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Startled Pig (Moo Sadoong) #FoodieReads


We were just talking about The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger* this weekend in my online Lit Happens book group as another in the time traveling genre; we were actually discussing Oona Out Of Order by Margarita Montimore for the month, but other books came up in conversations. I remembered reading and really enjoying The Time Traveler's Wife, so I decided to re-read it. And, then, I watched the movie. But that will be another post.

On the Page

I'm not usually one for romance. But this was an epic love story that followed Henry DeTamble and his wife Clare through decades of their life. Sometimes I had to go back to the beginning the chapter to solidify in my head where they were in their lives, for example: "Saturday, October 26, 1991 (Henry is 28, Clare is 20)" or "Friday, September 23, 1977 (Henry is 36, Clare is 6)" or, more confusingly, "Thursday, June 7, 1973 (Henry is 27, and 9)."

But once I wrapped my mind around the temporal jumps, I couldn't put the book down.

Henry has a (fictional!) genetic disorder named Chrono-Impairment that intersperses the book's timeline with moments as the past and future Henry jumps in and out of  Clare's life. At first it felt very disjointed, but I felt that it mirrored how Henry and Clare were experiencing their lives. 

And while epic, the love story was also tragic. I won't spoil the story for you, but Niffenegger addresses the themes of love, betrayal, fate, destiny, free will, and, naturally, the passage of time. All of those threads were well-written and well-considered. I appreciated that Henry couldn't actually change anything in the future though he did go back in time and make some money in the stock market for his family!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and went on to watch the movie as soon as I finished it.

Because this is a food blog, I do have to point out some of my favorite food passages. Clare can't cook. So, she admits, "I made you some pretty weird meals over the years. Peanut butter and anchovy sandwiches. Pâté and beets on Ritz crackers" (pg. 9). But Henry can cook and, on their first dinner at her house - with Charisse and Gomez -  " hour and forty-three minutes later we are sitting around the dining room table eating Chicken Risotto Stew with Puréed Squash. Everything has lots of butter in it. We are all drunk as skunks" (pg. 131).

Throughout their marriage, Henry takes the lion's share of kitchen duties. "Henry brings out two bowls of soup, pale and thick. 'Vichyssoise. This is my grandmother’s recipe.' I take a sip. It’s perfect, buttery and cool. The next course is salmon, with long pieces of asparagus in an olive oil and rosemary marinade" (pg. 229). 

He begins to teach Clare how to cook, foreshadowing what the reader knows is inevitable; Henry won't be around much longer. "We make marinara sauce, pesto, lasagna. Another day it’s chocolate chip cookies, brownies, crème brûlée. Alba is in heaven. 'More dessert,' she begs. We poach eggs and salmon, make pizza from scratch. I have to admit that it’s kind of fun. But I’m terrified the first night I cook dinner by myself. I’m standing in the kitchen surrounded by pots and pans, the asparagus is overcooked and I burn myself taking the monkfish out of the oven. I put everything on plates and bring it into the dining room where Henry and Alba are sitting at their places. Henry smiles, encouragingly. I sit down; Henry raises his glass of milk in the air: “To the new cook!'" (pg. 487)

"'Daddy’s crying,' Alba whispers to Clare. 'That’s because he has to eat my cooking,' Clare tells her, and winks at me, and I have to laugh" (pg. 500).

Startled Pig (Moo Sadoong)

Thai food gets several mentions in the book because the Beau Thai was one of Henry's favorite restaurants. On their first date when they meet in 1991, Henry recounts, "we order: Tom Kha Kai for me and Gang Mussaman for Clare" (page 8). 

Clare even goes to the restaurant alone, "I order spring rolls and Pad Thai with tofu, bland and safe. I drink a whole glass of water. Alba presses against my bladder; I go to the restroom and when I come back food is on the table. I eat. I imagine the conversation Henry and I would be having if he were here. I wonder where he might be. I mentally comb through my memory, trying to fit the Henry who vanished while putting on his pants yesterday with any Henry I have seen in my childhood" (page 393). And Henry's co-workers take him to the restaurant to celebrate his birthday "...we joked around and ate pad Thai and prik king, cashew chicken and pad seeuw. Amelia gave me a pound of killer Colombian coffee beans" (pg. 454).

Also at the first dinner that Henry has at Clare and Charisse's apartment, they are all discussing their lack of culinary expertise. Henry asks, "'Do any of you know how to cook?' “'No.' 'Gomez can make rice.' 'Only Rice-A-Roni.' 'Clare knows how to order pizza.' 'And Thai—I can order Thai, too'"(pg. 130). 

So, I settled on making some Thai food. My go-to cookbook for Thai cuisine inspiration is Kris Yenbamroong's cookbook Night + Market: Delicious Thai Food to Facilitate Drinking and Fun-Having Amongst Friends*. And I liked the dish 'Startled Pig' because I think that 'startled' describes anyone's reaction to learning that Henry is a time-traveler!

One of my trio asked, "What's with the name?" Yenbamroong writes that it's a loose translation with the idea that you're heaping so many aggressive tastes onto the meat that you are startling the pig. This dish was so flavorful - spicy, tart, and smoky. I can't wait to try it again. But, like all of the recipes in this book, there are definitely ingredients you'll need to make yourself or find at an Asian market; even my eclectic pantry didn't have everything needed for many of these recipes. And still, I substituted for things I couldn't locate and didn't have time to make.

Ingredients serves 6 to 8
  • 2 pounds pork shoulder steaks, cut to 3/4" thick
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon ground pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon chili garlic paste
  • 6 Tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons organic granulated sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons oil, divided
  • 2 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 4 Tablespoons garlic, peeled and pressed
  • 4 Tablespoons thinly sliced lemongrass
  • 1 Tablespoon chile flakes
  • 1 cup torn Thai basil leaves
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 4 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Also needed: cast iron skillet or grill pan

Preheat cast iron skillet or grill pan over high heat. In a shallow, rimmed bowl, place the pork and sprinkle it with ground pepper. Drizzle it with soy sauce. Whisk together the garlic paste, fish sauce, sugar, 2 Tablespoons oil, chili powder, garlic, lemongrass, and chile flakes. Rub half of the paste onto the pork.

Once the skillet is smoking, place the pork, paste-side down. Cook until well-charred on the bottom. Rub the other half of the paste onto the top and flip it over. Once the pork is well-charred on both sides, remove it from the pan. Put the meat on a cutting board or serving platter and divide the basil leaves and fresh cilantro between the steaks. Slice into strips and drizzle the remaining 2 Tablespoons oil and lime juice over the top. Serve immediately with steamed rice or coconut sticky rice.

*This blog currently has a partnership with in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to and search for the item of your choice.
Click to see what everyone else read in February 2021: here.


  1. Now I want to re-read this....I was resisting until I read this review LOL

    1. I know that your to-read pile is about the same size as mine. But, if you can squeeze it in, I loved it again.

  2. Now I want to read this (and watch the movie). Thank you for the review (without spoilers).

    1. I hope you do! Can't wait to hear what you think.


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