Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Along for the Ride

It's turning into a busy little week, in spite of itself.

I've been upping the bike workouts-- to some extent, deliberately.  Here's the thing: last weekend, I looked at the map and figured out a way to add "a few miles" to my typical ride.  I got up bright and early Saturday morning and did the new route, and yes, it was more of a workout.

Yesterday morning, I woke up bright and early again, so I said, "Let me do that bike ride again!"  So I did, and I was pleased that it was a bit less strenuous than the last time around, but still a workout.

When I got home, I thought, "Let me go online and see how many miles I actually added.  I think it's probably about 5 or 6, but let me check, in case it's a bit shorter than that.  Maybe I need to ADD a few!"

Turns out, I had already added 11 miles to my workout.  Clearly, I'm not good when it comes to gauging distances.  (You may not want to walk or ride with me.)

I've decided to keep what would no doubt seem to many to be a pretty major error in perspective and simply point out that the fact that I thought that 11 miles was "only 5-6 miles" must mean I'm getting in shape.  (Or that I'm just not very bright.  I'm opting for the former.)

I finished the first two books of Amitav Ghosh's Ibis' Trilogy, and I had originally planned to blog about both, but now, quite honestly, I don't feel like it.  Sea of Poppies was quite good, although I kind of got sick of the main character, Paulette, mixing French words into English, but treating them as if they were still French.

If that doesn't make any sense to you, that's what I'm saying.  It doesn't make sense and it's kind of annoying.  Bilingual people don't really do that, in my experience.  They say the word in the original language, knowing that they don't really know the English equivalent--they don't assume the French is the English. 

But Ghosh's novel does play a lot with language and with the ways in which languages mix and mingle, so I was willing to put up with it.  But that said, I was kind of relieved when Paulette didn't play much of a role in the second book of the trilogy, River of Smoke, particularly since I was afraid that Ghosh was going to spend yet another novel having one of the only female characters in the novel dress up as a man.

It seems to me that Ghosh is kind of at a bit of a loss for what to do with female characters in the context of his novel-- Calcutta and Canton in the months leading up to the First Opium War--so he kind of shelves the issue a bit in the second novel of the trilogy.

And this was the other odd aspect of the trilogy: it's called the Ibis trilogy, because the characters in the first volume are transported on the Ibis, a former slave schooner that now serves to transport girmitiyas (indentured workers) from Bengal to Mauritius. 

But in the second volume of the Ibis trilogy, most of the characters from the first novel disappear entirely, with one notable exception, and several new characters are introduced. 

While I kind of liked this, in a way, it also made it a bit harder to get into the second novel.  Once I realized (about 100 pages in) that no, the characters I had liked best from the first novel weren't going to figure in this second novel at all, it was a bit... distressing--particularly when I realized that I still had 400 pages to go.

I know this will sound weird, given that I finished War and Peace--and in a way, maybe it's the aftermath of the reading of War and Peace talking here--but I thought River of Smoke was way too long. 

I won't give away the ending, but suffice to say that when I turned off the Kindle yesterday after having (finally) finished, my first thought was, "Why did I have to spend 500 pages with those characters?  Are we ever going back to the whole Ibis-thing?"

The third volume is due out in August, and I must say, I'm less excited about it now than I was several months ago.  But we'll see.

What I am excited about, however, are a couple of new recipes I discovered (they're on my Pinterest, under "Foodstuffs," if you're interested).

On Saturday night, I went to dinner with a friend at this cool little vegan/vegetarian place that I went to long, long ago, and that I always remembered as being "really good." 

And I was right: it is.  Still.

I know that to many, "vegan" and "vegetarian" and "good" and "restaurant" are words that simply don't go together, and if you fall in that category, I'm not sure that there's anything this restaurant could do to change your mind, really, except maybe serve you the gluten-free brownie we had for dessert.

Because here's the thing: if you take the flour out of brownies, you basically have... well, fudge, kinda-sorta.  At least, that's been my experience of it.

But that's not the recipe I want to mention right now (although that one is also on my Pinterest).  The recipe that I found kinda cool was for a sweet-potato and quinoa burger.

I'll pause for a second while that sinks in, Dear Reader.

Now, let me offer this Very Important Disclaimer: there are people out there who feel very strongly about hamburgers.  Very.  Strongly.  

I'm not one of those people, obviously.  But to those people out there, I say, "Yes, I know."  Because yes, I know, you "can't" make a burger out of quinoa and sweet potato.  I know.  I know.

Except that you can, and they did at this restaurant, and I really liked it. 

So that always sparks the quest to make it for myself, and that's what I'm doing today.  If it all works out, I may live on these for a large part of the summer, particularly if I can cook them on the grill (and honestly, I don't see why I can't).

But all that said, I would also caution that, if you have a true hamburger aficionado in your life, you probably don't want to go down the quinoa and sweet potato burger route with them.  I suspect they won't tolerate it.

So keeping that in mind, I would also say that, if you have a true hamburger aficionado in your life and you're tired of their... nonsense (only you can decide whether what they're doing is nonsense or not), then I would suggest using the quinoa and sweet potato burger as the way to drive them (and their nonsense) out of your life once and for all. 

If nothing else is working, this might be the path for you.  An enormous orange burger, plated up.

To ensure that it will work, though, you might want to take them on a bike ride, add 11 miles to it (with the claim that it's "only 5 or 6") and then feed them the quinoa-sweet potato burger when they get home, on the pretext that you're making them "a really great meal" to make up for "what happened" with the bike ride. 

If they're just along for the ride, they won't be back.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "Life is short, but there is always time for courtesy."