Mack's Corner

This Week

NO Fluff

I listen to a lot of audio books. I started doing this years ago. My wife reads a book a week, but I don't have time for that, so I joined Audible. You pay them so much a month and that gets me 2 credits a month which are good for 2 books. I've got several books on my phone all the time and I can go back a re-listen to any books I've bought before.  The thing you find out is that there are good writers with no story and there are great writers with great stories and there are bad writers. There are also great readers and bad readers. A bad writer or a bad reader will kill the book in the first chapter. Sometimes I don't even get that far. The guy who reads James Lee Burke's books likes to whisper like he's telling a ghost story around a campfire. The only problem is that by the 4th chapter of whispering, he's just whispering and it gets old. There's one guy who has this real nervous voice, sounds like he's about to cry, I can't listen to him, it doesn't matter what the book is. The best reader is Jim dale who reads the Harry Potter books. Mare Winningham is a great reader, so is Stephen king. When you listen to a book it's easy to tell when the writer had 100 pages of story and the publisher told him he needed 300 pages in the book… There's lots of descriptions of things that don't matter, or dialog about somebody's uncle that has nothing to do with the story, or (as my English teacher would say) Character development. Try reading any of the "Game Of Thrones" books, he describes what each person is wearing at each gathering, tells you every person and all of their relatives even if they have no part in the story at all. It's like reading a book about Winston Churchill and the right in the middle theres a chapter about me?? Books come abridged and unabridged. Abridged means they cut out the fluff, so that 300 page, or 3000 page for "Game of Thrones", book that should have been 100 is now 3 hours instead of 15. If "Game of Thrones" was abridged it would go from 45 hours, really 45 hours, to 15.….. One thing you notice is words that get repeated. The favorite word for the last several years has been "Bougainvillea".  It's the name of a plant that grows in the south, pronounced in books "BOO - gon - VEEL - ya" … strong on the BOO and the VEEL parts. To hear James Lee Burke, it grows on every square inch of Louisiana and everybody, I mean everybody, stops to smell it or put it in their lapel. Even Dean Koontz has Odd Thomas smelling it and he's nowhere near there…. The great writers have too much story for one book, there is no fluff, characters get developed in the story, and you have to listen to dialog because it's important. A description by a great writer might be "a tricked-out chrome Harley", that's all the time he's got to tell you about this motorcycle. You use your imagination to complete the picture. A bad writer will use 5 paragraphs to describe size and type of everything on it and then another 10 paragraphs telling you the history of Harley-Davidson motorcycles … who cares?  Great writers are worse than cigarettes, you can't walk away, the story holds you in your car…. You tell yourself "Just 2 more minutes and I'll go in the house….. I hope I don't run my battery down…. Maybe I should start the engine back up?..... OK, 15 more minutes… I'll go in the house in 15 minutes no matter what's happening….."  You remember every detail of great books, something small that happened in the first chapter turns in to something big in the 44th chapter, and you remembered because it was important and you knew it was going to come up again, you just knew it! …..

God's like that: He doesn't do fluff, there's more story in your life than will fit. You've got just enough time to do everything he's got planned for you. If you think your life is not interesting, you're not paying attention. Ask God what he wants you to do today, ask him to use you, ask him to show you what he's doing…. Life to the full, really full ..

I'm listening to a book now, all talk, no action. I hate it. I've got a new Stephen King up next. I can't wait … Stuff happens, no fluff.


Cooking 220 - 2 pans, 2 burners, 20 minutes:

Puff Pastry

One of the most misunderstood and easiest things to work with is puff pastry. You can do tons of stuff with it, don't be afraid. And you can get it at the grocery store… There are only 3 tricks to know about it. 1. Egg wash. 1 egg + 2 tbls water, whisk. Brush it on the puff pastry any place you want it to be brown and shiny, it makes it look really nice…. 2. Poke holes in the puff pastry any place you don't want it to rise. Just get a fork and poke holes in it… simple..3. If you want it to rise next to where you don't want it to rise, get a knife and score it between the rise part and the non-rise part… Example of all 3 below:

Apple tart

1 sheet of puff pastry, let it get to room temp before you use it - (Pepperidge Farm, any grocery store)
2 tbls butter melted
2 large apples--peeled, halved, cored and sliced lengthwise 1/4 inch thick
2 tbls sugar
Whatever else to want….

Preheat the oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray it with Pam or lightly oil it with a paper towel. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the puff pastry to a 12-by-10-inch rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick. If it comes apart at the folds, just pinch it back together and roll it out. If you want to make smaller tarts, get a knife and cut any size you like. With a knife score (don't cut all the way through) a half inch border around the outside of the pastry, like you were making a frame. Using a fork, prick holes in the center(inside the frame).  Transfer the pastry to the baking sheet and brush with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter in the center part.

Arrange the apple slices on the center of the pastry, overlapping them slightly, be artistic, make designs, have fun, kids can help. Brush the apples with the remaining 1 tablespoon of melted butter and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the sugar + Cinnamon. Brush the outside border with the egg wash, you don't need much. Bake the tart on the bottom rack of the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the pastry is cooked through and nicely browned. Remove from the oven and preheat the broiler.

Sprinkle the apples with the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar and broil for about 30 seconds, or until the apples start to brown on top, DON'T WALK AWAY, WATCH IT. DON'T BURN IT! Rotate the pan as necessary. Cut the apple tart into 6 large squares and serve hot. Be careful, bubbling sugar is really, really hot. If you decide you're going to taste it right out of the oven, call 911 first so they can be ready to take you to the hospital. 

This works with anything:  same puff pastry, same egg wash, same frame cutting and hole poking. But this time put sautéed mushrooms and sautéed onions in the middle (drain as much oil from the sauté as you can so the pastry doesn't get soggy). And top it with some cheese. Or shrimp and asparagus with balsamic vinegar. Or any fruit with sugar and butter, bananas work great. If the fruit is something juicy like berries, just sauté it in butter & sugar first until the juices come out and thicken, let it cool, then put it on the puff pastry. You decide how much butter and sugar to use..
More Recipes: Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Recipies

If for some reason you want to make your own puff pastry, here's a recipe:
Easy way: Easy Puff Pastry
French  Puff Pastry: French Puff Pastry



Posted by Mack Oates at 10:22 AM