Marinated Mushrooms and a book review for In This Ground by Beth Castrodale

Wow.  Two TLC Book Tours in one month!     Before I go much further, I have to say that I L-O-V-E this book.  In This Ground is thought provoking with just a bit of quirky artistry running through most of the characters.    Much more about my thoughts on Beth Castrodale’s book later.  Keep reading.

About In This Ground by Beth Castrodale:

Paperback: 160 Pages

Publisher: Garland Press (September 18, 2018)

Just as his indie-rock band was poised to make it big, Ben Dirjery traded it all in for fatherhood and the stability of a job at Bolster Hill Cemetery. Now closing in on fifty, the former guitarist finds himself divorced and at loose ends, and still haunted by the tragic death of his former band’s lead singer, who is buried, literally, under Ben’s feet. Then Ben’s daughter begins questioning a past he has tried to bury. If he can face her questions, he might finally put to rest his guilt over his bandmate’s death, and bring music back into his life.

“Startlingly incongruous parts–graveyards, guitars, and mushrooms–come together in satisfying and unexpected ways. Sharp writing and an unconventional plot make for a darkly enjoyable read.”–Kirkus Review

About the author:

Beth Castrodale has worked as a newspaper reporter and book editor. Her novel Marion Hatley (Garland Press, 2017) was a finalist for a Nilsen Prize for a First Novel from Southeast Missouri State University Press, and an excerpt from her latest novel, In This Ground (Garland Press, 2018), was a shortlist finalist for a William Faulkner – William Wisdom Creative Writing Award. Beth recommends literary fiction on her website SmallPressPicks.com, and she has published stories in such journals as Printer’s Devil Review, The Writing Disorder, and Mulberry Fork Review.

 

Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

Connect with Beth

What I thought…

Again, can I say I love this book?   I’m in kind of a conundrum though because I usually do not care for novels built around a secret mystery, a mystery that when reveled leaves a bit of “Meh” in the experience.   While I thought the mystery of the bandmate’s death a bit unremarkable, I think it was my connection with Ben and his family that caused me to over look that minor bit.

Castrodale weaves together an unusual plot and characters.  How does one connect music, art, yarn bombing, parenthood, aging, and grave digging all set in a small Massachusetts town?  She achieves this and then some.   Her characters are well-rounded, even the ones that we wish we knew more about like Peg the yarn bomber and Leah the artist.

The setting for much of the novel, Bolster Cemetery, led me to make connections with Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology.   There was a story with every grave, not just with the Unknown Vagrant.

Although some might think the ending too tidily wrapped up, I did not.  I think that even though Ben is finding relief and solace again in his art, there is much more healing and growth to occur.  This book left me wanting more of Castrodale’s voice so I am picking up Gold River next (which you can get for free if you subscribe on Castrodale’s website).   Marion Hartley will also be on my 2019 list.

Thanks to TLC for giving me the opportunity to read In This Ground.

The Food…

There is actually quite a bit of food in the novel and the language used to describe  it is inventive and interesting.  There’s Ben’s “burrito webbed in regret” (116) and Meredith’s “increasingly suspect lassi” (40).  (That lassi was definitely suspect!)  The motif that kept reoccurring throughout was fungus and mushrooms, “vegetable vermin, only meant to be destroyed” (54).   Mushrooms give off spores, reproduce, are cultivated, glow, and even lead some characters to major epiphanies.  Fungus becomes a life focus for a couple of characters and perhaps even an avenue after death.

It had to be a mushroom dish and since I am trying to recreate a recipe from one of our favorite local steak houses, I had to give this a go.

Marinated Mushrooms

Debra (based on Molly’s Landing recipe)

Tangy and spicy:  A great appetizer or side dish for steak. 

Ingredients

  • 3/4 c. grape seed oil
  • 1/4 t. dried mustard
  • 3/4 c. red wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 t. onion powder
  • 1 pinch of cayenne
  • 1 1/2  T. honey
  • 1 1/2  t. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2  t. sea salt
  • 8 oz.  fresh mushrooms, cleaned (I used Baby Portabellas.)

Instructions

  1. Combine oil, mustard, vinegar, garlic, onion powder, honey, Worcestershire sauce, and salt in a small sauce pan. Heat until honey is dissolved and mixture is combined.
  2. Clean and cut mushrooms in half or quarters (if they’re large).
  3. Pour liquid over mushrooms. Refrigerate for 24 hours before serving.

Yield: 5-6

The original recipe, “Molly’s Landing Marinated Mushrooms,” can be found in The Route 66 Cookbook by Marian Clark.

I made these for New Year’s Eve as a side for short ribs.   Unfortunately, they never made it to the table.  We ate them all while we were preparing dinner (and having wine).  This recipe will stay in our recipe rotation and in fact, I may just keep a tub of them in the refrigerate from now on!

For all my TLC reviews, click here.

I am linking up with Foodies Read for 2019!

Please check out the other stopovers on this book tour.

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