If you haven't read All The Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr, you should. It's the perfect summer reading for someone at the beach, who needs to look up every 5 minutes or so to check on kids or slather on more sunscreen. It's also perfect for someone with ADD/ADHD or the person who only has a finite time to read each day because every chapter is about 1 1/2 pages long!!! Pick up, read, put down...it's a beautiful thing! The chapters, while short, are anything but sweet. It's the story of a father and his blind daughter, the story of a small walled city on the coast of France, the story of a German boy and his sister, of snipers and bombs and espionage and messages baked into bread and music and despair and hope. It's one great ride! We read it in our book club and I was lucky enough to be able to host for that meeting...which meant bringing to life the foods mentioned in the book so we could all have a taste of 1940 France.
The table was set with France in mind...blue, red and white. Notice the centerpiece? It's a metal WWII Ammo box - the mister and I found it in an antique shop! I scrubbed it with bleach, washed it clean, lined it with red and white checked fabric and then filled it with baguettes.
A week before the lunch the mister and I set out to find whatever military/war relics we could...the ammo box and a box of bullets were about it. I did find some white plates with blue rims that matched ones I already had - so that was a bonus!
Since the girl in the book liked shells, I spread shells around the table - I have collected them over the years, lots of trips to Florida, that's where the best shells are. I printed out a couple of pictures of German youth and put them in small frames, since part of the book was about a boy named Werner - he was also the inspiration for our dessert - but more on that later. I also printed out a few pics of the picturesque town of St. Malo, France. It's a walled city and this is where much of the story takes place. If I remember correctly, St. Malo was almost destroyed, approximately 85% of all the buildings were hit with bombs/debris. It's been rebuilt and restored now, but what a history this tiny city has!
The beginning of the book takes place in Paris, so I once again employed my many little Eiffel Towers...they sat upon a table runner made with French fabric, it has scenes of Paris on it - I had been looking for something to do with that fabric for years! Notice the bullets? That was the mister's touch - he was quite proud of himself for that addition!
The outside of the villa needed a few decorations, too! My little girl statue donned a beret, I hung French flags over my porch and my big Eiffel Tower was standing sentry with a Boulangerie sign...(Too much? In my defense, I had been cooped up for weeks with my shoulder surgery, unable to do anything but dream up things for this lunch, so when I finally was able to move around a bit, I sort of went nuts!)
My Sous Chef for the day was my cousin Marsha (Thank you Marsha!) who came ready to chop, slice and dice and she also brought this beautifully framed picture of someone on her side of the family (sorry, too many pills down the hatch, can't remember!) who served in WWII...click on the pic for a closer look, it's pretty amazing! Above the frame is a quote from the book...Marie-Laure, the little blind girl, had been without food for a long time, she and her father were starving when they arrived at their great-uncle's home and were served omlettes and canned peaches...Marie-Laure called the peaches wet sunshine! Of course, I served canned peaches!
I think you'll recognize the other picture - had to have a little eye-candy for the ladies...G.I. Joe on the right and Marine Corp Ken on the left...good ahead a take a minute to covet them...they are two of my most prized possessions!
Let's talk food, shall we? I wrote the menu on a little ceramic platter - you don't need a chalkboard if you have a Dry Erase marker and a plate! Make sure you have a fine tip Dry Erase marker...it will work much better than the big fat one I had!
I would have loved to have made an omlette for all 14 of us, but that doesn't really work when everyone needs to be fed at the same time...so I made Bacon and Triple Cheese Quiche.
I've already mentioned the canned peaches - and the ladies ate them...wet sunshine they were!
We enjoyed fresh melon slices and fruit and my favorite salad, which is very French...salad greens with every kind of fresh herb you can think of, chopped very finely, and artichoke hearts with a champagne dressing.
In the book, the French Resistance bakes loaves of bread with coded messages in them - so I did the same! I baked little baguettes with quotes from the book baked inside!
For dessert we had Werner's Cake...the book talks about Werner being served a cake piled high with whipped cream, so in keeping with the French theme, I made Meyer Lemon Crepe Cake - vanilla flavored crepes with a light lemony-cream and fresh strawberries in between each crepe then piled high with whipped cream - it was a thing of beauty! (And this time I used a REAL crepe pan and all the crepe turned out to be the same size - funny how that happens!)
This was our last book club meeting of the year and I wanted it to be special - it was nice to end the year with a great book that everyone loved!
So what's on your reading beach towel this summer? I've got several books piled up - I'll let you know which ones I like! Happy Summer reading!