A couple months back I wrote a ‘Salivating’ post about Neil Gaiman’s new novel. The book has received raving reviews from various outlets and the beautiful cover alone made me want to read it.
After a way too long wait at my beloved NYPL, I finally read The Ocean and I ended it with mixed feelings. Before I start off, let me disclose that I’ve never been a fantasy reader. I’m used to the glares across tables when I reveal that I never cared for Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. That said, Gaiman’s novel was beautifully written, with descriptions that provoked amazing and awe-inspiring visuals.
I won’t go too much into detail about the book because I covered most of it in my previous post. When a funeral brings our narrator (his name is never given) back to his hometown, he finds his way to his old homestead. While wandering around, he remembers with fondness a friendship he had years ago with a peculiar girl who lived down the lane.
Our bookish and intelligent boy lives with his sister and parents in a beautiful home. When bills become too much, his parents offer up his beloved room to renters, forcing the narrator into his sister’s room, far away from the perfect bedroom at the top of the stairs. After a lodger turns up dead, the boy meets Lettie Hempstock and his life is changed. Lettie, who lives with her grandmother and her mother, is not your everyday neighbor.
When not-so-typical evil babysitter, Ursula Monkton, shows up, it’s the Hempsteads who come to the rescue in more ways than one.
Gaiman’s novel packs a punch at only 181 pages. The majority of the tale is told through the eyes of the 7-year-old boy, making it at times terrifying at at times wondrous beyond imagination. Still, when I finished the book I didn’t feel like I learned anything more about the world we live in, or left with a greater understanding of life. Perhaps I was asking too much (I usually am), but I finished the book entertained yet slightly unfulfilled.
Still, I think The Ocean at the End of the Land provides a perfect food and book pairing. Near the end of the story, our hero remarks,
'I do not miss childhood but I miss the way I took pleasure in the small things, even as greater things crumbled.'
While his world is falling apart around him, the young boy still finds the most happiness in things like a mouthful of shepherd’s pie. This week’s recipe comes curiosity of The Kitchy Kitchen.
For the Potatoes:
1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes
1/4 cup half-and-half
2 ounces unsalted butter
For the Meat Filling:
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 cups carrots, peeled and diced small
3/4 cup celery stalk, peeled and diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 pounds ground lamb or beef
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1/2 cup beef broth
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons freshly chopped rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme leaves
1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh or frozen English peas
View the rest of the recipe here.