Tuesday, November 26, 2013

YA Novel a Miami Vice. Gluten-free Chicano: Green Soup. Aural On-line Floricanto.

Review: Rude Slice of YA Life in Florida Pie

Wyatt Pattinson. SKY in the Key Lime PIE [Kindle Edition].

Michael Sedano

I don't know Wyatt Pattinson but I do know he's a writer with a big imagination, flashes of writerly skill, a lot of faith in his reader, and G-rated sexual liberation.

Wyatt Pattinson’s first novel comes as one of those serendipitous recommendations. Word-of-mouth reached me extolling a new YA novel, one with a pointed difference. The recommendation piqued my notice. I’d recently come to possess a Kindle Fire and the ninety-nine cent book was free one day.

Serendipity. Sky in the Key Lime Pie became the very first book I’ve ever downloaded from Amazon. That’s a pretty cool system for accessing and carrying around books.

There’s a reason YA has to be labelled. Older readers likely would have a low tolerance for some of the shortcuts authors take to keep the pace and interest suitable. Younger readers might find challenge in this novel’s approach to sexual coming-of-age. Teenage readers will appreciate the edge of seat plot and independence of teenage characters. Sideplots involving a disappeared girl and dissolute parents add to that appreciation.

Kaela’s 17, strictly supervised by relatives. She emancipates herself, in the process inveigling the younger Wyles with pie-in-the-sky promises into a dark underworld. Kaela’s fallen into bed with a couple of pimps. Kaela and Wyles run a matchmaking scheme. Millionaires pay a girl for her virginity, share the take with Kaela and Wyles. They make it big.

When Wyles’ moral sensibilities cave in and he attempts to quit the pimp business, thugs kick Wyles’ ass and the boy grows desperately fearful. A girlfriend and a flamboyant gay friend step in to rescue Wyles, one via moral suasion, the other via social media. Matters grow bloody. Pattinson writes the boy into a corner of his own making and he’ll need miracles to get free. Turn the page.

Wyles’ parents are no help. In Wyles’ world, adults are unreliable and dangerous. Kaela’s pimp bosses are cops. This prostitution business that seemed so innocent and pure when Kaela was luring Wyles into bondage now has turned menacing and deadly. That’s one cost of having all that money and independence.

Pattinson makes a subtle point about self-reliance and freedom from parental or other authority. Having Wyles live on his own wildly successfully reinforces a restless kid’s desire to move out, the impossible dream come true. But there’s a grass-is-greener lesson in the price Wyles and his friends pay because at their age, they’re not ready to be out on their own. Maybe a kid reader needs to think about that.

Not that living at home with Wyles’ dysfunctional parental units is key lime pie every day. That’s where the parents relocate for a fresh start, down to the keys to work in their best friend’s bar. Talk about mucked up people. When Wyles starts showering the folks with cash they turn a blind eye to its source. Given the cash and a lie, the parent will count the loot and exclaim what they’re going to spend it on. After mom takes up with the best friend both parents play the boy against the other to assuage their own needs.

These are crummy people who love one another, so what are you gonna do? Grow up. Learn your lessons, lick your wounds, be glad it wasn’t worse, and put in the time. When it’s your turn, don’t muck it up like they did. Pattinson wants to wrap up a happy ending like that.

With all manner, good and bad, of media pounding on kids for their attention and money, Wyatt Pattinson’s dollar entry shows he’s a writer with a big imagination and a book that satisfies his ambition with flashes of writerly skill and a lot of faith in his reader to suspend disbelief. Given the ninety-nine cents and few hours, kids and adults will find Sky in the Key Lime Pie fun to read. Emphasis, fun.

Wyatt Pattinson is a Florida writer, a Cubano writer whose matter-of-fact use of cultural allusions adds a measure of interest for gente ouest of Miami. Pattinson’s G-rated sex won’t get him banned anywhere, but the realization that much of the action takes place in Spanish and code-switching (although the novel is written entirely in standard US English) might get Pattinson banned in Arizona.

The Gluten-free Chicano Cooks
Zuppa al polpette, Lee's Green Soup

As the weather outside grows frightful, gente head inside where it's so delightful, especially when you come inside to a steaming bowl of soup. And when you find yourself under that weather, hot soup for what ails you. For my grandmother's and mother's people, caldo de pollo cures everything and prevents the rest.

When the Gluten-free Chicano makes the panacea, he follows his people's simple procedure, boil a chicken, add rice, serve with lemon and crushed chile piquín. When the occasion calls for fancier fare, The Gluten-free Chicano's thoughts run to Lee's Green Soup, or as his fading memory recalls Lee's name for it, Zuppa al polpette.

Lee Stroud moved next door to casa Sedano when her husband, the Colonel, transferred to Norton AFB. Lee and mom hit it off. They exchanged recipes, Mexican food for a world-traveler's eclectic recipes. One day I disclosed that I'd recently eaten "pizza pie" for the first time at the drive-in theatre. That was when Lee told us she was Italian from Philadelphia, and what I'd eaten wasn't pizza. Lee made us pizza, from scratch.

Real pizza takes a lot of work. And it's expensive. So fill up your guests with soup and the cook gets away with making one slice per eater.

It's a winning strategy when soup comes to the table beautifully garnished with a sprinkle of parmesan, aromatic and dimpled with meatballs.

Lee's Green Soup is wonderfully easy to make. Here's the fundamental process.

Make a rich broth.

Earlier in the week, The Gluten-free Chicano roasted a chicken for dinner. He boiled down the carcass with a bouquet of carrots, onions, garlic, celery, and a bay leaf. Removing the particulates left a rich broth of concentrated flavor. With that, start the broth to boil lightly.

Add water sufficient to your need.

Seasonal suggestion: This year's November turkey carcass is going to become cocono Lee's Green Soup. 

Chop vegetables

Add to the boiling broth. The veggies--celery, onion, bell pepper, carrot, garlic--cook crisply fork tender.

Make meatballs

I use a Cusineart to process the carnes. Chop a few dientes of ajo, a medium onion, some parsley. Mix half and half ground beef with pork. Add an egg, a few pinches of grated dried parmesan cheese, a handful of gluten-free bread crumbs (or a couple Tbs of rice), coarsely ground black pepper, salt.

Wash hands well, leave them wet to make forming the meatballs easier. Hand-form meatballs. I make 2" albondigas that diners cut with their spoon. Lee's cost-sensible strategy featured 1" meatballs that fit a spoon. Plan on two or three meatballs per bowl.

Plop the meat into the water and increase the flame.

Add spinach

Break apart a package of chopped spinach and stir it into the water. Boil. When all the meatballs float to the surface, they're probably done. The soup can simmer a long time if it's the fourth quarter and Plunkett is driving to a winning touchdown.

When the meatballs and you are ready to serve, stir in noodles and get ready to call gente to table. The noodles won't require more than five minutes or so, to become al dente.

Prepare rice noodles

Lee Stroud served narrow egg noodles. The Gluten-free Chicano uses rice noodles from the Asian/Thai section at well-stocked supermarkets.

Rice noodles come in tightly-wrapped coils of hard, long strips of noodle. I find the noodles easier to cook and eat if I open one end of the cellophane package and use scissors to cut the bundled noodles along the fold.

Pull the noodles out of the wrapping above the boiling pot and let them float onto the surface. Stir them into the broth. Continue boiling until all the noodles are in the bottom and have grown elastic and translucently al dente.

Garnish with hot chile flakes

If the noodles absorbed too much broth, stir in some water. This chicken soup has a rich parmesan flavor that you can enhance with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese across the surface and a helping of crushed chile.

For my wheat-eater familia and friends I serve the world's best garlic bread, fashioned after Mom's Italian Village in Santa Barbara in the 1960s. Imagine a heavily parmesan-buttered sliced loaf heaped with tablespoonsful of chopped fresh garlic, dusted with paprika and toasted under the broiler.

Aural On-line Floricanto • "Aquellos Vatos"

The image of the vato loco occupies significant space in el movimiento's literary landscape. Of three classics, "El Louie," "To a Dead Lowrider," and "Aquellos Vatos," I've long favored the latter, owing in part to my serendipitous discovery of the poem during a hallway sales pitch from a poetry-selling stranger. For details, see my review of So Spoke Penelope, including a tribute to Montoya and a link to his reading "El Louie."

Click to play this reading, by James Acevedo, recorded in association with Teatro a la Brava Reader's Theatre project circa 1979-80. The reading is part of a 1980s-era multimedia introduction to poetry of the chicano movement. The project, Chicano Messages of Liberation, blended narrative from the book, 450 Years of Chicano History in Pictures edited by Elizabeth Martinez, poetry from a variety of published resources, and photographic slides of the murals of Boyle Heights, El Sereno, and East Los. I'm reassembling that production using today's technology.

Aquellos Vatos. Performed by James Acevedo

Aquellos Vatos
by Tino Villanueva

we knew him as la Zorra – uncouth but
squared away;
messed around unpaved streets. No different
from el Caballo de Littlefield, or from
La Chiva de McAllen who never let himself down;
always had a movida chueca somewhere up town.
Then there was la Polla de San Anto – lived
across the creek, y tenía un ranfle sentao
pa’tras, ¿me entiendes?
And el Pato de Nuquis, el que se la madereaba;
and la Rata was already growing a mouse-tache at
early ten.
El Conejo estaba todo locote, y era más largo
que no sé qué; had rucas all over the place, man:
not even Don Juan carried a rabbit’s foot.
El Bear se salía del cuadro; he was forever
polishing his Cat’s Paw double-sole derechonas,
and heterosexual la Perra used to snicker and
warn in Spanish – “You keep bending down like that
Bear, and you’ll wind up in Dallas.”

I don’t recall el Tiger . . . they tell me he was
a chavalón que se curaba con las gabas.
I do remember el Gorrión, un carnal a todo dar –
never said much, but his tattoos were sure a
conversation piece.
¿A la Burra?, ¡qué gacho le filorearon la madre
en el chancleo!, and el Canario went to the pinta
for it. Not to Sing Sing but the State Farm is
just as bad. La palomilla hasn’t been the same since.

They’re probably married by now,
those cats,
and their kids try to comprehend culture and
identity by reading “See Spot. See Spot run”,
and by going to the zoo on a Greyhound bus with
Miss Foxx

La Bloga friend and literature entrepreneur Jim Sullivan advises of this discount timeline. Here's the link promised in Jim's graphic.


ggwritespoetry said...

OMG! As a caldo de pollo maker, I have to make this GREEN SOUP! I'll let you know how it goes.

Anonymous said...

Great review for Pie in the Key Lime Sky, Micheal.

Haskell Werlin said...

I also enjoyed reading Sky in the Key Lime Pie. It was a little Dave Barryesque for young Cubans. I really never knew what to expect next in the story, as it kept me turning virtual pages. I recommend it to introduce young teens to moral and ethical choice issues.