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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Novel Review and Menu: Game of Secrets, Lobster and Pumpkin Ice Cream

Author, Dawn Tripp

Well, I absolutely love my friend, Dawn Tripp's newest novel, Game of Secrets. Her work, as always, opens to a world carefully crafted with elegance and sparseness and depth and, of course, an ethereal beauty. 

Dawn's latest work, Game of Secrets

There's a murder at the heart of it. A chilling thriller. The story of two older women, Ada and Jane, and their life in a small New England town, a weekly Game of Scrabble captures the scope of what might appear as an ordinary day - and yet takes us far beyond these borders as well. 

The elder Ada and her youngest son, Ray, live an ordinary life, much as we might think and do, and feel. And yet, they don't. The difficult secret they bear both expands and contracts their lives simultaneously.

Jane and her more difficult daughter, Marne, complete each other in an emotional puzzle. Marne, more than a little angry but not afraid to walk towards answers. These two offer such a lovely melange. How often do moments of our ordinary life escape because they are so tenuous. Escape may be only temporary as it is love in this case, between Marne and Ray, that brings the secrets and past moments forth to examine. 

The luxury of spending time in the landscape of Game of Secrets will nourish a parched row of lettuce. Game allows us to experience and heal, try on different perspectives; loss of a son, a life loved with and without regret. 

Following the theme of the board game of Scrabble, Ada and Jane fit together missing letters, words, even whole paragraphs, till the pieces of relationships and heartbreak -- in the end they blend, they do so wonderfully, with softness, into a gossamer being. 

Curls of Tangerine

I met Dawn some years ago at a Writing Workshop in Charlotte led by Fred Leebron. We connected over words, over language. A graduate of Harvard and a Mom to two young sons, it is really rewarding to champion her work.

Dawn talks about her first novel, Moon Tide and its reverberations to the most recent event of Hurricane Irene. 

On a Moon Tide

When Irene was chugging up the coast, when the NOAA forecasts started coming in that she would hit on a moon tide, I noticed how the conversation up here made a shift, comparing her to other storms, of our recent and more distant past.
In Westport, a small town on the Massachusetts coast, we take bets on whether a hurricane will strike these parts the way we take bets on whether the Red Sox can pull off a World Series.  We have hurricane preparedness seminars at the local high school. We have clear-eyed Yankee common sense around the steps to take if a major storm were headed toward us: haul our boats, fill tubs with water, board windows, move cars and family and valuables to higher ground. All the while knowing that an awareness of the destruction a hurricane can inflict, particularly one that strikes on a moon tide, is something you have to live through to grasp.
We don't have the frequency or intensity of hurricane strikes the way the Carolinas have it. But we've had our share of hits--Bob back in '91--where the power was down for 10 days, the bees were mad, fallen trees on houses, boats driven a mile up the marsh. There was Carol back in '54, and the Storm of '44. But it was the Great New England Hurricane of 1938, that shifted our New England thought to what is possible. That hurricane was the first that struck New England since 1869. There was little warning. In those days, there was no weather channel, and locals scoffed at warning, even at the term 'hurricane' itself which they felt was reserved for storms down south. But the storm was a category 3 when it hit, and it hit on a moon tide. It scoured the landscape, cornfields rolled over, smashed houses like matchsticks, roads to cobble, transfigured the collective consciousness of those who were fortunate enough to survive it. 2 billion trees were destroyed. Of the 99 deaths in Massachusetts from the Hurricane of '38, 22 were in our town. Old timers still describe the uncanny light, the strange green smell that filled the air as barometers dropped out and the surge rose 10 feet above flood and swept over the dunes, the sound of the wind as it grew into a howl, more vast and strange than any sound they had heard.
That Hurricane of '38, that struck on a moon tide, nearly 75 years ago is still part of this regions' lore, and part of our awareness that you can prepare--take your common sense steps--but at a certain point, there is nothing you can do. You do what you can, and then you take it as it comes. Which might seem an old-fashioned way of looking at things. But is perhaps a decent thought on how to live a life.


Dawn's second novel, "The Season of Open Water," won the Massachusetts Book Award in Fiction in 2006.

And so it is that all great work inspires creativity! Here then is a menu to experience and that I hope might capture a little of an ordinary day in Game of Secrets. Won't you sit down at the table?

Cioppino Style Clams with Bacon and Tangerine Scented Broth
This dish draws on Marne's time in the Bay area, where Cioppino originated. 

serves six.

1 slice hickory-smoked bacon, minced
1/2 teaspoon butter
1 cup onion, minced
Zest and juice of one tangerine
1 medium garlic clove, minced
3 dozen clams
1 cup white wine
Fresh thyme

in a heavy-bottomed, 4-pint soup kettle, sauté bacon, butter, onion, tangerine zest and juice, garlic and fresh thyme over low heat. do not allow to brown. add clams, cover and turn heat to medium. Cook until clams open about five minutes. using tongs remove clams to individual bowls and ladle broth over top. serve at once with sourdough bread.

Lobster Grilled Cheese and Tomato Sandwich
Each Friday at the Scrabble Game, Ada would bring a Cheese and Tomato Sandwich, I hope she would approve of the added ingredient, lobster!

makes 2 sandwiches

5 ounces lobster
½ cup brie (diced)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon each fresh tarragon and basil (chopped)
2 green onions (sliced)
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
1 clove garlic (chopped)
1/2 lemon (juice)
salt and pepper to taste
4 slices bread
2 slices cheddar cheese
4 slices ripe heirloom tomato
salted butter (room temperature)

Mix the lobster, brie, mayo, basil, tarragon, green onions, grainy mustard, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a bowl.
Butter one side of each slice of bread and assemble sandwiches with the buttered sides of the bread facing out and fill with a slice of cheese, slices of tomato and half of the lobster mixture.
Grill until the bread is golden brown on both sides and the cheese is melted on the inside.
Cut on the diagonal and serve while hot.

Roasted Pumpkin, Butternut Squash or Sweet Potato Ice Cream
Absconding with pumpkins was part of Luce's growing up in Game of Secrets, and here's what to do when too many pile up.

Inspired by David Lebovitz (Living the Sweet Life in Paris) and North Carolina.

1 1/2 cups (375 ml) whole milk
2 cups (250 ml) sour cream
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons raw sugar
1 teaspoon five spice powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 inch slice fresh ginger
½ tsp crushed coriander
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
7 large egg yolks
½ cup molasses
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
optional: 2 teaspoons amaretto or rum
3/4 cup roasted pumpkin, sweet potato, or butternut squash

In a medium saucepan mix the milk, raw sugar, five spice, ground cinnamon, ginger, coriander, nutmeg, and salt.
Warm the mixture until hot and the edges begin to bubble and foam.
Whisk the egg yolks in a separate bowl and gradually whisk in about half of the warm spiced milk mixture, stirring constantly.
Scrape the warmed yolks back in to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heatproof spatula, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. If using an instant-read thermometer, it should read between 160º-170ºF (71º-76ºC).
Immediately pour the mixture into the bowl, fishing out the cinnamon stick and ginger. Mix in the molasses, then stir until cool, then chill till completely cool. Even overnight is ok.
Whisk in the vanilla, liquor (if using), and the sweet potato, squash or pumpkin puree. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the instructions.

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