Sympathizer Update

A couple of notes on The Sympathizer. It improves with each chapter. I predict a successful movie if Hollywood continues to overcome its struggles with diversity. There’s a fabulous opportunity here for a movie within a movie and commentary on Hollywood’s need to make every movie about white males.

My favorite sentence so far: “Drenched in café au lait stucco, the mall was bordered by an example of America’s most unique architectural contribution to the world, a parking lot.”

Reading about the food made me think, “How could I have been so stupid?” Followed immediately by, “Am I the only person in the world who hasn’t figured this out?” It had to do with the Vietnamese dish “pho,” which I’ve known about since I lived in Philadelphia. Americans say it with a long “o,” but it is properly a cross between “eh” and “uh.”

That part I’ve known for some time. The revelation came because of a conversation I had over the weekend with a friend who told a funny story about making onion soup back in the 1970s. It included a call to the renowned chef James Beard who had taught her mother. The daughter wanted to know where to buy pot au feu in a can. We laughed about the idea that forty years ago this staple of French cuisine might show up on grocery store shelves in a can. After we rang off I went online and found Emeril Lagasse’s recipe, which I was going to send her.

That night as I was reading The Sympathizer I came to the section in which the narrator does a Recherche du Temps Perdue as he recalls skimming the foam off his mother’s pho. That skimming and the mention of onions and carrots—and the light bulb ignited. Of course it’s pronounced “feu,” the French word for fire! It’s pot au feu with a Vietnamese accent!

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