The Mortal Instrements

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen (February 8, 2011)

Emily Benedict is about to find out if wallpaper can change pattern on its own, if a cake can bring back a lost love, and if there really is a ghost dancing in her back yard.

Product Description [My Copy]

Emily Benedict came to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother's life. But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew, she realises that mysteries aren't solved in Mullaby, they're a way of life. Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight. And a neighbour, Julia Winterson, bakes hope in the form of cakes, offering them to satisfy the town's sweet tooth - but also in the hope of rekindling a love she fears might be lost forever. Can a hummingbird cake really bring back a lost love? Is there really a ghost dancing in Emily's backyard? The answers are never what you expect. But in this town of lovable misfits, the unexpected fits right in...

Sarah Addison Allen on The Girl Who Chased the Moon

"How tall is he?" she asked, her voice hushed, as if he might hear.
"Tall enough to see into tomorrow."--Chapter Two, The Girl Who Chased the Moon

Every book I’ve written has had some element of fairytale to it. The sentient apple tree in Garden Spells. The Rapunzel references in The Sugar Queen. And The Girl Who Chased the Moon is no different. I actually ended up with a giant in this story.

I remember when I first wrote elderly Vance Shelby into The Girl Who Chased the Moon. He walked into a room and had to duck under the doorframe. I knew then that this was no ordinary man. This was a giant. But how tall was too tall? When would real become unreal? It’s a fine line. I began to research gigantism and discovered the tallest man in history for whom there is irrefutable medical proof: Robert Pershing Wadlow, the Giant of Illinois. At the time of his death at the young age of 22, Wadlow was almost nine feet tall. It’s a stunning number, isn’t it? Nine feet tall. I pored over old film and audio interviews from the 1930s, trying to get a feel for what his life was like, so I could present with veracity this magically tall man in my story. What I discovered was a soft-spoken gentle giant whose legs were so long he walked like he was on stilts, whose body listed to the side like a skyscraper made of soft wood instead of concrete. But he was always smiling, accepting the stares and the requests for photos good-naturedly as he toured with Ringling Brothers and the International Shoe Company. He never hid himself away. He mingled among regular-sized people like he knew he had to savor every moment. And maybe he did know. Maybe he was tall enough to see into tomorrow.

In honor of Wadlow, I took all that I thought a young giant might wish for--a long life, a wife, a family, a place that accepted him as he was, where he was just another town oddity--and I gave it to elderly Vance Shelby in The Girl Who Chased the Moon. And as an old giant, Vance looks back on a life he always wanted to be extraordinarily small, and finds that it was exactly the size it needed to be. Which I think might be truth for us all. 

My Copy

My Shelfari Review:

I just finished this book and again I'm deeply in love with Sarah's world. Her version of Mullaby is just charming. She makes passion, food, first loves and life simply beautiful, I wished the book was longer, I wanted to see how Julia and Sawyer will react when their "Blue-Eyed-Girl" arrived following the smell of her mother's cakes. Win and Emily's story was truly a fairytale. I wished I had a changing wallpaper according to my mood, my room would have changed daily if not per hour! I loved Vance a lot, he is the cutest giant ever. Sarah knows how to create loveable character, memorable stories and hot leading men.

The Girl Who Chased the Moon
Interesting Tidbits

The Girl Who Chased the Moon was originally titled Festival of the Naked Lady. The title made sense when I first started writing the book, but ended up having no correlation to the final draft.

The book went through three complete drafts. The story I started out telling bears little resemblance to the story it is today...but the one constant was barbecue. I knew I wanted the town in the book to be a barbecue town, so I could showcase the unique quality of North Carolina barbecue and its sauces.

Mullaby, the fictional town in the book, is very loosely based on the town of Lexington, North Carolina. Lexington is a true barbecue town, with more barbecue restaurants per capita than any other place in the state. It's also home to the famous Lexington Barbecue Festival.

I spelled barbecue "barbeque" in the book, and my poor copyeditor had to go through the entire manuscript and change all those q's to c's.

During my research on Southern cakes for the book, I could trace only four cakes back to definitive Southern origins. Recipes for these cakes can be found under the Julia's Cakes link.

Lane Cake
"A layer cake with a fluffy frosting and containing coconut, chopped fruits and nuts in the filling. The cake was named after Emma Rylander Lane of Clayton, Alabama, who published the original recipe under the name "Prize Cake" in her 1898 cookbook Some Good Things to Eat."
Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink

Hummingbird Cake
"Food historians generally cite Mrs. L.H. Wiggin's recipe published in the February 1978 issue of Southern Living magazine (p. 206) as the first printed reference to Hummingbird Cake. Mrs. Wiggins did not offer an explanation of the name. Evidence strongly suggests this cake was popular in the south and known by several different (and equally interesting) names."

Red Velvet Cake
Controversial, because many claim this cake first appeared in the North -- in Canada or at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. "We do know for certain that Red Velvet Cake originated in the late 1900s, somewhere in America. Most food historians agree that, like many layer cakes, it comes from the southern United States - some people even call it 'the Chocolate Cake of the South.' Although the cake is not included in every cookbook about Southern food, it is certainly most popular in the south and is a favorite dessert in New Orleans.

Apple Stack Cake
"Dried apple stack cake is the most 'mountain' of all cakes baked and served in Southern Appalachia. The story goes that James Harrod, one of Kentucky's earlier pioneers and the founder of Harrodsburg, Kentucky, brought the stack cake recipe with him when he traveled the Wilderness Road to Kentucky." Appalachian Heritage Magazine

Lesson in NC BBQ
"Like many small towns in the area, the pride the people of Mullaby took in the slow, meticulous pit cooking of pork soon became an important part of defining who they were. It was at first a Sunday tradition, then a symbol of community, and eventually an art form, the art of old North Carolina, an art born of out work so hard it would fell a hearty man."
Chapter Eleven, The Girl Who Chased the Moon
In North Carolina, barbecue means slow-cooked pork, which is then chopped or pulled. There are two different styles of N.C. barbecue: Eastern N.C. style and Lexington (or Western N.C.) style. And arguing which is best is like arguing politics. Eastern N.C. style barbecue utilizes the whole hog, while Lexington style uses only the pork shoulder -- but the key difference is the sauce. Eastern N.C. style barbecue sauce is perhaps the truest N.C. sauce. In fact, some food historians claim this thin, tart, vinegar-based sauce is the first real American sauce and it can be traced back to N.C. colony days when the sauce was made from oyster juice. Lexington style sauce is a heartier tomato-based sauce, sweeter and richer.

As controversial as pig farming is today in terms of environmental issues, its history in shaping North Carolina is indelible. Swine farming in North Carolina became popular out of necessity and geography. Cattle refused to thrive in the early days of North Carolina, but pigs flourished because they could feed in the wild on the abundance of chestnuts from the trees that once populated this area. The popularity of pork barbecue in N.C. was born from this, a tradition based on what was once survival.

If you'd like more information on the history of North Carolina barbecue, as well as recipes and restaurant guides, some good resources are:

Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue by John Shelton Reed and Dale Volberg Reed, with William McKinney
Bob Garner's Guide to North Carolina Barbecue by Bob Garner

Think The Girl Who Chased the Moon is just fiction? Think again...
Strange! Humans Glow in Visible Light

by Charles Q. Choi
Special to LiveScience – Wed Jul 22, 2009 10:32 am ET

The human body literally glows, emitting a visible light in extremely small quantities at levels that rise and fall with the day, scientists now reveal.

Past research has shown that the body emits visible light, 1,000 times less intense than the levels to which our naked eyes are sensitive. In fact, virtually all living creatures emit very weak light, which is thought to be a byproduct of biochemical reactions involving free radicals.

(This visible light differs from the infrared radiation - an invisible form of light - that comes from body heat.)

To learn more about this faint visible light, scientists in Japan employed extraordinarily sensitive cameras capable of detecting single photons. Five healthy male volunteers in their 20s were placed bare-chested in front of the cameras in complete darkness in light-tight rooms for 20 minutes every three hours from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. for three days.

The researchers found the body glow rose and fell over the day, with its lowest point at 10 a.m. and its peak at 4 p.m., dropping gradually after that. These findings suggest there is light emission linked to our body clocks, most likely due to how our metabolic rhythms fluctuate over the course of the day.

Faces glowed more than the rest of the body. This might be because faces are more tanned than the rest of the body, since they get more exposure to sunlight - the pigment behind skin color, melanin, has fluorescent components that could enhance the body's miniscule light production.

Since this faint light is linked with the body's metabolism, this finding suggests cameras that can spot the weak emissions could help spot medical conditions, said researcher Hitoshi Okamura, a circadian biologist at Kyoto University in Japan.

"If you can see the glimmer from the body's surface, you could see the whole body condition," said researcher Masaki Kobayashi, a biomedical photonics specialist at the Tohoku Institute of Technology in Sendai, Japan.

The scientists detailed their findings online July 16 in the journal PLoS ONE.

The Girl Who Chased the Moon Recipes
Julia's Traditional Southern Cakes  
Hummingbird Cake
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 can (8oz) crushed pineapple, well drained
1 cup chopped pecans
2 cups chopped firm ripe banana

Sift flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and cinnamon together. Add eggs and oil to the dry ingredients. Stir with a wooden spoon until ingredients are moistened. Stir in vanilla, pineapple and pecans. Stir in the bananas last. Spoon the batter into three greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in 350 degree oven, or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn onto cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting with cream cheese frosting.

1 pound cream cheese, softened
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a standing mixer, mix the cream cheese, sugar, and butter on low speed until ingredients combine. Increase the speed to high, and mix until light and fluffy. Reduce the speed of the mixer to low. Add the vanilla, raise the speed to high and mix.

Southern Peach Pound Cake
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups fresh peaches, pitted and chopped

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition, then stir in the vanilla. Reserve 1/4 cup of flour for later, and sift together the remaining flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually stir into the creamed mixture. Use the reserved flour to coat the chopped peaches, then fold the floured peaches into the batter. Spread evenly into a 10 inch tube pan that has been buttered and coated with white sugar. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes in 325 degree oven, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Allow cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Traditional Southern Red Velvet Cake
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 ½ cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 Tablespoons red food coloring (1 ounce)
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
chopped pecans for garnish

Lightly oil and flour three 9-inch round cake pans. Sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In another bowl, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla. Using a standing mixer, mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until batter is smooth. Divide the cake batter evenly among the prepared cake pans. Bake in 350 degree oven, rotating the pans halfway through the cooking, until the cake pulls away from the side of the pans, and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Remove the cakes from pans and onto a cooling rack. Let cool completely. Frost with cream cheese frosting and sprinkle with pecans.

1 pound cream cheese, softened
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a standing mixer, mix the cream cheese, sugar, and butter on low speed until ingredients combine. Increase the speed to high, and mix until light and fluffy. Reduce the speed of the mixer to low. Add the vanilla, raise the speed to high and mix.

Lane Cake
For cake:
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
8 egg whites
For filling:
1/2 cup butter
1 1/4 cups white sugar
8 egg yolks
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon brandy flavoring
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup candied cherries, chopped
1/2 cup flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease and flour four 8 inch round cake pans. Cream 1 cup of the butter or margarine, 2 cups of the white sugar, and vanilla together until light and fluffy. Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture to the butter mixture in three parts alternately with the milk in two parts, beginning and ending with flour. Beat the egg whites until stiff. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter. Spread the batter evenly into the four prepared pans. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow cakes to cool. Once cool spread Lane Cake Filling between layers and frost with Butter Frosting.

To Make Lane Cake Filling: Put 1/2 cup of the butter or margarine and 1-1/4 cups of the white sugar into the top of a double boiler away from the heat. Beat together. Add egg yolks and beat well. Stir in water and brandy flavoring. Place over boiling water. Cook and stir until thickened. Add pecans, raisins, cherries and coconut. Stir filling until all ingredients are well combined. Remove from heat. Allow filling to cool before spreading between cooled cake layers.

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large bowl, cream the butter until smooth. Add the powdered sugar, salt, milk, and vanilla and mix until smooth and creamy.

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, well beaten
1/3 cup molasses
1/2 cup buttermilk
3 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla
Cooked dried apples

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream shortening and sugar; add beaten egg, molasses, buttermilk, and mix well. Sift flour, soda, salt, and ginger into a big mixing bowl. Make hole in center of dry ingredients and pour in creamed mix, stirring until well blended. Add vanilla, stir well, and roll out dough as you would for a piecrust. Cut to fit 9-inch pan or cast-iron skillet (this amount of dough will make 7 layers). Bake layers for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned. When cool, stack layers with spiced, sweetened old-fashioned dried apples. (See recipe below.) Spread between layers and smooth around sides and top. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired, or beat egg whites into a meringue and spread on outside of cake. You may brown the meringue if desired. Prepare cake at least a day before serving it and put in refrigerator (it will keep several days, if necessary, in a cool place). To serve, slice into very thin layers.

Cooked Dried Apples*
Put 1 pound apples in heavy pan and cover with cold water. You may need to add water several times to keep apples from sticking to pan. Cook until soft enough to mash. While still hot, mash apples and add 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup white sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon cloves, and 1 teaspoon allspice.

*If dried apples are not available, cook several pounds cooking apples with a little water. Add spices and sugars as listed above, and cook until mixture is very thick.

(From Appalachian Heritage Literary Quarterly)

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