"The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" by Haruki Murakami & rainbow quinoa salad
Do you ever feel like a perfectly normal person surrounded by a whole lot of craziness? The world swirls with wild characters, illogical decisions and strange phenomena that are impossible to believe until you resign yourself to the fact that nothing ever makes sense. If so, you might relate to Murakami’s unlikely hero, Toru Okada, in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.
Toru Okada is abnormally normal — and can be infuriatingly bland. He’s not too keen on commuting or stressful workplaces, he isn’t always emotionally perceptive, and he’s not quite sure what he wants his future to look like. Pretty average sentiments.
Early in the novel, Toru’s daily life isn’t shocking, either. His wife, Kumiko, is an attractive and high-powered publisher who is currently the sole breadwinner for the family. Her clan is a bit nuts, but in-laws are often difficult, right? Kumiko’s brother is a pompous, calculating, soulless guy named Noboru Wataya who has risen to great national fame. Though he seems to be beloved by the masses, Toru neither likes nor respects him.
All of this mundanity unravels with the disappearance of Kumiko’s beloved cat. Kumiko is distraught and urges Toru to work with a psychic to find the little feline. This is where things get weird. The psychic is a gorgeous, highly robotic woman (who renamed herself “Malta”), with a gorgeous, slightly less robotic sister named Creta. They have very mysterious powers, including the ability to channel the magic of water and to insert themselves into extremely vivid sexual fantasies. Yes, Creta can enter your brain. And she’s the less powerful sister!
Next thing we know, this missing cat has been overshadowed by a missing wife, a physical affair, rape accusations against Wataya, inappropriate friendship with a neighbor girl, deep mysticism, and even a traumatic war story.
Murakami lets the strange plot add most of the spice in this work, and stays away from too much flowery syntax. The juxtaposition between dry, even jerky, prose and a fantastically embellished plot was enough to keep me on my toes the entire novel. Though it may sound like one twist after another (and it is!), Murakami still manages to make the reader think about some headier themes — what really matters in life? What is real and what is imagined? How do we open ourselves up to strange new people? This is no beach read, but it’s worth the mental calisthenics.
I wanted to mirror the insanity of poor Toru’s surroundings by starting with a normal, respectable base, and adding a whole lot of delicious madness. Enter: a colorful, vibrant, slightly wacky quinoa salad.
RAINBOW QUINOA SALAD
For the base:
- 2 cups quinoa
- a pinch of salt
- 1.5 cups chopped red cabbage
- 2 cups shelled, cooked edamame
- ½ red bell pepper, chopped
- ½ cup shredded carrots
- 1 cup diced cucumber
For the dressing:
- 3 tablespoons Sriracha sauce
- ⅓ cup soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 4 tablespoons chopped green onion
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- ½ teaspoon grated ginger
- salt and pepper to taste
Prepare quinoa according to package instructions, adding a pinch of salt. While it’s cooking, mix together your dressing. Once the quinoa is ready, add your diced vegetables and dressing, mixing well. Enjoy!
Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod