The Help ****
by Kathryn Stockett
I recently learned about a new event hosted by Jain at Food for Thought. She calls it an edible review—a chance to review a book of our choice and showcase food vignettes within the book. This is right up my alley—two things I love: reading and cooking! So while I’m at it, I’ll be sharing a recipe for Foodie Friday with Michael Lee West at Designs by Gollum. Recently during a couple of days when we were iced in, I had the chance to sit down and read The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I had heard the buzz, but had not had the opportunity to read it myself. The book is the story of domestic help in white households of the South in the early ‘60’s. It is a story of awakening.
A toilet and chocolate pie—an odd combination to be sure, but two things at the very heart of the book. The story centers around Skeeter who has just graduated from Ole Miss and returned home with a degree in journalism but without the all-important engagement ring. In her attempt to fit back into the society she left, she finds herself drawn to the plight of the domestic help raising the children and cleaning the houses of her bridge partners. It is Skeeter who digs deeply into the lives of Aibileen, a wise black woman raising her seventeenth white child, and Minny a short black woman with a big attitude and an even bigger mouth.
I found the deep dialect a little affected. I grew up about ten years and forty miles from the setting. I enjoyed reading about streets, stores, and even a weatherman I recognized. Skeeter’s best friends Hilly and Elizabeth, employers of “the help” represent people we all know….part arrogance, part ignorance, and part a product of their time. The heroine, in my opinion, is Aibileen who rallies the other maids and entices them to tell their stories to “Miss Skeeter” for a book she hopes to have published. It is Aibileen who nurtures Mae Mobley, the child of the indifferent social-climbing Elizabeth. She presses Mae Mobley’s little fat thumb into her own palm and tells her, “You is smart, you is good, you is important”. This, for me, was what Stockett wanted us to know. Each of is smart, and good, and important.
Oddly enough, my favorite part of the book was the last chapter: “Too Little, Too Late”—the author in her own words. Here I gained an insight into the ambivalence of the author about her native Mississippi. Stockett herself was raised by an absentee mother and her grandmother’s maid. She admits to having conflicting feelings about the way she herself had thought about her upbringing and how she treated Demetrie who cared for her. The plot moves well, the characters are well developed, and the dialogue is lively. I recommend The Help. Oh, and about the pie and the toilet…you’ll just have to read it :)
Now, back to that chocolate pie that no self respecting bridge group would be without! This is my never fail stand by recipe for chocolate pie!
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon flour
3 cups milk
3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Mix dry ingredients together in a medium size saucepan. Gradually stir in milk and cook over medium heat until thickened, stirring constantly. Boil for one minute. Remove from heat and stir 1/2 mixture slowly into egg yolks. Add this mixture back to the saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook one minute. Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla. Cool slightly and pour into cooled baked pie shell. Top with meringue if desired
***Note- To make Coconut Cream Pie. Follow above recipe EXCEPT reduce sugar to 2/3 cup. Omit cocoa. Fold in 3/4 cup shredded coconut just before filling pie shell.
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EDITED--I actually posted this before I knew the event was every OTHER week! Hope you don't mind. In the meantime, I have posted a blogaversary giveaway. Click here to enter.