Literary Hunger

The Telegraph’s imagining of what Alice’s tea party might have looked like.

After seeing a link in PW Daily to this wonderful slideshow of the ten best literary meals on The Telegraph, I started thinking of literary grub myself. It’s not that I disagree with The Telegraph’s choices. (Okay, maybe I do. Thin gruel? Really?). It’s just that I’ve been known to cook, and eat, based solely on the literary merit of a particular food or drink. Heck, I’ve been known to take entire vacations on literary merit alone.

So here’s a small sampling of some of the foods and drinks that books have inspired me to try.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's StoneButterbeer: I tried this for the first time ever a couple of weeks ago, thanks to a good friend and fellow Harry Potter enthusiast, and admit that it was kind of a thrill. Very, very sweet. But still kind of a thrill. Now, would I also want to try Chocolate Frogs? Why yes, I would. Every Flavor Beans, however…not so much. I like to think I’m an adventurous eater, but yet still am not eager to sample anything that claims it tastes like earwax.


Anne of Green GablesRaspberry cordial and/or red currant wine: When Anne Shirley inadvertently gets her bosom friend Diana Barry drunk on red currant wine (all the while innocently thinking it’s raspberry cordial), I admit that my interest was piqued. I wanted to try both. And many years ago, on a pilgrimage to Prince Edward Island, I tried raspberry cordial. Only very recently, I had some red currant wine. The verdict? Like Diana, I’ll go with the wine, thanks.


The Secret Garden

Porridge: On our honeymoon in Scotland, I determined that if porridge is good enough for Mary Lennox, it was good enough for me. I’ll never want a bowl of regular old oatmeal. Hearty enough to support one in traversing across moors with boys who talk to animals—or at least my husband, who only talks to our guinea pig—it’s tasty as all get-out as well.


The Tale of Peter RabbitChamomile tea: Inspired by Peter Rabbit’s post-McGregor stomach ache, I sought out this soothing herbal tea. Turns out that drinking a hot beverage made from steeping tiny flowers is not the wisest idea for someone with allergy issues. As soon as my throat began to swell shut, I knew that relying of naughty rabbits for inspiration as to what to eat or drink was a terrible, terrible mistake.


The waters at Bath: Here’s a tip that no one in Jane Austen’s Persuasion ever tells you: if it smells like sulfur it will, in fact, taste like sulfur. And while I don’t regret trying taking the waters (in Bath and in Cheltenham—I am a sucker for 19th century spa towns), I can’t say I felt anything but mildly ill after having done so. But when you’re in the Pump Room pretending to be Anne Elliot, who really cares?


Despite the occasional miss (or, you know, inability to breathe), I’m always up for trying something new. Got some literary food obsessions? Do share!

Lazy Saturday

Much as I admire Andy Samberg (and I do), my idea of a lazy weekend day is somewhat different than the one he and Chris Parnell imagined in this video. This may, perhaps, be due to the fact that there is very little time for a lazy anything in my world at the moment (the lack of posting of late on this, my beloved blog, attests to that). When it does happen, it’s always on Saturday mornings.

On Saturdays, no one in my little family needs to be anywhere until a swimming lesson at the Y calls at 11:30. It is the only day of the week in which all three of us can just lounge around for hours. And since I gave birth to the earliest of early risers, I do mean that we have hours.

This morning, after a long family snuggle, we made pancakes. You can choose your own adventure in terms of berries, syrup, and even type of pancake (regular or almond flour) in our house. Personally, I go the almond flour ones heaped with every available topping. Then we lounged on the couch, drank copious amounts of tea, and generally relaxed together.

Should I have been working this whole time? Is there not school work, freelance work, and just plain old work work to be done? Alas, yes. But for once, I didn’t do any of it. These few precious hours of downtime were sorely needed, by all of us, I think.

All good things must come to an end, though, and this glorious morning has. My kiddo is off at swimming class (dreams of being an Olympic platform diver aren’t achieved without hard work, after all), my husband with her. And I’m about to start working right…about…


When Dictionaries Blog

Can Brendan Fraser and Pauly Shore teach us something about how language evolves? Blissfully, the answer is yes.

I’ve known for quite some time that The American Heritage Dictionary has a blog—I do work at HMH after all. But just this week, I discovered that the Oxford English Dictionary does, too. Between the two, I’ve been in blog (procrastination?) heaven.

Take, for example, this post on Oxford’s blog about the roots and current usage of the word “bro”—or as their blog calls it, “The Rise of the Portmanbro.” It not only traces the early uses of the word, but quotes the Brendan Fraser classic Encino Man as one of the turning points in how the word is used currently. Who knew Encino Man had such cultural cache?

The blog is also careful not to pin down a meaning too carefully, but it does ascribe at least one key attribute: “The specific cultural attributes of such men are shifting and elusive, but one defining feature is a tendency to use the word bro. A lot.”

It also points to the abundance of “portmanbros” that have arisen—it’s not all about the bromance anymore: “plenty of other portmanbros have achieved widespread currency: bro-hug has appeared in the New York Times at least 8 times since 2010, and brogrammer has recently shot to prominence in discussions about the gender politics of Silicon Valley.”

The American Heritage Dictionary, for its part, is pondering such engrossing questions as “Ax or axe?” And what it lacks in snarky tone (yeah, I’m looking at you, Oxford blog), it makes up for in fun facts. Just as Oxford cited Encino Man, the AHD is happy to take So I Married an Axe Murderer as a sign of cultural usage.  But did you know that “axe” is technically not correct usage in American English?

Mike Myers, happily promoting the misspelling of the word “ax.”

Did you also know that most people use “axe” instead of “ax,” proper usage be damned? Indeed, the AHD blog points out that, “Home Depot and Wal-Mart will be happy to sell you an axe, but if you go to their websites wanting an ax your options will be much more limited.”

So where does this leave us? Well, if you put together Oxford’s breakdown of bro with the AHD’s examination of ax/axe, one key connection becomes clear—in the wearing of the AXE body spray by young bros everywhere. Ah, the sweet smell of brofume.



Literary Things to Love…at the End of a Hard Week

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found this to be a tough week, both on a personal and global kind of level. Right now, the sky is gray, the government is still shut down, I don’t feel great, and I generally need a pick-me-up.

So I went and found one…or maybe a few.

First off, here’s author Terry Pratchett, sporting a shirt he apparently wears to conventions. More reason to love Terry Pratchett? I’d say so.

terry pratchett's t-shirt

And here’s a picture of Mark Twain and Helen Keller, who apparently had a lovely dinner together way back in 1901. If you want to read what he wrote in his journal about this encounter (and, seriously, why would you NOT want to read something Mark Twain wrote?), check out this piece in The Huffington Post.

mark twain 1

And as a parting shot, you can find a whopping 19 kick-butt book-related manicurescourtesy of Buzzfeed. But I had to share my favorite here, because someday, somehow I must have this on my nails.

One literary manicure to rule them all, one literary manicure to find them, one literary manicure to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

Lord Of The Rings



Time Out (Miniature Edition)—For When There Is No Time Out in Sight

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve posted photos of any of my adventures, big or small, that qualify as time-outs from regular life (for that matter, it’s been a little while since I posted anything at all). There’s a reason for this: there have been no time-outs from regular life for me. Indeed, there simply hasn’t been time for anything.

So, while I don’t have any pictures of lovely places to share with you, I do have the recipe (literally) for a mini-break in a cup. Or as I like to call it, the “you got your chocolate in my peanut butter mug cake.”

Here’s all that you need:

You mean you don’t have dark chocolate peanut butter and Vietnamese cinnamon in your pantry? Perhaps it’s time to seriously rethink the things you stock in your pantry.

2 tablespoons of whole wheat pastry flour
1 ½ (or 2 if you’re feeling crazy) tablespoons of Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter or Nutella (or almond butter, or whatever suits your fancy)
3 tablespoons of skim milk
1/8 of teaspoon of baking soda
1 tablespoon of chocolate chips or peanut butter chips (completely optional but come on—this is supposed to be a mini-break, right?)
A pinch of Truvia (or whatever sweetener floats your boat)
A pinch of cinnamon

First, procure your beverage of choice. The whole process of making the little cake takes about two minutes, so you need to plan ahead in terms of what will accompany your vacation in a cup. I prefer a glass of cold milk. Tea works nicely, too. However, if you’re looking for something stronger than that, I certainly won’t judge you.

Put everything but the chocolate chips into a teacup—and be sure to use a teacup instead of a coffee mug as this is a dainty-sized treat—and mix it all up with a fork.

It looks gross, I know. It only gets better from here.
It looks gross, I know. It only gets better from here.

Now add the chips and give it one last stir to spread the goodness around the batter.

Ah, that’s better. Especially with the chocolate chips. Just remember: super-dark chocolate = super low in sugar.

Pop it in the microwave for 50 seconds, or more in very small time increments if it’s not cooked—but this is like a good brownie, in which gooey is better than cakey.

The finished product: gooey goodness. And did I mention the protein? Soooo healthy.

Then sit someplace quiet and enjoy your chocolatey-peanutty cup of joy. It’s kind of healthy (protein! whole wheat! skim milk!), and small enough to not have to feel guilty about it anyway. And as my daughter frequently tells me, sometimes a girl needs a break.

Happy Tuesday!