The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

I didn’t intend to do a blog post this week for several reasons, the main one being that my dearest and only aunt – my dad’s younger sister to whom I am very close – had an unexpected triple-bypass on Friday and that has been weighing on me. She came out of the surgery all right, but it was still a very worrying experience. Coupled with a very ugly fight with one of my sisters (it’s funny how stress can bring out the worst in families, isn’t it?), my heart wasn’t into doing much this weekend. But I came across The Rules of Magic on one of my bookshelves and thought “hey, this will be a total escape.”

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It was simply reading for the sheer pleasure, something that I sometimes forget about doing. Reading is, after all, a true pleasure with the feel of the pages, that sense of just falling into whatever world you’ve chosen, and when you come back to yourself, it’s almost a shock that the world is still there.

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If you’ve read Hoffman’s earlier book Practical Magic, you’ll recognize the characters of Frannie and Jet Owens. In the first book, they are the great-aunts of Sally and Gillian, and in this book, they take center stage. Frannie and Jet and their brother Vincent are raised away from the shadow of their notorious witch family in a stable, upwardly mobile manner. Their mother wants nothing to do with the magic that has touched and shaped their family for centuries, and love is the element to be avoided in this book. The three Owens children are raised to never fall in love, but when Aunt Isabelle enters their lives, she connects them with their heritage of magic and witchcraft and spells and it’s so beautifully described that I wished I’d been raised as a witch.

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I think the element I loved most in this book was the sheer sensuality of how scents are described, so vividly that my mouth almost watered. The herbs used in their spells, various recipes, the delicious smells of peppermint, patchouli, flowers, eucalyptus, chocolate, almonds, and most delectably, the savory scent of bacon. And of course, there was that passage that set the tone for how the children are perceived by other kids, describing how eerie Franny and Jet are in their youth.

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“Soon enough the other students knew not to irritate the Owens sisters, not if they didn’t want to trip over their own shoes or find themselves stuttering when called upon to give a report. There was something about the sisters that felt dangerous, even when all they were doing was eating tomato sandwiches in the lunchroom or searching for novels in the library.”

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I mean, it’s a total food and books reference RIGHT THERE! Eating tomato sandwiches! Looking for books! I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect passage. And a tomato sandwich – yum! Still, a plain old tomato sandwich, tasty as it, can be made better when you have a couple of ripe avocadoes, some bacon and a bit of imagination. Here’s my take on the Owens sisters’ tomato sandwiches. Magic is optional. But make sure everything is at room temperature, particularly the tomatoes.

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INGREDIENTS
1 ripe avocado
1 heirloom tomato
4 strips bacon
1 slice good quality bread, any type you want
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

METHOD
Fry the bacon and enjoy the salty, savory scent of it. I seriously don’t know how anyone could be a vegetarian with the smell of bacon around. Drain on a paper towel.

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Deseed the tomato and slice it into somewhat thick rounds. Add a bit of salt to the tomato slices.

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Mash the avocado and season it with the crushed red pepper, the lemon juice, and the salt and pepper.

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Toast the bread, and slather on the mashed avocado.

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Put the tomato rounds on top of the avocado, then add the bacon slices. Admire the lovely colors and textures before applying to your face. Sooooooooooo yum, and comforting too!

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16 thoughts on “The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

  1. Your sandwich looks wonderfully deluxe! When I read “tomato sandwiches” – it brought back a memory from when I was a child. My dad, who was from rural Alabama, always kept a fresh vegetable garden in our backyard in Detroit. When I was about 8 years old, dad asked me “you ever ate a tomato sandwich?” I shook my head no. He proceeded to slice one of the prettiest, fattest, reddest homegrown tomatoes and put these slices on white bread that had been slathered with mayonnaise. He sprinkled it all with salt and pepper, put it together, cut it in half and shared it with me.

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    1. What a wonderful memory that is. I also remember tomato sandwiches made in just that fashion from when I was small. Isn’t it great that you were able to have a fresh vegetable garden? That’s something that I really miss having as an adult. And there is nothing wrong with the tomato sandwich with mayonnaise, I just had to make it a little bit more challenging for myself mainly. Thank you for commenting as always. I always enjoy your commentary and your thoughts on my books.

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      1. You’re welcome – I enjoy your blog!
        So our tomato sandwiches from back-in-the-day are the Classics! Yes, I live in an apartment building and miss just entertaining the idea of growing my own vegetables.

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  2. So happy you read the book I left on your shelf. It was an easy and enjoyable read. I had forgotten the tomato sandwich because I was focused on that incredible black soap, which sounded like the fountain of youth. I so want that black soap! Hahaha. You always make your food look like you have godlike gifts in the kitchen, I can almost smell all that you cook from here, oh well.
    Prayers for your family and for your aunt’s quick recovery.

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    1. Thank you for leaving it. I enjoyed it more than I can say. I have to say that I’m inspired to make my own soap after reading it. Though I don’t think my soap will have the same effect as the black soap in the book. Thank you so much for your kind words about my food. I still need to have you over for a Sunday blog, so let me know when you are feeling up to it.

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  3. I’m sorry you’ve been going through a difficult time right now — hope your aunt is doing better!

    This sandwich looks wonderful. After years of not understanding the appeal, I have recently come to appreciate the addition of an avocado to a sandwich. 🙂

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    1. I was like you for a while, not understanding the Allure of avocado toast. But I promise you this version is quite delicious. Thank you as well for the lovely sentiments about my aunt. She’s gone through some rough times and I’m just hopeful her recovery will start soon.

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  4. Wow! This sort of reminds me of a BLT with the way it looks, but so much healthier. I haven’t read this book but do have it added. So sorry to hear about your aunt, Vanessa. I’m so glad she pulled through okay though. I hope everything simmers down for you now. ❤ Hugs, friend. 🙂

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    1. I appreciate that Jen. It is like a variation on a BLT but I think this was much better. Although that might also be because I have a great loathing and hatred for iceberg lettuce. Haha! I also appreciate your kindness about my aunt. She’s had a bit of a hard time but hopefully she’ll be on the road to recovery very soon.

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  5. Your tomato sandwich looks SO GOOD! (by the way, I STILL haven’t received my Shepherd’s Pie in the mail…maybe my mail carrier ate it?? ;p) I’ve had this book on my shelf for YEARS!! I really should get to it… possibly while eating this sandwich… *drool*
    I’m very sorry to hear about your aunt! Triple-bypasses are tough. My mother-in-law just went through one. I hope she recovers nicely!! And if I decided not to blog every time I had a fight with my sister… I probably wouldn’t blog much! Lol! She’s pretty much why I screen my phone calls!

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    1. Thank you so much! I must say I really enjoyed the combination of avocado, tomato, and bacon. The book is truly good, and I think even better than her earlier works. She’s definitely developed her writing skills, for certain. And thank you for the kind words about my aunt. She’s been through so much over the past few years, and it’s just an emotional time. I hope your MIL is doing well, too. As far as my sister goes, screening and blocking texts is sounding really good right about now. 🙂

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