If you’re not familiar with the desert southwest, the monsoon rains are pivotal for us. If we’re lucky, they start in late June and then continue through August. It’s our wettest season – a relative term for most of you – and one we depend on to save us from becoming as barren as the Sahara. As the spring heats up, we dry out. June is hot, dry and windy. It’s not the gentle onset to summer that so many parts of the country have. It’s scorching. It’s when the fires start.
So, we anticipate the monsoons, hoping and praying for the cooling, drenching rain to arrive. In monsoon season, we have bright sunny mornings, clouds roll in by noon, heavy rain until about 4 or 5 pm, and then clear, cool evenings. I’ve learned that the monsoon’s begin when the dew point – the green line in the top graph above – meets or crosses the temperature, the red line. Sure enough, next week that green line finally rises up near that red line and – oh look! – RAIN.
It feels like a miracle poised to occur. A joyful, life-giving one that everyone can share in.
In what feels like a parallel to me, yesterday I talked on Twitter with this gal, Elizabeth Lane. She tweeted:
Straight up this review for @jeffekennedy‘s Ruby is the most fun I’ve ever had in the kitchen. I have tiny little pools of sauce.
— Elisabeth Lane (@elisabethjlane) June 26, 2014
Now, she had mentioned something along these lines before. Other people have made similar comments about Ruby, because the hero is a chef at a five-star restaurant in New Orleans. I get little notes along the lines of “Tell Bobby Prejean to make me a sandwich!” fairly frequently. Or they make noises about recreating a certain chocolate fondu scene. *ahem* I figured Elisabeth meant something similar, but when I saw this yesterday, I asked if she really meant it. She replied:
.@jeffekennedy Well…yeah. It’s what I do. My chocolate sauce needs work, but the cilantro and mango are genius. I’m as humble as he is 😉
— Elisabeth Lane (@elisabethjlane) June 27, 2014
So, a bit chagrined, I went and looked at her website.
OMG you guys! You have to look at what she’s doing. She reads romance novels and picks out certain meals to recreate and then blog about. I may be in love. Once I (belatedly, yes, I know) figured this out, I had to go back to Ruby to figure out which meal she’s doing. After all, there are A LOT in that particular story, as I’m sure you can imagine. Besides, if she was talking mango and cilantro, that was NOT the chocolate fondu scene. Instead it’s this one:
A small table in the corner under draping vines awaited her, lit with candles. A stand held a silver champagne bucket, and the maitre d’ poured a glass for her. The label was French and looked old, not one she recognized. The wine evaporated on her tongue, the sublime effervescence filling her head.
If she didn’t know better, she’d think she was being courted.
Course after course arrived, thoughtful, perfect presentations of the most succulent food she’d ever tasted, all on small plates. She began to feel like a pampered pet, coaxed into trying just a bit more. A popover, lighter than air, a hint of honey-butter perfuming it. A single oyster on the half shell, presented with a subtle sage breading that reminded her of Thanksgiving. Three sea scallops, sautéed to perfection, sweetly juicy and served each in a pool of its own sauce—one a piquant cilantro, the next a peppered mango and the final one a variation on the barely bitter chocolate he’d served that morning, strangely perfect with the salty counterpoint.
She inhaled the Caesar salad—the dressing exquisite, the anchovies aged in a smoky oil. When the waiter reverently laid the main course before her, a perfectly golden mini-soufflé of crab and nine aged cheeses, she heard a woman at the next table inquire about it, only to be told it was reserved for special customers. A heart carved into the crust, inlaid with a brush of cinnamon, confirmed it.
Prejean finally joined her, as she finished the soufflé. He gave her plate a long look and raised his eyebrows, the gold hoop winking. “Any good?”
Elisabeth says she’s focusing on the sea scalllops. Then the best part for me is, when someone else asked when this would go up, she said:
— Elisabeth Lane (@elisabethjlane) June 27, 2014
Do you see? She’s INVENTING the recipe from my story! Because, well, she pretty much had to, since I totally made it up. Some of the meals in this story are ones I’ve had in New Orleans restaurants or elsewhere. Others are ones I looked up. Some are ones I fabricated because they sounded delicious and sensual to me. And now Elisabeth is making it real, in a different way than I made it real. It’s like that rising dew point, that passes a certain threshold and makes it rain.
Kennedy, Jeffe. The Mark of the Tala. Kensington. (Twelve Kingdoms, Bk. 1). Jun. 2014. 338p. ISBN 9780758294432. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780758294449. FANTASY
As the middle daughter of the High King, Andi isn’t the warrior (that’s older sister Ursula) or the beautiful one (younger sister Amelia has that sewn up), but she does have a distinct tie to her mother’s people, the Tala, that might change the balance of power in the realm. No one in the Twelve Kingdoms speaks of the dead queen or the Tala, so when Andi, while out riding, meets the mysterious Rayfe, she is stunned to find out that he is king of the Tala and that she is destined to be his queen. VERDICT The fairy-tale setup only hints at the depth of worldbuilding at work in this debut series. What could be clichéd is instead moving as Andi is torn between duty to her father and the pull of Rayfe and his kingdom. Andi starts out passive, in the shadows, and insecure but experiences great growth as the story develops. This well-written and swooningly romantic fantasy will appeal to fans of Juliet Marillier’s “Sevenwaters” series or Robin McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown.
And it’s going to rain. Life is pretty wonderful. Happy weekend, everyone!