Book Club- The Milagro Beanfield War

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This month we read The Milagro Beanfield War by John Nichols. One of the book club ladies, Sally, really enjoys the magical realism genre which this book definitely fits into.  This book was the first one of this genre that finally made me understand what that category meant.  It’s basically is what it sounds like- a story that is set in a mostly reality-based world, but has magical elements.  In this book that was demonstrated by things like a large pig having more humanistic traits than what’s realistic, which I loved!  Other books we’ve read in this realm were The Tin Drum and Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His years of Pilgrimage. I had a harder time noticing it in those novels.

Onto the actual story! This novel takes place in Milagro, a small town in the southwest in the 1972.  It’s a town filled with families that have lived there for generations which means all kinds of history and background.  It’s also a town that has a class divide running through it with water rights laws greatly impacting all of the citizens.  For the poor citizens of MIlagro these laws made them poorer by increasing the costs to irrigate their fields.  For the more affluent residents, it has made them richer.  One day Juan Mondragon, the main character in the book, takes an action that is seen as more rebellious than he intended.  Juan or “Joe” is on the poor side of the town and ends up being a leader of these people that he didn’t intend to be.

The downfall to this book we all agreed was that there were too many side characters.  It was difficult at times to remember who was who and how they were relevant to the story.  That was also complicated by the fact that some families had multiple generations.  Overall, I loved the book though.  The author has an amazing way of writing about the scenery and writes couples and their struggles in a beautiful and realistic way.  For that reason, I would recommend this book to most people (with the caveat that there are a lot of characters to keep track of).

Book rating: Highly recommend (9/10)

 

I chose a Mexican theme for the menu since a lot of the characters were Chicano.  Here’s what we had:

  • Pork Carnitas with toppings:
    • pineapple salsa, onion and Cotija cheese
  • Sopaipillas with an agave and tequila syrup drizzle
  • Horchata with rum (recipe below)

I also chose a tablescape that had colors reminiscent of the southwest and used some glassware/dishes Derek and I got when we went to Mexico a few years ago.  I need to use some of those pieces more!

Have you read this book?  I’d love to hear what you thought in the comments.  Our next book is Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll, just in case you want to follow along. 🙂  Don’t forget, you can find all of the book club posts here and can also see all of the books we’ve read on my Book Club Pinterest board, and read my friend Betsy’s review on her blog.

 

Rum Horchata

I chose horchata because I thought it would be an easy drink to serve with or without rum and it’s a Mexican drink a little more unexpected than a margarita (I’ve got to keep those book club ladies guessing, he he).

Horchata is surprisingly easy to make, it just takes some time.  I made mine the night before book club and it worked out great!  That gave it a chance to get really cold (I’m told it should be really really cold when served).

First you’ll mix the uncooked rice, 4 cups of water and a cinnamon stick (broken into pieces) in a blender. Blend until the rice is coarsely ground.  This took about a minute in my blender.

Now transfer the mixture to a large bowl and add another 4 cups of water.  Soak this for 3 hours at room temperature.

Now it’s going back into the blender in batches.  This time you’re trying to grind the rice all the way down until the mixture is smooth.

The rice will be the texture of fine sand by the time you’re done. Now put a fine mesh strainer lined with a cheesecloth over the pitcher you’ll be serving the horchata in.  Gently pour the rice and water mix through the strainer combo.  You’ll need to push the mixture around with a rubber spatula and/or squeeze the liquid through the cheesecloth.

Once all of the liquid is in the pitcher, add the brown sugar and stir.  Let the horchata sit in the fridge until it’s chilled or you’re ready to serve.

As the horchata sits, some of the rice will settle so give it a good stir before serving it.

To serve, fill glasses with ice and 1 ounce of rum.  Top with the horchata and stir.  Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

This recipe will make up to 8 glasses of horchata depending on the size of your glass.

 

 

Rum Horchata
Save RecipeSave Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 cup long-grain white rice, rinsed
  • 1 cinnamon stick plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 6-8 ounces spiced rum

Instructions

  1. Mix uncooked rice, 4 cups of water and a cinnamon stick in a blender until the rice is coarsely ground.
  2. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and add another 4 cups of water. Soak this for 3 hours at room temperature.
  3. Blend again in batches until the mixture is smooth (the rice will be the texture of fine sand).
  4. Gently pour the rice and water mix through the cheesecloth-lined strainer. Push the mixture around with a rubber spatula and/or squeeze the liquid through the cheesecloth.
  5. Add the brown sugar and stir.
  6. Let the horchata sit in the fridge until it's chilled or you're ready to serve.
  7. To serve stir thoroughly, fill glasses with ice and 1 ounce of rum. Top with the horchata and stir.
  8. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.
  9. This recipe will make up to 8 glasses of horchata depending on the size of your glass.
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