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On holiday parties and refined literature

By Paul Suplee

I stand in my kitchen breading Scotch eggs for a Christmas party, but my mind is not on these at all. It is lost in a book in which I am currently engrossed. Every now and then, a book that I have never considered crosses my path and broadens my horizon inexplicably, and this is no exception.

Getting started on a book is pure torture for me with my ADD-addled brain. It takes me a bit to warm up to the characters, scenes and plot, fully knowing that once I am in, I’m in. Once I put the book down, it’s all over. I will forget about it for a few months and at that point I might as well start all over again, the information long hidden away in my brain.

When it comes to reading a book, I not only study the plot lines and characters, imagining in vivid colors the various scenes as they take place, but also writing styles. As for the former, I can smell the fuel of the helicopters and old canvas in “Blackhawk Down.” I can feel the bay air in Chesapeake and can imagine the dichotomy between royalty and peasantry in any given Shakespeare tragedy.

Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories resonate with literary brilliance, but my stomach turns with the egregious behavior of Victorian dandies who would rather duel or kill themselves than lose a little honor. Indeed, it was a different time. But back to writing style, it fascinates me how different they can be, author to author.

Even more enthralling is the thought of what becomes popular. Take for example the Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Kennedy Toole, whose dear mother persuaded a New Orleans professor to read his masterpiece, “A Confederacy of Dunces, 11 years after the author’s suicide. The book was later published and recognized globally. Sadly, it makes me reflect on how many brilliant works are out there that will never be read.

Not true in the case of my current read, a popular and scintillating tale of love and inner demons. It digs deep into the mind of the reader, leading us down passages of mystery and depravity. The inner machinations of the heroine’s mind are enigmatic at best, causing the reader to flush with fear and anger as she weaves her way through the novel, all the while the reader yelling “Don’t go down that hallway!” and “Don’t do it!”

Yes, my girlfriend asked me if I have ever read “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

As a self-respecting man, I noted that not only had I not read the book, I also would never see the movie. Little did she know that I would download the book that night and figure out why 125 million copies were sold. I mean, it can’t be that bad, right?

Wrong. It is an overly simplistic read, and I chortle every time Ana says something straight out of a valley girl movie. The book is licentious, cheap and shallow, yet I am glad that I’m not only reading it but also willing to admit it in public. I have to study writing styles, you know?

As I stand here listening to “Baby it’s Cold Outside,” it does make me wonder how we are all of a sudden banning classic Christmas songs while embracing works like this, but that’s a discussion for another day.

And after reading this book, I laugh at how I now look at my collection of Christmas ties from years past. Quite differently, I can assure you. Yes, my horizon has been somewhat broadened, thanks to a little light reading. And as the Scotch eggs sizzle in the hot oil, I know that it will be a great party. I can’t wait to tell people what I’ve been reading.

Scotch Egg
serves 8

8 whole, fresh eggs
lb. Hot Italian sausage
1 cup AP Flour
1 cup Cornstarch
Salt & Pepper, as needed
3 whole eggs
1/2 cup Whole milk
4 cups Panko breadcrumbs, processed fine
Oil for frying

  1. Soft boil the eggs by placing them in cold water and placing on a high burner
  2. When they come to a rolling boil, remove the pan from the heat and let sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Drain the water and cover with ice water to shock the eggs
  4. Peel and pat dry
  5. Divide sausage into eight equal portions and press flat
  6. Wrap each egg with an even layer of sausage
  7. Set up a breading station with three pie pans or similar containers
  8. In the first you will put the flour, cornstarch and seasoning
  9. In the second will go the milk and eggs, well-beaten
  10. In the third will go the breadcrumbs
  11. Dredge (lightly coat) an egg in the flour mixture, then transfer to the eggwash
  12. Coat the egg and transfer to the panko
  13. Heat oil to 350F and fry the eggs until they are nice and toasty. I like the lower temperature since the egg can go longer, cooking the sausage and heating up the egg, which will end up with the cooked, firm egg yolk
  14. Remove and allow them to cool for a bit, serving on greens with a little coarse mustard. You can also cook a simple mustard sauce with some white wine, cream and said coarse mustard as well. It goes well with this dish