Sunday, September 30, 2012

Harriet the Spy Tomato Sandwiches

Happy Banned Books Week!  I am kicking off both BBW and my writing again with SEVEN posts about banned books, for your reading pleasure - one a day until Saturday! 

So, what is Banned Books Week?  Well, it's a celebration of the freedom to read whatever we want to.  There are a lot of people who want to have books banned - taken out of schools and public libraries - because they find them to be inappropriate.  Sometimes you can kinda understand where the concern is based, though I personally think that if a book has been chosen by a (professionally trained and certified) teacher to be appropriate for a class, it probably is.  And sometimes, the ban is so incredibly silly that you can't even stand it.  (My favorite? Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr., was banned in 2010 from schools in Texas, because there was a book about Marxist communism that was published in 2008 by a man named Bill Martin.  A completely different Bill Martin, by the way.  They didn't even take the time to check if the guy they objected to was the same guy who wrote Brown Bear, and it wasn't - in fact, there's no way it could have been, because Bill Martin, Jr. died four years before the political book was published.)  

This week, we'll be talking about seven books that have been banned for various reasons.  Tonight's is Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh.  It was first published in 1964, though the cover shown here is the one from the 90's, which is the one I had when I first read it, even though I like the original cover better.  They did keep the original illustrations, though! 

Now, there aren't a lot of illustrations, but the ones that are really seem to enhance the text. Which is the point, of course.  
This illustration, for example, is our title character in her spy outfit, including jeans and a sweatshirt, sneakers so comfortable that they have holes over the pinky toes, and glasses with no glass in them (they make her look smarter).  She has has a spy tool belt, which she has usefully loaded down with pockets for her notebook and extra pens, a flashlight (in case she ever needs to be out after dark) and a boy scout knife with a collapsible knife and fork (which might come in handy eventually, although it hasn't yet).  Harriet puts on her outfit after school, before she goes out to find out what people are up to.  

Harriet has quite a list of people that she needs to keep track of.  There are her friends, of course, and her classmates, but the random people in the neighborhood are the most interesting.  And you know that the most interesting stuff isn't going to happen out in the open, so maybe she has to sneak into people's houses once in a while, maybe up a dumbwaiter every so often.  It's worth it - she writes down exactly what she sees and thinks, and she is always brutally honest.  For example, the first day of school invites the following note:

That's okay, though, because it's a private notebook.  It's not like anyone could ever read it... right?  It's not like any of her routines will ever change.  Until they do.

Harriet is a girl who likes her routines.  She has her parents and her nanny, Ole Golly, and her friends, and her spy routes, and every day she has a tomato sandwich for lunch. 

    "The next morning Mrs. Welsch asked, 'Wouldn't you like to try a ham sandwich, or egg salad, or peanut butter?' Her mother looked quizzically at Harriet while the cook stood next to the table looking enraged.
    'Tomato,' said Harriet, not even looking up from the book she was reading at breakfast.
     'Stop reading at the table."  Harriet put the book down.  "Listen, Harriet, you've taken a tomato sandwich to school every day for five years. Don't you get tired of them?'
     'How about cream cheese and olive?'
     Harriet shook her head. The cook threw up one arm in despair.
     'Pastrami? Roast beef? Cucumber?'

So be it.

Harriet the Spy Tomato Sandwiches
Your favorite bread (I used sourdough)
Fresh tomatoes
Condiments of your choosing

1) Slice the tomatoes into the desired thickness (Mine were about 1/4") and lay onto the bread.  Add condiments as desired.  

I cut my rounds in half, so I could make sure there was sandwich-wide coverage, like this: 


The tomato sandwiches are one of the things I remember about this story from when I read it years and years ago.  That, and the people she spied on, of course.  And that her middle name doesn't exist, so she gave herself a middle initial (it's M).  I love Harriet.  Unfortunately, some people don't, and her book was often criticized for teaching children to spy, be disrespectful, talk back to their parents, and curse.  And while I enjoyed every minute of this re-read, the critics do have a point: there's a part of me who wants a notebook and a toolbelt and a group of people to spy on.

Question of the day: If you could eat one thing for lunch every single day, what would it be?