum develop appendicitis--trust me, the meal will go down as smooth as silk if you don't skip this step.
Pick out the Bits of Maraschino Cherry and Toss them in the Garbage Disposal  ('Yes, I got your message, Claudia.  I'm afraid that it is a waste of time including me in your social activities--indeed, in any part of your life.  I feel that our lives are hardly compatible.  I'm sure you must agree.')
Give Yourself a High-Five.
 James proposes: ''Shall we throw Claudia out of the window?'
Take Your Picnic Lunch to the Bosham Cottage.  Corner your prey and pounce. 
Turn off the oven, clean up the kitchen and await future pledges of mutual affection.
The End

Rating:  This book is one of those meals that sticks to your ribs--hearty but plain fare.  Kate the Cook makes some memorable dishes, treats her nemesi to some wicked-hot mental violence and suffers some enormous reversals of fortune--though some of that is due to pride. When she loses her money we get a chance at some real pathos--it's almost heart-rending to be along with her through all the crap she has to put up with from Lady Cowder, only to have it be all for nothing.
James is no slouch himself.  Like a casserole, he took a little time to prepare but baked up to cheesy goodness once placed within the Oven of Love.  (Okay, I'm done now.)  I do wish that the first half of the book had more movement down the field (It's all a lot of 'Oh, nice legs.  I'm not interested but I'll help her anyway and forget her as soon as I can.') but once he decides to marry her it all gets way more interesting.
I really enjoy the bits with Claudia and Lady Cowder--they're a couple of nasty serpents in the garden. When things with James and Kate are a little dull, you can always count on his aunt making a crack about the dubious table manners of her housekeeper to keep it interesting.  Though why The Great Betty kept insisting that Lady Cowder wasn't intentionally unkind is a sort of backhanded compliment as the alternative is to think that she is socially moronic...
Mince pie.  
Though their implied conjugal relations were satisfactory,
 Kate kept telling him not to call her The Naked Chef...
Food:  Kate is a cook so there is a lot.  Chocolate cake, meringue nests with strawberries, roast duck with sauce Bigrade, raspberry sorbet, strawberry cheesecake, madiera cake, strawberry tartlets, lamb sweetbreads (a dish with the most mis-leading name in the history of food as they are neither sweet, nor bread, but rather the thymus glands of veal, young beef, lamb and pork), ham on the bone, whole salmon, toad-in-the-hole and Kate knocks back some cooking sherry (!! Isn't that supposed to be salty?) when life gets her down.

Fashion: Precious little clothes to talk about.  Her housekeeper's uniform is a white blouse paired with a navy skirt, she wears a pale green jersey, wears a mole-colored jersey all over Norway and dons a jersey dress the shade of warm mushrooms (which, despite my ambivalence to mushrooms, sounds yummy).