There is a lot more to the book than Jean Valjean's going to prison for stealing a loaf of bread and a lot of really great songs (as there are in the play and movie.) I read Les Miserables while I was campaigning for Pres. Obama and now even after the election, many issues discussed in Les Miserables remain hot topics. The most salient issue for me was the right wing attack on America's frayed social safety net. I found Les Miserables grappling with many of these issues. For example, “the fiscal cliff” debate which rages in Washington is essentially about how we as a society are going to treat people in need. Are we going to arrest people like Jean Valjean for stealing a loaf of bread and then forever hold it against them? Although Jean Valjean leads an exemplary life after serving a 19 year prison sentence, society and he himself forever view him as unworthy. The circumstances which drove him to commit his crime are never taken into consideration. Even Marius and Cosette are repulsed when they hear about his past. Their attitudes didn’t endear these characters to me, but is it much different from the treatment afforded ex-convicts today? The whole message of the book is that we can redeem ourselves from past mistakes by living perfect lives, but without community support or recognition, it is a nearly impossible undertaking. Les Miserables reminded me that public attitudes about the causes of poverty remain unchanged. Written in a manner that is very different from how novels are today - A lot of prose waxing philosophic about a variety of topics as Victor Hugo digresses from the story - made it difficult at times to continue with it. Nevertheless, I’m glad that I did.
For many, the reading of Les Miserables would spoil their appetite. For others, it may make them hungrier. For the latter, here’s a recipe I used shortly after Thanksgiving. It’s good served with a loaf of French bread ( in keeping with the spirit of the story). Prep time is about 20 minutes.
Turkey CasseroleLeftover turkey cut into julienne slices
Broccoli cut in pieces
1 can of cream of chicken soup
garlic, onion powder, pepper, basil to taste
a Tbsp of dry sherry
Italian flavored breadcrumbs
Preheat the oven to 350º F.Heat a skillet with the olive oil and sauté the mushroom slices.
Place the turkey in a casserole dish. Place the broccoli over the layer of turkey. Add the mushroom slices. Spread the cream of chicken soup over it all. Add the seasoning and sherry. Sprinkle some breadcrumbs over the top.
Bake for about 40 minutes.