Semi-stupid Tuesday questions, Mrs. Whatsit edition

“Peace be with you.”

Those were the only words I spoke to the frail-looking old woman in a wheelchair. It was during an evening service at a cathedral on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, an observance known as “passing the peace” during which those in attendance circulate and wish each other God’s peace. I had spied the woman nearby, and somehow I had an inkling about her. I knew that the person I thought she was had an association with the place. Later on, I heard someone call her by name, and I knew I’d been right.

It was Madeleine L’Engle.

Touching the hand of an author whose works I’d loved so much as a child (and look forward to reading to my own children) is one of those cherished magical memories that made my time in New York so wonderful. While I love the place I live now, there is a unique wonder to the Big Apple that I miss.

But back to Madeleine L’Engle. “A Wrinkle in Time” is rightly hailed as a classic of children’s literature. Its combination of science fiction, fantasy and spirituality struck me the first time I read it, and its story and imagery are masterful. If there is a more chilling vision of nightmarish conformity than Camazotz, I can’t think of it.

Sometime in my younger adulthood, I chose to read it again. As I happily turned the pages, I noted that Charles Wallace (one of the central characters) is fond of liverwurst and cream cheese sandwiches. I had never had such a sandwich myself, but I thought it sounded delicious. Shortly thereafter, I found myself in a deli and happily ordered my first such sandwich. I was right, it was delicious. It’s become a favorite of mine, though I’m picky about how thinly-sliced the liverwurst needs to be.

The magic of Mrs. Which and an enjoyable lunch idea, all from one delightful book.

So that’s this week’s Question (to which I have a related idea for next week) — are there any foods you’ve discovered through art or entertainment? Did you watch “Tampopo” (you should watch “Tampopo”) and seek out real ramen? Is there some meal you’ve learned about or tried because of a book or television show or some such? (Please note: If your answer comes from “Hannibal,” you missed your chance.)

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42 thoughts on “Semi-stupid Tuesday questions, Mrs. Whatsit edition

  1. I met Madeleine L’Engle, briefly, in the 1980s, when she spoke at my college and had a sit down with our creative writing club. Literally the only thing I remember other than her face was how wonderfully nice and gracious she was.

    Now for my moment of shameful confession. I tried milk-and-Pepsi because I heard it on Laverne and Shirley. I was sure it would be atrocious, but I wanted to see just how atrocious. I loved it, and I still drink it upon occasion.


  2. I was in my early-30s when I read Iris Murdoch’s The Sea The Sea. At that point in my life, all of my cooking was purposefully complex: curries, thai dishes that required making pastes prior to cooking, sauces that features a dozen or more ingredients. I somehow equated “complex” with “good.”

    The opening scene of The Sea The Sea describes at great length the protagonist making lunch of a fresh sliced tomato and olive oil. Murdoch lovingly describes the joy of eating very simple dishes made from high quality ingredients. If someone had told me then I should try just eating a sliced tomato with olive oil I would have ignored them. But the writing was so compelling I went out that day and bought high end olive oil and a heirloom tomato; and with a little kosher salt and light pepper Imade myself a really delicious lunch.

    I enjoy doing complicated as well as simple in the kitchen, but that one passage for The Sea The Sea changed he way I look at cooking.


  3. Hannibal has given me a hankering for fancy food (minus the human-meat, of course!) despite the fact that I am the sort of person that relished eating some scrapple today, and had Spam last week.


  4. Fried green tomatoes – I eat so many of these right after the first frost, when we’ve just picked all the tomatoes in a rush without regard to ripeness. Delicious!


  5. By the way, which L’Engle books would anyone recommend other than A Wrinkle in Time? Its direct sequels are all really, really, preachy (specifically, Christian, preaching.)


  6. Some friends, Natasha, and I went to Santa Barbara one weekend to have fish and chips from a hole-in-the-wall place that our friends seen Guy Fieri shout to the camera about on “diners drive-ins and dives.” It was damn good fish and chips but no seating.

    Not that I needed much of an excuse to take a day trip to Santa Barbara in the first place.


  7. Just happened to notice the mention of liverwurst in this post. One of my favorite foods in the world though I have never had it with cream cheese. Growing up with a German grandmother it was a staple.


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