Friend Kitchen is a fairly new Chinese/Thai restaurant on the Avenue in Hampden. It replaced the really scary Chinese restaurant that was there for years prior. It literally just had a piece of plywood painted with black paint tacked up as a sign. Needless to say I never ate there.
But after a long day of painting and not wanting to cook anything, Paul and I decided to order something in on Saturday. He suggested Chinese food. Our go-to Chinese place is normally No. 1 Chinese Kitchen. I wasn’t really in the mood for Chinese because I was hot and it just sounded really heavy to me with all the kind of starchyish sauces that coat Chinese food. So he asked if there was anything on the Thai part of the Friend Kitchen menu that I wanted to try.
Let me first say that the Thai selections are meager compared to the Chinese choices and that aside from Pad Thai I don’t think I’ve seen any of the things they had listed actually present on a Thai menu. I decided to order some mango chicken thing that had mangoes and chicken obviously plus there was also jicama and some jalapenos in there. The mango sauce unfortunately had that same kind of starchyish feel that I was trying to avoid, so really it felt like eating some more tropical form of Chinese food. I can’t say that it was very good. Aside from the fact that it wasn’t what I was in the mood for, I didn’t really care for the flavor, and the sauce just seemed kind of goopy. I would never order it again.
Paul ordered General Tso’s Tofu, which is our go-to order at No. 1. It was ok, but we both agreed that we liked No. 1’s better.
We also had a coupon for a free order of fried crab creamcheese wontons. They were rather tasty, but I think it’s kind of hard to go wrong with something like that. I will say that they did not skimp on the order for a free with purchase coupon. I was shocked at how many wontons there were. After eating them at 3 meals, there’s still probably half an order left that is just going to go in the trash at this point. Unfortunately they have crab in them so Paul wouldn’t help me out.
Paul said if he would eat there again if he wanted to walk and get something right away, as we usually wait for No. 1 to deliver because it’s just far enough away that we don’t want to walk, but otherwise we’ll stick with No. 1 for now.
39. At Wakes and Weddings by Alice McDermott
I really enjoyed Charming Billy, so I quickly picked up another book by Alice McDermott. Unfortunately At Wakes and Weddings was not nearly as good. I had a really hard time following what was going on in this book. McDermott apparently has issues with using way too many prepositions, which I am surprised her editor hasn’t pointed out to her. I thought the same thing when reading Charming Billy, but had less of a problem following it. This time there were way too many hes and shes for me to figure out who was even being talked about half the time. The story is sort of about 3 generations of an Irish family living in New York. The oldest generation is really just the stepmother/aunt of the second generation. Their real mother and father who both died early in their childhood aren’t really part of the story. The original mother and father had 4 daughters and then the father had one son with his wife’s sister how he marries after his first wife’s death. Three of the 4 daughters live with their stepmother “Momma” even though they are well into adulthood. It never really made sense to me why. There were veiled allusions to something being wrong with the youngest, but I could never figure out what. One of the others was a nun, but then got kicked out, again it was not really clear why. And the one who actually doesn’t live there anymore is the mother of the third generation her son and 2 daughters. She drags them to the house where her stepmother and sisters live several times a week to complain about her marriage. I didn’t really follow this story much if there even was one. I couldn’t figure out the point of anything and the way it kept jumping back and forth in time coupled with all the pronouns made it even harder to figure out if there was something really going on. If you’re going to read something by Alice McDermott I wouldn’t recommend this book. I give it a 4 out of 10.
38. Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist by Michael J. Fox
Michael J. Fox’s newest memoir. It basically recounts his life since he opened up publicly about his Parkinson’s disease, specifically focusing on how he became involved in actively looking for a cure and the fight for the use of stem cell therapies. It found it to be a good read and a good reminder about looking on the bright side of life. I give it a 6 out of 10.
37. Charming Billy by Alice McDermott
For the first time in awhile this book wasn’t for one of my book clubs. It’s too bad because as soon as I finished it, I really wanted to talk about it with someone. Alice McDermott did a reading at the library where I work about a month ago. She read a short story that is soon to be published. I really liked it and since I normally am not a fan of short stories, I decided it was high time I checked out some of her novels. I started with Charming Billy because it is probably her most well-known. The story starts at Billy’s funeral and then weaves back and forth through time with telling of Billy’s life from the time he returned from WWII until his death from alcoholism. Part of the story are told by people attending the funeral who reminisce about Billy and others are narrated by the daughter of Billy’s cousin Dennis. The parts narrated by the daughter threw me sometimes because it wasn’t always obvious that she was narrating and then it was hard to figure out who some of the pronouns were referring to. Although that was a bit awkward at times, it didn’t detract much from the narrative for me. After hearing McDermott read some of her work in person I could really hear her voice in this book. I found it to be beautifully written and very lyrical. And some of the descriptions of mundane things enriched it for me, instead of seeming superfluous as things like that can do at the hands of lesser writer. Ultimately I viewed the book as asking the question whether we are destined to be what we become or if things might have been different if circumstances had been different. That was what I really wanted to discuss when I was done with the book. I highly recommend this for anyone who likes character based literary fiction. I give it a 9 out of 10.
36. Queen of the Road: The True Tale of 47 States, 22,000 Miles, 200 Shoes, 2 Cats, 1 Poodle, a Husband, and a Bus with a Will of Its Own by Doreen Orion
As with the last two books I read, this book is also for one of my book clubs. It was a nice change of pace from the last two books, one of which I hated and the other which although I liked was very heavy subject matter. This book was nice and light and fun. The story chronicles the year long bus trip the author and her husband Tim took driving around the country. It’s half memoir, half travelogue. It was an enjoyable, amusing read. I give it 8 out of 10.
35. Song Yet Sung by James McBride
This book is the May selection for my other book club. Thankfully it was much better than Servant of the Bones. It incidentally is also this years One Maryland, One Book selection. The book takes place on the Eastern Shore of Maryland during the times of slavery, although I don’t believe we ever get any exact dates. Harriet Tubman is referred to, so it would be at the same time she is freeing slaves. The story revolves around Liz, a slave who everyone refers to as the Dreamer as she has dreams that foretell the distant future (i.e. she dreams about life in modern times). There are a whole lot of other characters including other slaves, slave owners, and slave catchers who all interact throughout the story. I thought it was a good book with some interesting ideas about what constitutes freedom. I’m looking forward to discussing it. I give it a 7 out of 10.
34. Servant of the Bones by Anne Rice
I have never been so happy to finish a book in my life. Ok that’s probably not true. In fact I think The School on Heart’s Content Road was probably worse. I only read this book because it is for one of my book clubs. For this book club whoever is hosting gets to choose the book. The person hosting May’s book club is a sci-fi/fantasy fan, which is so not my genre at all. She offered us 3 choices of books and this seemed the most mainstream, so it got the most votes. I sincerely wish I had voted for something else. It’s not just that this book wasn’t my cup of tea, it was that it was extremely boring and very long at almost 400 pages. I don’t even have the heart to recap the plot of this book. I’m sure you can find a summary of it somewhere if you want. We’ll see if anyone else in my book club found it more engaging than I did. I give it a 1 out of 10.