You may recall that one time and the other time that I paired up and reviewed a recipe and a book in one sitting. Because nothing beats scarfing something down while flipping through some awesome pages. So let’s all take a break from analyzing the VMA awards and Googling what twerking is. Please.
Disclaimer: Depending on the food you’re eating, take care when turning pages. Loaning out a book with cheeto-fingerprint-corners can be awkward.
Yes, I love my soups and my novels… Almost equally. Not sure which one edges the other out, but in this case, it was pretty much a dead heat. I’m excited to share with you Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Woa and a maybe-not-all-that-authentic-but-really-yummy Shrimp Gumbo. Let’s hit the books first.
If you’re in the mood for a novel that is both substantial and engaging, here it is. Every family’s story is both a comedy and a tragedy, and every individual is influenced by their heritage in ways we often don’t understand. This highlights the balance in one family and the insight into what drives us from one generation to the next.
Sometimes with a determined grimness and sometimes with a smirking humor, Diaz baldly lays out historical backgrounds and cultural experiences as a foundation for characters that feel very real. It’s rare to find a book that blends modern experiences so comfortably with a sense of ancestry and deep-rooted ways. There is perseverance, fear, and destiny – Beli, Lola, and Oscar are always moving from something, towards something and through something at the same time.
With multi-perspective storytelling, it can easily feel jarred and confused; somehow this novel manages to avoid that. Yunior serves as an anchor while the books moves fluidly through several characters, stories, and time periods to create a more rounded understanding of the family as a whole. Get 1/3 of a way through the book, and you’re sunk into it – you’ll feel compelled to stay up late and finish.
If you’re into this kind of thing, might I suggest some other fav’s of mine such as House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson, and Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver.
Okaybees, let’s get to the food!
Yes, this took a little bit of time to make. Consider it an investment. This stuff is very customizable, delicious, filling, and even freezes awesomely. Try it asap with some brown rice (not only a healthy choice, but a little more substantial when paired with the goodness of gumbo) and some fresh-baked rolls. Wegman’s were responsible for ours, of course.
Check out the original source, and keep in mind how easily you can make it your own. I changed a few things up, myself…
- Instead of being a seafood gumbo, mine was simply a shrimp one. Shrimp was a more affordable choice, and one everyone in our fam will eat a little more readily.
- I skipped the green bell peppers – I don’t eat them.
- I used vegetable stock instead of water/seafood stock. I keep vegetable bullion cubes in the house at all times since they are so useful.
- I skipped the boiled ham, as two out of our four don’t eat meat (but do eat fish & seafood).
- I use one of these fresh seasoning tubes in EVERYTHING as they are amazing, instead of dried herbs, etc.
- Obviously, I added cayenne pepper. You know me.
I give this recipe 4 stars, as well.
My little guy even tried some out. What a champ!
Anyone else reading Junot Diaz? Think cayenne pepper is the finishing touch to pretty much anything? Finally watching Orange Is The New Black? I’m obsessed.
PS: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own, and I have not received compensation for anything written. Links to products on Amazon may be affiliate links. Keepin’ it real.