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Kate Atkinson's Life After Life & Crepes Three Ways

I’ve always been fascinated by hypotheticals. The what-ifs, the could-have-beens, the alternate dimension where one decision changes the entire course of a story. In the novel Life After Life Ursula Todd is given limitless chances to live her life over again. Every time she passes away, the clock resets and Ursula is reborn.

In this way, author Kate Atkinson is able to explore a multitude of different paths for her protagonist, and see them all through until the very end.It’s a bit like reading a "choose your own adventure" novel except that every permutation has already been laid out for you. As Ursula lives through each life she has no real memory of having lived before, but develops something of a sixth sense about what is going on around her. Though she may feel wary of something that has caused her to die before, death remains inevitable and inescapable. 

Though Ursula’s life occurs over and over again, the novel never feels redundant. Atkinson writes with such precision that readers are able to see the butterfly effect in action. The butterfly effect refers to the idea of a small impetus having a huge, unforeseen impact, like the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Tokyo causing a hurricane in Texas. Reading about Ursula’s life, the true weight of this idea comes across.

Because every version of her life has similarities, it is easy to spot the minute decisions that cause stories to diverge. Alternatively, some stories have very dissimilar origins, but converge when the cause of death is the same. However, it is in seeing the way Ursula’s life, rather than her death, plays out that makes every iteration of the story worth reading, and makes this novel utterly unforgettable.

Buy LIFE AFTER LIFEAmazon | IndieBound | Alibris

Upon reading Life After Life, I was inspired by the idea of possibility. Possibility, of course, came with the knowledge that the protagonist would continue to get another chance at life, no matter how final her death may have seemed. Maybe it’s because of the many years I spent in French class, but the natural item to build on seemed to be a crepe.

Because each of Ursula’s lives went in such a different direction, I wanted to make a trio of crepes, savory and sweet, to mimic the variety found in the novel. The crepe itself is a blank canvas, while the fillings show the many different ways the meal could go. 


CREPES

Makes about 12

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp butter, melted

Instructions

Whisk flour and eggs together

Gradually add in milk and water while stirring

Add salt and butter, whisk until smooth

Cover mixture with cling wrap and store in fridge overnight, or for at least 4 hours

Heat and oil frying pan over medium high heat

Pour batter onto the griddle, keeping it evenly spread and as thin as possible

Tilt the pan so that the batter spreads and cooks evenly

Fry the crepe for about 2 minutes, until the bottom is light brown

Serve hot

From AllRecipes



ASPARAGUS WITH HOLLANDAISE SAUCE FILLING

Instructions

  • 1/2 lb medium asparagus
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • black pepper
  • 8 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 tea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Ingredients

Preheat the oven to 450ºF

Trim the pointed heads off of the asparagus

Spread the asparagus in a single layer on a shallow pan or baking sheet

Drizzle asparagus with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and roll to coat thoroughly

Roast the asparagus until lightly brown, about 10 minutes. Give the pan a good shake halfway through to really coat the asparagus with the seasoning.

For the sauce, the key to success is a double boiler

Boil a small pot of water, keep on medium heat the entire time. Don’t get too hot, you don’t want the eggs to cook

Whisk yolks, lemon juice, and a bit of salt in a separate bowl

Place the bowl with the yolks on top of the boiling water, whisking continuously to get a light, whipped texture. This can take 5-10 minutes

Melt the butter in a separate bowl in the microwave

Slowly drip the butter into the bowl on the stove, while continuing to whisk. It is important not to let the mixture sit, in case the eggs start to cook. Having two people makes this process a lot easier

Continue to whisk the mixture until all of the butter has been added

Mix in cayenne pepper

Serve hot (This sauce tends to congeal after about 10-15 min, so I suggest making it right before serving)

Place asparagus spears on crepe, drizzle hollandaise sauce on top, and serve

Adapted from Food Network


MUSHROOM SPINACH FILLING

Ingredients

  • 9 ounces chopped mushrooms (about 3 cups)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 1 tsp chopped rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 ounces baby spinach
  • 4 tbsp crumbled feta cheese

Instructions

Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat

Stir in mushrooms, shallots, rosemary and salt 

Stir until the mushrooms are soft and begin to release liquid, about 6 minutes

Stir in spinach a handful at a time and cook until soft, about 4 minutes

Spoon mixture onto crepe, top with crumbled feta, and serve

Adapted from Eating Well


SWEET APRICOT FILLING

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 8 tablespoon apricot jam
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon water
  • 6 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds

Instructions

Stir ricotta, vanilla, and sugar together in a small bowl

Mix apricot jam and water in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the mixture bubbles, then remove from heat

In a separate small pan, oil lightly and place sliced almonds. Keep on medium heat and stir often until they turn a golden brown.

Spread ricotta mixture evenly over crepe, add apricot jelly and sprinkle toasted almonds on top, and serve

Adapted from Eating Well


At The Table With...Nicole Villeneuve of Paper and Salt

The TBR List: August 30