Paper and scissors rock

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So 2016 was finally over and it felt cathartic to butcher my wall calendar from Riflepaper&co. The intention was always to put it to use once it no longer served as a calendar. In fact the last months of the year it lounged in a drawer as there was nowhere to put it anymore.

  1. Framing; This one was obvious. A fair few of the illustrations in this wonderful Alice in Wonderland-calendar were quite big and very easy to frame.img_0096I went with this one to begin with, and have saved a few for when I have more wall space and more frames. Could possibly also become gifts.
  2. Notebooks;img_0105I love notebooks and have made a few during the last year. I’m no expert but they are nice enough. I learnt how to make these slim ones from a book but a quick search online will yield better tutorials then something I could ever manage. I prefer many slim notebooks to a few big ones; less weight in my bag and I get to change them often(I do use a lot of notebooks)
  3. Cards; A few were an awkward layout so I cut out the nice bits and aim to use them for my correspondence. (I don’t really need more Alice in Wonderland cards but whatever).
  4. Bookmarks; One sheet was turned into bookmarks, those will probably become gifts.

-Suss

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Food for the soul

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While I’m on the subject of foodie-memoirs let me recommend a few more in addition to Alice B. Toklas.

Comfort me with Apples by Ruth Reichel

Reichel is obviously a legend when it comes to food writing but oddly enough this is the only one of her books that I have read(keep meaning to read more). She has written fiction,cookbooks and memoirs such as this; Comfort me with apples tells the story of how she came to write about food, her life as a food critic  and shares a bunch of recipes along the way. It’s funny,feel-good and hunger inducing. utterly enjoyable.

Two towns in Provence by M.F.K Fisher

Together with Julia Child,Fisher is probably one of the people who have done the most to spread the gospel of french cooking in America, and it reads well up here too. This is a classic and very good holiday reading (although if you haven’t read A year in Provence by Peter Mayle you should start with that).

Mastering the art of Soviet Cooking by Anya von Bremzen

This book is brilliant. I will continue to claim that my recipe for blini is better , but such a joy to read. Bringing together Von Bremzens memories of growing up in the Soviet union(and what she ate), and escaping communism by moving to America(encountering new food), she embarks on a cooking project with her mother. The aim is to cook through a classic soviet era cookbook and the results is a wonderful book; with history as a backdrop and food in the front it’s a memoir to savour. Read it now; while it’s still borscht-weather outside.

Where shall we go for dinner by Tamsin Day-Lewis

Day-Lewis is a well-known food columnist and cookbook writer. This book is a memoir of of a love story and the meals they shared. Richard E Grant uses the word “gastromance” on the back. Pretty much sums it up. Not the best in this lot but if you come across it cheap, then buy it.

Life is meals by James and Kay Salter

How I love this book. The subtitle is “A food lovers book of days” and that’s what it is. Every day of the year has an entry with a personal anecdote related to food and drink, a recipe or the history of an ingredient. I have read this from cover to cover once but keep it in the kitchen to browse when waiting for something to be ready. A continuous course of joy.

Trail of crumbs by Kim Sunée

This is not in the pic as my copy was forgotten at the cottage. But it’s a gem. Sunée was adopted from Corea by an american couple, and then came to live in both Sweden and France. She tells her story and the food she cooked along the way; a mix of southern cooking,kimchee and french classics. She has published another book but I haven’t gotten around to it yet.

I’ve probably forgotten a few that I’ve read(Julia Child etc), because I don’t have copies of my own, but at least I’ve made a few suggestions.

What are your favorite foodie-memoirs?

-Suss

 

 

 

January wrap-up; books and what not

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I managed to get a fair bit of reading done this month, much thanks to a few days off in the beginning of January.

Autumn by Ali Smith

I have already written about this here but the short version is that I loved it.

Kärlekens samtal(The lover’s discourse) by Roland Barthes

I’ve read Barthes before but not extensively. This one is wonderful; a collection of mini essays gathering his thought on love and intimacy based in his experiences, discussions and extensive reading. It’s not all brilliant but when he gets it right, it’s on point. Food for thought, and a surprisingly enjoyable read.

When Breath became air by Paul Kalanithi

I know this one is loved by many and has effected people deeply; as I had just read Autumn, which to me was more about the end of life then post-Brexit sentiment, it was “cake upon  cake” as we say in swedish. But it’s a good book to read and reflect upon and I don’t hesitate in recommending it.

The tengu’s game of go by Lian Hearn

I have loved this series and it was both a joy and a sorrow to read the last installment. This is great escapist literature and the mythical feudal Japan that Hearn has created has me purring with delight. This one is darker and more mature  The Otori saga but to me that’s a good thing.

The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla

So so relevant. I have written about it here but let me state again that this should be read by many.

Nicholaus and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie

The joy of spending snowy days wrapped up in a blanket getting stuck in a thick biography. I have written about it here already so will just state again that I’m reading more Massie in the future; I loved this.

The Alice B.Toklas cookbook by Alice B.Toklas

A very random find, bought for giggles, that turned out to be a delight. I love a good foodie memoir. I will come back to this as I’m hosting a dinner based on recipes from this book shortly.

Snöstormen(the Blizzard) by Vladimir Sorokin

I listened to this as an “audio-serialization” by swedish radio and I will point out again how much I loved the reading and acting by Rolf Lassgård. This was my first Sorokin so don’t know how it measures with his other works. It’s a zombie book without zombies really, a dystopian vision of a Russia in the future that is still much like that of Dostoevsky and Gogol. The efforts of Doctor Garin to get to a village with vaccines, in a horrible storm makes my commute seem reasonable.

Moongloow by Michael Chabon

Chabons fictionalized account of his family’s history is well-written, funny and very enjoyable. This starts with conversations he had with his grandfather just before he died, and weaves a a tale where Chabon himself makes several appearances. Much recommended.

Lace Bone Beast by N.L Shampole

I found this to be uneven but then so many poetry collections are. I probably would’t have read it(or even come across it) had I not been offered and ARC by the publisher. That said I did like parts of it as I enjoy a little fairytale-esque flavor in my life. Think Angela Carter meets Rupi Kaur.

Mellan världen och mig(Between the world and me) by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Another of those hyped and relevant books. But it does live up to it. Coates is an intelligent writer and manages to put his feelings into words, and tell his story in a way that is relatable despite there really being a world between him and me. His anger is justified, and he is entitled to his emotions regardless, but he reasons with himself and manages to make it into something that is both raw and reasonable.

Step aside,Pops by Kate Beaton

This one made me laugh out loud several times. I am an eclectic reader and have come to a point where I have the time and space to pick up whatever tickles my fancy, like a comic strip collection that I’ve never heard of found on the shelves at the library. Beaton makes this comic riffs, and mash-ups, of classic literature and popular culture.

The Missolonghi manuscripts by Frederic Prokosch

The imagined notebooks and diaries by Lord Byron. What can go wrong? A very entertaining book, and elegantly written but I will (as I have done elsewhere) issue a warning to sensitive readers as this is sexually explicit(it’s Byron; no surprise there).

I’ve also read on in A poem for every night of the year as compiled by Allie Esiri. A book I very much recommend, I adore it, and it is nice to read a little poetry everyday, especially since it really is from the whole spectra.

Other January stats;

Clothing items lost; a few socks and tights,a pair of winter boots had to be retired and I’ve lost two earrings(from different sets) and two pairs have broken.

Sewing projects completed; a few actually. Will post soon.

Most worn perfume; Flagrant délices by Terry de Ginzburg. In this grey cold weather I’ve been craving sweetness.

Sick days; None. A vicious strand of stomach flu hits this town every winter and I’m always worried I’m gonna get it. I actually threw up once, then ran home to put myself in quarantine, but I had no other symptoms so I was either food poisoned or my stomach acted up. So far I’ve also managed to not catch a cold but its probably just a matter of time.

Most enjoyed viewing; Taboo with Tom Hardy on HBO. The first four episodes has me wanting more. It is very much filling the gap left by Penny Dreadful.

-Suss

 

 

Proustian-cocktail

img_7362When I first created this I called it “A la recherche-cocktail” but “Proustian” seemed simpler somehow. Although it isn’t Proust himself that drinks linden blossom tea and eats madeleines in that well-known scene; it’s the narrator(who may or may not be called Marcel).

Linden blossom tea and Madeleines are just about what most people know of the suit(people often think that it starts with that scene; it doesn’t) and that it is long. No one talks about how funny he is. Or how it will change your life.

So when creating this cocktail I was always going to include linden blossom; I like floral cocktails in general, linden blossom leaves are readily available at health food shops or a very well-stocked tea shop( the french do love their “tisane”). I was once served a shortbread with a cocktail at The Dorchester in London and the concept has stayed with me; I decided to do the same here but with madeleines instead. I make my own usually, the small kind, but that’s not necessary. If you can buy nice small ones at the bakers then go for it(on this occasion I asked someone else to buy some on the way and ended up with the big kind; I should have been more specific. They taste just as nice but don’t photograph as well).

As base spirits I used a combination of gin(the french are obsessed with all things english and there are several references to the infamous “Jockey club” in the suit) and calvados(thinking about Normandy, the french seaside and all that). The madeleines contain lemon zest but I did add a dash or two of orange bitters(Reagan’s No.6).

Linden blossom syrup;

Make a strong brew with 2,5 dl  of water and a 3 tablespoons of leaves. Follow instruction on packaging when it comes to temperature but don’t worry if you let it steep for 10 minutes; unlike ordinary black tea this won’t become to bitter. Take out the linden blossom leaves and bring the brew to the boil and then add 3 dl of caster sugar and let it simmer until the sugar has dissolved. Shouldn’t take more then a minute or so. Let cool before pouring into a clean bottle. Will last in the fridge about 2 weeks.

There are other ways to go about making this syrup; if you find linden blossom tea in bags then just bring equal amounts of water and sugar to the boil and let it simmer, with the bags mixed in, for around 10 minutes( around 1 bag per 1,5 dl water). Then it’s easy to pick the bags out. Linden blossom does’t have the strongest taste so they might need to stew the whole time(with black tea you only need a few minutes and this should never be attempted with green tea as high temperatures will release the bitterness).

Proustian-cocktail; yields 1 drink

3,5 cl London Dry gin

1,5, cl Calvados

1,5 cl linden blossom syrup

1 dash orange bitters

for serving;

cocktail glass

2 small madeleines

  1. Stir ingredients in an ice filled stirring glass until well chilled.
  2. Pour into the glass.
  3. Serve with the little cakes in the side. Enjoy responsibly.

This is the only cocktail I’ve only ever come across  that makes use of linden blossom(and I’ve looked I tell you!). Which is a shame; it’s got a nice green herbaceousness to it that I imagine would work well in a number a combinations, for shame I haven’t really explored it much either. I have made like a gin fizz with this syrup instead of plain sugar and that was nice but no more then that. Will make a note to experiment and hope that I don’t read anything truly spectacular in the next few months and get distracted.

In regards to Proust I’ve tried to convince everyone I know (and many people I have never met) to read him already and I’ve vowed not to be bully this year, so I won’t go on again.(Do give the suit a chance. If you need a soft start then begin with “Let Proust change your life” by Alain de Botton).

-Suss

 

 

 

 

The Essex serpent (and another sour)

 

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They leave gifts on the doorstep of rosehip syrup and walnuts in their shells; they leave cards and handkerchiefs so small, so fine, they’re no use at all.

-From p. 414 of The Essex serpent

If you are anything like me you foraged for rosehips in September, used them for a syrup and then proceeded to drink it all before Christmas. Which means that you can’t make this drink right now.  Sad as the Donald would say, but you can sip on some smokey whiskey to comfort yourself. The book is the real point of this post.

I’ve been thinking about and looking for winter reads lately, for the obvious reason that it’s January. In many ways it’s “big books season”; time for those big biographies and epic Russian novels. The weather really lends itself to such stories. So is also the case with “The Essex Serpent”.

I read it November which wasn’t a bad idea. In the beginning of that month we got something like 40 cm of snow in 24 hours which is a lot; winter got of to a flying start with a chaos in traffic and everything was put on hold. The weather gods must have had a proper laugh.

I was curled up on the sofa,wrapped in a blanket and fortifying myself with pot after pot of tea whilst reading this, which I’m going to say is the way to do it.

What I liked so much about this book was that it had all the elements of a victorian novel but mixed it with a very modern storytelling. I thought of Jenny Offill a bit and found a reference to to Maggie Nelson’s “Bluets” in the acknowledgements (“Bluets” was already on my TBR but I was delighted nonetheless).

At the heart of the story we have Cora; a recent widow for whom the death of her husband means the possibility to live a life of her own. She blooms and even more so by bringing her son and a friend out to the countryside to live a life of simplicity and science.

The rumors of an old beast, a sea serpent of some sort, jogs the imagination of not only Cora but others as well. It becomes the job of the local minister,William Ransome, to calm the fears and put an end to the fantasies. And as their paths cross there is drama.

It has both love and monsters this books, lovely characters and a very good story. Something to get stuck in on a cold winter’s night.

I regards to the cocktail I will leave the recipe with you here, for further reference. As I’m ,posting several of my cocktails one after another I do notice that this one has a fair bit in common with “The raven King”, although they were in reality made months apart. Its more a case of finding a formula that works and playing with it and tweaking it.

Essex serpent-sour; yields one cocktail

5 cl smokey whiskey

3 cl roseshipsyrup

3 cl lemon juice

1 dash Black walnut bitters

(1 eggwhite) Optional

for serving;

cocktail coupe

  1. Shake ingredients in an ice filled shaker until well chilled and white has become frothy. If using a white; don’t add the bitters now but wait until later.
  2. Pour into glass. If you have used an egg white now is the time to add the dash of bitter as it creates a nice pattern in the foam.
  3. Serve.

-Suss

 

 

John Uskglass, The raven king

In conclusion PORTISHEADS’s book-though containing many excellent things-is fine example of the mad contradiction at the heart of Modern English Magic;our foremost magicians continually declare their intention of erasing every hint and trace of JOHN USKGLASS from english magic, but how is this possible? It is JOHN USKGLASS’s magic that we do.

-excerpt from a book review from The Edinburgh review, included in the book

Of course I was always gonna make a cocktail in honor of John Uskglass himself,the Raven king(aslo known as the Nameless slave).

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As base I used Laproaig. I like the single malt whiskies in general, and this one in particular. It also felt apt with the Edinburgh review, all the fires being lit in the book and ,oh, peat having a place in fairy magic(if I’ve understood correctly).

It is sweetened with a syrup of apples and pears as there are trees growing at Hurtfew abbey as the result of The Raven King spitting out some pips there. Further sweetness comes from a dash of Sève Fournier as a nod to the king’s supposed French/Normand heritage.

And there was a dash or two of Fee Brother’s “black walnut bitters” as I cannot resist a bit of wordplay (apparently. I should be admitted to a ward or something) but it had “black” in the name and sometimes the impeccable manservant Stephan Black is the nameless slave. English magic cannot make up it’s mind who to obey. Not to mention how well it tastes mixed in with the smoke and the fruit.

This ended up another twist on a whiskey sour; with lemon juice and egg white for the reason that I wanted to make the “Raven volant” i.e. John Uskglass’s heraldic sign on top(but failed miserably) and I made it in summer and sours taste great during those cirka three warm days we have up here.

Apple&Pear syrup;

Making a recipe for this is rather difficult as it depends a bit on what kind of apples and pears  you are using. The point is to make a fruity tasting syrup so fragrant apples are best and definitely firm  pears as to have a clear syrup and not just a load of mush. I used 1 cup of water, 1 cup of caster sugar and 1 cup of chopped fruit bits(rather large chunks to prevent them from falling apart when cooked) which was brought to the boil and left to simmer for a few minutes(In my notes is says 5 minutes). Then remove from heat but let fruit stay in until cool. Then pour it into a clean bottle. Will last about two weeks.

The Raven king; yields 1 cocktail

5 cl smokey whiskey

3 cl lemonjuice

2 cl Appel&Pear syrup

1 cl Seve Fournier

1 dash black walnut bitters

1 eggwhite.

for serving;

cocktail coupe

1.Shake the ingredients well in a shaker full of ice.

2. Pour into the cocktail glass.

3.Serve.

This worked out really well; smokey,fruity and then spice and depth from the Séve Fournier and the black walnut bitter.

-Suss

 

 

 

Weekend and The Vinculus

Yet the reason for Vinculus’s celebrity-or notoriety-was a little mysterious. He was no better a magician than any of the other charlatans with lank hair and dirty yellow curtains. His spells did not work, his prophecies did not come true and his trances had been proven false beyond doubt.

That is the case of Vinculus. But he is pivotal to the plot, and offers much in terms of comic relief. He does not have an easy life and deserves a cocktail,no doubt. And I went all in.

img_5731The base spirit is Johnnie Walker because old Vinculus is a vagabond. (Again with the wordplay!!). He likes his hot spiced wine so I made a syrup with white wine,cinnamon,star anis and sugar, then poured it over pineapple chunks and let it infuse over night. I had long wanted to included pineapples in one of my cocktails inspired by this book; they were such a thing back in that era(and are referred to in the book several times), and Vinculus does have an important meeting at a place called “The pineapple”. Then it’s lemon juice and egg white (again with the sours!!). The blue markings on top of the foam was a bit of a reference to something in the story, made with food dye. Can easily be omitted and it was a bit of a mess really. That was just me trying to stay “true to the book”.

White wine&pineapple syrup;

Bring 3 dl of white wine(nothing fancy; basic Chardonnay) to the boil with 3 dl of caster sugar. Also add 2 cinnamon sticks,2 star anis, a couple of green cardamom pods. Let it simmer for 5-10 minutes, until all the sugar has dissolved. Let cool a bit and then pour over 4 dl of chopped fresh pineapple and let infuse over night. The syrup should be rather rich as the enzymes in the pineapple break it down. No need to remove all the spices before letting it infuse but maybe take out half of them. After it’s done don’t throw away the pineapple chunks; they are very tasty to eat with whipped cream and meringue (although for adults only).

The Vinculus; yields one cocktail

4 cl Johnnie Walker red label

3 cl white wine&pineapple syrup

2 cl lemonjuice

1 eggwhite

for serving;

cocktail coupe

  1. Shake ingredients in ice filled shaker until well chilled.
  2. Pour into the glass.
  3. Serve.

This did taste very nice; spicy and sour at the same time with a lot of depth from the fact that it’s wine-based and the pineapple added freshness.

-Suss