Catherine Gaskin’s novels could be considered romantic in the classical sense of what Nathaniel Hawthorne called “truth of the human heart.” The trappings of this book Edge of Glass are the usual: girl meets boy, girl meets other boy, girl has to choose between the two suitors, girl finds out about a secret family legacy and inheritance in a foreign country, girl is beautiful, etc. It’s HOW Gaskin writes from her character Maura’s viewpoint that sets it apart. Maura is a model in late 1960s London, the era of Twiggy, white lipstick and go-go boots, when little was expected of women other than to be decorative and have no extreme emotions. She’s not a typical model, though. Maura lives very much inside her own mind and heart, is somewhat alienated from the fast-moving city and society around her, dislikes the trappings of modeling more than she lets on, and is in search of much more than a house in the suburbs, marriage and babies, even when offered by the golden boy who looks so great on paper.
Gaskin writes wonderfully well about alienation and wanting more than what society expects, but her great gift is in how she writes about Ireland. This beautiful country has a long and complex history, stunning landscapes, and a complex citizenry who have broken their hearts and backs over hundreds of years to carve out a life for themselves amid never-ending war and violence, and though this book is rather dated in some respects, Gaskin’s love for Ireland is still as timely today as it was when this book came out nearly 50 years ago.
Maura’s mother has just died and she is at a crossroads in her life when the mysterious and handsome Brendan comes into her mother’s antique shop one day, purposely breaks a glass, and sets her off onto an adventure in the heart of Ireland, where she meets another handsome, mysterious Irishman named Connor, her estranged grandmother Lady Maude, a real old battle-ax of a matriarch, and Otto Praeger, a German millionaire whose dead daughter Maura strongly resembles and whom he tries to take under his wing. The book details some fascinating information about glassmaking as well, and gave me a new appreciation of a very old art form. At its heart though, this book is a love story – a love story about glassmaking, a love story about, and to, Ireland; and most of all, a love story about two alienated people who find completion in the others solitude.
It would be the most wonderful thing, I think, to find that partner who GETS your need for solitude and who understands when you feel alienated and outside of everything, and who is there with you in solitude and solicitousness. Someday, I hope………
And when these two literary lovers bond over a simple, homemade meal of poached salmon and shrimp in white wine, fruit and cheese, both of their lives are changed.
He had opened the small refrigerator and squatted to survey its contents. “There’s the easy stuff – eggs.” “Not eggs,” I said quickly. “Well then……..there’s sole, fresh off the quay at Cloncath today. And Dublin Bay prawns. You know the rivers and lakes of Ireland, and the seas around it teem with the best fish you’ve ever put into your mouth, and the Irish won’t eat it except as penance on Fridays….”
Sounds pretty marvelous for fish, doesn’t it? Not to mention Ireland waterways. Anyway, this is the method that worked for me, taken in part from the great food blog website http://www.macheesmo.com, but with my own tweaks. The link to the recipe is here.
1 cup cup dry white wine. I used Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, and drank the rest of the bottle while cooking. ‘Cause that’s how I roll.
1 cup seafood stock
Bunch of parsley, finely chopped
1 lemon, cut into eighths
1 shallot, chopped into fairly small pieces. But don’t go measuring. Give yourself a break and drink some more wine.
4-5 fillets of sole
1/2 cup lemon juice
Bunch of kale, de-stemmed
Spoonful of fish poaching liquid
Splash of white wine
1 cup raw prawns or shrimp, whatever you can find. Being in New Mexico, we are not known for having access to exotic seafood. In fact, the catfish is considered exotic fish here. Meow! But I digress.
1/2 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon lemon juice
In a large saucepan, combine the wine, seafood stock, parsley, lemon wedges, and shallot pieces, and bring to a gentle boil.
Add in the shrimp and cook until pink, about 45 seconds because the stock is so hot. Remove, and add in the sole fillets. Again, only cook briefly, about 1-2 minutes because the heat of the poaching liquid will cook them to rags if you’re not careful. In fact, my sole did get a bit raggedy, but we won’t tell anyone, will we?
Remove the fish and shrimp to a plate to cool, then add a bit more olive oil, a bit of seafood stock, a bit of white wine, lemon juice, and some fresh kale and saute/steam until bright green and shiny, but still with some crunch.
While the kale is cooking, add capers, butter and lemon juice to a microwave-safe cup and melt in the microwave or over a burner. Stir together so that you have a simple but delicious sauce.
When the kale is sauteed to the point you want it, plate your fish and shrimp, add the gorgeous green kale, and spoon over the sauce.
Serve and inhale. Soooooo good, so healthy-tasting, and so evocative of the Emerald Coast!
Erin Go Bragh!