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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Chocolate and Vanilla Egg Creams inspired by The Decent Proposal

Chocolate & Vanilla Syrup for Egg Creams and Beyond
What would you do if a private benefactor offered to give you $500,000 if, after 1  year's time, you've spent 2 hours a week for the entire year meeting and getting to know a person (of their choosing) that you'd never met before? That is the situation in which Richard and Elizabeth find themselves, two entirely different people with no obvious connection, in The Decent Proposal.

Richard is a handsome 29-year old producer dealing with the fact that the business he started with a buddy several years ago just isn't making any money. He's considering getting a job...anywhere...just to pay his bills.

Elizabeth is an 8-year associate in a law firm in which she logs more billable hours than any other associate, is polite but not friendly, doesn't socialize with her co-workers after hours, and eats lunch at her desk, earning her the nickname "La Máquina" (the machine).

Obviously they accept the challenge (or there would be no story), and these two opposites find themselves thrust into each other's lives. This is a love story, but as readers, we are shown the journey and not the result. At first, Richard and Elizabeth have a hard time connecting and their hours seem to drag on. But Richard suggests they treat their meetings as sort of a book/movie club.  They'll choose something to watch or read ahead of time and make that the conversation piece during their time together. This idea is just the ice-breaker they need to break the awkwardness between them and before long, their time together no longer drags.

I enjoyed the "oppositeness" of our main characters, as well as their supporting cast of friends, but I didn't feel any chemistry between Elizabeth and Richard. While opposites do attract, there are usually some common threads that bind them together naturally, and it was hard to find them between these two. In the end, I saw them start to form as they both mellowed out each other's extremes and found a common ground in music, but I think that's a whole nother book waiting to happen.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was full of fun pop culture references and a bit of intrigue. And while I thought the mysterious benefactor was revealed too soon and the attraction was revealed too late, it was fun to see everything else develop and unfold around them. For me, one of the best ideas of the story was process that Richard and Elizabeth used to get comfortable with each other—movies, books, and food—the perfect catalysts.

Speaking of food, I decided to make egg creams, the old-fashioned soda fountain drink to go along with this novel. Richard and his best friend Mike are discussing what they dubbed "the DP" (the Decent Proposal aka Elizabeth) and she (Mike is a girl) somewhat jealously teases him about what they are actually going to do with their time.

     "So what's the plan?" she said. "Are you gonna take her out for an egg cream with two straws in it and stare into her eyes?"

     "Mm, egg cream." He paused. "I dunno. We haven't set the first date yet."

-p.54 (ARC)

Chocolate and Vanilla Egg Creams inspired by The Decent Proposal
I thought it was fitting to make both a chocolate syrup and a vanilla syrup to flavor them, representing the "opposite yet connected" aspect of the story. You could also say that Richard is chocolate (life of the party and easy-going) and Elizabeth is so very vanilla (by the book and in the box).

Chocolate and Vanilla Egg Creams
This homemade version of the classic fountain treat egg creams is made with milk, seltzer water, and either chocolate or vanilla syrup.
Print Friendly and PDF
by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: n/a
Keywords: beverage American

Ingredients (varies)
    Vanilla Syrup:
    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    Chocolate Syrup:
    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    • pinch of fine sea salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    Egg Creams:
    • whole milk, cold
    • club soda or seltzer water
    • chocolate or vanilla syrup
    To Make the Vanilla Syrup:
    Bring sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Allow to cool completely. Store in a jar in the refrigerator (you'll have extra syrup).

    To Make the Chocolate Syrup:
    Bring sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the cocoa and salt; allow to simmer for 2 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Allow to cool completely. Store in a jar in the refrigerator (you'll have extra syrup).

    To Make the Egg Creams:
    Pour 1 inch of milk into the bottom of 2 cold (9-11 ounce) glasses (freeze them ahead of time if you can). Slowly pour club soda or seltzer water into each glass, leaving at least an inch of space at the top; use a long spoon to stir vigorously until foamy at the top.

    Pour 2 tablespoons of your choice of syrup (chocolate or vanilla) down the side of each glass and stir only at the bottom with the long spoon, trying to keep the foam intact. Enjoy immediately.

    The Decent Proposal by Kemper Donovan

    The Decent Proposal
    author: Kemper Donovan
    publisher: Harper (April 5, 2016)
    source: TLC Book Tours
    hard cover: 320 pages
    "foodie" read: No, but there is lots of mentions of food.

    random excerpt: He moved instinctively toward a savory smell wafting from the kitchen, so strong he could practically see it in wavy lines. He hadn't eaten a proper meal all day, thanks to his hangover, and suddenly he was starving, ready to bury his troubles in food like a boy who's skinned his knee and requires nothing more than an edible treat to make it better. p. 159 (ARC)

    teaser: A humorous, heartfelt love story built on a tantalizing premise: would you agree to spend two hours a week with a stranger—just talking—to collect half a million dollars at the end of a year?

    Struggling Hollywood producer Richard is twenty-nine, hungover, and broke. Ridiculously handsome with an easy charm, he spends his days procrastinating at the Coffee Bean and nights hanging out with his best friend, Michaela, aka “Mike.”

    At thirty-three, Elizabeth is on track to make partner at her law firm. Known as “La Máquina”—the Machine—to her colleagues, she’s grown used to a quiet, orderly life with no romantic entanglements of any kind. (Her closest friend is an old man who discusses Virginia Woolf with her at the beach. Enough said.)

    Richard and Elizabeth have never met before, but their paths collide when they receive a proposal from a mysterious, anonymous benefactor: they’ll split a million dollars if they agree to spend at least two hours together every week for a year. Both are shocked and suspicious, and agree the idea is absurd, but after Richard anxiously considers the state of his bank account and Elizabeth carefully conducts a cost-benefit analysis of the situation, they agree to give it a try.

    As these two perfect strangers wade awkwardly into the waters of modern courtship, discovering a shared affection for In-N-Out burgers, classic books, cult-hit movies, and various Los Angeles locales, they realize that uncovering the secret identity of their benefactor will not only make clear what connects them but change them both forever.

    This delightful tale is full of twists, revelations, and above all love in its multitude of forms.

    Kemper Donovanabout the author: Kemper Donovan has lived in Los Angeles for the past twelve years. A graduate ofStanford University and Harvard Law School, he worked at the literary managementcompany Circle of Confusion for a decade, representing screenwriters and comic books. He is also a member of the New York Bar Association.

    connect with the author: twitter

    recipe inspired by the book: Chocolate and Vanilla Egg Creams

    To see more reviews and opinions on this book, click the book tour button on the left to check out the other stops on the TLC Book Tour for The Decent Proposal!

    I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.