Noon dominated sea and sky–even the white line of Cannes, five miles off, had faded to a mirage of what was fresh and cool; a robin-breasted sailing boat pulled in behind it a strand from the outer, darker sea. It seemed that there was no life anywhere in all this expanse of coast except under the filtered sunlight of those umbrellas, where something went on amid the color and the murmur. -F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tender is the Night)
I’ve been on a real reading bender these past few weeks, whipping through novels about vampires and witches, a collection of disturbing short stories–almost a novella–by Alice Munro, the latest gumshoe novel from J.K. Rowling. You could say I’ve been hungry, hungry for words (and also quince paste, which, as the photo above might indicate, I am drowning in. I have dachshund-shaped quince paste and flower-shaped quince paste; clearly, I will be eating cheese plates until my arteries clog). There is simply something about this time of year that makes me reach for stories, fall more eagerly into the promise of fictional worlds. Call it holiday escapism or just escapism in general (our world is bleak; can you blame me?), but there is wonder to be found in the written word. Given all the reading I’ve done this year, I plan on doing a roundup of my favorite books, including cookbooks, but according to my ambitious December blogging schedule, this won’t be happening for another week.
Until then, I offer you links to the articles and recipes that have gotten me either thinking, inspired or angry these past few weeks. This may just be, besides the list I gave you in August, my favorite food for thought collection this year:
I opened the daily New Yorker email I receive a few days ago to find an excerpt from Jhumpa Lahiri’s forthcoming collection of essays, which she wrote in Italian and which has been translated into English by Ann Goldstein (the same woman who translated Elena Ferrante’s novels). Details aside, it was amazingly written, some of the most vulnerable and seemingly honest prose I’ve read in a long time. And, for those of us who have either struggled to find our way in another language or to change ourselves in an attempt to be more true to our ideas of ourselves, this piece will have something to offer you. 
Thoughts on life’s strangeness and how this strangeness is translated into fiction. And, as a companion piece, a literary study of the real, realist, realistic and false.
It has seemed lately that universities (or maybe I should say the undergraduates at most universities) have gone mad. Case in point, this article; is it the phrase “house master” that is offensive, or is it just the word master? If so, shall we no longer have Master’s degrees, either? That this could be the next step is alarming. While I don’t agree with everything this article says about students and their expectations of universities and society, I feel that one of the author’s conclusions–that sometimes these students must simply hear the word “no”–resonates with truth.
This article on suffragists and how used the cookbook as a means of subversion is full not only of sass and female power, but also of fun facts. For example, did you know that the graham cracker, beloved component of most cheesecake crust, was invented “to help Americans tame their sexual desires?”
I don’t do a gift guide on this blog, but I will suggest that, for the (female or maybe male?) chocolate lover in your lives, you consider getting the Chocolate Short Stack edition special (I love these little books and this one does not disappoint), which comes with a chocolate-flavored lip balm. The company Short Stack paired up with is based in Brooklyn (where else?) and makes a variety of lip balms; I love the chocolate one, but I am also sorely tempted by the thought of Negroni-scented lips.
A holiday baking round up by Melissa Clark; I want to bake and eat it all.
Inspired holiday fare for vegetarians.
While my family was here, not only did I introduce my grandparents to quinoa and nutritional yeast (they liked both!), but we also cooked up a storm–and not just on Thanksgiving. Their presence (and assistance) inspired me to make these pumpkin chestnut gnocchi (they did all the work for these, really) and this flavorful red cabbage, date and feta salad
As I’ve been on a bit of vegan/coconut oil/nut milk kick lately, I was also thrilled that they liked the vegan carrot ginger bisque I had made before their arrival enough to ask for the recipe!
I’ve been trying to find a sunny day to take pictures of a cauliflower recipe I came up with one night in the kitchen that seemed more than blog worthy, but unfortunately sunny weather is rare here these days. Until I get my chance, I offer you my other current favorite cauliflower recipe, which will truly change how you think about cauliflower. For those of you who prefer broccoli to cauliflower, I think you might just be missing out, though this recipe from Rome shows that broccoli has its charm, too.
I wasn’t sure about Master of None when Netflix kept trying to convince me to watch it. I am, however, so so glad that I did (Emily Nussbaum’s review does a fantastic job of capturing the show’s charms and deficiencies). Episodes 2 and 9 were my favorites. And now it’s onto Jessica Jones.
Finally, did you know that there was a real prize for the worst sex scene in literature? Until this past weekend, I didn’t. I think this year’s winner truly deserved the honor, though.

2 thoughts on “Food for Thought

  1. I am jealous of all your reading! I have not cracked many books of late, though am still slowly making my way through Blue Highways and listening to a lot of Undisclosed while doing the dishes. The unbelievable amount of injustice not just in this particular case but in countless others makes my blood boil, and those dishes get REAL clean. Ha! Yes, I am so glad you liked Master of None. I watched a bit of it with my mom and then devoured the rest of it. And now shall wait impatiently for more! I heard about Lahiri's new book a few weeks ago, and it is on my list already! It sounds intoxicating. Also, congratulations on all that beautiful quince paste! It puts me in mind of a quince grater, which puts me in mind of The Museum of Innocence, which makes me think of those funny pictures from your dinner party ages and ages ago, in which I was making all kinds of passioned expressions while talking about how that novel so utterly gutted me. A gorgeous read! And, finally, when I saw that top picture, I thought perhaps you were making some special meat pies for the pup? Ha! Clearly I just need more quince paste in my life! XO

  2. Haha, I still remember the photos from that dinner party; I'm running around in a purple frilly dressing and pearls, looking like a cross between Betty Draper and Betty Crocker, and everybody else looks so elegant, save for the horrible paper plates and plastic silverware (who could be bothered to do so many dishes in the midst of exam prep, though?). 🙂 What crazy days!

    While the pup would certainly love some meat pies, she does oddly seem to like quince paste, too. To be honest, she's not terribly discriminating when it comes to food, although, like any self-respecting Berkeley dog, she likes her apples to from the farmers' market (I suspect her taste buds, which are supposedly infinitely better than ours, doesn't like the taste of waxed apples from the grocery store).

    And here's to a year of more reading for both of us! I had thought I was doing so well (and I was), but when I looked at my end-of-the-year reading list for my latest post, it turned out I had read only about 24 books. I suppose 2/month isn't a bad average, but it simply felt like so much more…But I suppose that's what happens when you a) start the year with Dickens (Bleak House took a little over a month) and b) watch more than your fair share of TV.


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