Book One: Where’d You Go Bernadette

So, in this rather confusing first week of the year, that involved saying goodbye to 2013, nursing a hangover and then dragging myself to work for just two days, I read my first book of the year!

Where’d You Go Bernadette – by Maria Semple

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I’d be wanting to read this book ever since I read a review of it a couple of months ago that described it as laugh-out-loud, hilariously funny. I love books that make you snort with laughter in public places, like the tube – it always brightens up my day. So, I was expecting a light and frothy read, with plenty of laughs… how did Bernadette fair?

Bernadette Fox is the eccentric, outspoken and, in my opinion, fabulous, mother to Bee, a 15 year old high school student in Seattle. Hated by all the neighbourhood mothers, bemusing to her husband and adored by her daughter, Bernadette is a character to be reckoned with.

The book opens with Bernadette’s mysterious disappearance and Bee’s vow to find her and through seemingly random snippets of information (Bee’s narrative interspersed with letters, emails, articles from a whole host of characters) we begin to piece together Bernadette’s life and the circumstances leading up to her disappearance. I loved the format of the book – fast paced and very funny, it’s almost as though we play detective along with Bee in trying to fathom how a note between a neighbour and her gardener has anything to do with Bernadette disappearing at all. The events leading up to Bernadette’s disappearance become quite farcical, as we are taken from Bernadette’s miserable life in Seattle, back to her hey-day as a highly celebrated architect and throughout the course of the novel, we come to learn that yes, Bernadette is maybe a little batshit crazy as all her neighbours believe – but also a deeply creative person, struggling to come to terms with loss in a rather grey and suburban environment. (I’ve never been to Seattle, but am guessing it’s rather drab and uninspiring). Bee’s quest to track down her mother takes her to Antarctica (yes, a little ridiculous/implausible but when you look at it, so is the whole story!) but along the way we encounter a whole host of colourful characters. I think it’s more than just a light and colourful story – but one that is highly enjoyable and fast moving.

What I loved about the book: Definitely Bernadette – what a brilliant character! And the style of the book – it really livened up the story in an engaging way.

Any negatives? Personally I felt a little bit let down by the ending which kind of petered out – but I guess this kind of book isn’t really about the narrative, it’s about the characters and nuances along the way.

All in all though, a bloody good book and a great one to start my challenge with… if they are all as easy and quick to read as this one then the challenge will be a breeze.

So, onto part 2 of the challenge… I bet you are wondering what on earth I could cook that would relate to the book, but actually that was also pretty easy. Much of the action in the book stems as a result of a dispute between Bernadette and her neighbour over overgrown blackberry bushes – so there you have it, an obvious link.

My immediate thought was to make a blackberry and apple crumble… but firstly that’s not exactly a new recipe or that original. Also, that’s not exactly going to help shed any Christmas weight is it… So instead, I decided to make baked oatmeal – I adapted a recipe which is from a blog called Keeping Healthy, Getting StylishCheck it out, it’s a great blog full of healthy and inventive recipes.

Here’s the recipe – I essentially used Laura’s recipe but substituted the berries she uses for blackberries and apples.

Apple & Blackberry Baked Oatmeal – Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of oats
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup of almond milk (you could substitute for normal milk or indeed any other kind of milk)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 banana (mashed)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped (I used gala but you could use cooking apples if you wanted a sharper taste)
  • Punnet blackberries
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 180c
  • Combine the oats, baking powder, chopped apple, blackberries and cinnamon in a bowl
  • In a separate mixing bowl, beat the eggs then combine with the milk, yogurt, honey and mashed banana – take care when doing so not to throw half the mixture down you as I did.
  • Gradually fold the ‘wet’ ingredients into the bowl of oats and mix well
  • Pour mixture into a lightly greased baking tray and then bake in the oven for around 45mins+ depending on your oven.

Here’s what it looked like when I took it out the oven….

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Slightly brown on the top! It tasted good – not to sweet, nice flavours but the texture was very ‘eggy’ so if I were to make again, I’d probably reduce the amount of eggs. Very moist though and not at all heavy… a different way to eat porridge!

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We’ll see if it passes the ‘keep full til lunchtime’ test!

So that’s that – week one: book, recipe and blog done! Better get cracking on book number 2!

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