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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

 

Behind the Article: Taking a Closer look at “Literary Brooklyn Heights”

August 18, 2012 in Behind The Article, Literary Festivals, New York Travel

 

Join Literary Traveler as we go ‘behind the article’ with Norm Goldstein, author of our August 13th article, “Literary Brooklyn Heights.”  After reading about the wealth of literary history in Brooklyn, we were very excited to learn more about the past, present and future of the borough and all it has to offer the literary traveler.

 Literary Traveler:  So much is written about city life at the turn of the century.  Do you think more attention needs to be paid to Brooklyn?

Norm Goldstein:  Brooklyn, I’m pleased to say, certainly is getting its share of attention these days. It’s the new “in” place; Brooklyn is cool. And it is deserving of the attention. It’s changed dramatically for the better, especially in the last dozen years or so. Its history is fascinating, from the days of the early Dutch settlers through the Revolutionary War to its growth after the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, then the subway extension.  And it all started in Brooklyn Heights, called Breukelen by the Dutch.

LT:  You mention a few books on the topic in your article.  Is there one book on the subject that you would recommend to those interested in reading more?

NG:  I recommend February House  by Sherill Tippins for those interested in more about that unique gathering of talent in one Brooklyn Heights house in the pre-World War II years and Literary Brooklyn  by Evan Hughes for the broader picture.

LT:  How do you feel Brooklyn influenced the work of the writers who have lived there?  Do you think this has changed over the years?

NG:  In earlier times, there’s no question that the lure was cheaper rents. In 1939, W.H. Auden was talked into moving to the so-called February House from his apartment a few blocks away because he’d save money.

This has certainly changed over the years; rents in Brooklyn Heights are far from cheap today. But there is the lure of a quieter space than the usually frenetic Manhattan, the peaceful views from the waterfront, and, of course, Brooklyn’s unique idiosyncrasies — and characters — enough literary fodder for a lifetime of novels.

LT:  Who is your personal favorite writer who lived and worked in Brooklyn in the 19th or early 20th century?  Tell us a little about your choice.

NG:  For that period, I’d have to choose the poets, Whitman and Hart Crane. The latter is a personal favorite for his poem about the Brooklyn Bridge.  I often walk to the Promenade overlooking the bridge and the East River for substantially the same view he had when he described the fusion of “harp and altar” and feel his passion.

LT:  For those unfamiliar with Brooklyn, what is the best way for a new visitor to experience the area?

NG:  Brooklyn is a huge borough, a conglomeration of hundreds of distinct neighborhoods; it’s impossible to see it all. There are bus tours for an overview of some of it, but I suggest a walking tour of Brooklyn Heights, beginning with a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge to get there.

LT:  For Literary Travelers visiting Brooklyn, do you have any off the beaten path suggestions of things they should see and do?

NG:  Plan a visit during the Brooklyn Book Festival.

(Editor’s note: The year the  Brooklyn Book Festival  is taking place Sunday, September 23rd, with preliminary events beginning on September 17th.  According to the Festival’s  website, “The Brooklyn Book Festival is the largest free literary event in New York Citypresenting an array of literary stars and emerging authors who represent the exciting world of literature today. One of America’s premier book festivals, this hip, smart, diverse gathering attracts thousands of book lovers of all ages.”  This year’s festival boasts appearances by Dennis Lehane, Mary Higgins Clark and Joyce Carol Oates, among others.)

LT: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us.  I look forward to exploring Brooklyn in more depth, and I have a feeling that our readers will be similarly inspired.

‘Girls’: HBO’s new comedy about ‘sex and the city’

August 14, 2012 in Comedy, New York Travel, Television, Women Writers

HBO’s new comedy, Girls,  has everything I look for in a television show.  It is smartly written, raucously witty and excruciatingly relatable.  It is a startlingly refreshing comedy in both its dry humor and acerbic social commentary. Yet, because its premise involves four single gals living in New York City, it has quickly drawn comparisons to HBO’s other female-centric comedy, Sex and the City.  While Girls  is clearly its own animal, the similarities are there. Take away the money, the clothes and the careers and it could be a prequel of sorts, had the SATC girls been twentysomethings in 2012.  Girls  is a self-deprecating un-photoshopped Sex and the City,  where pink cosmopolitans with perfectly curled lemon peel garnish are replaced with Solo cups of warm craft beer.

26-year-old Lena Dunham writes, directs and stars in the HBO comedy, produced by Judd Apatow of Bridesmaids  fame, which just finished its first season and is slated to return this winter.  Dunham graduated from Oberlin College with a degree in creative writing and first made waves with the independent film Tiny Furniture.

Discussing Girls  in a New York Times interview, Dunham said, “I get to look at so many aspects of what it means to be a woman, of what it means to live in an urban environment.”   While the shows are quite different and air over a decade apart, the same statement could have been made by the writers of Sex in the City  in 1998.

Girls  is very aware of the comparison and pokes fun at the association while simultaneously paying homage to their television predecessor.  Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) has a SATC  poster prominently displayed on the wall of her apartment, and refers to her cousin Jessa (Jemima Kirke) as “definitely a Carrie, with some Samantha aspects, and Miranda hair.”  It is clear to anyone watching, who had also been a fan of SATC,  that naïve and virginal Shoshanna is a Charlotte, and Jessa, who misses an appointment at the women’s health clinic to have sex in a bar bathroom, is most obviously a Samantha.  This makes the responsible and sometimes uptight Marnie (Allison Williams) the Miranda of the group and aptly leaves the main character Hannah to clumsily fill Carrie’s Manolo Blahniks.

At the same time that they accentuate it, the apparent similarities are paradoxically what expose the core differences of the two shows. Hannah is Carrie…in real life.  Hannah is all of us in real life.  Those of us who watched Sex and the City  related to the women’s relationship struggles, but most us didn’t have the closets or six pack abs to match.  Hannah is us, only funnier.  While Sex and the City  projects itself as older, wiser, and wearing better shoes, Girls  is its awkward, uncoordinated and downright hilarious younger sister.

One of the major tropes of SATC  was the rift between women in their twenties and women in their thirties.  In a season 2 episode, Samantha exclaims, “These girls in their twenties, they’re so spoiled and ungrateful, they think they’re it,” to which Miranda replies, “because the world validates their delusion.”  Girls  does not validate this delusion.  In fact, it exposes it. No one would choose to be in Hannah’s unemployed, financially insecure and emotionally unfulfilled shoes.  Yet many of us are, or were at one time.

While both shows expose embarrassing and relatable relationship issues, Girls  does not sugarcoat, or airbrush.  Miranda’s postpartum sex scenes (before she had dropped the baby weight)  look like a Cinemax late night feature when compared to Hannah and Adam’s self-conscious and uncomfortable to watch romp in the first episode of Girls.  Samantha’s slight ‘weight gain’ in the SATC movie, represented by the svelte actress wearing a pair of pants one size too small, is treated as something that needs to be addressed immediately.  Meanwhile on Girls, Adam grips Hannah’s stomach awkwardly in bed, causing average weighted women everywhere to cringe.

At the heart of both shows is a female writer using her own experiences as social commentary.  Both women grapple with insecurities and complicated relationships, all the while navigating life in the city.  Adam, Hannah’s pseudo-boyfriend, may not be Mr. Big, but he is equally emotionally distant and cryptically confusing, in need of immense examination and ripe for the analytic writer’s eye.  In one particularly hilarious turn of events, Marnie’s boyfriend gets his hands on Hannah’s notebook, in which she comments on the questionable state of their relationship. This causes problems for the couple and, after Hannah is forced to read aloud to them from her writing, she asks, “If you had read the essay and it wasn’t about you, do you think you would have liked it? Just as, like, a piece of writing?”

Hannah asks of Marnie and her boyfriend what Girls  asks of the viewer.  Its reflexive nature is constantly turning the gaze back on itself.  While we relate to the scenarios experienced by the characters, we are constantly bombarded with purposefully uncomfortable images, such as the aforementioned sex scenes between Hannah and Adam.  By doing so, Girls  exposes the reality that Sex and the City  glossed over with high fashion and well-placed puns.

In the first episode, Hannah tells her skeptical parents, “I don’t want to freak you out, but I think I may be the voice of my generation.”  If the first season of Girls  is any indication, she just might be.

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Girls returns to HBO in January 2013.  In the meantime, if you are a fan of the show, experience NYC by taking a walk in the ladies’ shoes.  The Guardian has created a map, with pins marking the real locations used in filming.  Create your own New York Girls tour and see the city through the eyes of Hannah, Jessa, Shoshanna and Marnie. 

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