Call out the fire department!
We’re serving up some hot stuff for the last course in our Asian Pacific Heritage Month potluck, courtesy of 2002 Newbery Award winner, Linda Sue Park!
Her newest book, Keeping Score (Clarion, 2008), is a warm, captivating, insightful, and sometimes heart-wrenching historical novel set in the 50’s, featuring 9-year-old Maggie Fortini, baseball lover to the core.
No, you don’t have to like or even know much about baseball to love this book. A few paragraphs in, and you’ll find yourself rooting for Maggie-o, as her dad calls her (after his favorite Yankees’ player, Joe DiMaggio). Like everyone else in the neighborhood (except her father and newfound friend, Jim, a firefighter like her dad), Maggie is a huge Brooklyn Dodgers fan. Her loyalty and perseverance are unwavering, as is her fierce determination to make things right. She is heartbroken when her team loses again and again, despite everything she’s done to “help” them, like praying really hard and keeping score for every game.
Jim’s the one who taught Maggie to keep score, and their special bond adds another dramatic layer to the story, since Jim is drafted, sent to Korea, and then stops writing to Maggie after awhile. This prompts her to learn more about the war, but it doesn’t allay her disappointment or uncertainty — a lot to cope with, especially for a girl who takes everything to heart, and ultimately feels responsible for things beyond her control. What happened to Jim in Korea? Can she help make him better? Will the Dodgers ever win the World Series? Much as she wants that, she’d be willing to let the Giants win if it would help Jim.
Keeping Score is superbly crafted, another example of Linda Sue’s masterful storytelling. I don’t think I’ve ever read a finer portrayal of what it really means to be a true-blue, dyed-in-the-wool fan. Maggie-o is as pure as they come. And I learned some new things about baseball, the Korean War, and hope.
Today, Linda Sue is sharing her recipe for Korean bee-bim bop (rice topped with vegetables and meat). It is included in her picture book, Bee-Bim Bop (Clarion, 2005), which is a delightful read aloud written in verse, about a child helping her mother make the dish.
Linda Sue: “There are as many versions of bee-bim bop as there are families who cook it. This recipe is one that we make at home . . . Mung bean sprouts, sesame seeds, ko–chee-chang, and kimchee are available at many large supermarkets as well as Asian grocery stores.”
2 cups white rice
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 green onions (scallions)
5 T soy sauce
2 T sugar
2 T vegetable oil
1 tsp sesame seeds, roasted (optional)
1 T sesame oil (optional)
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 lb. tender, lean beef (such as sirloin tip)
2 pkgs. frozen spinach, defrosted, or 1 lb. fresh spinach, washed
1 lb mung bean sprouts
salt and pepper
vegetable oil for frying
1. Cook rice with 4 cups water, either in a rice cooker or pot. If using a pot, let the water boil, then lower the heat, cover and let simmer for 20-30 minutes until the rice is tender and all of the water has been absorbed.
2. Mince the garlic and chop the green onions. Mix all the marinade ingredients in a big bowl.
3. Slice the beef across the grain into very, very thin slices. Put the beef into the bowl with the marinade. Stir well with a big spoon. Wash your hands. Then stick your hands into the bowl, grab handfuls of beef, and squish all of it around for 2-3 minutes (to make it tender). Set beef aside.
4. Beat the eggs with a fork until the whites and yolks are completely mixed together.
5. Coat a nonstick frying pan with 1 tsp. of vegetable oil and heat on medium for about a minute. Pour about 1/4 of the egg, and rotate the pan quickly so the egg spreads out in a thin layer on the bottom. After a minute, flip the egg using a wide spatula, and cook another minute. Cook the rest of the egg this way until you have about 4 thin pancakes.
6. When the pancakes are cool enough to handle, stack them on top of each other and roll the stack tightly. Cut the roll into 1/4-inch slices. Toss the slices in a medium size bowl, then set aside.
7. Julienne the carrots and fry them in about 1 T of vegetable oil in a large frying pan or wok over a high flame until tender. Set aside.
8. If you are using frozen spinach, thaw, then squeeze some of the water out of it. If you are using fresh spinach, cook in a pot of boiling water for about 2 minutes, drain, let cool for a few minutes, then squeeze some water out. Stir fry thawed or precooked spinach in 1 T of vegetable oil for 2-3 minutes until tender. Empty the spinach into a bowl, season with salt and pepper, then set aside.
9. Pour 1 cup water into a large saucepan, add 1/4 tsp salt, bring to a boil. Add bean sprouts, cover and cook for 2-3 minutes. Drain the sprouts and empty them into a bowl.
10. Cook the beef with marinade in a large frying pan over high heat, about 2-3 minutes.
Put the rice, bowl of egg strips and vegetables, and the pan of meat where everyone can reach them. Each person puts a pile of rice in the middle of a soup bowl or plate and some meat and vegetables on top. Top with egg ribbons. If you like spicy food, add some ko-chee-chang (hot pepper paste). Now mix everything together. Serve with kimchee* on the side if you wish.
(Adapted from the printed recipe found in the book, which contains directions for a child to help an adult.)
For more about Linda Sue and her books, visit her website and blog.
On Keeping Score:
New interview and review at papertigers.org.
Original essay by Linda Sue at Powells Books.
Book excerpt at Amazon.com.
**for some yummy kimchee, click here!