Vietnamese Cucumber Salad

Glass bowl with cucumber salad, including peanuts, cilantro, and jalapeños.

Let me be the 12 millionth person to recommend Salt Fat Acid Heat, both on Netflix and in book form. This is Samin Nosrat’s Vietnamese-style cucumber salad. I served it with pan-seared chicken thighs and rice, and it was the interest in an otherwise unremarkable meal. The extra dressing from the salad made a nice sauce for the chicken.

2lbs (about 8) Persian or Japanese cucumbers
1 large jalapeño, seeds removed if desired, thinly sliced
3 scallions, finely sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
0.5c coarsely chopped cilantro
16 large mint leaves, coarsely chopped
0.5c toasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
0.25c neutral-tasting oil
4-5T lime juice
4t rice wine vinegar
1T fish sauce
1t sugar
pinch of salt

Using either a mandolin or a sharp knife, thinly slice cucumbers, discarding the ends. In a large bowl, combine cucumbers, jalapeño, scallions, garlic, cilantro, mint, and peanuts. In a small bowl, mix remaining ingredients and stir until salt & sugar are dissolved. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and mix. Taste and adjust with more salt or lime juice. Serve immediately.

When escape isn’t really escape

Pearl that Broke Its Shell

The Pearl that Broke Its Shell is about women in Afghanistan. There are two interwoven stories: Rahima, a young girl who pretends to be a boy before becoming a 13-year-old fourth wife of a warlord, and her great-great grandmother, who does many things to not die while trying to get a bit of autonomy.

All the women in this book sort-of escape from the shackles of Afghani life. If you can call death or drug addition or getting forcibly married to someone who doesn’t beat you escape. It’s more like coming to terms with what you can do with where you are. Escape seems like too bold a word.

All sexism (and all racism) is, at its core, economic. It’s one group denying another the ability to earn enough money to live in the ways they want when they want. Controlling your labor. Standing in the way of you owning your own business. Refusing you health care so you can’t work. It’s vividly illustrated when you talk about Afghan society, it takes work on your part to see it here in America too. Policing what women wear. Pressuring men and women to be married and/or have children. Women fighting each other instead of supporting each other.

You can read The Pearl that Broke Its Shell and congratulate yourself that at least America isn’t that backwards or think that at least all of its main female characters end the story at peace. But mostly, I just felt unsettled.

We need more female superheroes

girl who would be king

What’s it about?
There are two teenaged girls.

Bonnie is the good one. Her parents died young, leaving her to grow up in group homes. One night, she discovers she has extraordinary strength. She uses it to rescue a necklace that a bully has stolen and thrown away from another girl; later, she takes care of the bully. She wants to and practices using her strength to help people.

Lola is the bad one, killing her mother, feeling like the world owes her something all the time. She takes whatever she wants – jewelry, clothes, people – not caring about anyone else.

They both have super-powers and are basically unkillable. You know how the story goes from here.

Why should you read it?
Well, that’s a hard question to answer. The story of The Girl who Would be King is good. It has lots of action and moves along at a decent clip. The settings are ok – there are a few that are rich, but many are just kind of there. The characters are the same way: a handful of them feel like people, the rest are one-dimensional.

The big problem is the writing – the actual words on the page. The sentences are clunky. It’s distracting. (Not that I have much to talk about here – my own writing’s not that great. I’m working on it.)

So, should you read it? Eh? Maybe? I can’t really recommend it, but I never did want to put it down.