Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Goddess of Small Victories, Cesar Chavez and Crunchy Mexican Rice!

     "Damn it to hell, Kurt! Set the table!" 
     "Don't swear like that, Adele. And don't get so agitated. this is not a formal dinner." 
     I stuck my tongue out at his back. I set the table and looked at it critically: no silver, no fine porcelain. The secondhand bride had not merited an elaborate trousseau.
     He stayed planted by the window.
     "Where are they? Did you tell them six o'clock?"
     "They had to bring Russell to the station first."
     "I'm wondering when I should put the souffle in the oven."
     "You should  have planned a simpler menu."
     "Albert Einstein is coming to dinner! Of course I'm going the whole nine yards!"

     This is a post inspired by the book The Goddess of Small Victories by Yannick Grannec, a novel about brilliant mathematician Kurt Godel as told from his ex-cabaret dancer wife's perspective. Join my online book group, From Left to Write on October 16th as we discuss The Goddess of Small Victories. As a member I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Kurt Gödel and his wife, Adele.
Photograph by Oskar Morgenstern,
courtesy of the Archives of the
Institute for Advanced Study.
     In the excerpt above from the book we find Adele, the wife of the famous mathematician Kurt Godel preparing to host a dinner for Albert Einstein!

     Can you just imagine that? Having dinner with Albert Einstein? Not only having dinner but hosting a dinner and doing all the cooking yourself?

     It's just mind boggling to me. I've never before had to make a dinner for a famous person. I've never before had to make a dinner for anyone other than family and friends.

     I do remember when I was dating my now ex-husband that I invited him over so that I could cook him a traditional Mexican meal. He requested Enchiladas, Rice and Beans. I think that is probably more traditional to Caucasians that visit Mexican restaurants but as Mexicans that's not a normal dish that we eat all the time, at least not in my family.

     But I tried. I don't remember if I made a homemade enchilada sauce or if I used a canned one. I think I probably just used the red chile powder that my mom would poo-poo as not authentic, but the enchiladas were ok. What I really didn't get right was the rice. I don't think I had ever made Mexican rice by myself prior to that time, I always just watch my mom and stirred the pot when it was needed.

     My rice was disgusting! It was crunchy and under-cooked. It wasn't the beautiful orangy color that Mexican rice is supposed to be. Mine was more the color of dried blood. But to give credit to my then boyfriend and future husband/ex-husband, he ate it and said it was the best thing he'd ever tasted. I guess that's the reason I married him.

Photo Credit - The Kitchn
     This started me to thinking about who I would invite to dinner if I could have dinner with just one person living or dead, and family and loved ones were not allowed.

     So many people came to mind. Mother Teresa was first, Elvis came to mind too. I thought about John F. Kennedy and Joan Rivers, but then I remembered that a long time ago when I was a teenager my dad took us on a summer vacation trip to visit his mother and father in Santa Maria, California.

     At that time we lived about 350 miles away from them, so that was a pretty long car trip for us. My sister and I usually took a book to read and when we got bored we terrorized our little brother Freddie who sat in the middle of us in the backseat.

Photo Credit - bio.
     I remember on this trip that I took a library book, a biography of Cesar Chavez, labor leader and farm worker advocate and founder of the UFW, United Farm Workers. It was a very interesting book and I was learning a lot about Cesar Chavez and his movement to unionize farm workers to provide better working conditions and fair wages, especially since Mr. Chavez believed in justice through non-violence.

     I remember asking my dad about Cesar Chavez. My dad at that time was a farm foreman and was in the thick of dealing with the UFW. He scoffed when I mentioned how I admired Mr. Chavez for his justice through non-violence and named several things that had improved under his leadership like clean water and bathrooms for the farm workers. Breaks and lunch hours.

     My dad in the meantime, like many other farmers and farm foremen had been dealing with the violence of the UFW during the picketing and rioting of the Huelgas (Strikes) and the strong arm tactics of the thugs that were the hired guns for the UFW. What my dad was telling me, what he had seen and experienced was totally different than what I was reading in the book.

     I think it would be so interesting to sit down to dinner and talk with Cesar Chavez. I do believe in my heart that he did want to change things and to do it without violence. I also believe that he did many good things and brought about change and gave a voice to many.

     It would be even more interesting to sit down with Mr. Chavez and my dad and listen to both of them talking about their experiences and what they saw and how they viewed the Farm Labor Movement. One thing I do know is that if I had both of these gentlemen over to dinner and I was in charge of making the meal I definitely would not make Enchiladas, Crunchy Rice and Beans!



  1. I'll bet he would make a fascinating dinner guest! History books and novels gloss over the unattractive qualities of heros and don't show their entire person.

    1. Very true, that's why I remember this trip and the conversation with my dad because he saw everything first hand. I wish I could have met Cesar Chavez, that would have been awesome! Great choice for a book read Kim. I hadn't signed up for it originally but I did later and glad I did. Still working on finishing it but it's worth reading to the end.

  2. All organizations and people have their ideals and often reality falls short of those ideal. Chavez had many angry people under him. He set the tone in the right direction, the application will always be subject to the whims of the many.

    When I die and go to heaven (fat chance) I want to have a beer with Richard Feynman but only if my Soul is not as stupid as I am...otherwise I will simply be wasting his time.

    That sounds like a great book, I am going to check it out.

  3. That's what I was thinking. Chavez had the right idea and he chose people that he trusted but sometimes I wonder why he trusted certain ones, I certainly wouldn't have.

    I had not a clue who Richard Feynman was so I googled him and OMG!!! What an interesting individual. Save that beer date with Feynman cause I would love to go with both of you and just listen to that conversation! I found the Feynman.com website and after this comment I'm going to go and investigate more.

    I think I found my favorite quote of his already: “It doesn't seem to me that this fantastically marvelous universe, this tremendous range of time and space and different kinds of animals, and all the different planets, and all these atoms with all their motions, and so on, all this complicated thing can merely be a stage so that God can watch human beings struggle for good and evil - which is the view that religion has. The stage is too big for the drama.”

    1. Most people remember Feynman as guy with the o-ring and the glass of ice water at the Challenger Disaster hearings. He won the Nobel prize for physics for quantum electrodynamics. Quite an interesting individual. He taught right down the road from you, sort of. Cal Tech.

  4. What an excellent dinner guest! Would you invite others to join in on the dinner date/discussion? I love that you included ideas for a meal! And don't the Godel's look like your average couple so in love. . .whoever would have believed so much would come from one man with so many issues!

    1. Stacy! I've entered this comment three times and it doesn't want to post, but I seem to be able to post today. I think I would invite Robert F Kennedy to dinner as well, he was a huge supporter of the UFW and Cesar Chavez and one of my personal heros. Then I'd just sit back and let them talk!

  5. Thank you for pointing this book out. I just finished it last night. I sort of read/listened to the book on my Kindle Fire using "immersion reading" which is listening to the Audible version while it is synched to the text Kindle's text. The narration of this book was wonderful. Adele spoke with a German accent. This book had an extremely good introduction to set theory (the stones in the circles of sand on the beach). I thoroughly enjoyed the book...five stars from me.

    1. Ok, so looks like I can post now. Yes, it was an excellent book! I can only give it 4 stars due to all the math stuff, hahaha! So glad you liked it. I would love to hear Adele with a German accent!

  6. Well shoot! I've made a comment here but for some reason it's not posting. Trying this again!


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