If travel can be a political act, just think about time travel. In Now & Then by Jacqueline Sheehan, she explores how time travel affects two main characters, Anna and Joey – New Englanders from 2010 – as they are unwittingly transported to 1844 Ireland, the year before the Potato Famine started. They must be careful not to mention telephones, e-mail, laptops, television, flush toilets and many other devices not yet invented in 1844 lest they appear suspicious. As it is, many of the locals suspect them of being British spies. As Anna suffers a degree of malnutrition eating a steady diet of potatoes, she reflects on how much more cohesive their communities are than the one she’s been thrust from. There for just a few weeks, she has already developed relationships with many more people than she has in Boston. When she thanks her hostess for taking care of her after she is rescued from a supposed ship wreck, in surprise she replies, “That is what friends do for each other.”
While I wouldn’t want to be transported to 1844 Ireland for all the potatoes in the Emerald Isle, there may be something to be learned from that society. Are we ignoring each other for the sake of being “plugged in”? Have you been on the subway or in a room where everyone is ignoring one another while texting or talking on their smart phones? Will future generations forget how to have conversations? This is something to mull over as we spend the holidays with family and friends and reading Jacqueline Sheehan’s novel.
Since this is a time of year when we do try to connect, you may be going to some parties. If you’re looking for a dish to pass, here’s an easy one to make. It serves a lot of people and preparation time is about 15 minutes. It is good served hot or cold.
Couscous and Vegetable Salad with Orange and Garlic
1 ½ cups couscous½ cup raisins
1 tsp turmeric
2 cups boiling water
2/3 cup sliced almonds
2 cups garbanzo beans
3 scallions thinly sliced
2 medium tomatoes
1/3 cup lemon juice
½ cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves minced
1 Tablespoon minced basil
2 tsp dried grated orange rind
½ tsp salt
pepper to taste
Place couscous in boiling water. Stir and remove from heat. Add the raisins and turmeric and stir again. Cover and let sit for about 5 minutes.
Stir in almonds, garbanzos, scallions, and tomatoes.
Combine lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, basil, salt, pepper, and orange rind. Blend. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes.
Add the dressing to the couscous and vegetables.