Friday, July 1, 2011

Summer Reading List: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

"Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe spent 36 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List. Harper Lee gave a recommendation for the book, saying, "Airplanes and television have removed the Threadgoodes from the Southern scene. Happily for us, Fannie Flagg has preserved a whole community of them in a richly comic, poignant narrative that records the exuberance of their lives, the sadness of their departure. Idgie Threadgoode is a true original: Huckleberry Finn would have tried to marry her!" from Wikipedia

I actually read this book BEFORE the last one I reviews (Welcome to the World Baby Girl) but I skipped reviewing it since I was sure most have read it, heard of it, or seen the movie.  I am really putting it in here as a filler because I am not finished with my current book, Kiss The Girls.  OMG that is a good one...can not wait to tell you all about it.  SO MUCH BETTER than the movie (and I really enjoyed the movie)....ok enough about that...lets talk "Tomatoes".

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe by Fannie Flagg is quiet popular and known because of the movie, Fried Green Tomatoes ,  starring Kathy Bates, Jessica Tandy, Mary Stuary Masterson and Mary-Louise Parker.  While I really liked the movie, after reading the book I rewatched it and found it a bit hoekie.  I enjoyed the book MUCH better.

Here is a brief synopsis:

"The story jumps narration and sequence and is distinctive in chapter-opening visuals to establish the date and the source of the chapter. Some come from the fictional newspaper in Whistle Stop, Alabama called The Weems Weekly. Some come from the Couches' house in Birmingham, and others fill in some of the more intimate details of the stories told about the characters.

The story is told through many generations and begins in 1985 with an unfulfilled housewife named Evelyn Couch, who comes with her husband to visit his elderly mother, who dislikes Evelyn, at Rose Terrace Nursing Home. While avoiding her, Evelyn meets nursing home resident Mrs. "Ninny" Threadgoode, who begins to tell her random stories of her home in Whistle Stop, beginning in the 1920s. Evelyn becomes so interested in the stories of Whistle Stop that her life begins to take new meaning in the characters in Mrs. Threadgoode's history.

Ninny Threadgoode grew up in a bustling house after being adopted by the Threadgoode family and eventually married one of the brothers. Her first love, however, was young Buddy Threadgoode, whose pet of all the children was the youngest girl, Idgie (Imogene). An unrepentant tomboy, Idgie learned her charm from Buddy. Buddy died when a train hit him, and young Idgie was devastated. Nothing civilized her until a few summers later when beautiful and virtuous Ruth Jamison came to live with the family while she taught Vacation Bible School. The family and servants watched with amusement as Idgie fell head over heels in love with Ruth, but when Ruth went home to Georgia to marry a man she was promised to, once more, Idgie drank too much, lived in the woods, and fell apart.

After a few years, Idgie went to check up on Ruth and discovered that her husband, Frank Bennett, was abusing her. When Ruth's mother died of illness soon after, a page torn from the Book of Ruth in the Bible was sent to the Threadgoode house (appropriately Ruth 1:16, "But Ruth said, 'Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.'"), and Idgie, her brother Julian, and Big George (son of the Threadgoode cook, Sipsey) went to Georgia to bring the pregnant Ruth home. Frank resisted, but Ruth came home and promised never to leave Idgie again. Papa Threadgoode gave Idgie money to start a business so that she could care for Ruth and their son. She bought the cafe where Sipsey and her daughter-in-law Onzell cooked, and Big George, married to Onzell, made the best barbecue in Alabama.

Idgie and Ruth raised Ruth's son, and the cafe became known all over the US during The Great Depression through the communication of hobos, especially half-time Whistle Stop resident Smokey Lonesome. It had a reputation for feeding men down on their luck, and Idgie and Ruth got in trouble from local law enforcement when they decided to serve black customers from the back door at lowered prices. It was about this point that Georgia detectives started asking about the suspicious disappearance of Ruth's ex-husband.

Evelyn Couch becomes so entwined in Mrs. Threadgoode's stories that she begins to live them in her mind, and she realizes how purposeless her life has become and how pointless her reasons were for caring about people's opinions while growing up. Overweight and virtually ignored by her husband, Evelyn becomes inspired by Idgie's boldness and audacity and creates an alter-ego named Towanda, a hyper-violent, Amazon-like character who lashes out at people. Made uneasy by how much satisfaction she feels at lashing out, Evelyn confesses to Mrs. Threadgoode what is happening. She gets a job with Mary Kay Cosmetics and, at Mrs. Threadgoode's suggestion, starts to take hormones for menopause.

Prodded on by Evelyn, Ninny resumes her story. For years the cafe ran—through World War II and into the 1950s. Idgie and Ruth's son grew up, and the lives of the town members moved on...." 

I will leave the rest for you to find out by reading this yourselves.  I know you will enjoy it.  Fannie Flagg describes the "times" of the book so well that it is a must read for any vintage loving gal wanting to loose herself in another time.  This one is mostly set in the 1920 - 1930s.   as a matter of fact, Ms. Flagg does such a good job that you might think you can hear a train chug by on a clear night (ok...that was a bit "much" now wasn't it?).

The novel takes on a few important themes, one being Lesbianism.  I remeber my daddy having lots to say about this when the movie came out, and the movie really glossed over it changing the relationship around a bit, ya know cleaning it up for people like my conservative daddy.  The town accepts this relationship which is different than most of the "old southerners" I have known or had contact with (thru books, movies...and life). 

Aging is another theme as Evelyne is going thru menopause and midlife, empty nester boredom and Mrs. Threadgoode, who is 86, is deteriorating and shoing signs of demntia.

Another theme is FOOD.  Food is a HUGE part of this novel.  So much so that there are recipes included in the book as well as an "extra" on the DVD.  Fannie Flagg also put out a cook book, Fannie Flagg's Original Whistle Stop Cafe Cookbook: Featuring : Fried Green Tomatoes, Southern Barbecue, Banana Split Cake, and Many Other Great Recipes.  I do not have this cookbokk but would love a copy to sit on the shelf in my kitchen with the rest of my cookbook collection.

I think theonly down fall to this book is thatI found myself craving lots of yummie foods.  Every time Evelyne goes to visit, she brings a snack.  This gave me a very strong desire for Hostess Snow Balls...and I had a very hard time finding them.  It was not until this very week that I finally looked down on the bottom of a shelf at Albertsons and spotted the much loved pink goodies.

I also had to try my hand at a batch of Fried Green Tomatoes.  I could not find any green tomatoes so I just got some really firm red ones and fried those puppies up....we had them with steak on Saturday night and OH. MY. WORD!!!!!  They were so good.  I used some Tony Chachere's fish fry mix to batter and fried them till golden brown.  YUMMMIE!!!!

I have looked and looked for a photo of my creation but I can not find one and I can not get my camera to upload....I just know that pic ios still on my camera.  Oh boy, they were GOOOOOD!!!!

If you want to read this book, click on any of the links I have provided.  They will take you to Amazon where you will find one on the cheap.  The movie is also available there or head on over to your local Walmart and you will find it in that big box of 5 dollar movies that they have (just saw one in there today).

Enjoy!!!!  I now I did.


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