The Hunger Games Trilogy: Catching Fire and the Purpose of Men

Thanks to reader V.’s recommendation, I have spent another sleepless night reading the second book in The Hunger Games trilogy, Catching Fire. I found it to be a lot better than the first. The model of “one hero and a bunch of pathetic people and nasty evildoers” does nothing for me. In Catching Fire, though, that model is abandoned for the sake of a much more interesting model where people resist, cooperate, and there is no single hero who is a lot better at everything than everybody else. I have always been bothered by the “Superman plot” which revolves around the idea that we all need a hero with superhuman powers to save us all from our pathetic weaknesses.

What I find disconcerting in the novel, however, is how the male protagonist, Peeta, is presented as a person whose only goal and overpowering interest is to serve the needs of the “fair lady.” How would we feel about a 16-year-old female protagonist who tells a boy that her entire life is about him and that life has no meaning if he isn’t there? A female protagonist who shows no interest in her parents, siblings, or even pets, who has no friends of her own, who disappears when the boy she likes dismisses her and reappears as soon as he shows some interest or has need of her services? A female protagonist who tells the boy she wants to die so that he can go ahead and marry some other girl?

I think we  would all passionately condemn the novel as extremely patriarchal and promoting the image of women as subservient to men and as having no value of their own apart from male needs. Doesn’t it make sense for us, then, to feel equally bothered by a book that denies a male character any other role as being an uncomplaining and unquestioning servant of a girl?

The inhabitants of Panem at least manage to rebel against the authorities that enslave them. I hope Peeta does the same by the end of the 3rd novel in the trilogy.

Is The Hunger Games a Feminist Novel?

I won’t beat around the bush and will just give you my answer instead: no, of course, it isn’t. There is absolutely nothing feminist whatsoever about it. I can’t say that it’s actively anti-feminist either, though. The novel is simply not about that at all.

It’s funny that so many people think The Hunger Games is some sort of a feminist manifesto. For instance, Katha Pollitt, who is usually a very insightful journalist, gushes about the “feral feminism” of both the book and the movie like a teenage fan. These “female warrior” narratives that have become so popular in the past 25 years keep trying to sell us the belief that the most admirable girl of all is the one who has managed to turn into a boy. And I fail to see what’s so feminist and progressive about that idea.

The novel’s protagonist keeps repeating that she is much smaller and weaker physically than her male opponents in the Hunger Games. Yet, because of her great people skills, her capacity to sell her sexual favors successfully and fake sexual desire, her intelligence, her fast running and archery skills, she defeats them all.

I’m sorry, folks, but that’s a load of baloney. In terms of height, girth and muscle strength, women lose to men without a shadow of a doubt. Rare exceptions do not change the general rule. In any competition where brute strength or any sort of athletic abilities are involved, I can guarantee to you that I will lose even to the least athletic of men.

The good news, however, is that this doesn’t matter any more. The world has changed, and the brute physical force means nothing. People who used to make their living by lifting and moving heavy objects are being rendered unemployed by the physically much weaker folks who design the smart machines that can do these jobs much better. The muscle tone and the height are completely irrelevant to how successful and comfortable one will be in life. We, the women, have no need to prove that we can run, shoot, jump and kick ass as well as men. Because even if we can’t, it’s completely unimportant.

The “female warrior” narratives try to sell us some sort of a feminized version of a nerdy teenage boy’s Spiderman fantasy. “I will discover superpowers and will beat up all the men boys on the playground.” When that fantasy is projected on a female protagonist, silliness ensues. Let’s remember that the only battle that Buffy, a far more interesting and complex “female warrior” than Katniss, never manages to win is the one over the right to practice her sexuality as she sees fit. As a woman, i.e. a person who owns her female body, Buffy is a complete and utter failure.

For as long as I’ve been a reader, I have been searching for a female character I could identify with. Male characters like that abound. In The Hunger Games, for example, I feel a lot of affinity for Haymitch. Katniss, however, is as removed from my way of being Bella Swan is. The only real difference between the two is that Katniss is a little clumsier at performing patriarchal female roles: she mothers, albeit reluctantly, both children and adult men, she gradually learns to sell sex, and her entire existence belongs to her family.

And she can shoot a mean arrow. Whoop dee do. How very feminist of her.

Hunger Games: A Review

On the advice of reader V., I read the first book in Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games.  This is not my genre but I wasn’t risking anything since Amazon gives these books out for free on Kindle.

I have to say that, considering the genre, the book is quite good. The prose is nothing to write home about but, in spite of the impotence of the vocabulary and the hobbled nature of the grammar structures, there is nothing in this book even remotely resembling the vicious injuries to the English language one has seen in the Twilight series.

Hunger Gameis highly entertaining and it reads very easily. As you can see, I read it in a day (a bout of regular Friday night insomnia helped.) The premise has been a little overdone, of course. As I read, I kept wondering why it is that societies that suffer from obesity enjoy fantasizing about starvation so much. I guess such fantasies tickle their appetites and allow them to eat more than they could normally manage to stuff into themselves. I know that all the descriptions of endless meals made me eat like a maniac yesterday.

The main problem I had with the book is how completely inconsistent the main character was. I understand that this is the fantasy genre, but there has got to be at least a pretense at some internal logic in the novel. Katniss, who is extremely self-sufficient, strong, resilient and opinionated, suffers from a debilitating lack of self-esteem. She somehow manages not to know that she is attractive and spends the entire novel alternating between feats of self-reliance and profound belief in herself with extremely obnoxious and unmotivated bouts of “But it isn’t possible that he likes me. Oh, of course he doesn’t like me. And nobody likes me. And this is all a conspiracy because there is no way anybody likes me. And, of course, he, of all people, doesn’t like me. And people in general don’t like me. And if somebody says in public that he is in love with me, it will make everybody laugh at me because I’m probably five years old and I think being loved makes adults look ridiculous.” To me, it made zero sense.

Another problem was that I had to make a huge effort to remember that these characters are supposed to be 16. Peeta, for example, behaves like a very mature 40-year-old man. If anybody has seen this kind of 16-year-old boys, especially among those who, within the structure of their society, are considered sheltered, please let me know.

Later on, I will write a separate post addressing the issue of whether this is a feminist book. This is a debate that has been raging for a while and even The Nation has an article on the subject in its most recent issue, so I want to share my point of view.

This is the end of the academic year and I’m in need of light, distracting reading matter. This means that I will definitely be reading the next two books in the series. I’m not planning on watching the movie because, for one, I have no doubt that Hollywood has made exactly the kind of product that the book tries to criticize: flashy, gaudy, full of obnoxious special effects, with half-naked surgically altered starlets rolling in the mud for the delectation of the viewing audience. Every last shred of the timid social critique that the novel offers will have been excised form the movie.

Besides, I have no doubt that the film producers have cast 25-year-old starlets to play 16-year-old characters. The only people who can play 16-year-olds are either actual 16-year-olds or extremely talented performers of the caliber that Hollywood is not familiar with. Otherwise, this becomes a huge circus where adult men and women pretend to be kids, making themselves look ridiculous in the process.

Of course, if there are people who are willing to tell me that the movie is not that bad, I’m willing to listen.

Do share whether you liked the novel and why. I’m very interested in how people feel about it.

Classics Club #1: Nancy Milford’s Zelda

I really enjoyed Nancy Milford’s biography of Zelda Sayre, the wife of one of my favorite writers, F.S. Fitzgerald. This is a tragic story of a woman who realized that being nothing but a wife even to the most brilliant, fascinating, adoring and faithful man in the world (because Fitzgerald was all that to Zelda) is not enough to fulfill a human being.

At first, Zelda was very happy in her marriage to Scott. They were the most glamorous couple of the twenties, admired and celebrated by everybody. Gradually, however, Zelda started to realize that her life lacked meaning. Scott had his work while she had nothing of her own. She was too smart to be content with living her life as an appendage to a famous writer.

Zelda’s dream became to excel in something and manage to make her own living. However, she had no education and lacked the simple knowledge of how much work and effort one needed to invest to become even just simply mediocre at anything.

At first, she decided to become a ballet dancer but the need to practice on a regular basis was too much for her, and Zelda ended up at a clinic with a nervous breakdown. Then, she chose the career of a writer. The problem with that plan was that the only material she could write about was her life with Fitzgerald, and he’d already written about that with the skill he’d acquired from the regular practice of his craft. Zelda simply could not compete, which made her suffer. Later on, Zelda tried her hand at painting. The perseverance and strength needed to practice any of her chosen professions were not there, though.

Every time she failed, Zelda withdrew deeper into mental illness. She spent years going from one institution to another. Scott, who loved her passionately, struggled to pay for her expensive medical care, for their living expenses, and for the education of their daughter for whom he was the only actual caretaking parent. Having seen what a lack of an education and a career had done to his wife, Fitzgerald was obsessed by offering his daughter Scottie the best education he could.

Milford’s biography of Zelda is very well-researched and offers a very convincing and poignant story of the horror implied in the “two people, one career” model of a romantic relationship.

Ilan Pappe’s The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Part I

I keep looking for a source of information on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would at least try to depart from the “bad Jews/good Arabs” or “bad Arabs/good Jews” model. Both of these approaches are equally reductive and offensive. Still, I’m getting a feeling that nobody is even attempting to discuss the issue in any other manner. Initially, I had high hopes for Ilan Pappe’s The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine but I have to admit that the book has been a serious disappointment. I listed some of my objections to Pappe’s writing here but that was only the beginning.

For some incomprehensible reason, Pappe decided to alienate every Jewish reader – even the potentially anti-Israel and pro-Palestiane one – from the get go. It is hard for a Jewish person to remain open to a point of view that insistently equates the displacement of the Palestinian people from their villages with the Holocaust. I don’t see why it is so necessary to equate two such different events at all. The forcible removal of the Palestinians is a horrible, horrible crime and a huge tragedy. But it cannot even begin to compare to the Holocaust. Pappe tries to make the two tragedies similar by making it hard to figure out that the Palestinians were displaced from their villages without being killed. (It took me a while, for example, to realize that when Pappe says, “Village X was destroyed,” he is forgetting to mention that only the physical buildings were destroyed (or simply damaged), while the people were not.)

Ilan Pappe is altogether very careless about the Holocaust. He discusses it as a reality that has certain bearing on the actions of the international community. He says, for example, that after the Holocaust, any instance of ethnic cleansing in the world becomes impossible to conceal. This is a very strange statement to begin with, since the Holocaust was very obviously not an example of ethnic cleansing but of genocide. As Pappe explains at length, ethnic cleansing does not involve the mass murder of the displaced ethnicity while the genocide does. At the same time, there is no discussion in the book of how the Holocaust might have influenced the Jews. To the contrary, Pappe suggests time and again that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would exist in pretty much the same form had the Holocaust never happened.

For those who manage to keep reading the book even in the face of this cavalier dismissal of the Holocaust, Pappe brings out the argument that will surely convince any person who does not passionately hate the Jews as a group to stop reading. I am speaking, of course, of the trope of the greedy Jew.

For a while, the suggestion of Jewish greediness is made without the direct use of the word “greedy”. This allows a reader to keep convincing herself that she is being too sensitive and is imagining anti-Semitism where there is none. Until, that is, a story of “a greedy Tel-Aviv municipality” that sets out to steal the crop of oranges grown by hard-working Palestinians. And the story of the “monstrous villas and extravagant palaces for rich American Jews” that have been created because of “constructors’ greed” and that are disfiguring the architectural ensemble of Jerusalem. And many other stories of greedy, dishonest Jews who don’t create anything of their own but, rather, steal the fruits of the labor of others. (The words “exploit” and “exploitation” appear constantly in the text to describe the intentions of the Jews.)

(To be continued. . .)

P.S. I would very much like to avoid the third-grade level of discussion of this serious issue that such debates almost always slip down to. This is why I’m asking everybody to refrain from the egregiously unintelligent analysis of who was where “first” and whom “this land initially belonged to.” I have to issue this warning because I looked through the Amazon reviews of the book and this is all I have seen there.

Mikhail Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita: A Review, Part II

Bulgakov wasn’t Stalin’s favorite writer for nothing. His Master and Margarita is a paean to Stalin. The Devil is the benevolent protagonist of the novel. He wreaks havoc but always ends up punishing the bad guys and rewarding the good ones. There seems to be a lot of criticism of the Soviet reality in the novel. What many people fail to realize, though, is that it’s the kind of criticism that was not only allowed but also encouraged by the regime.

When we watched a Soviet movie and saw a character wearing glasses, we immediately knew that he was the villain of the film. People of intellectual professions were vilified during Stalin’s era. This was a very simple and effective manner of channeling popular resentments at acceptable targets. At the time when Bulgakov was writing his novel, the word “engineer” was synonymous with the Enemy of the People. One thing that was worse was being a literary critic. If engineers were imprisoned and forced to work for the state, literary critics were simply exterminated. (Bakhtin saved his life by writing egregiously stupid Communist explanations of classic works of literature.)

And who were the evildoers in Bulgakov’s novel? Right you are, the chi-chi fru-fru literary critics. And the bureaucrats, of course. Stalin created the huge class of bureaucrats and then pretended like they had appeared from nowhere and every problem in the Soviet society was caused by them.

The novel is also both anti-Semitic and anti-Christian. As pretty much every single Russian writer, Bulgakov was an anti-Semite. The Jews in his novel are the ones guilty of murdering Christ in spite of Pontius Pilate’s attempts to resist them and save Jesus.

Jesus, however, is also an extremely unattractive character. He is weak, pathetic, and pretty stupid, too. And he is a lot less powerful than the Devil. At the end of the novel, Jesus has to beg the Devil to humor him and do what he wants. The Devil agrees but only because he wants the same thing to happen. Bulgakov’s Biblical episodes are the most effective anti-religious propaganda anybody could have come up with.

There can be no doubt that even though Stalin never officially accepted this novel, he appreciated Bulgakov’s efforts. Bulgakov was invited to be present during the torture of his fellow writers by the secret police. In his diaries, his wife described how much fun the writer had had as he observed the degradation of other writers at the hands of torturers. (My advice is: never read anything about the lives of your favorite writers. You are bound to find information that will put you off them forever.)

Now, let’s talk about gender. The 1930ies were an amazing moment for Soviet women. They were encouraged to get higher education, they all worked, had brilliant careers, were as active as men in the public life. The image of a strong, resourceful, intelligent woman appeared in all of the movies and novels. Just all of them. Damsels in distress, silent sexual objects, pathetic victims were gone. Stalin’s own wife suffered because people ridiculed her for being just a housewife. And even Stalin himself couldn’t (and wouldn’t) do anything about it.

In Master and Margarita, however, the image of a useless, helpless, silent woman reappeared. Margarita has no profession, no friends, no interests, no life. She is a wife of a rich man whom she doesn’t love. She cheats on him but never leaves him because she needs him to keep her in style. The poor sucker works all day and all night long to maintain a woman who spends her time with a lover.

Margarita is passionately in love with Master, a talented writer. She doesn’t leave her husband for him, though. Remember, this is a society where nobody frowns on divorce (yet) and leaving a rich husband to follow your heart is celebrated (I have oodles of proof, if you don’t believe me). Margarita stays with her rich husband waiting until her lover publishes his novel and becomes rich and famous. Then, she will finally come to live with him permanently. Love is a great thing but she needs for somebody to buy her expensive clothes and perfume. I mean, this is a woman who has a servant whose role is to ensure that Margarita never even has to pick up her own underwear that she scatters around her room. Love or no love, she can’t live with a poor man.

In the novel’s culminating scene, Margarita strips naked to please the Devil and to welcome his guests at his annual ball. She spends hours completely silent, being ogled and kissed by hundreds of guests. Then, the Devil helps her reunite with her lover and she follows him into eternity.

All I can say is that if I had grown up being constantly offered Margarita-like images of women in books and movies, I would be a very different person today. Instead of writing this review, I’d probably be crying somewhere in a corner because my husband hasn’t noticed how I diced the carrots for the soup in an inventive new way.

So you can just imagine me interrogating poor N. during week 2 of our relationship at 4 o’clock in the morning, “So you are saying you admire this Margarita person? This is the kind of woman you are looking for? ‘Cause let me tell you, buddy, I ain’t it! I have a career. I have friends. I have hobbies.”

Master and Margarita is a great novel. Let’s not, however, make it into some subversive piece of writing because it definitely was not. If you want subversion from Bulgakov, read his brilliant Heart of a Dog. It was published in 1925, long before Bulgakov started kissing Stalin’s ass. It’s just 72 pages, too. Of course, it’s still anti-Semitic but that’s Russian literature for you.

OK, this wasn’t that painful, was it? The geek out is over now.

P.S. Fair warning: if you are planning to plagiarize this review and hand it in as a book report or an essay, your teacher will eviscerate you. This is not the accepted opinion about this novel. Just read it yourself, it’s really good.

Mikhail Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita: A Review, Part I

I promised to write this post a long time ago but I’ve been postponing it because I don’t think it will interest anybody except two or three exceptionally nerdy readers (I love you, fellow nerds!). Then, however, I decided that it’s my blog and I should be able to geek out every once in a while, right? Just skip it if you get very bored (and I understand that boredom is a very normal reaction here.) I’ll try to make this as entertaining as possible.

The October Revolution initially welcomed Modernist artists. They were supported, funded and celebrated by Communist leaders. Like every other major totalitarian regime of the XXth century, however, Soviet Communism clamped down on Modernism after consolidating its power. In 1935, Zhdanov, one of Stalin’s apparatchiks, met with the Soviet artists and announced to them that, from then on, the only acceptable artistic movement was Socialist realism. If you don’t know what that is, all you need to remember is that it lacks any artistic value whatsoever. Talented artists tried and often almost managed to do something useful with it but, for the most part, it was a disaster.

Stalin, however, was not a fan of realism. His favorite author was the supremely Modernist novelist and playwright Mikhail Bulgakov. Stalin attended the performance of one of Bulgakov’s plays dozens of times. He did it in secret, of course, because his love for this Modernist writer was incompatible with the official support for Socialist realism.

Bulgakov’s novel Master and Margarita was blacklisted in the Soviet Union. It was impossible to buy it, so people got illegally imported copies and copied them on typewriters. The novel had a cult following in the Soviet Union. Nowadays, I don’t think there are any reasonably educated Russian-speakers who haven’t read it and who don’t adore it. Any member of the Russian-speaking intelligentsia (not to be confused with intellectuals, of course) can quote parts of it. So can I.

It is a brilliant novel. However, its ostensibly subversive nature that has kept all of the anti-Soviet dissidents swooning with delight is, in my opinion, a sham. The novel is deeply conservative both politically and in its treatment of gender roles. (Feminist here, deal with it.) When I first shared my reading of the novel with N., we stayed up arguing about it until 5 am, even though he had to go to work early in the morning. That’s how much I shocked him with my unorthodox approach to Master and Margarita.

(To be continued. . .)

Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84: A Review

I never thought I could enjoy a fantasy novel. I also doubted that I needed to read another book by Murakami. He is not among my favorite authors. I find him far too desperate to sell himself to Western readers for my taste. In this respect, he reminds me of Garcia Marquez whose novels were always about exoticizing and cutesefying Colombia as much as possible in search of global popularity and massive sales.

The main reason why I pre-ordered Murakami’s 1Q84, I have to confess, was its length. If a book runs to almost 1,000 pages, I absolutely need to have it. It’s a compulsion I cannot resist. I didn’t have any great expectations for the novel which is why I was really shocked by how much I enjoyed it.

Murakami still cannot keep his exaggerated desire to be relevant to his Western readers in check. Among all of the literary references in the novel (some of which are quite lengthy), there is a single Japanese one. Other than that one work of Japanese literature, the characters read Chekhov, Proust, Orwell, Dostoevsky, etc. The novel is filled with explanations of the “In Japan, banks work this way” and “Japanese police officers do this and that” variety that are, obviously, of no use to Japanese readers and that sound very strange in the mouth of a Japanese character talking to her friend. For instance, can you imagine regaling your childhood buddy with the information that, “In the US, we use ATMs to withdraw money”? Still, there is a lot less of this in 1Q84 than there is, for example, in Norwegian Wood.

The fantasy aspect of the novel did not annoy me in the least. The reason why I didn’t mind it in 1Q84 when I mind it everywhere else to a degree that borders on paranoid is that fantasy in this novel does not exist for its own sake. The Little People and the air chrysalises play a very limited role of highlighting how empty, emotionally barren and castrated the lives of all of the characters are.

The characters of Murakami’s novel are so completely lonely, miserable and emotionally stunted that the only two of them who had a single moment of actual human contact when they held hands at the age of ten are the truly privileged ones. The rest do not even have that.

The Japan Murakami brings to us in 1Q84 is a place where people are so profoundly alienated that any one of them can drop off the face of the earth at any moment and nobody will even notice. And the scariest thing is that none of them seems to be even remotely conscious that there is something abnormal in living in a complete emotional and relational vacuum. By page 250, you get so desperate reading about the robotic existences of these characters that the irruption of fantastic elements feels entirely welcome. The mysterious evil Little People pose enough of a threat to propel the apathetic protagonists of the novel into some sort of reevaluation of their bereft existences.

Murakami’s trademark machismo is absent from this book. His tendency to resolve all of the conflicts and terminate all of the plot lines by getting the characters to kill themselves is almost gone, too, which is very refreshing. In this novel, Murakami has dramatically improved his not inconsiderable strengths while eliminating most of his weaknesses.

I have no knowledge of Japan that would enable me to judge whether there is some kind of a social reality behind the terrifying alienation described in 1Q84. What I can say, however, is that Murakami has definitely outdone himself in this novel. It is incomparably better than his previous work and I highly recommend it. If you never read Murakami before, start with this novel. It will take you forever to read it, but it will be a very enjoyable forever.

Thomas Frank’s Pity the Billionaire: A Review, Part I

I’m a huge fan of Thomas Frank. His What’s the Matter With Kansas was absolutely brilliant. Since I discovered that great book, I’ve been following his articles and interviews and eagerly awaiting his new book.  You can just imagine how happy I was when I got the chance to read the proofs of his Pity the Billionaire, a book that analyzes the reasons behind the rise of the Tea Party movement. The book strives to answer the crucial question: how is it possible that the Americans’ response to the global economic crisis that happened as a result of unbridled free market practices led them to form a movement that would defend the free market rather than to a movement that would ask for regulations?

The book, however, turned out to be a massive disappointment. Frank’s trademark wit is gone. Aside from a few forced jokes, the book is written in a plodding, unimaginative style that I had no idea this author was even capable of.

His analysis of the “right renaissance” is also unimpressive. People who have been reading my blog for a while know that I’m no fan of the Tea Party. Still, I have to recognize that Frank is being intellectually dishonest in his characterization of the Tea Partiers. For instance, he blames them for the apocalyptic tone they often adopt and the doomsday scenarios they enjoy generating. This, however, is not a distinctive trait of just the Tea Partiers. It is just as present among the Progressives. The Liberal blogs I read are filled to the brim with endless apocalyptic scenarios. By the way, Slavoj Zizek’s 2009 book is titled Living in the End Times. You don’t get either more apocalyptic or more progressive than that.

Another fault that Frank ascribes to the Tea Partiers is that they erase the class distinctions and see no difference between a share-cropper and a small-business owner. Does this remind you of anything, by any chance? Yes, right you are, the #Occupy movement that lumps everybody who is not a billionaire into the imaginary downtrodden 99%.

Frank then proceeds to blame the Tea Party for its rhetoric of self-pity:

[They] advance their war on the world by means of a tearful weepy-woo. Self-pity has become central in the consciousness of the resurgent Right. Depicting themselves as victimized in any and every sitiation . . . is essential to their self-understanding.

Again, #OWS, anyone? Remember this statement from a prof with no debt, a house of his own and a wonderful life, who wallows in self-pity because his life is so complicated and anxiety devours him? So why do the Tea Partiers get blamed for their weepy-woo while Liberals don’t?

[To be continued. . .]

Domus Cafe in Ottawa, Canada: A Review

Today in Ottawa, I decided to take my sister to lunch to show my gratitude to her for driving me to Ottawa for my conference and back. We chose to visit Domus Cafe whose talented young chef uses ideas borrowed from Canadian country food by takes them in the direction of haute cuisine (I still can’t get out of my French-speaking mode, so please bear with me until I go back to the US).

Here is how Domus Cafe looks inside:

It is located in Ottawa’s vibrant Byward Market, so it’s very easy for any tourist to find. Here is how Domus Cafe looks on the inside:

We came right after the restaurant opened at 11 am, so it was still empty. It really filled up for lunch, however, even though this is not a cheap place. Of course, the food is so good and the service is so spectacular that there is no mystery to Domus cafe’s popularity. Here are the lattes we ordered with our lunch:

I’m trying to learn to take better photos. How does this one look? I think it’s better than the ones I usually take. W

We had a long way back to Montreal ahead of us, so we decided to order a big lunch. For appetizers, we got mushroom bisque. I loved it because it was not oversalted, like mushroom bisques often are. One huge differences between US restaurants (even very expensive ones) and Canadian restaurants is that food is always grievously oversalted in the US. Here is this beautiful bisque that smelled and tasted of mushrooms:

As an entree, my sister had a mushroom barley risotto. I’d never tried a barley risotto before and I’m glad I did because it’s a very interesting dish that I now plan to recreate at home. The risotto was very delicately seasoned and perfectly done. Here it is:

And I had smoked trout with rosti, apple and endive salad and caramelized pearl onions. This dish was divine. The rosti were very crisp and fresh and the salad was very refreshing, offering a great counterpoint to the saltiness of the roasted trout:

Of course, after this kind of lunch, neither of us was interested in the dessert. In order to fulfill my role of a blogger who faithfully records all aspects of reality, I even took a photo of the bill:

This was an expensive lunch but we were enjoying a special occasion, so it was absolutely worth it.