I have a bad habit of immediately dismissing things that are over-hyped or forced upon me. If you tell me a hundred times that I have to read Twilight, it’s going to end up at the end of my reading cue. Insist that I plan a trip to the South Pole and you’ll find me at the North. Try to convince me to watch your favorite tv show and I already don’t like it. I’m stubborn. I’m sure I miss out on some great stuff due to this personality flaw, but it’s just the way that I am. I don’t like people telling me what I should do.
So, I had mixed feelings when Oprah chose Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth for her book club selection a few years ago. I panicked, worried that people would skip this book due to the hype. (I sometimes forget that not everyone is as willfully stubborn as I am.) You see, by the point that Oprah announced this book as her book club selection, I’d already read it three times. It’s one of the very few books I’ve ever read more than once. That’s how much I love Pillars of the Earth. It is the book I recommend to anybody asking for book recommendations. I lend my copy to friends and buy new copies once the old ones are too worn.
Set in 12th century England, Pillars of the Earth follows its characters and their descendants through conflicts of good versus evil, lust, love, greed and power struggles between family, church, and politics. It’s epic. It’s gripping. It’s the kind of book where as you reach the last hundred pages, you’re torn between reading faster to find out what happens or slowing down so that you can delay the end. It’s the kind of book that leaves you wondering about the characters for weeks afterward, as if they are family members you haven’t heard from in a while.
But, I don’t want to insist you read it, lest you’re like me and rebel against people telling you what you should do.
Oh, never mind. I can’t help it! You just have to read Pillars of the Earth! Trust me. You won’t be disappointed. It’s worth the hype. Do it!
Some of the best advice my dad ever gave me was to always read the book before you see the movie. Once you’ve seen the movie, your image of the book will be colored by the director’s interpretation. I have never been steered wrong by this advice. I’ve always wanted someone to make Pillars into a movie, but worried that it would be impossible to capture the grand nature of the book in just a few hours. Well, that’s exactly why you need to hurry up and read the book. This Friday, Starz is premiering their mini-series of Pillars of the Earth. My sister, who writes for an entertainment website, has previewed the mini-series. She’ll be posting her review later this week, but has been very enthusiastic so far. From a fan of the book, that’s a really good sign! You can read her preview of the series by clicking here and keep your eyes out for her review later this week.
So, now you’re probably wondering what all of this chatter has to do with food. And I promise, this does have to do with food. You see, some of the main characters in the book are exceptionally poor. They travel from village to village seeking work and begging for meals. When they’re lucky, they find charity at the castle or priory. Otherwise they’ll beg food from a passing monk, trade their limited possessions, or even steal. Each time, they are often presented with the same meager meal; a chunk of bread, cup of ale and maybe a piece of dried venison or cold bacon, if they’re lucky. Now maybe I’m crazy, but I can’t help but salivate every time I read about these impoverished people eating their simple meal. I wish someone would give me a chunk of bread and jug of ale. I’ll even skip the dried venison.
So, in honor of the upcoming premiere, today we’re having peasant bread and ale.
Bake the bread. Take a swig from a jug of ale. Then, head out to the bookstore to buy Pillars of the Earth. Start reading now, because it’s long and it’s going to take you awhile. In fact, you may need to call in sick a couple days this week. Then, subscribe to Starz, if you don’t already have it and clear your Friday evenings for the next several weeks!
Trust me. Have I ever led you astray?
- 1 packet Active Dry Yeast
- 2 cups Warm Water (about 115 degrees)
- 1 Tbsp Sugar
- 3 cups All-Purpose Flour
- 1 cup Rye Flour
- 2 tsp Salt
- 3 Tbsp Salted Butter, melted
- 1 Tbsp Fresh Rosemary, chopped
- Olive Oil and Cornmeal, for the baking sheet
Combine yeast and sugar in a bowl. Pour in the warm water and stir until dissolved. Add the flour and salt. Stir to combine. Cover the bowl with a moist towel and allow it to rise for one hour.
Lightly coat a baking sheet with olive oil. Sprinkle some corn meal over the oil. Divide the dough in half and form two rounds. Place the dough rounds onto the baking sheet. Allow the dough to rise for one more hour.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush the melted butter over the dough rounds and sprinkle with the chopped rosemary. If desired, use a knife to cut a crosshatch in the dough. Bake the bread for about 25-30 minutes.
Once your bread is baked, pour yourself a cold glass of hoppy ale. Break off a piece of that warm bread and keep reading.