Friday, April 13, 2012

The Ocean and the Hourglass - Dan O'Brien, Author

Traditional Beef Stew
(An O'Brien favorite)
3 lbs boneless chuck roast, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 tbsp vegetable oil 
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp freshly ground pepper
2 yellow onions, cut into 1-inch chunks
1/4 cup flour
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup red wine
3 cups beef broth
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp dried thyme
4 carrots, peeled, cut into 1-inch slices
2 stalks celery, cut into 1-inch slices
3 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut in eighths
fresh parsley to garnish (optional)

On medium-high heat, add the vegetable oil to a large heavy pot (one that has a tight fitting lid).
When it begins to smoke slightly, add the beef and brown very well. Do in batches if necessary. Add the salt and pepper as the beef browns. Once browned, remove the beef with a slotted spoon set aside. Add the onions and sauté for about 5 minutes, until softened. Reduce heat to medium-low, and add the flour and cook for 2 minutes stirring often. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add wine and deglaze the pan, scraping any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. The flour will start to thicken the wine as it comes to a simmer. Simmer wine for 5 minutes, and then add the broth, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, and the beef. Bring back to a gentle simmer, cover and cook on very low for about 1 hour. Add potatoes, carrots, and celery, and simmer covered for another 30 minutes or until the meat and vegetables are tender. Taste and adjust seasoning. Turn off heat and let sit for 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with the fresh parsley if desired.


The Ocean and the Hourglass – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish

“What kind of book is this, Mr. Thompson?” his voice cracking as he asked. “Open the cover, Nicholas.” Nicholas met the librarian’s gaze and the old man’s trustful not restored his confidence. Opening the cover, the thick black hand cover gave way to cream-colored sheets that did not smell of musk or salt. They were blank. “The book is empty?” Nicholas was now thoroughly confused. The librarian, however, seemed utterly amused by the situation. “That is why there are rules, Nicholas. The book alone cannot work without the hourglass. And of course, it will not function with the imagination of one as special as you are.” “I don’t understand.” “Let me explain,” offered Mr. Thompson as he rose from his chair. Clasping his hands behind his back, he resembled a lecturer preparing to give a speech. “There are five rules to using the Book. They must be followed as I lay them down…
“The first rule is that you must always read the book alone. Never tell anyone that you have the book nor let anyone read it.”
“The second rule is that you must always read the book with the hourglass. Never are you to activate one without the other. Disaster lies in that course.”
“The third rule is that when reading the book you must never lose track of either item. If you were to be reading and the hourglass was lost, then you too would be lost. Keep both together.”
“The fourth rule is to always read the book as you wish it to be read. Never lose hope in the story, for you will be lost if you do.”
“The fifth and final rule is as important as the others, even more so if you believe as you should. You must never stop believing in heroes, Nicholas. You must believe with all your heart that good will prevail, that heroes will triumph no matter the odds.”

Nicholas Miles was from what has become such a common state of being for so many young boys and girls. He is being raised by a single mother who works hard but enjoys the bottle a bit more than she should. He has also become the punching bag for the bullies within his school. One morning, after his usual confrontation with these boys, Nicholas just couldn’t bring himself to go inside the school. This time the boys had torn his favorite comic book in half tossing it on the wet ground. Nicholas’ hero was the Mariner and the destruction of this book was the destruction of his comic book friend. With no money to replace the book, the next best place was the library where he could read until his heart was content as he enveloped himself with those who cared… the heroes of the oceans of a world far, far away. What he never dreamed of was Mr. Thompson introducing him to the very old, very special book and the hourglass which he had stored deep within the library waiting for that special person to come along. This book allowed Nicholas to write his own story and live it as it happened. Only he could create the beginning and the end and only he could decide the effect his decisions would have upon everyone involved in his story.
 
 
The Ocean and the Hourglass is one of the deepest books I’ve ever read. It awakens the reader to right and wrong in says that I personally have never give thought to. You may ask the question “what is right and what is wrong?” Easy answer? Maybe but “who interprets what is right and wrong?” We all know the 10 commandments, which are cut and dry in definition – aren’t they? What about the gray areas? Can we tell black lies, white lies and gray lies? Or are they all lies? Can we kill people to benefit the masses and it be ok? Are there black killings, white killings and gray killings or again are they just all killings? Are the killing wrong if they will save more then they kill? Are we in our current position by choice or by events and chance? Do events really play a role in the choices we make? As I said, The Ocean and the Hourglass is a deep book of thought. It started out as what I expected to be a children’s book but boy was I wrong as I got deeper and deeper into the thoughts it evoked within me.

 
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