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Literary Traveler’s Food Issue – December 2013

January 8, 2014 in Book Review, Christmas Literary Traveler, Cocktails Inspired by Literature, Cooking, Food, History, Holidays, Literary Food, New York Travel, Recipes

The holidays are behind us, and most of us are finally recuperated from the binge-eating extravaganza that can often be a more exhaustive sporting event than the Winter Olympics. Now, safely in the New Year, leftovers are passing their expiration dates, and as such, significantly lowering the chances of us dipping into them for a midnight snack. While we try to stick to resolutions of gym memberships and clean eating, we fall asleep at night dreaming of the pumpkin pies and cheesecakes of holidays past.

So, fittingly, as you up the incline on the treadmill and race into 2014, enjoy a tasty snack that you may have missed amid the hubbub of the holidays — our Food Issue! After all, reading about food doesn’t break any resolutions, right?

ARTICLE:

Southern Comfort: A Poet’s Biography of Antarctic Cuisine by Jessica Monk

Jess caught up with Antarctic poet and accidental food writer Jason Anthony at the Boston Book Festival and chatted with him about his latest work Hoosh: Roast Penguin, Scurvy Day, and Other Stories of Antarctic Cuisine. Now stateside, he shares historical anecdotes about the palatable oddities of Antarctic cuisine, how to spice up the culinary monotony at the bottom of the globe, and reflects on some pretty beautiful spaces with some equally beautiful words from his writing.

The greenhouse at McMurdo, where fresh vegetables are grown like living gemstones, is described in Hoosh as a verdant Eden where couples go to talk and kiss. Fresh vegetables are so prized down south that they have a nickname – “freshies” – that sounds like slang for an illegal drug. Whatever culinary rarities that can be begged, borrowed, or stolen are sought through swaps, trades and underground railroads of supply. Read more.

BOOKS:

In the Kitchen with Literary Traveler: 7 Cookbooks Inspired by Literature by Amanda Festa

Amanda explores the connection between food and literature with a list of cookbooks inspired by the culinary styling of literary favorites. From Southern fare inspired by True Blood (minus the human heart souffle, for which we are grateful) to Renaissance delicacies from the days of Shakespeare, there is something for every taste (literary and otherwise!). Highlights include luncheon with the eponymous girl detective, a dinner party with the original Austenian bad boy, and a Game of Thrones cookbook with the seal of approval from George R.R. Martin himself.

I’m not going to mince words here (although I am better at mincing words than I am at mincing anything edible), cookbooks have taken on a life of their own in recent years. No longer are they simply catalogs of recipes, organized rationally by time of day or dietary preference. Instead, they are literature in their own right, peppered with anecdotes, introductions, and sometimes characters. Read more.

TRAVEL:

A Rare Vintage: A Taste of Long Island Wine Country in 2013 by Jessica Monk

Planning a wine tour but want to avoid the heavily populated vineyards of Napa and the like? Or perhaps you want a wine experience a bit closer to home. If that home is the East Coast, we have just the thing. Go off the beaten vineyard path with a trip to the North Fork of Long Island, where farm-to-table restaurants and award-winning wineries make it the perfect place for a long vino-soaked weekend. We were so intrigued by the offerings of this local destination that we had to experience it for ourselves, and you should too!

Every vineyard seems to be guided by a different ethos. From chatting to locals and reading up on the growing reputation of these wines, we got the impression that now is the time to visit — when the stories of struggle and success are fresh in the memories of growers who staked out their territory in this pioneer region just decades ago. Read more.

FROM THE BLOG:

Have a Very Beery Christmas: Portland’s Annual Holiday Ale Fest by Antoinette Weil

Antoinette headed out in Portland, Oregon to see what all the fuss around their annual Holiday Ale Festival was about — turns out the hype is well deserved. She enjoyed some frosty beverages under heated tents in an even frostier Portland and spoke with the event organizer Preston Weezer about the outdoor venue, the massive attendance, and of course, the beer.

The ambient lighting and wafting aromas of roasted nuts blended with the sounds of laughter and cheers from bundled up strangers-turned-familiar faces to create a cozy and warm feeling for which December winds were no match. Read more.

 TOURS:

Italy’s First National Cookbook: From Farm to Table in Romagna

We are huge fans of Scolastica’s literary tours of Italy. From Dante’s Inferno to Boccaccio’s Decameron, the tours provide a perfect way to experience Italy through the classics. Jessica recently spoke with Scolastica founder, Kyle Hall, about his love of literature, his mission for Scolastica to be more than the average group travel experience, and his latest endeavor — a cookbook tour! Pellegrino Artusi’s 19th century work Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well, to be exact Read Jess’ interview with Kyle and check out Scolastica Tours for more on all of their travel offerings.

To offer a deeper and more vivid introduction to Italian life, Kyle began to develop tours based around foundational Italian texts… Kyle is particularly excited to talk about the cookbook tour as it’s an idea that was born spontaneously just 2 months ago out of a trip to the Romagna region to investigate extending the Dante tour there. Read more.

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Let us know what you thought of our Food Issue in the comments below, or tweet us using #LiteraryFood

 

Summer Reading Round-Up

September 26, 2013 in American Authors, American literature, Book Review, Classic Literature, Classic Writers, Summer Reading

I had an interesting start to LT’s Summer Reading Challenge. I was already immersed in two books from our extensive Summer Reading List (Herman Melville’s classic, Moby Dick and MT Anderson’s Feed) when the Challenge list was ultimately decided. Neither of these books made the list. Nevertheless, I vowed to finish them both and at least one or two of the challenge list books by the end of summer.

Once Labor Day, the unofficial end of the season has passed, I decided to continue this pursuit until the technical end of summer, which gave me until September 21st. And I needed the extra couple of weeks. Amazing, isn’t it, how one day you can be on such a roll, laying on the beach and reading for hours at a time, tearing through chapters, and then, seemingly in the blink of an eye, some form of “life” happens and the book gets stuffed in the bottom of your bag, not to see the light of day or reading lamp for weeks. This is what happened to me and why I am failing the summer reading list challenge. I lost momentum.

I like to read two books at once. I like one hard copy (NO, not an e-book, an actual book with paper and a cover and pages you can flip) for the beach and the outdoors, and one audio book for the car. I don’t usually get the stories mixed up, and I don’t find it difficult to follow two stories at once. But there is a significant difference in the amount of quality reading I can partake in at the beach versus in the car. The beach is for my reading the legal equivalent of what steroids are for a workout. With open space, the white noise of waves lapping at the shore, and the feeling of the sun warming my back, there is little distraction other than the occasional nap. In the car, on the other hand, there is many a distraction. A phone call, being late for work, a traffic jam, an interesting talk radio show, a favorite song (or that terrible one you can’t stop singing), all can cause my focus and my “reading” to slack severely.

That being said, I chose to listen to Moby Dick on Audio. Why? Because it’s free on the Audiobooks app and I had never read it before. Because I thought driving while consuming classic literature was a great use of multitasking abilities. And after the wonderful Charlotte Bronte Audiobooks experience, it seemed like a great idea. Now, only at chapter 89 of 136, I am starting to think I’ll need to double up, with an e-book and audiobook, if I’m to finish this before summer’s end…or before year’s end. To add insult to injury, this book is not even on the Summer Reading Challenge that I agreed to partake in.

Not to worry, though. In the meantime, while Moby Dick is snailing along, I read Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises for the first time. I completed the first half of the book in a day or two but then, after the aforementioned “life” experiences—weddings, weekends away, moving—I lost steam and took about three weeks to finish the remaining half. I’m a newcomer to Hemingway, having only read a book of short stories by the prolific author, so I was excited to get started and to experience the magic of Hemingway for myself. His style of writing, at once beautiful and yet simple and straightforward, makes one question how something so skillful can appear so effortless. The content of the stories, the places and well-developed but never cartoony characters, make one question whether her own limited life experience could ever warrant great writing. I won’t get too far into summary or review, but The Sun Also Rises was a long-anticipated journey into the world of Hemingway; one which I will be making again.

After the sun also rose and set, I dove into a book from our “fantasy” genre, E.B. Hudspeth’s The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black. When I say “dove in,” I mean that I am still swimming (and floating) in the sea of quirky darkness that is The Resurrectionist. A tumbler of scandal, science and docu-bio unveilings, this book has left me scratching my head wondering whether it’s fact or fiction. Seems too strange to be either. I’m midway through Dr. Black’s story, and I’m looking forward to getting to the good stuff. I’ll also be checking out the second volume of the book, an encyclopedia-esque index of sketches depicting mythical creatures and hair-raising skeletal structures thought, by Dr. Black, to be early descendants of humans. Just creepy enough to be interesting, but not enough to cause sleeplessness.

By the end of “summer” I hope to have finished four books from the LT Summer Reading list, two of which are LT Summer Reading Challenge books. Not to be mistaken for an overachiever, I’ve got a long way to go.

Fauxscar Nominee: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

December 19, 2012 in American Authors, Book Review, Fauxscars, Film, Literary Movies, Young Adult Literature

The movie adaptation of Stephen Chbosky’s well-loved 1999 novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, tries really hard, but doesn’t really succeed. Interestingly enough, Chbosky wrote and directed Perks himself, which could have resulted in a perfect adaptation, but which actually seemed to contribute to some of the move’s shortcomings. The story, as you probably know, is about the of the trials and tribulations of Charlie, an awkward adolescent boy, the very epitome of the shy, intelligent teen who can’t get out of his own head, who feels like he doesn’t belong.

The movie opens with his entry into high school, where he’s awash in an unforgiving and harsh landscape. Logan Lerman, the actor who plays Charlie, is far too good looking to be cast as a misfit, and his attempts at looking shy come across as emotionless and blank. His smile is too perfect to find the bullying he endures believable. Allusions to his troubling past (his best friend’s suicide, the death of his beloved Aunt Helen and a possible mental illness) are made throughout the movie, but due time is not given to his past, so Charlie’s current state of confusion and sadness is hard to empathize with or fully understand. Mostly by accident, Charlie is adopted by the other kids at school who don’t “fit in,” including the odd stepbrother-stepsister duo of Patrick (played by the dynamic Ezra Miller) and Sam (played by the charming Emma Watson). Patrick and Sam welcome Charlie into a world where he feels accepted, safe and loved. Things begin to look up for him—he learns how to eat a weed brownie, he goes to some parties, he exchanges Christmas gifts, and yes, he falls in love with Sam. His naïveté and earnestness is endearing, and, at times, a bit painful to watch—perhaps, in part, because the moments in which these things materialize remind us of our own adolescence.

Ezra Miller, with his gorgeous, sculpted cheekbones steals the show as the openly gay Patrick, who puts on a mean rendition of Rocky Horror Picture Show, a moment well worth watching. A cameo from Judd Aptow’s go-to, Paul Rudd, as the Charlie’s English teacher (you know, the one who “believes in him”), doesn’t carry the depth it should; instead, the character ends up just another corduroy-wearing-To-Kill-A-Mockingbird-reading English teacher. And while certain elements are cliché, the soundtrack is very well done. Featuring David Bowie’s Heroes and teen dream classics by Sonic Youth and The Samples, the sound track helps move the movie along, but still falls somewhat short of the mark.

As much as we want to care about Charlie, the reasons for his issues are left largely untouched, and addressed only through snapshots and brief flashbacks. As we watch him gain self-confidence, secure a girlfriend (even if he’s still in love with Sam) we find ourselves wondering, Does this kid really have it that bad? His family, (while maybe ineffectual and under involved) seem to truly care about him, and he doesn’t struggle with intellectual affairs. But as the movie comes to a close, and we watch Charlie’s life start to unravel, his problems seems to be somewhere far off.

Emma Watson does her darndest with the role of the bubbly, but somewhat lost, Sam, and the connection between Charlie and her is one of the more believable relationships Perks has to offer. Ultimately, Perks the movie attempts to make us feel something we can’t: a connection to the emotionally and philosophically advanced psyche of a young man. It was a heroic try, but the movie, unlike the novel, is easy to dismiss—something like closing the lid on a shoebox full of yearbooks and graduation tassels.

Fauxscar Nominee: Anna Karenina

December 18, 2012 in Book Review, Classic Literature, European Writers, Fauxscars, Leo Tolstoy, Literary Movies

Great film adaptations of classic novels are all alike; every junk Hollywood movie is terrible in its own way. Which way will the 2012 adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina go? We don’t know yet, but I can guess.

The 2012 adaptation of the tragic romance was released at the Toronto Film Festival, and so far, reviews have been mixed. Some critics have praised director Joe Wright’s “bold new structure,” which highlights the theatrical nature of the novel by setting most of the action on a stage, but others have called the thoroughly modern version of the Russian love story flat, even emotionally distant. The Hollywood Reporter goes so far to complain that “whereas the book is sprawling, searching and realistic, the film is constricted, deterministic and counterfeit.”

It’s particularly disappointing to read this review (and others like it) because I love Anna Karenina, and re-read it quite frequently, probably every other year. The 900-page novel is a massive undertaking, and I have to admit I often pick and choose which scenes I focus on. Some—like the lengthy descriptions of Levin farming—are tedious and forgettable. But others, particularly the scene when Anna enters the ballroom in her black, low-cut dress, sparkling and pale like a diamond, transform the way I view the world. They make me look in the mirror differently, searching for traces of aristocracy in my own winter-pale face. They make me consider the terrifying and all-consuming nature of love, and the many ramifications of betrayal.

Though I do want to see Anna Karenina, I can’t help but feel that no movie could truly do that book justice. I also wonder whether Keira Knightly, who has been cast as Anna, will be able to live up to the role. I always imagined Anna as voluptuous, lush and gorgeous. Keira is certainly beautiful, but she lacks a richness that infuses Tolstoy’s Anna. More than just pretty—a compliment more aptly applied to the girlish Kitty—Anna is rich, poised and erotic. Jude Law, cast in the role of her somber, dry husband, might seem like the more shocking choice, but Law has shown a great range in the past few years. I’m interested to see what he can do with a character I never liked and often skimmed past.

The trailer, too, gives me some hope. It’s beautiful to watch, and while some might worry about style over substance, I happen to love a perfectly choreographed film. It doesn’t hit theaters until November 16, but I can assure you, I’ll be watching.

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