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literary food blog, for readers with good taste.

Sonali Deraniyagala's "Wave" & Almond Brittle

Wave-Sonali-Deraniyagala

Wave is a tale of unspeakable horror. In it, author Sonali Deraniyagala recounts her life after December 26, 2004 — the day a massive tsunami hit the coast of her native Sri Lanka and killed her parents, husband and children. Simply remembering such a time would be torture for most. Committing those memories to paper takes immeasurable bravery.

It begins with the wave, the wave that courses strong and evil throughout the book. Deraniyagala writes that the water seemed odd but innocuous at first. She asked her son to close to sliding glass door in their beachfront hotel room, just in case. 

The moment she realizes the truth is the first stab of pain. What follows is a brutal, raw account of the varying degrees of grief that swell, crest and crash over Deraniyagala as she struggles to regain footing in the wake of a destroyed life. Her loss seems boundless, reaching new depths with each passing phase. Even as she works her way back to functionality, to living, the trauma of the event remains simmering beneath the surface. 

This is not a story of neatly tied happy endings. It is one of perseverance, bravery and flaws in the face of utter devastation. The full extent of everything Deraniyagala has lost — her family, her childhood home in Sri Lanka, her adult home in London — and its impact is laid bare on Wave's pages. It is that honesty, that refusal to back away from the wave and everything it stole from her life that makes Deraniyagala's memoir so gut-wrenching and gripping.

To read Wave is to abandon safety for a time. In doing so, it is tempting to compare yourself to her, to think I would never do that. I would never consider suicide. Or, I would never start a new life somewhere else. Or even, I would never move on. But Deraniyagala did all those things and more, and then she wrote a personal, heartbreaking and honest account of the experience.

Some criticize Wave for leaving out the stories of the thousands of Sri Lankans who lost their lives, families or livelihoods in the 2004 tsunami. And it's true — they shouldn't be forgotten. But, for me, accessing the private memories of one of the tsunami's victims crystallized the depth and breadth of its impact. This was but one story.

Almond Brittle

Wave is the story of a shattered life — one smashed to bits slowly, then quickly, then completely. But it is also about rebuilding, about picking up the pieces instead of discarding them. As anyone who has suffered a loss will tell you, the pain does not go away. One simply learns to live with it. This almond brittle is the result of love and attention, of sugar and butter melted together, encasing the slivers. Like a life after loss, this sweet represents healing around the shards.


ALMOND BRITTLE

Ingredients

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 2 cups slivered almonds
  • More salt for finishing

Instructions

Line a large cookie sheet with parchment and set it on acooling rack. Heat the butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally, till it browns and smells nutty. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl. Set aside.

Place the sugar in a medium, heavy saucepan over medium high heat and stir until sugar begins to melt. Continue to stir until the sugar is completely melted and turns a warm caramel color. Stir in the almonds, sea salt, and melted butter. Reduce heat and continue stirring until butter and caramel are completely incorporated and thoroughly blended.

Turn the mixture out onto your prepared cookie sheet, and spread it to a thin layer. Sprinkle the top with salt. Allow it to cool completely, about an hour. When the candy begins to harden, slide the parchment and candy off the cookie sheet and onto the cooling rack to help it cool more quickly.

Adapted from Food52


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