Friday, November 21, 2014

Choose Your Own Adventure, and Thai Peanut Curry

This week, the world lost a visionary when it lost R.A. Montgomery last week.

Remember Choose Your Own Adventure books?

I don't know when I first started reading them--they were already below my reading level when I discovered them in the library--but I blew through the series, devouring them over the summer by the stack.  It was the precursor to hypertext for me; I loved the idea that stories could branch out in different directions, and that you could return to the source only to do it all over again in a completely different way.

The genre wasn't exactly new; Wikipedia (forgive the source) tells us that the game book most likely originated with Jorge Luis Borges is 1941, who wrote about the fictional author of a "game book" in 1941, followed by an actual puzzle novel a few years later.  But R.A. Montgomery popularized the idea, and with Choose Your Own Adventure, game books took off.

I found myself in the grocery store today, buying turkey.  Not a whole bird, mind you, but enough for dinner this weekend before we leave for our trip.  And I wondered why.

I think it has to do with choice.

Given the ability to choose, suddenly traditional Thanksgiving--on my terms, with only my immediate family--seemed like fun.

It's also curry season, and I know a family who eats Indian food for Thanksgiving, just because they can.  There are people who choose to eat tofu for Thanksgiving.  Somehow, having the choice makes tradition seem more bearable.

So: here's to R.A. Montgomery, who empowered a generation (and then some) of young people to feel like they could have some say over their destinies.  You will be missed.

Did you ever read the Choose Your Own Adventure series?

Thai Peanut Tofu
Maybe your Thanksgiving includes a turkey, and maybe not.  But it's curry season, and this will warm you just as well as a dinner full of starches.

1 block medium firm tofu, cut into 1/2" cubes
cornstarch to coat tofu
splash of soy sauce
splash of sesame oil
1 T. olive oil
2 bell peppers, slivered
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch knob fresh ginger, minced
15 oz. can light coconut milk
2 T. red curry paste
1/2 c. peanut butter
1 T. sesame oil
a  bag of baby spinach
cooked basmati rice

Place the tofu pieces in a bowl, splash over soy sauce and sesame oil to taste. Refrigerate, occasionally stirring to make sure all pieces are coated.  Toss in cornstarch to coat lightly.

Add the oil to a large wok or frying pan over medium high heat. Add the tofu and saute until the cubes begin to brown and get crispy. When they have almost finished cooking, remove it from the pan and set aside in another bowl.

Working quickly, add a little more oil to your wok and saute the peppers, garlic, and ginger.  Once the peppers have softened, stir in the lite coconut milk, red curry paste, peanut butter, and sesame oil. Whisk all ingredients together until heated through and blended. Set sauce aside.

Wipe the wok clean or in another skillet, heat a tiny bit of olive oil over medium high heat. Saute the spinach for a few minutes until it is slightly wilted.

Heap spinach in each bowl, top with basmati rice and tofu, and drizzle with peanut sauce.
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  1. You know, I did read those books, but not all of them because they bothered me. There were only two or three possible endings, and you were as likely to end up falling down an infinitely long well as you were to ride off into the sunset with the princess.

  2. NOOOOOOOO. This is actually a terrible story about a man who stole another man's idea and capitalized on it because he was in a position of power. If you want to thank someone, thank Edward Packard who lost the rights to his idea because not enough legal protections were in place at that time. But can't celebrate Montgomery when it comes to Choose-Your-Own Adventures.

  3. I'm unfamiliar with the Choose Your Own Adventure books, but that doesn't surprise me. I was a strange child. Sort of a nerd before the term came into general usage. I read constantly from an early age but my favorites were histories, biographies, autobiographies and, later, mysteries. Before my mystery obsession, I distinctly remember wanting to read about the lives of other people. How did they live, what were their challenges and how did they overcome them. When I look back at the younger me I believe I was looking for ways to deal with my own challenges.

    Loved the recipe, by the way. It sounds wonderful. Especially at this Turkey-centric time of the year!

  4. I spent one summer at my dad's when I was ten or eleven checking out my limit of 5 at the library every time I went, all CYOA. I didn't even look at another section. Thanks for bringing back those memories!

  5. I read a few but not a lot. I think, like the first poster, I didn't like the fact that my choices could lead to some horrible scripted ending. Oddly though I wasn't bothered by "regular" books with less-than-happy endings. Also I think I always preferred books that were character rather than plot-driven.

  6. Mell, I actually read a little about the Packer/Montgomery relationship ... it wasn't clear to me what had happened, other than Montgomery brought the idea to Bantam. Thanks for clarifying!


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