Monday, January 28, 2013

DEAR KATNISS EVERDEEN, YOU ARE INVITED TO DINNER. COME OVER ANYTIME!

This endless post that you see unfolding before you is my contribution to Cook the Books Club, featuring, this time around, SuzanneCollins book “The Hunger Games.” Thank you girlichef for choosing it for us to read.  I literally could not put it down.  Loved it! Besides its riveting plot, the story contains a myriad of references to food.  The protagonist (and of course the author who created her), are definite foodies.  Rather futuristic foodies as befits the plot, but foodies nonetheless. I write a synopsis of the plot, albeit a very concise one, at the end of this post. If you want to give it a quick glance over, scroll down to the section in italics. I made three dishes in honor of "The Hunger Games," because, frankly, I couldn't narrow my choices to just one.  This happens a lot to me. You should see me when I go shopping for clothes. But that's another story. Because my post is rather lengthy, I published the recipes separately. Check them out: Whole Wheat Raisin Bread, Aromatic Lamb Stew with Prunes, Goat Cheese and Apple Tart.
My bread for "The Hunger Games."  Whole wheat raisin and walnut bread,  a comforting nourishing bread.  The recipe is posted here. 
In honor of “The Hunger Games,”  I decided to make recipes that symbolize love.  First, I baked bread, the kind of bread that is given to Katniss, the protagonist, by Peeta, the other protagonist.  Peeta’s bread is nourishing and comforting.  It definitely does symbolize love, for reasons I explain in another section of this post.  In a novel that has a considerable amount of violence, it’s good to find occasional symbols of love.  Another sign of love in the form of food is the lamb and dried plum stew sent to Katniss by her sponsors.  It symbolizes the love that people are beginning to feel for Katniss, a love that will eventually serve to unify a nation.  So, in addition to the bread, I decided to go ahead and make some lamb stew.  It's Katniss' favorite food!  I should mention here that “The Hunger Games” is a trilogy, and yes, I went ahead and read all three books because there was no other way I could get over my obsession with the world as created by Suzanne Collins.  Anyway, in all three books Katniss does her best to polish off a decent quantity of “lamb stew with dried plums,” and because I now consider her my book character best friend for life (BCBFFL), I felt I owed it to her to make a nice batch of lamb stew.  
Lamb stew with dried plums.  I added carrots and chestnuts as well.  The lamb came out really soft.  Melt in your mouth soft.

Then, I thought Katniss would be proud of me because I have, in my house, some plum jam that I made in late August with plums that I picked and carried home myself, from a nearby orchard.  
Here's a picture I took during my plum jam making session.  The jam is made, but I've yet to post the recipe.  Let's see... it's only been since August... I'll get around to it...
If Katniss were to come over, I think she would spread some of that jam on a slice of whole wheat raisin walnut bread, and then she would spread a little goat cheese on another slice (because she likes goat cheese and it reminds her of her little sister), and then she would put the slices together to make a nice sandwich.  I have to tell you that I did this, and I enjoyed a really delicious sandwich for lunch.  I just wish I could have shared it with Katniss.
The creamy tartness of the goat cheese and the smooth sweetness of the jam make a great topping for Peeta's bread.  I think Katniss would love this little treat.  Simple and delicious!
Katniss, come on over girl.  We’ll have lamb stew with dried plums, some freshly baked bread, we’ll have goat cheese and jam, and for dessert we’ll have that lovely tart that Peeta bakes, the one with goat cheese and apples.  Come over anytime.  I’ll cook for you, and you can teach me how to use a bow and arrow.  We can shoot at my neighbor’s tires.  He drives a Hummer.  But seriously, I am glad that I discovered Suzanne Collins’ work, and I’ve come to admire her, because she wrote the three fantastic, adventure and suspense filled books that comprise the trilogy that is “The Hunger Games.”  In this post we are concerned only with book one, which is called “The Hunger Games.”  
My recipe for this bread is in another post that can be found by clicking here.
Let’s have some bread.  Bread plays an important part in “The Hunger Games.”  Because the districts are poor, bread is a prized staple food.  It’s an essential part in people’s lives since it’s a mainstay of their diet.  Besides this fact, bread plays a role in Katniss’ awakening, and it is symbolic of the love Peeta feels for her.  Hungry and destitute after her father’s death, Katniss and her family are in trouble:  “It crossed my mind there might be something in the trash bins… unfortunately, the bins had just been emptied…. The realization that I’d have nothing to take home had finally sunk in… take us to the community home, I thought.  Or better yet, let me die here in the rain.” 
Peeta, who is the son of a baker (doesn’t his name remind you of bread?),  and who has for years been secretly in love with Katniss, realizes her predicament.  On the sly, so that his disciplinarian mother doesn't find out, he tosses to Katniss two loaves of raisin and nut bread.  Eating Peeta's bread brings her and her family back from the jaws of starvation.  The next day, feeling stronger, Katniss wants to thank Peeta.  “Our eyes met for only a second… I dropped my gaze, embarrassed...  and that’s when I saw it.  The first dandelion of the year.”  She remembers the “hours spent in the woods with my father and I knew how we were going to survive.”  Katniss turns to hunting, which is what her father had taught her to do.  She could “never shake the connection between Peeta and the bread that gave me hope, and the dandelion that reminded me that I was not doomed…  I feel like I owe him something.” 
The nourishing bread awakens Katniss’ spirit and fills her with resolve to forge ahead and find a way to survive.  Therefore, I believe bread is the most important food mentioned in "The Hunger Games," because it symbolizes love, hope and survival.
In "The Hunger Games" bread is the most important food mentioned because it symbolizes love, hope and survival.
And Panem, the name of Katniss’ country...  In Latin, Panem means bread!  Katniss manducat panem:  Katniss eats bread.  So bread can nurture you, but also,  as is stated in “Mockingjay,” the last book of the Hunger Games trilogy, “Panem et circenses,” which translates to “bread and circuses,” meaning bread can make you forget: give people plentiful bread and games and they will be lulled into a sense of obliviousness.  The lesson here is that having everything at your disposal makes you forget your primary duty as a citizen, the duty of doing good for your country.  The citizens of the Capitol lived by the bread and games principle.  Those in the districts, the ones without “a lot of bread,” like Katniss, eventually rebelled against totalitarianism. It's not good to have too much "bread" or not enough "bread."  It's best to walk somewhere in the middle, and allow yourself to maintain an active conscience that serves to keep you concerned about the welfare of your neighbor and your country.  That's a lesson that holds true for the ages.
All right, can we now have some lamb stew?  Lamb stew with dried plums if you please.  It’s Katniss’ favorite.  
Fresh out of the oven, dried plums (prunes to you and me), in lamb stew.  I used shoulder of lamb, cooked it slow and low and it came out delectable, with a sauce so delicious that it made you want to swoon.  The recipe for lamb stew with prunes is posted here

Katniss received some of her favorite lamb stew from sponsors while she is participating in the Hunger Games.  Sent by them at probably great expense, the stew is very welcome because food at the games is extremely very difficult to get, and the participants are always hungry.  The gesture of sending the stew symbolizes for me the love people are beginning to feel for Katniss, a love that will inspire and eventually serve to unify a nation.   Katniss and Peeta feast on the stew which is also accompanied by bread, goat cheese and apples.  

There is a feeling of warmth between them as they eat and talk.  Peeta reminisces about the goat cheese and apple tart he and his family used to make back home.  Goat cheese and apple tart.  A fitting way to finish a dinner to which Katniss is the guest of honor.  So come on over Katniss, and yes, of course, please bring Peeta.   

Below I provide a very concise synopsis of "The Hunger Games," but if you are familiar with the plot, jump the paragraph, and go directly to the place where you can post a most welcome comment.  Thanks for stopping by!
I recommend this book! 
Katniss Everdeen is a huntress. Her skills are ambrosial, worthy of Artemis herself. Sixteen years old and already she roams the forest with her homemade bow and her arrow-filled quiver strapped over her shoulder.  She kills her prey with stealth and precision.  Always at her side is her hunting companion, Gale.  The two divide what they have hunted, keep what they and their families can eat, and sell the rest at the town black market.  In Panem, the futuristic, authoritarian, post apocalyptic country where they live, hunting or even venturing beyond district boundaries into the forest is illegal and can result in a death sentence.  However, poverty and hunger are rampant in the 12 districts that make up Panem, and after experiencing starvation first hand, Katniss knows the importance of having found a surreptitious method to feed herself, her mother and her sister.   
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, from the film "The Hunger Games."
Her superior hunting and survival skills serve her well when she is forced to participate in the Hunger Games, an annual competition in which 24 youths fight to the death until only one victor remains.  The competition is imposed as a form of punishment by the Capitol, Panem’s powerful and advanced metropolis, a city of plenty that rules with an iron fist over the 12 districts of Panem.  The Hunger Games serve as a form of entertainment for the Capitol’s citizens.  The districts stand by in quiet bewilderment and dismay, while their young people are being sacrificed as a form of retribution for a long ago rebellion against the Capitol.  The games are a constant reminder of the total control the Capitol has over its citizens.  The chosen young people, who are called tributes, are picked by lottery at a ceremony called the reaping.  They must be between 12 to 18 years old, and each district has to offer one male and one female tribute.  Katniss, volunteers as a tribute in order to save Prim, her beloved younger sister, who had the misfortune to be chosen by the lottery.  The male tribute chosen along with Katniss is Peeta Mellark, who is the son of the district baker.  It is revealed in the novel that Peeta has been in love with Katniss since the two were five years old, and that he was once instrumental in saving and turning the path of her life.  The two live in district 12, the smallest and poorest district in Panem.  All the tributes are taken to the Capitol where they are feted and prepared for the games.  During a television interview Peeta confesses his love for Katniss to all of Panem.  Now the audience views Peeta and Katniss as star crossed lovers, and begins to regret that either one of these two tributes might die.  The Hunger Games begin.  They are held in a specially created, naturalistic, outdoor arena.  There are cameras hidden everywhere so that every detail of the games can be televised.  Viewing is mandatory for all of Panem.  A bloodbath ensues in the games arena as the tributes begin hunting each other, and a large number of them are killed.  Both Katniss and Peeta are wounded.  What will happen to them?  Will they be killed or will they survive the games?   Eventually they join forces and fight together, because the Capitol, mindful that these two are loved by the audience, makes a new rule:  two tributes from the same district can win the games if they are the last two to remain alive.  This makes the games more suspenseful.  The audience has began to care for the star crossed lovers, and they like it when Katniss and Peeta display affection for each other.  As it turns out, it's the star crossed lovers who are the last two to remain alive.  Theoretically they should be crowned victors, however, the Capitol has other plans.  They reverse rules, and now it is once again expected that only one victor remain alive.  Katniss and Peeta are prepared to commit suicide rather than kill one another.  They know that the Capitol will settle for two victors rather than no victors.  They are correct, and are both crowned in victory.  However, because they circumvented the rules they are viewed as having committed an act of rebellion.  Katniss, by being instrumental in devising the theoretic suicide plan, has garnered the ire of the powers that be and has become a political target.  Her public scorn of authoritarian leadership has put her life in danger………  
The trilogy that is "The Hunger Games. "
The story continues in the two sequels,  “Catching Fire” and “Mockingjay.”  “The Hunger Games” is a masterfully plotted novel, with allusions by the author to “Survivor” type reality television, and to classical mythology.  Collins,  quite the classical scholar, imbues her story with allusions to ancient Rome and Greece.  Her tributes turn into violent gladiators.  Before that, they help bring to mind the legend of Theseus and his cohorts, who were chosen by Athens to be sent as tributes to King Minos, in order to become prey to the monstrous Minotaur. The games' arena is a futuristic labyrinth, and I suppose the monstrosity of the Minotaur is reflected in “The Hunger Games” by the actions of the Capitol.  There is no putting this book down, but one must, if only to have dinner.  How about a simple appetizer of goat cheese and plum jam, followed by lamb stew with dried plums, hearty whole wheat raisin walnut bread, and for dessert a goat cheese and apple tart. 

9 comments:

  1. Wow! What a brilliant post this is, Ana! I've never had any real desire one way or the other to read 'The Hunger Games' or even to see the film, to which my good friend and neighbour cannot understand for the life of her, lol.

    But after reading your post about it here, my curiosity is more than piqued! I had no idea that it centred so much specifically around bread (my favourite go-to comfort food, bar none). I knew from the title, of course, that it had something to do with food, but I'd no idea that the author was a foodie. The way my friend described the film (I don't think she's read any of the books), it sounded more like a female version of 'Gladiator' - which was a good film, true, and I've always liked Green and Roman mythology when I was growing up, but it wasn't something that made any big impression on me one way or the other.

    However, after reading both your opinion of it, as well as the basic synposis (thank you for that - I'd never even bothered to Google it, I must confess), I would at least like to read the first book.

    And in honour of the book (that I will read, i promise) and in honour of this wonderful post you've written, I now feel like baking some bread (something I've not done in too long a time), and ohhhhh yes....apple tart and goats cheese for afters. I love apple tarts!

    Thanks for this, Ana. It was brilliant and rivetting reading! - June

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    1. Hi June! You caught me in the middle of posting, these have to go up by midnight tonight. The dessert is in the oven, so I don't have pictures of everything. I read the books and saw the movie, and believe me, the movie does absolutely no justice to the book. It's an OK movie, but compared to what is in the books there is no comparison. So yes, the movie concentrates a lot on the gladiator type action that's also in the book, but it leaves out so much else. Plus there are no references to food in the movie. And some of the most beloved characters have only a few lines. I think that's to be expected of a movie, by their nature they cannot capture every significant element present in a book. Now, as for these books. Suzanne Collins has mainly an adolescent audience, and last spring, my nephew, who was 11 at the time, got his hands on The Hunger Games series and would not go anywhere unless he had the books with him. He finished all three in no time, and I was thinking boy, those must be really nice books for kids. Then the movie came out, and I heard that both kids and adults were obsessed with The Hunger Games and I said come on, people, let’s get a grip. Fast forward to Cook the Books. I joined this club so that I can practice my writing, which I don't get to do all that much these days. It helps the old noodle to sit down in front of the computer and start writing about what you have just read. So that's why I joined. So this time around, The Hunger Games got picked as a read. I thought to myself, oh no, we are reverting to adolescents. The lady who picked it wrote that her son was reading it and talking about it, but she didn't think anything of it. Then she saw the movie, had to get the book, and was hooked. So I very reluctantly got the book too. Two pages into it, I was addicted. That's the effect it has on you. There is violence, yes (the author, in her fifties, was a military brat, her father fought in Vietnam), but there is also genuine character development and so you grab on to these characters, you become really interested in them and you don't want to let go. So it’s a highly recommended series from my end. Some people may not like it, perhaps this genre is not their style, I however am a convert. This is not highbrow lit, but it's a riveting addictive read. You know, I have never read or seen a single Harry Potter. Have you? Any thoughts? Lots of love, Ana.

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    2. Well, I've asked my local library about getting the book in, and, although they do have it (all three books in the trilogy), there is a huge waiting list for people who want to read it. At least 15 people, the librarian told me, are ahead of my name in the queue for lending it out, so....guess it'll either have to wait, or, if I can find it in a second-hand bookshop, I'll get it then.

      I have to admit that the genre, in and of itself, is really not my cup of tea. I don't think I'd be into the film at all, though. There! I've said it! lol...but because of the 'foodie' aspect of it, and food (and especially bread) being expressed as almost a character in itself, my curiosity is defnitely piqued. That, and your excellent review and high praising of it.

      You also asked about Harry Potter. Nope. I just never got into it. A few of my friends, who are not only Harry Potter fans but also 'Lord of the Rings' aficianados (like me - I love and adore JRR Tolkien's work - I'm not a big sci-fi or fantasy fiction enthusiast in general, but Tolkien was and still is something special), but Harry Potter? Meh. I'm just not into it at all. It's funny/curious/fascinating to me what attracts us to certain cultural things - books, films, art, music...and what doesn't appeal to us. Your thoughts on this, Ana? - June

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  2. Wow! That is all I can say. WOW! Such a beautifully inspired post with mouthwatering food. I'm so happy that you would up enjoying this book (or books). I would absolutely love to sit down to this amazing Hunger Games-inspired feast.

    ~Heather (girlichef)

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  3. This post is so wonderful on so many levels. You really explored the books and movie and your table of edible Hunger Games-inspired delights is a real marvel. So glad you joined us for Cook the Books! And Food n' Flix!

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  4. This is a great post and I love your feast of food!!! This is the perfect depiction of the book through food!

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  5. What a nice post. I love lamb stews, roasted lamb...any dish with lamb as the star. I also make my bread and that makes a meal so wonderful, warm fresh bread. The goat and apple tart is great. Would love to have some :-)
    By the way, I just read your About Me tab and I am from the area you live now. I grew up and went to school in Brookhaven, Parkside and Aston...just a stones throw from Drexel Hill !

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  6. Wow, Ana, the book truly inspired you. And what a banquet you prepared! Everything looks great.

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  7. You went all out for this one Ana--everything you made looks amazing. I am only sorry I am finally getting around to viewing everyone's entries so late this time. ;-( (Bad, bad co-host!) So happy you joined in! ;-)

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