I haven't been on the writing bandwagon this week. I know, that sounds ridiculous coming from someone who started a blog, but my excuse is that I've been reading constantly for two weeks. I finished Mockingjay, the last book of the Hunger Games series, in two days, and I was emotionally destroyed. Did anyone else feel that way?! I felt much worse than after I finished the Harry Potter series. Before I tell you why, let me say this: both epilogues were hopeful in that the Potter and Weasley children could attend a diverse Hogwarts while Katniss and Peeta's children do not have to participate in or be witness to the Hunger Games. Both series end with democracy trumping dictatorship and genocide, a victory sorely won.
The difference between the two epilogues (and the reason I literally cried for an hour and had nightmares for three nights) is that the main characters survive the trauma of war and loss very differently. J. K. Rowling made it clear that Harry is completely committed to living in the present moment. He still mourns the deaths of loved ones, but he can live beyond those experiences to thrive. His thinking appears clear, and he celebrates his family and friends.
Katniss, however, seems to be living in the same mental fog her mother did after the death of her father, an emotionless state that Katniss could not understand or forgive. What little she shares about her life since the war is bleak. The images of her children are vague--she tells only what they look like with few words on more personable details or her connection to them. Katniss seems distanced from her own family, afraid to love them too much or hold them too close: "I'll tell them on bad mornings, it feels impossible to take pleasure in anything because I'm afraid it could be taken away." She is haunted by her past and those she's lost. What stuck with me is how disaffected and void she felt, like she was soul-less but still living (much like a prisoner who endured the Dementor's kiss: crossover alert!).
Even if the ending devastated me, I respect it immensely. Katniss's circumstances after such a brutal war are perhaps just as realistic as Harry's. I wouldn't say that one has more credibility than the other; rather, I like how different the epilogues are and how plausible they seem within the worlds of the two series. Overall, I really liked the Hunger Games series for its gutsy creativity and visceral reality. I appreciate that Suzanne Collins didn't shy away from bold choices, like killing Finnick and Prim, and altering Peeta's memories. It's not a story I could ever forget.
Is there really any way to segue from Hunger Games to homemade chicken tenders? "Here's something you could never make in pre-revolution District 12?" Oooh, that's pathetic... Anyways.
Maple-Mustard Chicken Tenders
Slice 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts into strips. Use a fork to tenderize the strips.
Mix 3 Tbs. of whole grain Dijon mustard with 2 Tbs. of pure maple syrup and 2 Tbs. of EVOO. Add in 1 tsp. dried thyme, 3/4 tsp. black pepper, and 1/2 tsp. salt. This will be both the marinade for the chicken tenders and what holds the coating to the chicken later.
Marinate the strips in the maple mustard sauce for at least 1 hour. Overnight would be even better.
Create a little assembly line: bowl of marinated strips, 2 cups of homemade breadcrumbs, and a baking sheet overlaid with a cooling rack or something similar. Spray or rub the cooling rack with oil.
Coat each strip with the breadcrumbs.
Place breaded strips on sheet, like so. Give them a bit of room so they can cook evenly and to allow the breading to crisp.
Bake for 30 minutes in preheated 250 degree oven.
Serve with your favorite dipping sauce!