Some stories are notable for how their characters' paths cross and diverge in ways that are sometimes delightful and convenient, plot-wise, but often also too perfect to be real. In Cutting For Stone, Abraham Verghese tests the limits of such interactions, sprinkling logical crossings with a few well-placed coincidences. The results is a story of love and betrayal that crosses continents and decades.
Marion Stone, surgeon, is our narrator. He and twin brother Shiva are two sides of the same coin, one a silent genius, the other a hard-working romantic. They are born to an Indian nun and English doctor in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1954. Their mother dies in childbirth. Their distraught father leaves, never to return.
The twins grow up near Mission Hospital (called "Missing" thanks to the local's mispronunciation), where their father was a surgeon and their mother a nurse. Hema and Ghosh, two Missing physicians, adopt the boys and build a family around them that includes others who work in and around the hospital. As the boys grow into men, Ethiopia's political climate boils over. Marion is framed and exiled, landing in New York City where he trains as a surgeon and eventually makes good on a promise he never thought he'd fulfill.
Along the way, the twins' relationship stretches and, eventually, snaps. They go from Marion thinking of the two as ShivaMarion to barely speaking to each other following an unspeakable betrayal. But years go by and in a moment of need, they find their way back to each other — and one makes an unbelievable sacrifice to save the other.
Cutting For Stone's plot is driven largely by the way characters' lives intertwine. Sometimes the intersections are expected, built on years-long relationships. Other times, a person enters (or re-enters) another's life at just the right moment to drive the plot forward. What better way to capture those twisted, intimate relationships than with garlicky, red peppery, cheesy breadsticks?
SPICY PARMESAN-GARLIC TWISTS
(Makes about 8 twists.)
For the dough:
- 3/4 cup lukewarm water
- 1 teaspoon active-dry yeast
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
For the seasonings:
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- three large pinches dried oregano
- red pepper flakes, to taste
Prepare the dough about two hours before you plan to make your twists.
Start by mixing water and yeast in a large bowl until yeast is fully dissolved. Add flour and salt and mix with a large spoon until the mixture comes together to form a shaggy dough. Turn the dough and remaining dry ingredients onto a clean surface and knead together for about five minutes, until the tough is somewhat tacky but not sticky. Allow the dough to rise for about an hour and a half by covering with an overturned bowl, or by placing in another bowl and covering with a kitchen towel.
When ready to make the twists, preheat the oven to 500ºF. Mix cheese, garlic, dried oregano and red pepper flakes, if using, in a bowl and set aside.
Cut down into two equal pieces. Place one half on a lightly floured work surface and roll out to about a 6" by 6" square (if you can't make a square shape, at least try to make it symmetrical). Brush the surface liberally with melted butter. Sprinkle the cheese mixture over half the buttered dough, then fold over the empty half and press together to gently seal. Using a pizza cutter, slice the stuffed dough into 1"-wide strips. Grab a strip at each end and twist in opposite directions, starting slowly, until twisted all the way through. Snip off excess dough at the ends and pinch slightly to keep from unraveling, if necessary. Place twists side by side on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and brush lightly with butter.
Repeat with remaining dough and seasonings.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until fluffy and slightly golden. Serve warm, plain or with marinara sauce.