Senselessness (El Salvador)

Senselessness the book coverby Horacio Castellanos Moya

I am not complete in the mind, I said, upon finishing this novel:

  • *a novel which exceeded all my expectations
  • *a novel for which I did not have many expectations–I do not know why–
  • *perhaps I entered unthinkingly into its intensely colorful, paranoid, tragic and dangerous world
  • *perhaps I entered that world expecting a dull but dutifully disapproving and fictionalized account of the tragedies that have befallen indigenous peoples the world over–the horrors so endemic to banana republics–see The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Partsand
  • *perhaps I was not expecting a South American writer–to me as yet unknown–to reveal a grasp of the beauty and poetry of language as powerful as Dickens or Chaucer or indeed, Jane Austen; to prove himself not merely a worker in metal but a craftsman of the highest caliber.

I was not expecting it to be funny. The novel shines like gold among a sea of novels I have read for this blog.

The Plot, Oh Yes, the Plot

All right, the plot AND the writing style:

The narrator has been hired by the Catholic Church in a hot and Spanish-speaking country where the military is all-powerful. His job is to edit a report detailing military atrocities against the indigenous people–like the Cakchiquel man who is not complete in his mind after witnessing his family’s murder. The Indians’ reports, however, are full of such unexpected (and disturbing) poetry that the narrator starts copying down their turns of phrase in his notebook.

The narrator has had to flee his own country for publishing a remark in the newspaper about the leadership and he suffers a powerful paranoia that “they”–of both countries–may be after him. The problem is  that “they” really might be.

To paraphrase the writer’s first sentence:

I am not complete in the mind, I said, upon finishing this novel–much like the narrator who is even now highlighting with the yellow marker the sentence above; because this isn’t just any old sentence, much less some wisecrack, not by any means, but rather the sentence that astonishes the narrator more than any other sentence he reads that first day on the job; the sentence that most dumbfounds him during his first incursion into those 1,100 almost single-spaced printed pages placed on what would be his desk by his friend Erick so he can get some idea of the task that awaits him.

The Style, the Style

How the writer manages to inform and entertain at such a high level of prose is beyond me. How does he manage:

  • the huge, Pride & Prejudice-worthy sentences that you rush through to get the cheese at the end of the maze…then you go back and read slowly because wow…you want to experience them again
  • a plot that stands witness to the most cruel injustices and human rights violations and yet is so funny

If I could write like this…well, I wish I could! The story is witty and beautiful and tragic and sad and infuriating and…read it, read it, read it. Sex and drinking.

The End

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The Fingersmith (Wales)

book cover The Fingersmithby Sarah Waters

What, you ask, is a fingersmith? The heroine in this novel is asking herself the same question. Who am I? What should I do with my life? Will I be hanged for a crime, like my mother? And the answers keep changing as her world gets dumped on its head.

I loved, loved, loved this book. It was like sipping a hot steaming Smoking Bishop while esconsed in a velvet Victorian armchair in my knitted slippers and my smoking jacket. It was fabulous!

Ye Old Curiosity Plot

The story opens in a den of thieves where Susan Trinder’s one constant is the love of Mrs. Sucksby, the orphan farmer. But now that she’s growing up, Susan must navigate increasingly murky waters. Author Waters (ha ha) is an expert at setting up expectations and then turning them on their heads. There are 3 or 4 plot twists that will blow your mind.

Waters tips her hat to Dickens as the story opens with young Sue being taking begging at a play (Oliver Twist). She is intensely frightened by the cruel Bill Sykes. Later Sue encounters her own Bill Skyes in the form of Richard Rivers, a seedy nobleman who plots to cheat one Lady Maud out of her fortune. When “Gentleman” cons Sue into helping him, the game is on!

Water’s use of period slang is masterful. It transported me to the world of the novel. It felt like magic.I do not know if Wales is as proud of Sarah Waters as it is of Dylan Thomas and other famous Welsh writers, but it should be.

Which Foods Contain Gluten

By no means a comprehensive list. Everybody’s body is different. I don’t have celiac (not diagnosed, anyway). I may have a wheat intolerance issue where I can eat a tiny bit and get away with it. But I totally avoid it now if I can, because I just feel better.  The following list are things I’ve found that bother me personally. I’m not a doctor and this isn’t meant to be advice.

I am now in the habit where I ALWAYS read the label. More and more companies are stamping safe foods as “gluten free” or “certified gluten-free”.

Gluten-Free Restaurants/Stores in Spokane

1) A Problem For Me:

Dark-colored sodas, sauces and alcohols. Rum gives me diarrhea, as does Whiskey; cheap soy sauce is made from wheat, and sometimes soda pop upsets my stomach.

I’ve been told that cheap caramel coloring is thickened with wheat, so that could be why some BBQ sauces contain gluten. The server at Wild Sage hinted last visit that food coloring like “Red No. 5” can contain gluten.

Beer of course is made from hops so is a no-no for me, and even beer labeled “GF” really made me sick one time so I stay far away from it.

Instead, I Try:

GF soy sauce – Available in most supermarkets. I get Kikkoman’s and take the bottle with me in my purse when I go to eat Chinese food and/or Mongolian grill. Fresca or 7-Up seems to be fine. Colorless alcohols like Cruzan rum, which is the color of water, is fine. Gin and tequila and wine are fine for me too.

Gin, tequila, wine and/or colorless rum like Cruzan. Wild Sage infuses their own colorless rum with hibiscus and lavender and all sorts so that’s a fun option for me.

Beware vodka! I always thought that vodka was made out of potatoes. NOT ANYMORE. On a recent (May 2016) trip to Rosauers, my husband and I found that every single vodka was made from wheat. There were two exceptions: one vodka imported from Poland which said “potato vodka” (and could still contain grain–we didn’t know) and Tito’s, which says Gluten-Free right on the label.

2) A Problem For Me:

Blue Cheese Dressing. Sometimes it is fine and sometimes not. I always ask if it’s GF even when I’ve eaten in a restaurant before, because their recipe can change. Currently the blue cheese dressing at the Outback isn’t safe, but the blue cheese dressing at Europa is. Go figure.

Ranch is usually safe, but I don’t really like it.

3) A Problem For Me:

Sausage/Hot Dogs/Any meat in a fast-food restaurant

Sometimes meat will have fillers, like breadcrumbs, and sometimes a package of bacon or sausages in the store will be stamped gluten-free. I always try to remember that bacon, for example, could be “hickory-smoked” or “molasses-cured” and the sauces might have gluten even if the meat doesn’t.

4) A Problem For Me:

Ice Cream

It just sometimes has gluten. At a local Italian restaurant for example, you get Spumone ice cream after the meal – included in the price. But it isn’t safe for me to eat so I skip it.

5) A Problem For Me:

Lamb in Gyros

I was still eating gyros up until this fall, when a server at my local Greek restaurant told me that their lamb comes in a package from somewhere else – pre-coated with wheat crumbs to make it stick together. I’ve looked at that meat and never thought it had wheat on it. But it does. Obviously the gyro wrappers are made of wheat.

Watch Out For

  • Au jus sauce
  • Corned beef hash
  • Sausage/cheap crumbled meat in fast food restaurants
  • French fries or sweet potato fries — can be coated with wheat
  • Ice cream and yoghurt — can be thickened with gluten

I’m discovering new sources of gluten all the time, so as I know more, I’ll add more. Feel free to drop me a line if you see something that should be on the Watchlist.

 

 

 

List of Gluten-Free Food in Spokane (Alpha by Type):

It’s hard to travel with a food allergy. Opinions are my own–no disrespect intended to any company/product–I just know what I like. Addresses and products not guaranteed–please Google addresses or call the business to make sure they have what you want.

I am not a doctor and this is not advice of any kind.

last update: July 20, 2015

GF Restaurants & Stores

List of Gluten-Free Food in Spokane (Alpha by Type):

Bagels

Haven’t found any good GF bagels. Still looking – don’t give up hope!

Banana Bread

Rosauers in Browne’s Addition: 1808 W. 3rd Ave: Husband says it’s good. Like regular banana bread, not that I can eat it because of my banana allergy. 😉

Bread

Excellent

Alpine Bakery (810 N. Monroe) — Celiac Friendly

Recent article in the Inlander says they have a dedicated GF baking room so no cross-contamination for celiacs.

  • The day I was there the GF choices were limited: However, the jalapeno-cheddar bread was delish! Excellent with cheese, or cream cheese.
  • Heads up for the holidays: they have GF bread cubes and croutons.

Inlander says they bake white, multigrain and jalapeno cheddar bread, along with hamburger buns, bread cubes, croutons, and a rotating list of pastries like brownies, peanut butter cookies, pumpkin cake and muffins.

White Box Pies (1215 N. Ruby)

Baked fresh daily. Super good.

Good Enough

Franz Multi-grain GF bread, available at larger Rosauers (not the smaller ones) and Safeways. For a packaged store-bought bread, this is the bread that has a texture and taste like real bread.

Nasty

Most other breads you buy in the frozen section in bags. The textures on these aren’t right – at least to my taste -they’re store-bought in the plastic bag breads so not that great to begin with, you have to buy many of them frozen, and the paelo bread…I don’t remember the brand but it tasted like a dish sponge. The texture was awful AND it was so salty I could barely eat it. I paid $8 for the loaf and ended up throwing the whole thing away. What a waste.

Note: Frank’s Diner (W. 2nd Ave plus another location) now has GF bread you can substitute for English muffins on their breakfast, lunch and dinner items.

Bread Crumbs/Crutons

Alpine Bakery, Trader Joes. Before a holiday, get yours early because they WILL sell out.

Cookies

Rosauers in Browne’s Addition (1808 W. 3rd Ave): Recently their bakery has been producing a variety of delicious GF cookies: A tad rice flour taste but you can’t help that. Peanut butter, peanut butter with chocolate frosting, ginger, and frosted shortbread.

Chicken Nuggets

Yes! I found GF chicken nuggets at the big Rosauers–1724 West Francis Ave. Frozen, from Foster Farms. You microwave for about 1-2 minutes and they taste wonderful. Breading uses yellow corn flour.

Cream Puffs

White Box Pies. Yum.

Corn Dogs

Frozen GF corn dogs are also available at the big Rosauers, also produced by Foster Farms. Sadly, they aren’t very good. The breading falls apart in the microwave if you keep them in there long enough to heat the hot dog. I would suggest heating on the stove, in oil, or better yet, re-deep frying in a Fry Daddy if you have one.

English Muffins

Excellent

Glutenbusters: (2015 N. Division) Fresh and homemade from white quinoa flour, agave, amaranth, etc. They taste like real and delicious English muffins. Lots of other awesome GF baked goods and raw cheese/milk etc.

Nasty

Packaged English muffins – yellow and really spongy, like a dish sponge.

Macaroons

Are naturally gluten free. Rosauers bakery just made some coconut macaroons that were moist and delicious! Sweet Frostings has an awesome selection of about 8 different flavors and colors of macaroons, also very tasty.

Pancakes

The Old European restaurant has GF pancakes. They’re pretty good. The homemade raspberry jam has never made me sick.

Molly’s has excellent GF buckwheat waffles, and GF buckwheat pancakes.

Pasta

Lots of restaurants have GF pasta, even if it’s only one type (usually spaghetti noodles). Luigi’s, Ferarro’s, Twigs, Wild Sage, etc. Just ask. Even if they don’t have a GF menu, they’ll usually have GF pasta. GF pasta tastes pretty much the same as regular to me, but a few friends don’t think so. They say Tinkyada is the best if you’re buying pasta to cook at home. Even the small Rosauers – and probably most stores – have GF pasta.

Pizza

Excellent

Europa: Several topping choices and excellent crust. This is just as good as regular pizza.

Monterey Café: I remember this as pretty good and possibly excellent – Lots of toppings including Greek. You can also order to go – parking can be a pain as it’s downtown.

Rock City Grill: GF crust is very good, several toppings available. I love the New York Cheese.

Twigs: Several topping choices and very good crust. Also as good as regular pizza.

Tolerable

Pizza

Pizza Rita: For those times when you want to order in or just get something quick to take home, it’s ok. Kudos to them for having a GF option available because I used to love to order pizza and eat it at home with my family in front of a movie. Unfortunately, at this time the texture is really flat, and it tastes a lot like potato. It’s ok but doesn’t really taste like “pizza” to me.

Pie

White Box Pies: Delicious. Choice of several flavors. Pie by the slice or buy and entire pie.

Soup

Boots Bakery: 1 soup available daily, it’s always GF when I go. Also delicious.

Luigis: GF Minestrone always offered. Great if you love minestrone. Contains chickpeas.

Main Street Market: 2 soups available each day, usually both are GF but sometimes just one. Delicious.

Method Juice Café: One or two soups daily, they’ve always been GF when I’ve gone. Good.

Soulful Soups: Usually 3-5 GF soups. No GF bread but if your partner or friend can eat gluten, their beer bread is raved about. I used to love eating it. Sigh. Anyway, tasty soup.

Taste: Seems to have the GF tomato quinoa always available. Not my favorite because I don’t love tomato soup.

Stuffing

See Bread Crumbs/Croutons.

Waffles

Boots Bakery has awesome pumpkin waffles from time-to-time. If the day you go isn’t a waffle day, they will usually have some GF cupcakes or pastries, GF soup, and/or other GF and vegan entrees. It’s what they’re all about.

White Box Pies currently offers a choice of : fruit, pecan, bacon, chocolate chip, plain or banana-and-nut waffles, all GF.

Frozen GF toaster waffles available in most of the larger stores here.

Wraps

Coffee Cup Café in the Skywalk – It’s my understanding that the owner was GF for years and has relatives who are, so she really knows her GF stuff. You can get egg/bacon/cheese/veggie wraps with GF shells at her place. Sometimes other GF offerings. Also, she knows which syrups are GF and safe for your coffee.