Recommended Reading 003

Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud by Anne Helen Petersen

“While there are notable differences in the complexity, nuance, allusion, artistic innovation and experimentation found in mass, mid, and high culture, the argument that one is intrinsically more valuable that the others is, of course, fundamentally elitist. It’s not accident that this sort of cultural work…is often the pet project of men, generally with vested interests in maintaining hierarchies calibrated to their particular and exclusive definitions, which delegitimize culture that provides pleasure and meaning to audiences largely composed of women. If we authenticate and declare our worth and class in no small part through the objects we consume, then labeling the objects consumed by women as ‘less than’ effectively delegitimizes and devalues women’s place in the world.”

 

One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul

“Shopping reveals the id in all of us. At blowout sales, I am ready to cold-cock other women also trying on size 10 work-appropriate cocktail dresses that hide their shame (upper arms) while promoting their glory (elegant pinkies and/or pillow-butt). In the changing room, attempting to shove your misshapen body into the size you think you should be rather than the size you are usually leads to some form of weeping while screaming, ‘IT’S FINE, I’LL JUST WEAR A BAG OF FLOUR AROUND MY BODY UNTIL I DEHYDRATE ENTIRELY AND CAN DIE IN PEACE.’ Opening your closet to find that you hate every item of clothing you have ever bought is a specific circle of hell: hanger after hanger of poly-cotton blend T-shirts, all with thick layers of deodorant crusted on the armpits, every skirt ironed so poorly it’s on the verge of unravelling if you swivel too fast in it, your shoes just leather hunks you force your bunions into.”

 

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

“I began to feel afraid, occupying someone so accomplished. And yet, I was comfortable in there. And suddenly, wanted him to know me. My life. To know us. Our lot. I don’t know why I felt that way but I did. He had no aversion to me, is how I might put it. Or rather, he had once had such an aversion, still bore traces of it, but, in examining that aversion, pushing it into the light, had somewhat, already, eroded it. He was an open book. An opening book. That had just been opened up somewhat wider. By sorrow. And–by us. By all of us, black and white, who had so recently mass-inhabited him. He had not, it seemed, gone unaffected by that event. Not at all. It had made him sad. Sadder. We had. All of us, white and black, had made him sadder, with our sadness. And now, though it sounds strange to say, he was making me sadder with his sadness, and I thought, Well, sir, if we are going to make a sadness party of it, I have some sadness about which I think someone as powerful as you might like to know. And I thought, then, as hard as I could, of Mrs. Hodge, and Elson, and Litzie, and of all I had heard during our long occupancy in that pit regarding their many troubles and degradations, and called to mind, as well, several others of our race I had known and loved…and all the things that they had endured, thinking, Sir, if you are as powerful as I feel that you are, and as inclined toward us as you seem to be, endeavor to do something for us, so that we might do something for ourselves. We are ready sir; are angry, are capable, our hopes are coiled up so tight as to be deadly, or holy: turn us loose, sir, let us at it, let us show what we can do.”

 

The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy

“I wanted what she had wanted, what we all want: everything. We want a mate who feels like family and a lover who is exotic, surprising. We want to be youthful adventurers and middle-aged mothers. We want intimacy and autonomy, safety and stimulation, reassurance and novelty, coziness and thrills. But we can’t have it all.”

“You have an affair because you are not getting what you want from your loved one. You want more: more love, more sex, more attention, more fun. You want someone to look at you with lust–after years of laundry–transforming you into something radiant. You want it, you need it, you owe it to yourself to get it. To live any other way is to be muffled and gray and marching meaninglessly toward death. You want what she gave you at the start (but what you had hoped would expand and intensify instead of shrinking until you find yourself so sad, so resentful, you can barely stand to be you).
You have an affair to get for yourself what you wish would come from the person you love the most. And then you have broken her heart and she can never give you any of it ever again.”

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My Favorite Cookbooks

Let’s talk cookbooks. I am a cookbook lover. All the possibilities that await! All the learning I can do! All the tasty foods to try! I’m a sucker for it. Admittedly, I have my fair share of cookbooks that I got excited about in the store, and then never really used them once they got home. But there are quite a few I pull out on a weekly basis, and these are just a few that I’d like to share with you.

20140805-205924-75564081.jpg   It is not an exaggeration to say that this cookbook changed how I eat. I am not a vegan by any means, but I love every recipe she has put in here, and my body has responded so well to its new levels of protein and vegetables being eaten. Everything Angela does is so well-executed, from the sauces accompanying the dish, to the depth of flavor she can introduce. She even has a recipe for nacho dip! It was that dip that converted me to an Oh She Glows lover. If the idea of vegan dishes is gross or even sacrilegious to you, please try one of her recipes. I am always shocked that something so good for you can also taste so good (and really fill me up!) Most of my recipes these days come from here (I’d say at least 3-4 per week!), and my body is loving me for it.   20140805-205925-75565164.jpg   I’ll admit, I was skeptical about buying a “celebrity” cookbook, but this one has proven its worth time and time again. While she does have a small handful of more complicated dishes, like homemade lobster rolls or paella, the large majority are incredibly simple, with very basic, easy to find ingredients. From delicious pasta recipes, to amazing breakfast muffins, to brisket and chicken milanese (a favorite!), I find myself repeatedly pulling ol’ Gwyn off the shelf to help me whip up something that tastes like I spent hours making it, when it really only took 30 minutes. (My new favorite recipe that we just tried this week is her Vietnamese prawn sandwich [we used shrimp]. I couldn’t believe I could make a banh mi-style sandwich that tasted so good and was that easy! Truly. I could keep raving, but I’ll spare you.) 20140805-205925-75565946.jpg   This is one of my favorites for so many reasons. It’s incredibly photo-saturated, in the best way. Every step has a gorgeous photo showing you exactly how it should look, with extremely clear instructions. The first page of every recipe even shows all the ingredients laid out- it’s beautiful! Not to mention, it’s pretty hard to goof up when it’s spelled out that clear for you. Besides the photos, the book is organized so well, and contains everything from classics like margherita pizza and macaroni and cheese, to yummy things I never would have thought of, like a spicy asian soup. She also has a whole section for “long weekends,” and it’s from here that I devote a lot of time in the winters making soups, stews, roast chicken, and my favorite- coq au vin. I’ve even made chicken wings and loaded potato skins from scratch! So much better than buying those boxes from the freezer aisle (albeit, a bit more time consuming). I highly recommend it, for both seasoned cooks and newbies alike, as it’s an easy one to learn from and get your feet wet.

 

Do you have a favorite place to pull recipes from? I’d love to hear! I’m always looking for more inspiration.

Recommended Reading | 001

Mr_Penumbra's_24-Hour_Bookstore  Alice Munro

Heat  On-Beauty-book-cover

 

I wanted to start a series, and it didn’t take me long to come up with the topic. As anyone who knows me, even a little bit, can tell you, I am a major bibliophile. There are only two things I absolutely must do every single day, and one of those is read (the other is eat, and that could really be the subject of another series…). I am always, always reading.
One of my favorite things about reading is the community it brings between people. I love asking and being asked the question, “What are you reading these days?” It’s so much more personal than a bland, “How are you?” and it opens up a whole new side of someone that you might not otherwise get to see. Books are by far the best educators I can think of; they bring playfulness and creativity to a subject, open up imagination, teach history and language, unfold the human condition, and evoke all the emotions you can imagine. What classroom have you been in that does all of that? Books are my friends. Books are the path I have traveled on my entire life. They show me myself, they show me the unknown, they show me the faces and facets of so many things. I would not be who I am, and I would not have the passion for life that I do were it not for the books that brought me here.
So, I’m starting a series on books I’ve recently read and loved. They will cover a pretty wide range of topics, so hopefully you’ll come across something you haven’t before. I’d like to be clear that I certainly don’t think I know everything about books; quite the contrary. A lot of the things I tend to read these days are things I probably should have read years ago. Most of the titles you’ll see today, for example, were written back when I was in high school, almost a decade ago. I’m a little late in catching up, you see. But it’s ok! I’m here now, awakening to authors whom the rest of the country have lauded for years, and now I’m understanding why. That’s what I love about books; they tend to find you right when you need them. It’s kind of spiritual, in a way.
I hope you enjoy this series, and I’d love to hear what you’re reading these days! It is, after all, my favorite question. So without further ado, the first installment of Recommended Reading. With each title I’ll give a super-brief summary and/or why I liked it, and a favorite snippet. Here we go!

 


Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
, Robin Sloan

I loved this book- it was a quick and easy read that kept me on my couch for two straight days. Weighing in on the importance of both technology and books, this novel undertakes one of our modern debates: how do we improve our world, what can (or can’t) technology do for us, and why do we still need books and the people who love them? Take all of this and throw in a Dan Brown-type secret society, and you’re in for a fun, yet thoughtful ride.

“I pushed open the bookstore’s glass door. It made a bell tinkle brightly up above, and I stepped slowly through. I did not realize at the time what an important threshold I had just crossed.
Inside: imagine the shape and volume of a normal bookstore turned up on its side. This place was absurdly narrow and dizzyingly tall, and the shelves went all the way up–three stories of books, maybe more. I craned my neck back (why do bookstores always make you do uncomfortable things with your neck?) and the shelves faded smoothly into the shadows in a way that suggested they might just go on forever.
The shelves were packed close together, and it felt like I was standing at the border of a forest–not a friendly, California forest, either, but an old Transylvanian forest, a forest full of wolves and witches and dagger-wielding bandits all waiting just beyond moonlight’s reach. There were ladders that clung to the shelves and rolled side to side. Usually those seem charming, but here, stretching up into the gloom, they were ominous. They whispered rumors of accidents in the dark.”

Runaway, Alice Munro

This was my first time reading this award-winning author, and her short stories are absolutely breathtaking. Understated yet powerful, Munro weaves tales of small-town folks where most of the action happens under the surface. Her lyricism alone is enough to keep you enthralled. Like the show Mad Men, it’s what ‘s not being said that gives these stories their depth and impact.

“After that they spoke about the coolness of the evening, how welcome it was, and how the nights had lengthened noticeably, though there was still all August to get through. And about Juno, how she had wanted to come with them but had settled down immediately when he reminded her that she had to stay and guard the shop. This talk felt more and more like an agreed-upon subterfuge, like a conventional screen for what was becoming more inevitable all the time, more necessary, between them.
But in the light of the railway depot, whatever was promising, or mysterious, was immediately removed. There were people lined up at the window, and he stood behind them, waiting his turn, and bought her ticket.” (from “Tricks”)

Heat, Bill Buford

A somewhat bumbling but energetic home cook, Buford wanted to know what it was that separates a restaurant cook from a home cook. So he went to work for Mario Batali at his famous Manhattan restaurant, Babbo, and his journey from kitchen slave, to Italian pasta-maker and butcher is hilarious, eye-opening, and just plain fun. It made me realize that I will never be a professional chef, but I certainly do love reading about their swashbuckling ways back in the sweat and heat of a restaurant kitchen.

“Again the ticker tape. This was starting to feel like a sporting event. Sweat was running off my nose, and I was moving fast, as fast as my concentration allowed, flipping, turning, poking, being burned, one row pointing to the right, another to the left, poking again, stacking up meat here, rushing over the branzinos that had been waiting for a spot, turning, the flames in the corner of the grill still burning, fed by the fat cascading off the new orders. Again the ticker tape. My mind was at full capacity, with only one stray thought, a question, repeated over and over again: What happens if I fall behind? And still there were more: lamb medium, lamb m.r. What’s wrong with these people? I was surrounded by meat. Meat on the grill. Meat on the seasoning tray. Meat on the resting tray, in big heaps. So much meat that it no longer seemed like meat. Or maybe it seemed exactly like meat. It was tissue and muscle and sinews. And still more orders. ‘This is the buzz,’ Memo whispered, still behind me. ‘This is what you live for,’ Andy said, picking up plates from the pass, adding, mysteriously, ‘it feels really fucking good.’ And the remark remained in my head for the rest of the night, and I thought hard about what I was feeling: exhilaration, fear, weirdness, some physical-endorphin-performance thing. But good? It was, I concluded, my first glimpse of what Mario had described as ‘the reality of the kitchen’– a roomful of adrenaline addicts.”

On Beauty, Zadie Smith

A rivalry between two men becomes heightened when their families begin to intermingle against their wishes. The more these families get to know the others, the more the cracks in their own worlds begin to show. Some of the most beautiful writing I have come across in a while, where the simplest of sentences can stop you in your tracks.

“Her little audience guffawed, pretending to a worldliness none of them had earned.
Ron gripped her chummily round the shoulders. ‘The wages of sin, etcetera,’ he said as they began to walk, and then, ‘Whither morality?’
‘Whither poetry?’ said Hannah.
‘Whither my ass?’ said Daisy, and nudged Zora for one of her cigarettes. They were smooth and bright, and their timing was wonderful, and they were young and hilarious. It was really something to see, they thought, and this was why they spoke loudly and gestured, inviting onlookers to admire.
Tell me about it,’ said Zora, and flicked open the carton.
And so it happened again, the daily miracle whereby interiority opens out and brings to bloom the million-petaled flower of being here, in the world, with other people. Neither as hard as she had thought it might be nor as easy at it appeared.”