Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese
In 1947 Sister Mary Joseph Praise,a young nun, leaves the state of Kerala for a missionary post in Yemen. While traveling by sea to her destination with another nun, a terrible illness falls upon many on the ship as well as on her travel mate. When Sister Mary Joseph searches out the assistance of the doctor on the ship she finds that he as well is gravely ill. Sister Mary Joseph Praise works hard to bring his fever down and saves the life of the English Doctor Thomas Stone.
When the boat docks, Thomas asks Mary is she would like to join him to serve in Ethiopia as a nurse. Mary declines having her own destiny, but destiny turns on her and eventually she finds herself not only in Ethiopia but working with Thomas Stone.
Seven years pass and Sister Mary Joseph Praise is found to be pregnant, much to the surprise of everyone including Thomas who has worked with her seven days a week all of these years and has never seen her with anyone, let alone the fact hat she is a nun! During childbirth, Mary dies – but leaves the legacy of identical twin brothers Shiva and Marion.
This is their story, as narrated by Marion.
This 600+ page read was intimidating. In fact I took one look at the book and thought, “my book club is going to kill me.” This was a bonus review our group was doing which means that in addition to our usual monthly read, a smaller group of us had agreed to take on a couple additional reads the last two months and cook to the books theme. This book being the second of these reviews, the first was last month with Olive Kitteridge.
As I prepared to read this book I had heard from several sources that the book started slow – but do not worry,as it would pick up and was so worth it. I was fully ready to drag through the first 100 or so pages, and then I started reading and found it not to drag at all – but instead pull. This book pulled me from page to page as I lapped up the scenes, the situations and the sheer awe of everything that happened to Sister Mary Joseph and then to heart of the story – the boys Shiva and Marion.
I soaked up every word, jotting down words I was not familiar with, marking down the pages where I found food references for our review. As I read I pulled in images from two other books that took my breath away – Slumdog Millionaire and The Kite Runner….. I easily found that this book deserved a seat next to these smart deep reads on my shelf.
I could not get this book in me fast enough. It followed me everywhere so I could grab a couple of pages here and there. I wish I would have had someone take pictures of all the places it has been and all the places I have read, including the two times I fell asleep with it.
In the end, I was sad, but satisfied. I had that rare feeling I get when I know I have just read something amazing. profound, and that will stay with me, close to my heart for a long long time.
If you have not read Cutting For Stone I highly recommend you give yourself a treat by doing so.
The 2011 WHERE Are You reading Map has been updated to include Cutting For Stone
I purchased this book at the local library sale
Bookies Book Club Review
As I mentioned above this book was a review for our book club. We have completed a bonus read the past two months to really focus on the food as well as the book and this book turned out to be a delight not only for the senses, but for our taste buds too. As we gathered around a counter filled with Doro Wot (an Ethiopian Spicy Chicken dish), Chicken Curry, Ethiopian Fruit salad, substitute Injera bread, two kinds of iab, lentil curry, dabo kola, and warm coke.
The girls agreed – this was probably the best book/food review we have ever done. The food was divine! The spices exploded on our tongue and the iab is actually used in Ethiopia as a follow up dish to the spicy foods to cool your palate. As we dined on our delicious treats we discussed a book that had impressed us all. The characters were real, we had different opinions on who was our favorite character, and found that all the characters carries some sort of baggage from the past that affected who they were today… we pondered over that a bit, finding it fascinating how peoples past can control who they are today…
This book made for a wonderful discussion read. We found Shiva to be a brilliant introvert, so deep thinking that at times words were useless to him and somewhat – beneath him. His remark about saying all women were beautiful showed he seen people differently than most of us do. He liked the way women were put together and he liked what women could do… that said, while he spent time with many women, we found that he lacked any real relationship skills and did not seek out anything beyond the immediate.
Marion on the other hand had a deep compassion. His emotions ran high either when he was wearing his heart on his sleeve or when he was storming out of a building fists clenched to his sides.
Of course we came with recipes…. and here are the foods of Cutting For Stone:
2 packages of chicken strips
2 sticks on unsalted butter (I used salted as that is what I had)
1 onion chopped
3 tablespoons fresh garlic
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cloves
1/4 cup sweet white wine (I used what I had on hand)
(the recipe called for a cinnamon stick during the simmer process but that scared me so I didnt add it)
8 hard boiled eggs
2 bottles of chili sauce (found by the BBQ sauce in stores)
Melt the butter in your skillet and add the chopped onion, garlic,and ginger…. let simmer uncovered 30 minutes. Then add the cloves, 3 tablespoons of Cayenne pepper, the wine, and the chili sauce, continue to simmer.
Hard boil the eggs, cool, peal, and set aside.
In a separate pan put a little water in it and lightly cook the chicken pieces on each side and then add to the skillet with the sauce mixture. Put cover over over wot and let simmer cook for 30 – 45 minutes. 10 minutes before completion of cooking, take off lid, roughly chop eggs and place them into mixture.
Finish cooking ans serve
* I substituted Chili sauce when i could not find berbere ( a red chili spice blend used in many Ethiopian foods).
Red Lentil Curry
1 cup red lentils
1/2 large onion, diced
1-1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon curry paste
1-1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white sugar
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon ginger root, minced
1/2 (14.25 ounce) can tomato puree
You have scaled this recipe’s ingredients to yield a new amount (4). The directions
below still refer to the original recipe yield (8).
1. Wash the lentils in cold water until the water runs clear (this is very important or the
lentils will get “scummy”), put the lentils in a pot with water to cover and simmer
covered until lentils tender (add more water if necessary).
2. While the lentils are cooking: In a large skillet or saucepan, caramelize the onions in
3. While the onions are cooking, combine the curry paste, curry powder, turmeric,
cumin, chili powder, salt, sugar, garlic, and ginger in a mixing bowl. Mix well. When
the onions are cooked, add the curry mixture to the onions and cook over a high heat
stirring constantly for 1 to 2 minutes.
4. Stir in the tomato puree and reduce heat, allow the curry base to simmer until the
lentils are ready.
5. When the lentils are tender drain them briefly (they should have absorbed most of the
water but you don’t want the curry to be too sloppy). Mix the curry base into the lentils
and serve immediately.
Ethiopian Fruit Salad
- 1 ripe mango, peeled and cut in pieces
- 1 small, ripe papaya, peeled and cut in pieces
- 1 navel orange, peel removed and cut in sections
- 1 1/2 cups seedless grapes
- 1 banana, sliced
Combine all the cut up fruit. Add the banana at the last minute
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons curry powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root
- 1/2 teaspoon white sugar
- salt to taste
- 2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – cut into bite-size pieces
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 3/4 cup coconut milk
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute onion until lightly browned. Stir in garlic, curry powder, cinnamon, paprika, bay leaf, ginger, sugar and salt. Continue stirring for 2 minutes. Add chicken pieces, tomato paste, yogurt, and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes.
- Remove bay leaf, and stir in lemon juice and cayenne pepper. Simmer 5 more minutes.
1 pound small-curd cottage cheese or farmer cheese
4 tablespoons yogurt
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
1 teaspoon salad herbs
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Iab is a white curd cheese very much like the Greek feta. Special herbs are added (and sometimes chopped vegetables) which give it its characteristically acid taste. Since the cheese used in Ethiopia is not available here, this recipe is an attempt to simulate Iab.
In a 1-quart bowl: Combine cottage cheese or farmer cheese, yogurt, grated lemon rind, salad herbs, chopped parsley, salt black pepper.
The mixture should be moist enough to spoon but dry enough to stay firm when served. Drain off excess liquid.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 Tablespoons honey
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ¼ cup oil
- Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.
- Add water slowly to create a stiff dough.
- Knead on a lightly floured board for about 5 minutes. (To knead, flatten the dough, fold in half. Then turn the dough about one-quarter turn, and fold again. Keep turning and folding the dough.)
- Pull off pieces of dough to fit on the palm of the hand.
- Press or roll out (using a rolling pin) into a strip about ½-inch thick on a floured countertop.
- Cut the strip into squares ½-inch by ½-inch.
- Cook in a frying pan on medium heat until light brown in color on all sides.