Νεφελοκοκκυγία

Penguin Books cover for their publication of Aristophanes’ The Birds and Other Plays

Νεφελοκοκκυγία, should you need the title translated, is Ancient Greek for “Cloud Cuckoo Land,” an overly-optimistic, fantasy-like utopia in the sky, first described in Aristophanes’ drama The Birds and now the title of a new novel by Anthony Doerr. If you need help translating this title from Korean – 오징어 게임 (hope I got it right) – it’s Squid Game, the new huge hit on Netflix. Ted Lasso, translated from British English, is American English for Ted Lasso. What do those three very, very diverse works have in common? Well, they’ve been on our To-Watch/To-Read list during these last months of pandemic-related isolation. And because I’m always looking for food tie-ins, I zeroed in on these three possibilities.

First I thought a Ted Lasso Biscuit recipe (“biscuit,” when translated from British English to American English, means cookie) was perfect to blog about, but I’ve already blogged about a fabulous biscuit/cookie/shortbread. Clearly, a squid recipe in honor of The Squid Game would have been spot on, but I’ve never fixed squid – and quite possibly have never eaten it; I could have tried Dalgona candy, but that seems to be usually a store-bought, not homemade, treat.

My kind of squid

Maybe some food from Cloud Cuckoo Land? In the first chapter we’re introduced to Konstance, a 14-year-old, who is on a space ship fleeing the earth – which has been ravaged by climate change. The mother-like character on the ship frets that Konstance isn’t eating enough and offers her a “nice risotto.” You’ll have to read the book to find out how you do risotto on a space ship – but that line made the final decision about our blog recipe quite easy. We’d do risotto!

Besides, as it turns out, we watched about 10 minutes of Squid Game before I covered my eyes and screamed to Andy to “TURN IT OFF!” And Ted Lasso – after adoring Season 1 – mostly disappointed us with Season 2. But I just finished Anthony Doerr’s Cloud Cuckoo Land and loved it.

Anthony Doerr

An NPR review of the book comments that “the greatest joy in it comes from watching the pieces snap into place. It is an epic of the quietest kind, whispering across 600 years in a voice no louder than a librarian’s. It is a book about books, a story about stories. It is tragedy and comedy and myth and fable and a warning and a comfort all at the same time. It says, Life is hard. Everyone believes the world is ending all the time. But so far, all of them have been wrong.”

Anthony Doerr’s own website has an interview with him in which he is asked what he hopes readers will take away from Cloud Cuckoo Land. I love Doerr’s response:

I hope readers are reminded of our myriad interconnections: with our ancestors, with our neighbors, with other species, with all the kids yet to be born. I believe that the more we can remember how much we’re all in the same boat—the more we can train ourselves to imagine, recognize, and remember our connections—with the bacteria in our guts, the birds outside our windows, the meals on our plates, and the children in our futures—the better off we’ll be.

With Thanksgiving coming up soon, I think we should all give thanks for such gifted, introspective, and thoughtful writers in our midst.

Before I move on to our risotto recipe and a couple of Thanksgiving suggestions, I should point out that today’s Andy’s Corner also acknowledges that life is hard…perhaps not as eloquently as Anthony Doerr, but maybe with more humor.

Now for Thanksgiving: my family is hotly debating the menu, which is not surprising given that we’re a bunch of foodies. Turkey is the main talking point, since it’s so difficult – if not impossible – to roast the perfect turkey. This year I’m buying ours from Sonoma’s Slow Food Heritage Turkey Project. As an old (in so many ways) 4-H-er and as a believer in avoiding mass-produced meat if financially possible, I’m looking forward to that part of our meal and will be using a dry-brined technique on it.

Though we’ve voted to stick with a traditional menu this year, I’d encourage you to get wild and crazy and break away from the fixation on mashed potatoes and stuffing and gravy and yams. And I’d encourage you to simplify the menu as much as possible. What about doing this super-simple risotto, using it to replace the labor intensive mashed potatoes and ubiquitous green beans? You can still make gravy to enhance the probably-dry turkey :). In all honesty, if you believe you can serve a perfect Thanksgiving meal with perfect food and perfect guests, I believe you’re in Cloud Cuckoo Land!

Super Simple Baked Risotto

Super Simple Baked Risotto

Recipe adapted from How Easy Is That? by Ina Garten

  • 1 1/2 c Arborio rice
  • 5 c heated chicken stock, divided (or substitute vegetable broth)
  • 4 c loosely-packed baby spinach
  • 1 c grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 T butter, diced
  • 2 tsp Diamond kosher salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 c frozen peas

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the rice and 4 cups of the chicken stock in a Dutch oven. Cover and bake for 45 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente. Remove from the oven, add the remaining cup of chicken stock, the spinach, Parmesan, wine, butter, salt, and pepper, and stir vigorously for 2 to 3 minutes, until the rice is thick and creamy. Add the peas and stir until heated through. Serve hot.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

6 Comments

  1. saradeseran says:

    “Life is hard. Everyone believes the world is ending all the time. But so far, all of them have been wrong.” Let’s hope so! Don’t normally like epics, but I might have to read it.

    Like

  2. David Ewing says:

    Hey, wait a minute! We have had a perfect Thanksgiving dinner every year for 50 years. “Perfection” is just a matter of aligning your expectations with the facts on the ground in the real world. Last year, we cooked a perfect Thanksgiving dinner and delivered it ready to eat to the porches of our children’s homes. This year, they will be sitting around our table. What could be more perfect than that? (May I note tangentially that Navajo weavers include an intentional mistake in what would otherwise be a perfect rug so as not to anger the gods with hubris? I am dubious of that strategy because “intentional mistake” is an oxymoron. Here, unintentional mistakes contribute to perfection, as they have doubtlessly done for the Lord.)

    Like

    • theRaggedys says:

      Andy here: I haven’t read Cloud Cuckoo Land yet but it is on my list for when I finish the Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (notice the bird theme here?). And I agree that the characters in Ted Lasso were great.

      Like

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