11.310 Sarah’s Ayuh

11.310

10 (Tue) November 2020

Sarah’s Ayuh

2.5

by me

at home

-Changgok, Sujeong, Seongnam, Gyeonggi, Republic of Korea-

with the Family

Newbery 100 Medals, 100 Meals (16) (see 100 NEWBERY M&Ms)

While reading the 99 books that have been awarded the annual Newbery Medal since 1922 – leading up to the 100th winner to be announced next year – I will also attempt to create one dish for every book, a dish that is directly referenced in or indirectly inspired by the events of the book.  Food plays a strong role in many of the stories; not surprising as the characters in most of the books are faced with adversity of some sort, including poverty, so they’re often very hungry and thus grateful whenever they get a bite to eat – as we all should be at every meal, literally give us this day our daily bread.  The dishes will be featured as posts on Give Me This Day.

While I did read some of the Newbery winners as a kid, this was the first book that I read to launch this project as an adult.

Sarah, Plain and Tall (1986) by Patricia MacLachlan.  The book is about Sarah Wheaton, a woman who answers a newspaper advertisement to be the wife of widower Jacob Witting and stepmother to his children Anna and Caleb.  Traveling from her seaside hometown on the East coast to their farm in the Midwest; Sarah agrees to stay with them on a trial basis to see how things would work out.  To help them identify her upon arrival, she describes herself in a letter as “plain and tall.”  Nothing really happens in the book, which is only 65 pages long – by comparison, the author’s Newbery medal acceptance speech, included with other supplementary materials in the 30th Anniversary edition, is 15 pages.

While the New York Times described the book as “an exquisite, sometimes painfully touching tale,” and it spawned 4 more books about the family, 3 of which were made into TV Hallmark movies (starring Glenn Close and Christopher Walken), and Jeopardy! has featured 3 answers about it among 55 total questions relating to the Newbery (see J! Archive) (only A Wrinkle in Time (5), Number the Stars (4), and The Island of the Blue Dolphins (4) have been honored with as many), I wasn’t so enamored with it.

Recently, imported and frozen red mullet has been available for sale in Korean supermarkets, super cheap at prices hovering around 10,000 won per kg; it’s called “bollak (볼락),” which sounds like but is unrelated to pollack, one of the most prevalent fish in Korean cuisine.

Food is barely mentioned in the story, no details about the stew.  In light of Sarah’s coastal background, I figured that she would be more amenable to fish than meat, even though any kind of seafood would likely have been unavailable to her in the rural Midwest at the time of the story – presumably sometime during the 1800s, or early 1900s.

[paraphrased in part]

We ate Sarah’s stew, the late light coming through the windows.  Papa had baked bread that was still warm from the fire.

“The stew is fine,” said Papa.

“Ayuh.”  Sarah nodded.  “The bread, too.”

“What does ‘ayuh’ mean?” asked Caleb.

“In Maine it means yes,” said Sarah.  “Do you want more stew?”

“Ayuh,” said Caleb.

“Ayuh,” echoed my father.

The fish stew, more of a chowder, turned out okay.  Started with a roux then added vegetable stock, cream, fish, potatoes, corn, pappardelle, and saffron, resulting in a thick and savory broth, very filling and comforting.  The fish had a clean, delicate flavor, but the bones had broken down into small pieces during the cooking, making the dish difficult to eat, especially for the kids.

Me: “Did you like the stew?”

IZ: “What is the opposite of ayuh?”

(See also FOODS.)

(See also PLACES.)

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