Say Yes To Cheese

One of my favourite parts of travel is eating.

Actually, it’s probably my favourite. Specifically, eating cheese. This is Adam’s favourite too, and is one of the many reasons we work well as a couple. Seriously though, cheese and charcuterie are our things. If we’re eating at a restaurant that has a charcuterie platter, we automatically get it. If we don’t know what to cook, we make a charcuterie and cheese platter. So, when shopping for his birthday present I got him none other than:

A home cured bacon kit! 

We started it yesterday, and I haven’t tried the bacon yet, but it looks amazing. It’s pretty easy so far- you put the included Prague salt in with a pound of salt and a pound of sugar and then dredge 0.9kg of pork belly in it. It sits for a week, then you infuse it with liquid smoke. The amount of the base cure- the salt/sugar mix- that you get out of this is actually hella impressive. We have enough to make many a slab of bacon. We made this one plain without additives and we’re using the liquid smoke, then we’re going to make another additive free one in the smoker. After we compare that, we’ll get fancy with recipes from one of the books I got him…..

 

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Charcuterie!  Literally just a book with recipes for meat, salt, and accompaniments to them. We were looking through it and are super excited. On the book front I also got him…

 

Artisan Cheesemaking at Home. I’m not going to lie, I really don’t think we’ll be able to pull of the level of beauty in this book. I mean, there’s burrata recipes in here. BURRATA! If you’ve never had it, it’s literally a ball of mozzarella hiding a delicious, creamy centre. Also, it might be the most delicious thing in the world. The biggest problem is that one ball costs $16 at Whole Foods. I first encountered it while working in Taranto. My host family took me to this restaurant that was literally just all about mozarella. There were knots of it, balls of it… anything imaginable. But the star was burrata. I’ll keep you updated on my experiments. Speaking of experiments….

I also got him a 4 Cheese Making Kit!  Honestly, I think if you don’t know what to get someone, get them a cheesemaking kit. I’m going to start with a quarter review of this- it makes ricotta, paneer, chevre, and cream cheese. Since it was Adam’s birthday, we had a bunch of people over. We created a simple menu. We wanted to keep it delicious, easy and cheap since we had 9 people. Homemade pasta with a simple marinara, garlic bread, and homemade ricotta. We started with the sauce. I didn’t want a super fancy sauce because I wanted to really focus on the ricotta as the special area. So, I put in a stick of butter, 2 cans of tomatoes, and a quartered onion. I used one can of crushed tomato and one can of diced. There’s really no reason for it either, it’s just what I had. All the big bits broke down pretty well, so I think it’d even work with whole tomatoes.

This is it bubbling away after a few hours. It’s seriously as easy as bringing it to a boil and letting it simmer. I added a little salt and pepper at the end.

Then we started on the ricotta. Apparently it’s SO easy to make. You literally just heat the milk….

Then add lemon and strain. Why do we buy this stuff?! The kit came with cheesecloth, some cultures that I guess are for the cream cheese and chevre, and a cheese mold.

Yeah. We made this cheese. Like made it. Making cheese is seriously magical. When the curd separates it just looks… bewildering. I can’t wait to make the rest of this kit. So far, it’s a 10/10 would definitely buy again.

One of the best parts of cheesemaking? Whey. I read somewhere you could cook pasta in it, and man was this stuff amazing. It added a whole layer of flavour too it.

I forgot to take a picture of my first plate which would have been better and less pasta on a dirty plate, but man… I totally forgot because I got so into how amazing this pasta was.

Now fingers crossed that next time I’ll be making homemade carbonara with some amazing home-cured bacon….

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Say Yes To Cheese

All The Books I’ve Read Recently!

Books! We all know I love them! Here’s the ones I’ve read recently!

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Two-Gun & Sun by June Hutton

I got this book on a goodreads giveaway, and it is GOOD! It’s about a girl who moves to a small town in the pacific northwest to run her uncle’s newspaper. It has everything I like. History, clothes, the 20’s, a huckster, an opera, weird characters, a brothel…. I was so impressed with this. My one complaint? DAMN SERRATED PAGES. I hate them. They’re impossible to turn with one hand while standing on a train. Why do we still have these?!

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

I picked this one up because it was on sale and it had a recipe for mole sauce. I’m so glad I did. This book makes me want to learn fluent spanish because if the translation was that beautiful I can’t even begin to imagine the original. The wording in this was so… It’s about this girl who’s an amazing cook, and she meets a man and falls madly in love with him. She’s the youngest daughter though, and is forced to stay unmarried and take care of her mother while watching the love of her life marry her sister. The way this book flows though. It just makes you feel everything.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty

I have a friend who wants to be a mortician. She didn’t tell me this until the third or fourth time we hung out. Talking to her about it and why she’s passionate about it made me realize I’m really weird about death. Like megaweird. When I heard about this book on All the Books  I thought of Jodie and decided I need to unweird myself and read it. It’s written by the girl who does Ask a Mortician on youtube and she is delightful. I love how this book delves into the history and culture of death. It also lifts the curtain of the death industry. I didn’t know what I expected going into it, but I definitely didn’t expect to laugh. Doughty’s hilarious. Definitely worth a read.

Where I Belong by Alan Doyle

This book was one of my Mom’s book clubs selections. The amount of book club books I’ve read and have brilliant insights on… you’d think they’d just start inviting me. Alan Doyle, for those who don’t know, is the lead singer of Great Big Sea. They’re a very Newfie band. I always worry when reading books written by public figures- he’s an amazing musician and can write poetry but can he craft a narrative that keeps me interested? HELLS. YES. The main charm was the sense of place. This book writes about Doyle’s journey from childhood to the formation of the band. He grew up in a small town and damn if I don’t want to pack up my bags and get on a plane there. This is one of the most wanderlust-inducing books I’ve ever read. I’m waiting for my Newfie friend to read it so we can discuss it over a glass of Screech.

Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin

For those of you who don’t know I’m trying to read a book by an author from every country in the world. I told this to my friend from Korea, and he recommended this. I now hate him because I cried on the train three times. The start was confusing- it switches perspective a lot and the first part was written in second person. I don’t know why, but second person has always made me feel slightly uncomfortable. Not in a bad way, more in a “I can’t wrap my head around it. This book made me feel a lot like The Little Town Where Time Stood Still in that I kind of got confused near the end and had no idea what I was reading until I hit the last bit and then I was like “woah.” It’s so good.

As for my books by countries, here’s where I’m at!

All The Books I’ve Read Recently!

Everything I Read in 2015 Part 2

So, I’m back on the grind of it. I left off with some amazing Harper Lee, and now I’ll proceed tooooooooo:

 

Why Not Me? – Mindy Kaling

I’ve heard a lot of people talking about this book. Many didn’t like it, there was a lot of accusations of people calling it kind of her saying “I’m going to write a book but I’m famous now so I’ve lost touch”. I think I went into it expecting it to be about how fame has changed her, and I think it’s really real of her to admit that it has. Of course it has. It would change anyone. The main difference between this one and her first book? Dear god, when she talked about her Mom I was bawling. Girl’s got soul. And hilarity.

Also, I made a friend when I was reading this at the bar while waiting for my cousin, so clearly this book is magic.

The Martian – Andy Weir

I only read this because Adam wanted to see the movie, and my friend PROMISED me I’d like it. I was wholly skeptical. I’m not exactly a sci-fi kind of girl, and I got to the point where the technical language, math crap, and lack of characters was getting to me. Then the book switched to where they were in Houston. The switches between the base and Mars worked annnnnnd…. I loved this book. Mark is a great character, and the nature of the book gives the best opportunity to get to know him. For a situation so dire, damn did it make me laugh. So, while I still think you can a little bit judge a book by it’s cover, I know you can’t judge it by its genre.

Hollow City – Ransom Riggs

You’ll remember from the first part of this post that I read the first Miss Peregrine’s and liked the range of emotions it made me feel. It was awesome, this book was awesome. It did such a good job of diving into the world that Riggs created and I missed. I like that it picked up right away, the characters were awesome but still pissed me off a bit and made me desperate to read the third.

Room – Emma Donoghue

If you have talked to me for longer than 30 seconds since November 14th, 2015, you know I have read this book. You should read this book. I finished it in a day. It’s amazing. Just read this book.

Library of Souls – Ransom Riggs

I feel bad for this book since it had to follow Room, which stole my heart. However, it’s good. The whole series works together. I’m still into the creepy whimsy of the photos. The ending didn’t work out the way I wanted, but I feel like it ended. I got the sense of completion and closure and this book creates a great sense of place in this weird world. There are definitely some plot holes in the series as a whole, but who really cares? It’s an entertaining read. Highly recommended (for after you finish Room).

The Girl With All the Gifts – M.R. Carey

This book fell into my lap in the best way possible. As I was finishing up Library of Souls I went to my Aunts for a few drinks. Her friend was there, and she saw Library of Souls sticking out of my bag, then immediately ran down to her apartment to get this. I have since lent her the last two Miss Peregrine’s novels, and now am waiting for the next time we drink to talk about books. Wine and book talk are best friends. So, this book was good. I spent the first part being like, “what the hell is going on here?” and it does that perfect thing where just when you’re about to close it in frustration it makes sense. The only issue I have with this is that I couldn’t read it while I ate. I had some pretty sad lunch hours. Other than that, this book is goooooooood.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson

I got this book because it was $10 at chapters and I’d heard a lot of the hullaballoo about it. I took issue with this in the same way many people did. The prologue got me. It pulled me in. Then it started with this other crap?! No. NO. DO NOT PULL ME IN THEN NOT TELL THE STORY. And the thing is, everyone says the same thing with this book, “give it until page 100, then it gets good.” and I’m sitting here like, well can’t it just be good now?! Seriously, a guy on the train asked me if I’d gotten to the good point yet. Is this acceptable?!

Hells. Yes. If you decide to read this, which I think you should, then let me tell you, it is worth the wait.

So, I have something up my sleeve for my reading selections for 2016/2017 that I’ve started and I’ll announce as soon as I figure out infographics.

Until then, did you read any of the books I did?

ALSO DID YOU READ ROOM?!?!! Seriously, if you take one thing away from all this make it reading Room. That book just….

Everything I Read in 2015 Part 2

The Books I Read in 2015 Part 1

I wish I had more time for reading. I probably do, but my TV/knitting addiction sometimes gets in the way. I feel like when I’m done my degree I’ll be more open to reading as opposed to vegging out- after working all day, studying for as long as I can stand after work…… Well, I need some mind neutralizing time.

Instead of going and talking about each book one by one, I’m going to type up a master list (which I know I’ll kick myself for later as I’ve been having a tough time figuring out what to post lately….) in two parts. This sentence is an edit, as I realized as I was writing I actually read quite a few books this year, and will remain smugly proud of myself for the rest of the night. I’ll try to refrain from doing to much summary of the book- the back cover people do that wayyyy better than me, and instead focus on whether or not I think it’s worthy. Spoiler alert, I read a great group of books this year.

The Godfather – Mario Puzo

I know, I’m a little shocked at this one too! It’s one of Adam’s favourites, and he gave it to me for the plane home from Paris. It took me a long while to read. I think a part of it was my mental kind of… Basically, I thought I wasn’t going to like this book. I had never seen the movie, and it just didn’t seem like my kind of thing. However, I’m super happy I read it. Once I got into it, I got INTO it. I’m happy I read it before I saw the movie as I don’t think I would have read it if it was the opposite. Don’t get me wrong, the movie was good, but there’s just something about the book.

The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion

This book came from my Mom. She bought it for her book club, and I got my hands on it quickly after. I think this may actually be the perfect commuting book. It makes you think, don’t get me wrong, but it’s written from such a unique, wonderful perspective that keeps you laughing. I can’t recommend this enough.

Saint Anything – Sarah Dessen

I LOVE SARAH DESSEN. There, it’s said, and it needed to be said. I was beyond excited when I heard she was writing something new, and got it for my trip to Australia. I read it on the Vancouver-Los Angeles leg. I devoured this book, the story is engrossing and the characters are like the people I wanted to be friends with in high school, but weren’t because I spent most of my lunchtime reading. Also, it helped me discover garlic knots, which are quite possibly the most delicious bread-based thing ever and the best gift anything can give.

(sorry about the bad image, they only had the kindle one on amazon. Weird.)

In the Unlikely Event – Judy Blume

It’s Judy Blume. There’s not much else that needs to be said, because this woman puts words through from her mind to paper with some unfathomable wizardry. I also took this book to Australia and attempted to read it on the Los Angeles- Melbourne leg. You know what’s stupid? Reading a book about a plane crash on a plane. Seriously. I realized my mistake and didn’t open the book again until I landed in Melbourne. It took me a surprisingly long time to get really into it because of the narrator switches. It irritated me something awful while reading, then at the end it all came together in a way that just…. I mean, it’s Judy Blume. Read it. Not on a plane though, especially when you have like 13 hours left on it to contemplate your impending doom.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – J.K. Rowling

No, this is not a reread. I have managed to survive since 1997 without Harry Potter spoilers. It might, in fact, be my biggest achievement thus far. At the insistence of two of my best friends this finally got read. All things considered, I’m happy I waited. I don’t think I would have liked it half as much at seven as I did now, or worse, I’d be like my little cousin who admits he was genuinely disappointed and shocked on his eleventh birthday when his Hogwarts letter didn’t come.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs

I feel lie this book gets a lot of flack where it shouldn’t and I think that’s mostly because it’s YA. Basically, my journey through this book was super into it at the beginning, the middle pissed me RIGHT OFF, and the end made me need to read the second book asap. Any book that induces such feelings must be good. I liked the photography and the general concept. It felt fresh and it made me really, really want to pack it all in and move to Wales.

Go Set a Watchman – Harper Lee

I know there’s a lot of controversy around the publication of this, most of it focusing on Harper Lee’s ability to consent to it’s being sold. I decided to buy it for the main reason that her beneficiaries were going to publish it when she died, and at least this way the money can go to her and her care. Well, at least that’s how I justify it. A large part of it was I needed to read it. I didn’t read the sample chapter so while I heard that Atticus was a racist, I didn’t believe it. The way the book is written isn’t so much waving the “Atticus is super racist guys” flag, it’s more… Lee wrote this book before To Kill a Mockingbird. I’m glad she edited Atticus to not reflect the attitudes he kind of portrayed in Go Set a Watchman as much but at the same time I think this book is really needed right now. While it isn’t as wrapped up as neatly as To Kill a Mockingbird- and I’m beyond devastated about Jem, it made me think a lot about how I approach relations between people, and… Okay, if you’re going to read one book on this list read this one. I’ll leave it at that.

 

The Books I Read in 2015 Part 1

The Little Town Where Time Stood Still – Bohumil Hrabal

I have major packing issues. Mainly that I need a separate suitcase for my books because vacation time is clearly reading time. I remember a trip to Cuba when I was younger. My dad woke up and asked what the schedule was and my Mom and I looked at our books, looked at the beach, and looked at our mojitos. I finished about 4 books that week.

That trip was fine- I was flying to one resort and had one giant suitcase for one week. Backpacking however, …. well, fitting 2-3 seasons of clothes in a backpack is a struggle. There’s just no room for bookish luxuries. Thus my idea on my last trip: tablet. I could have all my books in one convenient place. I forgot to account for the fact that I’m notoriously awful at charging electronics. And breaking electronics. I lasted until the bus ride out of Prague. My first order of business in Cesky Krumlov was finding a bookstore that sold books in English. Upon further inspection there is ONE bookstore in Krumlov, and it had an English shelf, though I had never heard of any of the books. Upon further reflection that’s because they were all Czech authors. I picked one that had a nice cover: “The Little Town Where Time Stood Still”.

The book is two linked novellas, one about a women who scandalizes the town with her colourful behaviour, and the second… I can’t give away without giving away some of the first. Also, you can amazon/goodreads/chapters for a synopsis that is about a thousand times better written than I could even attempt.

I spent the first novella- “Cutting it Short” thinking “Seriously, what the ef am I reading?” Until the last paragraph, where I was just like, “woah.” I read it over a year ago and it’s still on my mind. If you’re going to the Czech Republic, or just want a book that pairs perfectly with a pilsner then get it.

And drink more pilsner.

 

The Little Town Where Time Stood Still – Bohumil Hrabal

My (quick) Thoughts on Twilight

It’s been how many years, and I’m still getting in conversations about this, so I’m going to clear my opinion up.

It happened again last weekend, people constantly call it trash, horribly written, whatever.

Someone criticized the Twilight book series.

Now, I read the series as it came out wayyyyyyy back when, and you know what? I liked it. I was fifteen, it was perfect. Was it a work of literary fiction so thought provoking that I was moved to my very core?

No.

Was it great to read in silent reading, after tests, in the bath, and at the beach?

Yes.

See, there’s the thing. I didn’t want something serious. If I had wanted literary brilliance I would’ve talked to my English teacher, or my teacher mother- not the college aged clerk at the bookstore who told me that it was popular. (edit: Actually, she was pretty good. I found my journal entry from that day and she asked me questions about when I was reading, what kind of books I had read before. Go Chapters girl!)

Just like I firmly believe there’s nothing wrong with indulging- and LIKING to indulge, in our favourite disproportionately derriere-d family every so often on TV, there’s nothing wrong with reading something light and fun. It’s a beach and bath book, and sometimes you’re in a bath or at the beach.

Seriously, take Sophie’s World to the beach. Great book, AMAZING book. But it just doesn’t work.

The biggest thing I have with people dissing books- Twilight just happens to be an easy example, but I’m talking any book, is that at the end of the day, KIDS ARE READING. The way I see it, any time we put a book in someone’s hands, we’ve won. That and the fact that I know so many teenagers who went and read Pride and Prejudice- Bella’s favourite book, right after.  How can we argue with that?

Books will only survive if we encourage people to read them- all of them. Maybe instead of yelling at people for liking Twilight, we should encourage them to read more.

 

Sample Conversation:

Teen: Oh MY GOD! I LOVED TWILIGHT!

Formerly Cynical Person: That’s so great that you’re reading, Bella’s favourite book was Pride and Prejudice, have you read that?

T: No, it seems so advanced.

FCP: It is, but you’re smart. If you want something a little more contemporary have you read anything by Sarah Dessen? And don’t forget, Judy Blume’s books are timeless.

T: No, I haven’t but I will. Thank you for enlightening me instead of tearing me down and turning me off of the wonderfulness that is reading and broadening my mind. I’m going to come to you for so many more book recommendations! Because the more I read, the more I can put books like Twilight into context and appreciate their flaws while still liking their strengths.

Bottom line: Kids that are read are kids that succeed.

(Just a note, this is not in any way, shape, or form about the movies. No me gusta. I saw one in the theater and an 11 year old was yelling “TAKE OFF YOUR SHIRT” to the screen. Really? REALLY?!) 

My (quick) Thoughts on Twilight