Book Club- Magic for Beginners
Our latest book club read was Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link. One of our members is really into Magical Realism and heard this was an excellent book in that genre. I have to say, I didn’t get it. I was, however, glad that I was not alone.
The book is a collection of nine short stories. From what I could tell none of them seemed to have a common theme or thread, other than they were all in a world where unusual things occur. Link is a good writer and clearly has an impressive imagination. I found most of the stories however to just be too nonsensical for me to really get into them. I also often felt like some stories ended in an unsatisfying way, while in others it sort of felt like you were dropped in the middle. In most of them, I was asking myself “what am missing?”. It was like there was a paragraph or two missing that tied everything together. The book club lady that actually chose the book described it best, as a “a big book of nonsense”. We also felt like a lot of the female characters ended up not being main characters in each story, or were not written in a good light.
While parts of this book were entertaining, I can’t say that I would recommend it. I was thankful that it was just a little over 300 pages. All of the book club ladies shared my sentiments that it was not one they would recommend and didn’t really “get it”.
Because the book was unrelated short stories, I decided to use one story as my inspiration for the menu. Here’s what we had:
- Colorful crudité platter with homemade ranch- The short story I focused on had rabbits in it and one of the characters is always painting the house random colors. I combined those two ideas- rabbits eat veggies and making sure to make a veggie display with a rainbow of colors.
- Cheese tray with crackers and bread- I felt like this went well with the veggie tray and let’s be real, who doesn’t love a cheese tray. 😉
- Anise Macaroons and Peanut Butter Raisin cookies- These are two cookie recipes that I am currently developing so I took this opportunity to use the book club ladies as my guinea pigs if I’m being completely honest.
Magical Realism Cocktail
I chose the colorful theme of the same story to dictate the cocktail I made for the ladies. Derek actually heard about this flower that is becoming a trend in cocktail-making because it has color-changing properties, so I had to give it a try. It’s called Butterfly Pea Flower and teas and extracts made from it change from a deep royal blue to a bright purple when citrus is added. If a color-changing cocktail doesn’t say “magic”, I don’t know what does!
The first order of business is to make the tea. There are syrups out there made with this flower, but the tea seemed like the best option for me because it allowed me to have more control of the sweetness levels.
Add the dried tea to your boiling water and steep for 5 minutes. The tea is an amazingly deep blue color! Strain the tea into a pitcher and stir in the honey.
Chill the tea in the fridge for at least 2 hours or until it’s completely cooled.
To make the cocktail, fill 4 clear glasses with ice. The whole point is to see the cocktail change color, so a clear glass is really important here! Divide the tea, sparkling water, and gin equally between the glasses. At this point the cocktail will still be a deep blue color.
Now squeeze the juice of half a lemon into each glass. Stir and watch the cocktail transform to a vibrant purple. So fun! I actually gave each of the book club ladies a lemon half and let them squeeze it in and stir so they could see the transformation.
While a little gimmicky, this drink tastes good too. The tea is fairly mild with a slightly bitter note. It reminded me a little of green tea.
- 4 cups boiling water
- 1/4 cup butterfly pea flower tea
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 1/3 cups sparkling water
- 6 ounces gin
- 2 lemons, cut in half
- Steep tea for 5 minutes. Strain tea into a pitcher and stir in honey.
- Chill at least 2 hours or until completely cooled.
- Fill 4 clear glasses with ice.
- Divide tea, sparkling water, and gin equally between glasses.
- Now squeeze the juice of a lemon half into each glass. Stir and watch the cocktail transform to a vibrant purple!
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