Non-exhaustive List of Non-Americanisms in Room (novl)

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Room cover

A more comprehensive review of this book is in the works, but life intervened and this section outgrew itself. So.

Is “Anglo-American” still a legit label? I read it in a very old-school YA novel and thought it was pretty nifty.

Would it be totally pretentious to use it for myself? Aside from being nifty, “Anglo-American” just sounds a lot cleaner than “I have an American parent and an English parent and was born in the US but spent a lot of time in England and around English people growing up and I’ve lived in England for a year. (Plus Ireland for eight months if that’s relevant, which it is right now.)”

Anyway, whatever I call it, that’s the way it is. This hardly makes me an expert, but it means I recognize some words as common to one culture’s English vs. the other.

Like how all our recess group said “bangs”, except for our Australian friend and I, who said “fringe.”

Or things like, “Yes, Mummy calls them ladybugs, Daddy calls them ladybirds.”

That was actually a family my siblings and I overheard on a plane once—our parents are the other way around—but we’re talking stuff on that level.

This in turn means when I read fiction, I read characters’ accents in what they say. Sometimes I also read an accent in the narrative voice. It plays a big role in grounding me in a setting.

Nothing special here, by the way. I suspect this works for loads-and-loads*/lots-and-lots** of readers (*UK/**US).

Last week I finally read Room. In case you missed the buzz back in 2010, this novel’s the story of a heinous crime told through a child’s voice. It was kind of a big deal.

I knew going in that the author, Emma Donaghue, was Irish (Irish-Canadian, it turns out). For the first few pages, I assumed the characters were also Irish. Later I decided they could just as easily be English, though I wondered why the kid was watching only American cartoons. Then the latter part of the book makes clear the whole thing is meant to*/supposed to** take place in the States.

A hazy setting isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It works for the right story. At least one reviewer believes it works for this one, that it adds to the unsettling quality of the whole book, which is after all all about being dislocated.

I don’t disagree. What bugs me is how unlikely it seems that this was the author’s intention.

By its nature, the story relies on key details (like rhythmically creaking bed springs) whose significance the narrator misses but the reader can catch. A few of these (like an up-close view of a nickel, a brand new sight for the viewer seem designed for Donaghue to let the reader know where we’re supposed to be, nation-wise. 

Also, Donoghue tries for American speech a few times, (“sucker”, “Mom”, and at least once, “butt”)– it just doesn’t go far. And a Irish character turns up at one point (and very welcome she is too), and her dialogue shows an attempt at contrast.

But these details are as far as the authenticity of the American setting gets. This leads me to believe that it was chosen because this is where one of the high profile cases that inspired the book took place.

The language/diction/word choice/minor cultural details were a big part of why the setting didn’t feel natural, or worse, too natural, like the book was written in the author’s default setting.

In her defense, she had the five-year-old’s voice to focus on, which is certainly a project in itself. But if you’re taking on the task of writing a five-year-old American’s perspective, why not take the extra step to make sound American as well as five?

If that won’t work out, there’s no shame in making all these folks Irish or Canadian. No one’s going to complain something like this story would never happen in one of those countries.

Finally, this could be oversensitive, but it seems a little disrespectful to just assume Jaycee Dugard says “fringe” when she means “bangs”.

These are nitpicks. But nitpicks are easy fixes, which is why it gets to me so much when they’re not fixed. It got to me enough that near the end of the book, I started writing down words Americans wouldn’t say or concepts that don’t quite fit the culture, both as I remembered and as they came up.

I;m due at the bar** in a few minutes, so without further ado, here’s a non-exhaustive list of non-Americanisms in Room. (**Like, “bar” as the American. equivalent to “pub”. An American “pub” is what this place is trying to be.)

***

-“Fringe” (vs. “bangs”, though in this context, “cut in a fringe”.)

-“meant to” (vs. “should” or “supposed to”)

-Construction: “Will you go play”? (vs. “Do you want to go play?”. Like, “Will you build a snowman?” doesn’t have quite the same metre.)

-“bits of”/”bit of” (vs. “parts of”/”pieces of”)

-“a bit modifier” (vs. “little”/”kind of”)

-“beside” (vs. “next to”)

-“Duvet” (That’s what it says on our duvet packages, but “quilt” or “comforter” are more likely to be used casually. I think?)

-Construction: “Sentence sentence sentence, yeah?” (vs. “sentence sentence sentence, right?”)

-“Any joy?” (“Any luck?” is the best translation I’ve got.)

-“partner” (vs, in this case, “wife”/”girlfriend”/”woman with whom he’s had a child and still lives.” When I first moved to England, I was used to hearing “partner” to refer, euphemistically, as someone’s boyfriend or girlfriend of the same sex. It took time adjusting to the broader meaning in England. Meanwhile the middle class in my part of this country is still in the habit of getting married before they have kids. Otherwise why bother with marriage equality?)

-Cheap veggie curry in a can (Someone want to hook me up with an American source of cheap veggie curry in a can?)

-“LEGO”, i.e “box of LEGO”, “play with LEGO”, “life without LEGO”  (vs. “legos.” This brings back repressed memories of English Cousin possibly saying “LEGO” as plural. I’m all for lingual diversity but without “legos” how do you distinguish a single “lego”, such as the one you just stepped on?)

(FYI the original Legoland is in England DENMARK, the home of LEGO/what we call legos. Thank you vRob in comments! The Windsor Legoland is pretty cool, and the real original Legoland has gotta be pretty cool too.)

-“Safe as houses” (If you’re American and didn’t just go “Bwuh?” let me know so I can buy you a Guinness.)

-Canberra (As a place a stressed out fifty-something American man would retire to for a fresh start. Guy that adventuresome is not going to play the stock uptight family member who can’t accept the reality of the situation.)

-“Stabilizers” (vs. “training wheels.” I did not know this before. Thanks, Goodreads reviewers!)

-Bronwyn (as toddler name) (an American toddler named Bronwyn would raise a few burning questions, such as “Should we be adding an “Anglo-” or “Irish-” on there?”)

***

Basically, if you have a manuscript you’d like read for stray British/Americanisms that fall where they don’t belong, hit me up. This needs to be a standard editing position, outside early Harry Potter (and that was different).

Cheers,

The Wednesday Woman

Stats:

Born: 1 small male relative

Still Grateful He Was Born “Outside”: One blogger, who was kept awake by Room all last week. Hey, if it weren’t worth it, this post wouldn’t exist.

Six Things You Might Like to Know About Me as a #PitchWars Mentee

(Note: Non-#PitchWarriors may wish to wait for the post that’s being drafted in my notebook right now.

1. I think haunted attractions are pretty sweet, both up front and behind the scenes. I think the world needs a really strong, thoughtful novel about one. I also think the world needs a YA novel featuring a love triangle where the heroine isn’t the ipex and her rival isn’t a villain. Whether this a novel people actually want to read remains to be seen. But I’ll keep doing my darndest to make it that novel.

2. Broader: I’m fascinated by how people are simultaneously repulsed and entranced by horror fiction (and film, and interactive theater aka haunted attractions, etc), why that is, and how and why someone creates something that scares even them.

Basically I’d like to explore that in in a YA novel without shoving a copy of Danse Macabre down readers’ throats with a crowbar.

3. Blunt and detailed critique is just peachy with me. If it leads to a long constructive discussion that’s even better.

4. I’ve worked on this project a long time. I’m committed to the basic story, a few character’s choices and motivations, and all names except the town’s. But anything else I’m happy to change and revise if it serves the novel as a whole.

5. I read compulsively, anything, and for a living, audiobook scripts and synopses.

6. Coffee, chocolate, power ballads, musicals, thrift stores, baby mammals, pop culture, vintage teen novels, and late 19th century Brit lit, and lots of other stuff is pretty awesome too.

Bonus: If it wasn’t clear above, I usually write new material by hand. This started back in college, so I could draft essays without spending most of the time on the Internet.

Thanks for stopping by.

Cheers,

The Wednesday Woman/The writer whose tweet you clicked to get here.

Things I Wish I’d Learned Before I Started College

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It’s that time of year again.

My sister leaves for college next week (SISTER, ON THE OFF-CHANCE YOU’RE READING THIS, CLOSE OUT THE WINDOW NOW. YOU HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL SATURDAY.)

In case she needs to fill a space on her wall, I made a frameable version of this, with thoughtfully varied fonts and text in the school colors. But I figured a plain version would make an okay blog post.

Note that these are all things I wish I’d learned before I started college, not necessarily things I learned *in* college. Some didn’t get through to me until well into grad school (thanks, guy who brought that punch with the grapes for the party I came to hungry.)  “Drama’s gonna drama” didn’t truly click until, like, March (when I realized I was an adult who was free to leave a dramatic situation and did.)

Additions are appreciated.

It’d be nice growing up was as fast as reading a list.

***

Things I Wish I’d Learned Before I Started College

Don’t go to class hungry

Eat lots of vegetables

There is no good reason to put things off

If you have to choose between staying  in and going out, go out

If you choose to stay in and work, actually work

Sometimes, professors will contradict each other. Your job is to figure out who’s right

Don’t sweat the small stuff

Think through big choices

Get sleep

Drama’s gonna drama

The world extends beyond this

House parties are more fun

Don’t go to parties hungry

Don’t eat fruit from the punch

Use the buddy system

Time won’t go by this slowly again

Act as though you’re confident

Surround yourself with people you like

Most women don’t look like women on TV

Make your bed and fold your clothes

Have fun

Be smart

Stay hydrated

***

The Wednesday Woman

PS: Sad things have happened this week. In case you wondered how I feel about sad things, I feel sad. I doubt you wondered–correct me if needed. 

I’d go into more depth on the subject of social media and sharing feelings and why we would or wouldn’t, but that could be a few volumes of essays and I have dinner plans so I’m only taking a half hour lunch.

Also, in my world, sorting out tough stuff is what fiction is for.

Here’s A Depression-Era Brownie Recipe

The finished product, both plain and with pecans.

The finished product, both plain and with pecans.

Things have gotten awfully heavy and personal around here lately (see “Fake Cancer Kid” posts below).

Also, as I’ve moved, doing this post allows me to put off business:

I don't remember whether Solzhenitsyn goes on this shelf next to Chekhov or on the other shelf next to Nabakov. How all the fantasy/sci-fi/horror fits back on the spec fic ghetto shelf is also a mystery.

I don’t remember whether Solzhenitsyn goes on this shelf next to Chekhov or on the other shelf next to Nabakov. How all the fantasy/sci-fi/horror fits back on the spec fic ghetto shelf is also a mystery.

Anyway, before plunging ahead into Seventh Grade Gothic Horror, A Dramatic Reading Part II, here’s a brownie recipe from 1938. It comes from this cookbook, given to me for Christmas a few years back:

I learned the hard way to store this in its protective bag.

I learned the hard way to store this in its protective bag.

What interests me about collecting old cookbooks (and it’s time to admit I do have an official old cookbook collection) is reading, in their quirks and traits, the quirks and traits of both their authors and their eras.

For instance, the cookbook from 1923 makes use of about a dozen eggs per cake and tells you how to make “hard” sauce out of butter, water, and sugar. The cookbook from 1956 is all about using your brand-new magic blender, especially for cocktails suited for ladies and men. One from the early 1960s, by an author raised in poverty, directs you how to freeze your fresh fruit pre-Tupperware (use your curling iron to seal a paper bag shut!), while another from the same date, from a woman famous for her etiquette advice, focuses on entertaining (You can feed your guests cheese baked on top of potato chips. Proto-nachos!)

Also, the pamphlet put out by Baker’s Chocolate in the 1940s is all about making use of your ration coupons to give your family dessert every night.

I like this little 1938 “magazine-style” recipe book because it’s accessible and thrifty–presumably we needed eggs to feed our kids throughout the week and couldn’t throw them all in an angel food cake.

This recipe for “Rich Brownies” has become a proven quantity. I’ve gotten these right. They are tasty.

They’re also a fine impulse bake. If you bake with any frequence you’ll probably have everything you need in the cupboard and fridge already. And it won’t put a big dent in your egg carton.

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So, without further ado, a Depression-era brownie recipe.

Ingredients:

-2 squares of unsweetened cooking chocolate (or 6tbs cocoa powder, plus 2tbs shortening)

-1/4 cup milk

-1/4 cup butter (we’re pre-margarine days here?)

-1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed (dark works as well)

-1/2 cup sifted cake flour (all-purpose works fine. We’re fortunate that way.)

-1/2 teaspoon of salt

-1 teaspoon vanilla

-1/2 cup of nutmeats, chopped. (One day I’ll declare these aren’t optional just to stir things up. That was a pun.)

Or, in a picture:

NOTE: Due to the size of my pan/the fact I was sharing these at the office, I made a double batch. So those are four eggs, not two, in case you needed to know that.

NOTE: Due to the size of my pan/the fact I was sharing these at the office, I made a double batch. So those are four eggs, not two, in case you needed to know that.

Directions (adapted from book):

-Heat oven to 350/176.6.

-Cut/break/meat-tenderize-in-foil the chocolate into small pieces, add it to the milk and butter. Cook and stir over low heat until mixture forms a thick, smooth paste, stirring constantly.

OR

-If you’re using cocoa powder, because you planned to make these and remembered too late this recipe calls for baking chocolate, check out these proportions on the cocoa powder tin:

Any shortening--margarine, oil, lard--should work. It's all the same stuff. I used melted butter, which is what I had on hand. Word from the wise, though: do not trying spraying Pam in bowl of cocoa at close range. It won't be pretty. That's why there's no picture.

Any shortening–margarine, oil, lard–should work. It’s all the same stuff. I used melted butter, which is what I had on hand. Word from the wise, though: do not trying spraying Pam in bowl of cocoa at close range. It won’t be pretty. That’s why there’s no picture.

Either way, cooking your melted chocolate/cocoa-and-shortening-paste with milk should look like this.

It takes patience to break up and melt the lumps.

It takes patience to break up and melt the lumps. Think of it as a chocolate roux, if you’re at that level.

-Add butter, stir until melted. Cool. Stick in the fridge if you have to, just don’t put this hot mess in the same bowl as your eggs.

This would look like a hot mess if you could see it better.

This would look like a hot mess if you could see it better.

-Beat eggs. This book assumes you’re a 1938 housewife who knows how these things go, but to clarify, your eggs should look like orange juice after the first round with the beaters:

This takes about 20 seconds with  an electric  on high speed.

This takes about 20 seconds with an electric mixer on high speed. If you’re a housewife in 1938, or you have lots of free time, you’re doing this by hand.

Then, they’ll get paler and fluffier. Most contemporary recipes will describe this stage as “foamy and lemon-colored”, at which point you’ll start gradually adding the sugar. Mix thoroughly between adds.

It'll start to look like unset butterscotch pudding.

It’ll start to look like unset butterscotch pudding.

Then, with more mixing, like a melted rootbeer float.

Then, with more mixing, like a melted rootbeer float.

-Sift flour and salt together. It’s vital you sift the flour, or at least stir it up with a fork, lest you wind up with vaguely chocolateish bricks.

Here’s a moody picture of my sifter, complete with suitably austere looking countertop.

I love my new place, but as photos go this kitchen is sure well suited to the whole Depression-era theme.

I love my new place, but as photos go this kitchen is sure well suited to the whole Depression-era theme.


And here’s another angle.
Taken while waiting for chocolate mess to cool in fridge.

Taken while waiting for chocolate mess to cool in fridge.

-Now, once chocolate mixture is cool and not before, add it slowly to the eggs. You don’t want cooked protein strands any more than you want bricks.

At this point, I’ll quit the beaters and fold gently in with a spoon.

It's like you're stirring chocolate syrup into your melted rootbeer float.

It’s like you’re stirring chocolate syrup into your melted rootbeer float. And like I have a serious dessert fixation.

Eventually, it'll look like this. Which, if you're using dark chocolate like me, won't look like much.

Eventually, it’ll look like this. Which, if you’re using dark chocolate like me, won’t look like much, except more brownie batter like.

-Gently fold in flower and salt.

Yup.

Yup.

It'll look about the same, but feel much stiffer.

It’ll look about the same, but feel much stiffer.

-At this point, you can stir in any nutmeats or other add-ins you have a fancy too. Or, just pour batter into a greased 9×9 pan (or 9×13, if you’re doubling up).

I had some pecans lying around, so I sprinkled them over half the pan.

I had some pecans lying around, so I sprinkled them over half the pan.

-Bake for forty minutes.

This is a before picture.  In case you needed to know.

This is a before picture. In case you needed to know.

While these are baking, you can make some frosting. While Mrs. 1938 This Season’s Recipe Author Collective has a great Mocha Butter Frosting recipe to be shared on request, last night I just threw some powdered sugar together with a little milk and peppermint extract. Vanilla or almond would work too.

Roughly this proportion, but who's measuring?

Roughly this proportion, but who’s measuring?

It was too runny, so I added more sugar and some cocoa powder, because that’s how I roll and I figured frosting that matched the brownies would look more professional. These were going to the office, remember.

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Post-stirring, it looked like this.

For all you know this is just the batter in a different bowl.

For all you know this is just the batter in a different bowl.

I ended up frosting the nut-free half of the pan, so people would have options. Also, peppermint + pecan = hmm.

Then this morning, after I’d left the brownies out in the breakroom for an hour, I remembered I hadn’t gotten a photo.

You have some samples of both here.

You have some samples of both here.

And just to bring things full circle.

The finished product, both plain/frosted and with pecans.

The finished product, both plain/frosted and with pecans.

Enjoy,

The Wednesay Woman

Stats:

Undergone: One very minor surgery.

Under Doctor’s Orders Not to Exert Self Physically: Again.

Walked: Three miles, to watch local street fair.

Looking Forward To: Actually hitting up street fair with friends and family on the weekend.

Purchased: Stuff for new spinster pad; stuff for brother, sister-in-law, and yet-to-arrive family member; produce.

Overheard Office Quote of the Day: “I’m sorry, I got distracted by the brownie.”

I Was A Fake Cancer Kid, Part 2: Picture a Perfect Place

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More on this fellow in a moment.

More on this fellow in a moment.

(Note: A Wednesday post! And only two weeks late. I’d like to thank the Word document that disappeared, the new apartment that materialized out of nowhere, and that cancelled flight on weekend of the 4th.

EDIT: Here’s Part 1.)

At the out-of-state 4th of July party I finally made it to, I talked with a much younger friend who I don’t see often. She’s had her own share of serious health issues, more serious than mine, but with no resemblance to cancer.

When night had fallen and the bonfire was in full force, we were hanging out by the s’more fixings and she asked me what I thought a perfect world would be like.

It threw me.

I took some time to answer. After I finally decided not to broach the subject of a hypothetical global system designed to mitigate all human suffering (with this ten-year-old, you never know), I tried to think what a perfect world—as in, this world—would look like, minus suffering and boredom.

Hard to imagine. Though I did know exactly what my perfect place would not be.

It would not be a place where there is no doom or gloom, with birds singing [something] songs, and all the flowers bloom, [something something something rhymes with een], and absolutely green.

At least not in those words.

***

Back when I was a fake cancer kid, I went to regular appointments (weekly, semi-weekly, then not regularly, sporadically, until the start of high school) in the same clinic as a bunch of real cancer kids.
The oldest kid I knew of was seventeen and had one leg. He did not look like Ansel Elgort. There were a few babies around from time to time, too, and many more in between. Many, many more, it seemed. One time a smiling girl my age, with a cute bandana tied around her head, was called in ahead of me. I was mad. I’d been waiting for two hours. I didn’t care that I had hair and she didn’t.

Did I ever claim this experience made me an angel? No, I did not.

My own appointments, check-ups and chemo combined, were probably only about thirty minutes at most. (It wasn’t until the second season of Orange is the New Black that I realized how long serious chemo can take.)

They were fine in themselves, except for the time a nurse misaimed the needle in my port and had to jiggle it around—while it was still stuck in—for a few minutes until it landed.

That’s what I think of today when I hear the word “discomfort.”

But as established, I was fortunate in many ways. Often for me, the worst part of chemo was the wait. Which could be long.

The waiting room was set up for this. It was well-stocked with toys (toys that made noise), included a separate room with computers that was sometimes unlocked (so I could escape the noise for homework or Zoombinis), and also had a VCR monitor with a cabinet full of videos (the point of this paragraph).

The video selection was decent. I remember choosing, at one time or another, Annie, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and Sarah, Plain and Tall. The last made a boy—not a sick one, mind you, someone’s older brother—agitate for Sandlot instead.

I ignored him out of stubbornness and still feel guilty when I watch Sandlot today. I never did see it at the clinic and was surprised years later when I liked it.
Still not an angel.

For all the videos available , though, only a few seemed to get regular air time. Someone with the same appointment slot as mine seemed pretty fond of Indian in the Cupboard, for instance. Fine by me.

What was less fine was whichever kid* it was who was obsessed with freaking fricking fracking fecking effing #*$@ing gorram Troll in Central Park.

Pardon? What was that? You’ve never heard of A Troll in Central Park? Well, now you have.

Oh, you want to know more about just how massively Don Bluth misfired in 1994? Go visit the Nostalgia Critic. He’s better at this than me.

He also puts into (very, very bad) words exactly how I felt back then, at ten years old, coming off months of pain and surgery and metabolism killing drugs, surrounded by kids who’d been through all that but worse and were missing hair or legs to boot, stuck for hours in this waiting room while precious seconds of fourth grade life ticked away, captive to this stupid cartoon featuring the above-pictured stupid little round dude with the stupid face and annoying voice provided by a surprisingly big name actor who seems to be constantly singing this stupid song that it turns out goes

Picture a perfect place
Where there is no doom or gloom
Birds singing happy songs
And all the flowers bloom
It’s something like nowhere you’ve ever seen
And absolutely greeeeen

My gut-punch reaction to this song—and this song was on a trailer on another oft-played video, so it was on all the freaking fracking gorram time—was then as now along the lines of,

What the hell kind of a lameass place is that?

Not my perfect world, which involved not doom and gloom exactly, not say, cancer for these other kids.
But challenge. Success. Contrast. Some desert, for goodness’ sake.

Then, what did I know, really? I was considering the perfect place in the abstract.

Back on the day that I was diagnosed for real, after my doctor explained what was wrong, I asked her flat-out, “Will I die?”

I didn’t ask because I was brave. I didn’t plan on going all Eva St. Claire if the answer wasn’t “No.” I did believe death wasn’t the end, but put to the test, I may not have tranquilly accepted that I was just headed to hang out with Roald Dahl for a few years while I waited for some relatives to show up.

I asked because I believed that other kids could become terminally ill, and that that was very sad, but it simply was not possible for me. I asked the question so the doctor could confirm this.

I’d thought of dying briefly, but not in depth. Not then.

Angel, not me, etc.

So for months ahead, in the waiting room, the movie and the song and the little boy* who was always watching it annoyed me. I wasn’t going to die, I was staying for the foreseeable future in this world where there was doom and gloom and it was often what made life exciting and good things better, so what the hell, kid?

Much later it occurred to me that said kid was going through substantially more doom and gloom than I was, that this life wasn’t what he wanted to focus on, that maybe he needed the constant reiteration of that absolutely green place to comfort and sustain him.

Or maybe he just got a big kick out of those incessantly dancing flowers.

Whichever, kid. Hope all is well for you now.

***

I tried to describe my perfect world, one involving success and challenges and work and some desert. I didn’t do it very well and have accepted that I can’t.

After we discussed it for a while, my friend, who like me likes to read and write stories, commented,

“If the world were perfect, all the authors would be out of a job.”

This opens a whole other can of worms, essay-wise. But to stay on track, it summed up a key reason I was frustrated by that stupid troll and his stupid song.

“I don’t know,” I said, and tried to expand, but not very convincingly. She wasn’t altogether speculating. Oh, well. She’s reading the Narnia books now and will read about Aslan’s country before too long. “Adventures” are fodder for authors, surely, though sickness, sorrow, or sighing need not apply.

Finally we paused for a while.

“Heaven is going to be wonderful,” she said.

“Yes, it will,” I answered. Though frick me if I have any clue how.

Hope all is well for you, kids.

Hope it’s full of dancing flowers if you’re into that kind of thing.

The Wednesday Woman

*I have a vague sense of who this boy was. If I didn’t, I’d still be sure he was a boy, given that the movie’s only positive female character of note is a stupid cutesy toddler who exists to cry and/or make stupid cutesy noises. Don’t think this escaped then or would have ever.

Not that the male characters come off much better.

I am also sure the boy was very young.

Watch This Space (Please)

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Watch it…

Watch it…

Watch it…

Keep watching. The next real post will be up on or before this coming Wednesday.

Hey, if you’d been stuck in airport overnight shortly after your potato salad recipe went live, then had the third draft of your next post eaten by your computer (I’m working off the handwritten first draft now), then had to move (again) the next week, chances are you’d fall behind schedule too.

For what it’s worth, my apologies. Soon there will be brownies, but not before “I Was a Fake Cancer Kid, Part 2.”

Monday Monday, it’s here to stay,

The Wednesday Woman

By the way, potato salad Kickstarter potato salad Kickstarter potato salad Kickstarter hey come check out the potato salad recipe below. I wonder if anyone submitted a Syrian/Lebanese potato salad to PotatoSaladStock or whatever it’s come to be known as.

(UPDATE: It’s Potato Stock, in fact. If I was a reader I’d be really irritated with me for not looking it up to begin with. Sorry.)

Recipe: Fat-Free Potato Salad for the 4th of July

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Mmm. A sincere "Mmm." (Repeated.)

Mmm. A sincere “Mmm.” (Repeated.)

Okay, it’s not quite fat free. But it’s mayonnaise-free.

(By the way, my friend at Precisely What Exists just loooooooooves mayonnaise. Why don’t you go ask her about that and explore her blog in the meantime? Did you know that a square number of vowels always indicates sarcasm?)

This salad is a light, tasty, and universally enjoyable mix of cold potatoes, herbs, onions, and a little oil and lemon. It is a perfect accompaniment to any festive meal or picnic, whether eaten in summer sunshine or huddled in the basement during the latest near-tornado.

It’s also a perfect way to break up the heavy autobiographical stuff begun in the past few weeks and finished in the near future.

It’s also Syrian. At least, my family calls it Syrian potato salad. It’s been appearing at family gatherings in summer since I was ten or so.

My source is a recipe from The Syrian-Lebanese Cookbook, as compiled in 1966 by the Shums ‘Il Bir Club, an Orthodox Church ladies’ club “organized in 1925 by the late Metropolitan Archbishop Victor Abouassaley.”

I recognize some of the names on the Cookbook Committee page. They’re the same generation as my great-grandmother and great-great-aunt, both of whom made this as well.

I suspect that this in fact an assimilation recipe, an American staple adapted with Mediterranean flavors by immigrants at the turn of the century. It’s since become a staple among those immigrants’ descendants, you and me. So, what better food to celebrate America and all its cultural roots this weekend?

This is fairly simple and I have packing to do, so pictures will be integrated with the steps this time. You won’t have to scroll too far down, I promise.

Syrian Potato Salad

Ingredients:

-6 medium potatoes

-4 sprigs of green onion or 1 small onion (my optional addition: red onion to taste)

-Fresh or dried mint

-1 cup fresh dried pasley

-Juice of 2 lemons

-Salt and pepper to taste

-¼ cup oil )preferably olive: the Syrian-Lebanese ladies 1966 Charleston probably didn’t have the luxury of specifying.)

Directions:
1. Set a pot of water on medium heat to boil.

Enough water to just cover the potatoes.

Enough water to just cover the potatoes.

2. Give potatoes a good rinse to remove excess dirt.

Potatoes in a colander in a sink, a good way to rinse potatoes.

Potatoes in about to be rinsed in a colander in the sink.

3. Place unpeeled potatoes in boiling water.

Pictured in case you weren't sure about this step.

Pictured in case you weren’t sure about that step.

I usually go by the “stick a fork in every so often to test” method of potato boiling, but you’ll want to boil these about 15-20 minutes, until fork slides in easily and skin starts to fall off.

4. While potatoes are boiling, chop other ingredients. Give the parsley a good rinse, too. You don’t need a colander: just grab the stems and go to town with the sprayer. A plain faucet also works.

Unchopped parsley. Wash your hands now if you haven't already.

Chopped parsley.

I keep a measuring cup nearby to track the amount: half a bunch of parsley is about one cup.

Don't use this batch if you haven't washed your hands by now.

Don’t use this batch if you haven’t washed your hands by now.

5. Also give the green onions a good rinse. Green onions are like giant leeks.

I don't feel the need to rinse the cutting board after post-parsley if it's all going in the same salad. Whatever floats your boat, though.

I don’t feel the need to rinse the cutting board after post-parsley if it’s all going in the same salad. Whatever floats your boat, though.

Cut of the hairy white bulbs and any dark green parts that remind you of grass. Chop the tasty, middle sections into small slices.

Like this.

Like this.

6. The Shums ‘Il Bir Club ladies apparently didn’t use red onion in their potato salad, or it just wasn’t readily available to them. But my family always does: nothing replaces the color and flavor.

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I use about a quarter of a large red onion, chopped.

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Cut out the piece of onion you want to use, peel off the tough outer layers, slice all other layers one way, then the other.

7. If you’re using fresh mint, you can chop it now. I forgot about it until the end, when I pulled a few leaves off the patch by the deck. I didn’t take a picture.

8. The potatoes should be finished by now.

According to my all-American cookbook from 1964, the water used to boil potatoes or veggies can be chilled and served vitamin-rich pre-dinner drink. I may have tried it once.

According to my all-American cookbook from 1964, the water used to boil potatoes or veggies can be chilled and served vitamin-rich pre-dinner drink. I may have tried it once.

Replace in colander and rinse with cold water. You should be able to peel the skin off with your fingers, provided you’ve washed your hands. Unless you have a fantastic potato peel pie recipe or your garbage disposal is possessed by a ravenous supernatural being, it’s recommended you dispose of the peels in the garbage can.

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9. If potatoes are cool enough to handle, chop them now. I like to cut each potato down the middle, shortways, then cube each half.

Did I say they'd be pretty cubes? No I did not.

Did I say they’d be pretty cubes? No I did not.

10. Otherwise, go ahead and add lemon and oil to a large salad bowl, then cube potatoes and toss together.

I did it the other way around.

This is closest we'll get to an Ingredients Assemble! picture.

This is closest we’ll get to an Ingredients Assemble! picture. Recognize this patriotic red bowl from somewhere?

11. Add parsley, onion, mint, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss.

Mmm. A sincere "Mmm."

Mmm. A sincere “Mmm.”

Enjoy for your holiday barbeque, and many meals after that too.

Seriously, this yields a ton. Syrian-Lebanese church ladies, you know.

Until after the long weekend,

The Wednesday Woman

I Was a Fake Cancer Kid, Part I: Life, Now and Then

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I was a fake cancer kid.

That is to say, as a kid I had a disease that looked like cancer, and acted like cancer, and had to be treated like cancer, but wasn’t cancer. It still involved cells multiplying where they weren’t supposed to multiply. But in this case the cells—overeager white blood cells—will eventually stop multiplying on their own, having caused whatever damage along the way.

The disease can be fatal to infants and very small children. I was nine, though. My worst possible outcome was paraparalysis.

I’ll spare you the list of things I couldn’t do during that time, because yawn. Basically I was a no-running-no-jumping-no-rides-but-the-ferris-wheel-and-absolutely-no-trampolines-ever-in-your-life-because-your-fake-cancer-doctor-would-illegalize-them sloth until middle school. (I’m sorry, did I say I’d spare you?) Thank goodness for the laser tag loophole.

I’ll also spare you the gory medical details, because yuck. Though frankly, it’s tough to hold those back. They prove I have some degree of sick kid cred, which honestly, I enjoy having. Especially in this pop culture climate.

But those details are gory, and gross—

(Aaaand I can’t resist so this one time early on I got misdiagnosed and then aggressively treated for constipation and it was sick. Get it?)

–and most of you are here for the food. We’ll have another recipe soon, I promise.

Meanwhile, no medical details. Because, also, I’m now a healthy adult.

I have some wonked out vertebrae, and a metabolism I swear was permanently dismantled by the steroids, and after the restricted motion years I kind of fell out of sync with my own body until just before college, but otherwise there have been no lasting after effects. I’ve danced in shows and even jump on the trampoline once in a while. (Sadly, our laser tag arena, which was da bomb, is now closed.)

I am very much an ex-sick kid. It is my largest and most singular privilege. I get the cred from having suffered and having once faced my mortality for about five seconds, and no current suffering.

If that weren’t pretty damn insufferable already, imagine reading 500 more words about which tube went in which orifice. It’d be the ultimate humblebrag, which is a humblebrag in itself.

So, attempting to leave the humblebrags behind, here’s the context in brief:

There were nearly two years of diagnosis, treatment, and sporadic unpleasantness, during which time my Beanie Baby collection exploded (figuratively), which was great–my friends, and everyone I knew, were great—and I missed most lessons on cursive in school, which is still not so great.

The very worst time was when I had to turn down the role of Piglet in a community theater musical. Now, the worst
part of the whole thing is thinking of what my family went through, but the Piglet thing left wounds that weren’t healed until the dawn of high school drama club.

Which by the way, I don’t plan to blog about, because it’s still too soon.

University theater, on the other hand, I got about six latent novels from, so we’ll see.

Whatever. There were a few surgeries, a few hospital stays, radiation treatment and later chemo. Mild chemo, mind you. I spent a lot of time in a waiting room with actual bald kids.

Just before fifth grade, around when my port was removed, I saw a blurb in my American Girl Magazine about Locks for Love,
then had my hair cut short for the first time in years. I didn’t lose much beyond what I gave away (and hated how I looked after, let’s be clear).

There was a bout of osteoporosis in seventh grade, but it cleared up. Bone scans were fine. They were much quicker than MRIs, and the waiting room was quiet.

My last appointment was in ninth grade. I got permission to join the school rowing team, which did not help me re-sync with my body.

As I said, now my body’s pretty much synced. And keeping it that way has become important to me, because I can.

But for a while, I was a fake cancer kid.

Or maybe, without lessening the gravity of other cases, it’s more accurate to say I had “cancer lite.”

Should there be demand, more on chemo, mortality, and A Troll in Central Park in Part II.

In the meantime, brownies or cake? Please vote in the comments.

Slowly reining in the word count,
The Wednesday Woman

Stats, going back to last week:

-Ran: 5k today, 7k Sunday, more before that

-Worked: Full time on new schedule

-Entered: Lots and lots and lots of company data

-Viewed: That very big movie based on that very big book I can’t comment on directly for professional reasons.

-Sat: A long time in other people’s yards/pool decks this weekend.

-Wrote: This, and the start of a new story from an old idea.

-Cooked: Are you kidding, I’m barely managing to pack my own lunches lately.

-Driven: A lot.

-Read: Via audiobook.

*There was a slight chance of the radiation affecting fertility. There’s no evidence this is the case, but check back when I’m trying to conceive.

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