Okay first, for those who aren't familiar with those abbreviations, HEA stands for Happily Ever After; HFN stands for Happy For Now.
In classic romance, the "required" ending is always HEA. It's what readers expect and it's what writers deliver. Some contemporary romances, however, end with an HFN feeling--the characters end on a happy note, but HEA isn't a solid guarantee. (There's also "bittersweet" romance, but simply do not do bittersweet--that's like at the end of that episode of Children of Earth where you know Jack and Ianto are in love, but Ianto is dying in Jack's arms and it's sweet and beautiful and you're sobbing your eyes out because it's not fair. And that episode is exactly why I can no longer handle bittersweet in any shape or form).
But I digress...
When I wrote my second novel, Bound:Forget Me Knot, I intended the ending to read "Happily Ever After". (Okay, spoilers ahead). When Henry puts the lock on Jason's collar, after warning Jason that Jason doesn't get the key... to me, that's a pretty solid ending. But not everyone who read it thought so; a number of people interpreted that as "Happy for Now" (perhaps because Henry doesn't return Jason's "I love you". I could tell you why he didn't say it, but we'll save that explanation for the sequel ;-) He did sort of tell Jason--and readers--why he doesn't like to say things in the heat of the moment earlier in the book).
I don't mind that readers didn't see the same HEA I do; they didn't get a look into Henry's brain and some folks didn't quite understand what Henry meant when he said he hadn't had sex with anyone since he met Jason. What it did do was to get me thinking about what makes Happily Ever After. Is it "I love you?" How many teenagers say that?
Is it wedding bells? As a two-time divorcee, I can tell you that walking down the aisle doesn't necessarily mean Happily Ever After. You want it to, but sometimes stuff just happens. I know a number of readers did say they wished there would have been "more story", more of what happened after Jason moved in with Henry--but that really is it's own story. (Look for it right here on this blog on Christmas!) Others said they wished I'd done an epilogue; I did one in my first book, but their story needed it. I didn't feel as if Jason and Henry's tale needed to wrapped up all "Sweet and Tidy". But maybe after two divorces, I'm just too cynical.
It's not that I don't believe in Happily Ever After, it's that I don't think there's any one moment that can define it. I think each moment we chose to make our relationship work is a Happy For Now moment and if you string enough of those Happy For Nows together, you end up with
I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on the subject :D
And on that note... today's recipe is one of my favorite (if time consuming) endevors:
Italian Wedding Soup
This definitely takes some planning--or you can break it down into two steps, and make the meatballs the day before. These, by the way, are the meatballs I make for almost everything. The original recipe calls for ground beef, but I really, really love this with ground chicken, or when I can't find that, ground turkey. I imagine they'd be good with ground lamb, too, especially in a soup like this...hmmm.... I may have to try that next time!
Okay, here goes...
For the Meatballs:
- 1 1/2 lb ground meat (beef, chicken, turkey, lamb)
- 1 small onion minced fine (I prefer a Spanish or vidalia onion because they're both sweet)
- 3 cloves of garlic minced fine (more or less to taste, but you don't want to overpower it with garlic)
- 2 egg, beaten
- 4 Tablespoons shredded romano cheese (feel free to substitute parmesan or asiago--or mix and match!)
- 2 BIG carros, shredded
- 2 teaspoon fresh parsley chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/3 cup of your favorite Italian bread crumbs
- Olive oil (for sauteeing)
Meatballs aren't difficult to make, they're just very time consuming. Begin by sauteeing the onions and carrots in olive oil, on very low heat until the onions are translucent and the carrots are tender. Then add the garlic and sautee for another few minutes. I usually add the parsley to this mix as well, just to wilt it a little.
Remove from heat and let cool. In while it's cooling, you can assemble the remaining ingredients in a large bowl; simply mix it all together with your (clean!) hands--or wear latex gloves because yeah, it's a little gross. After the veggies have cooled, add it to the mix and mix well. I don't rinse out my pan, but sautee the meatballs right in the same oil because it's full of oniony, garlicy goodness!
The thing with meatballs for soup is that they need to be bite sized. So you're going to be there a while. Roll out your meatballs and cook them on low heat until brown. I usually brown mine in the skillet and then put them in the oven to finish cooking for about 20 minutes on 350; unless it's summer. Then I either use the toaster oven (in smaller batches), or simply cook them in the skillet a little longer. They will have some cook-time in the soup, but I'm really careful when it comes to ground meat.
Now, for the soup you'll need:
- More olive oil for sauteeing
- 1 small/medium onion (Spanish or vidalia) minced fine
- 1 bag (usually a pound) of spinach chopped fine
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 Tablespoons fresh parsley
- 1 teaspoon EACH dried basil, thyme, oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary (I find rosemary pretty strong, that's why I only use half a teaspoon)
- 3 boxes of low sodium / low fat chicken broth
- Celery; you can either be like most people and chop up 2 stalks or like me and use celery powder (about a quarter teaspoon is usually just right)
- 3 BIG carrots, either shredded or chopped fine
- 1 1/2 cups orzo; I tend to like a lot of pasta so I usually make it two cups (but then my husband says there's too much pasta); some recipes only call for one cup of pasta. (Any small pasta will do, I happen to be very fond of orzo)
- 2 cans artichoke hearts (not traditional, but I really love artichoke!) Chopped
- More cheese and parsley for garnish
In a stock pot, once again, begin by sauteeing the onion and carrot (I can't stand hard crunchy carrots) and celery if you're using fresh/raw--remember LOW heat. Once everything is tender, add the minced garlic and let it go for another few minutes. Add the broth and herbs. Simmer for a few minutes to bring it up to a light boil. Add the pasta and lower heat; cook until tender (about 10 minutes), stirring frequently to avoid burning/sticking. The reason I don't add the meatballs just yet is because you're going to be stirring frequently and I don't want to risk breaking them. Add more liquid if necessary. After the pasta is tender, I add my artichoke hearts and spinach, then slowly put in the meatballs and simmer a little bit longer until everything is nice and hot. Stir it very gently.
Serve topped with parsley and cheese--yum!
And don't forget:
I'd LOVE to hear your thoughts on HEA vs. HFN.
What makes a story HEA?