I can’t say I’m a convert yet, but I have to admit—Reading on my iPad is pretty damn convenient. Two weeks ago, I finished my second full book on the electronic device, Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth, and I’m not going to pretend like I didn’t love the (a) backlighting (no more flimsy book light when reading in bed, which so happens to be the only time and place I get to read anymore), and (b) being able to look up historical references and foreign words instantly with a tap of the finger. No, it’s definitely not the same as the feel of a real book, but now that I’m back into reading a real book (currently trying to finish Crime and Punishment—almost there Melanie!), I’m missing the quick ability to research and engage with the text so easily.
One word that I researched, on page 69 of 768 with 19 pages left to go in the chapter (yes, this is the footnote on the bottom of the screen), described the meal Lily was eating the day after the cloud had broken the year after her “dazzling debut fringed by a thunder-cloud of bills” (you have to love Wharton’s thick descriptions. ) Lily remembers this “day on which the blow fell. She had been seated at the luncheon-table over chaufroix and cold salmon of the previous night’s dinner.”
I gently tapped the word chaufroix to get my definition, and unfortunately no results. However, my dear iPad asked me if I wanted to “search web” or “search Wikipedia”. Well…of course! After one more click I had my answer. Some say that the word comes from the combination of two French words for “hot” and “cold”; most agree that it is a dish served cold; some argue that it is the original leftovers while others say just because it’s prepared in advance doesn’t mean it was meant to be thought of as leftovers. Yet, another explanation says the dish takes its name from the old French name for the spice lavender. So, I still had no real answer, but in a matter of minutes, look at what I learned!
But back to the poor Lily Bart. Has there ever been a character who has consistently made so many bad choices? Wharton’s rendering of the upper class of New York, “America’s royalty,” presents us with a cast of characters extremely constrained by social conventions; the slightest err can lead to exile. Early in the novel, Lily refers to her rich, but non-high society members of her family as “living like pigs.” She can’t help her world view; she was raised to be an ornament. As I was reading, I also couldn’t help but relate villain Bertha Dorset with Hilly Holbrook from The Help. Though living in different eras, both are society women and both use insidious tactics to thwart the heroines of each novel. While Hilly gets her just desserts (yes, pun intended), our villain Bertha in House of Mirth doesn’t get hers—it’s Lily Bart who literally has to get used to eating cold leftovers.
Below is a favorite way my husband and I dress up leftover salmon or smoked salmon. How can you go wrong when you add bacon?
8-10 oz leftover cooked cold salmon, or pre-packaged smoked salmon
6 strips of bacon
Romaine lettuce leaves
Mayonnaise (you can also mix in a little dill if you like)
- Fry the bacon (I prefer it to be crispy) on medium to high heat.
- Remove the bacon from a pan, blot with paper towel. (you don’t want it dripping with grease).
- Toast the bread.
- Build a sandwich: spread the mayo, layer the tomato, lettuce, bacon and salmon.