Monthly Archives: January 2015

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Recipes – Italian Wedding Soup

While reading Sarah Dunant’s Blood and Beauty I knew I wanted to make something Italian that related to the book. I was looking into food from the Italian Renaissance, but most of the information available is about food that was eaten in places like England. Italians, living in a more temperate climate would have eaten different food than other Europeans. Chances are they would have eaten a lot of fish, and “fish soup” seems to have been popular, in addition to things like figs and cheese. Because fish soup doesn’t sound that appealing I decided to try making Italian Wedding Soup. Lucrezia was my favourite character and some of the major scenes in the book revolved around her weddings. Although Italian Wedding Soup is relatively recent, it still fits the theme.

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 This recipe is similar to a soup one of my high school friends would make for me when I was over at her house. I bring the package of chicken noodle soup to a boil and she would beat eggs and Parmesan cheese together before dropping it into the boiling soup. It was her version of Stracciatella, or egg-drop soup. I used her recipe as a base for this one.

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I generally use 8 cups of chicken broth which makes the soup a but thicker. If you like really liquidy soup, add as much chicken broth as you’d like.

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There are a lot of recipes out there for making meatballs from scratch, but these PC mini meatballs were the perfect size. Just throw as many as you want in the oven, following the instructions on the box while boiling the chicken broth.

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While boiling the chicken broth you need to make the egg/parmesean cheese/spinach mixture which is really simple. Just let the frozen spinach thaw for an hour or two and then make sure you squeeze out all the extra moisture. If not it waters down the soup and detracts from the flavour. I normally use around one cup of grated Parmesan cheese, but you can always add more.

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Add the Orzo, meatballs, and a salt and pepper to taste and you have a meal fit for an Italian Pope’s illegitimate daughter.

Cheers

Italian Wedding Soup
1 package of chopped frozen spinach (thawed)
4 eggs
1 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
8 cups of chicken broth
2 cups Orzo Pasta
Cooked meatballs (either handmade or store bought)
Salt and Pepper

  1. Drain the spinach squeezing out all the water
  2. Beat eggs with Parmesan cheese and add spinach to the mixture
  3. Bring chicken broth to a boil and add the spinach mixture by the spoonful into the broth.
  4. Add the Orzo past and simmer for about 20 minutes stirring occasionally
  5. Add meatballs and serve

Carl Hoffman – Savage Harvest (2014)

SavageHarvest

The disappearance of Michael Rockefeller in New Guinea in 1961 has kept the world guessing for years. Carl Hoffman, in this book chronicles his travels to New Guinea and his attempts to reconstruct the events that led to Michael Rockefeller’s death.

No trace of Rockefeller was even found after his disappearance and soon rumours surfaced that he’d been killed and eaten by the Asmat, a local Native tribe whose culture included ritual cannibalism. The Rockefeller family and the Dutch government vehemently denied the story ruling Michael’s death officially as a drowning. Carl Hoffman travelled to New Guinea immersing himself in the culture of the Asmat, located witnesses willing to speak publically about the event and finally “solves” the decades-old mystery; chances are that Rockefeller was eaten ceremoniously.

While Hoffman in this book claims to “illuminate a culture transformed by years of colonial rule,” the whole narrative itself seems to further perpetuate it. Hoffman is quick to criticize the decades of Dutch colonial rule in this area and points out that the “pull of the primitive” is outdated, but his descriptions of the Asmat and being around them read like a 19th century anthropological account. Here, cannibalism is still being treated like an oddity in a very voyeuristic and almost sensationalized way. It felt wrong and kind of off-putting to me. I understand what Hoffman was trying to do, but I don’t think that there was much awareness on the part of Hoffman as to his position; A white male, asking questions about another white male who died 50 years earlier. By framing his story this way, with the focus on the murder of Michael Rockefeller, Hoffman is essentially shaming the culture for their ritual practice of cannibalism, whether he intends to or not.

Maybe I’m wrong and reading too much into it, but as I was reading something just didn’t sit right. His writing is poetic and he does tell an exciting story compelling the reader to continue. I just felt like Hoffman didn’t have the same amount of respect for the Asmat as he could, or should have. His descriptions of their day-to-day lives is reminiscent of some of the 19th century travel writing I’ve come across written by Englishmen about Native Canadians. For Hoffman, the “pull of the primitive” still holds its appeal.

Beyond Books – Knitting

It may not seem like it at times but I do have a life beyond reading and writing about books. I love to make things. Most recently I picked up knitting again, (the last time I knit anything was probably in high school) and am also trying to teach myself how to crochet. As beginner projects I knit some fingerless gloves for myself and a few scarves which I have yet to wear.

They're cute, but not overly practical

They’re cute, but not overly practical

I decided to make myself something I actually would wear and found this great pattern at LionBrand for a cozy fall snug. I love LionBrand yarn and their patterns are easy to follow. (Plus you don’t need to try and figure out your gauge, like you do with most patterns on Pinterest) I just picked up some super bulky Lion Brand Yarn and am working on cozy winter cowl.

The yarn is so soft and it knits up so quickly.

The yarn is so soft and it knits up pretty quickly.

The problem is, I always end up with left over yarn, which is not enough to start a new project with. I tried making some headbands off of patterns I found on Pinterest but they didn’t work out the way I wanted. Pretty sure my gauge was off, as neither of these projects are wearable.

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To be fair, the green headband was my first attempt at crocheting anything. Overall I like the idea of the braided ear warmer, but its just too narrow.

I normally use this leftover yarn to try new patterns or stitches that I find online. I really like this mini herringbone pattern and might try to make a headband out of it. Also since I’m figuring out how to crochet I might try and make some book or journal covers. Worst case scenario I’ll make a bunch of bookmarks that I can use. Any other suggestions about what to do with left over yarn?

All my yarn leftover from various projects.

All my yarn leftover from various projects.

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#TBR Tuesday – Generation X

This Friday, January 31, Douglas Coupland: Everywhere is anywhere is anything is everything, an exhibit originally curated by Diana Augiatis, Chief Curator and Director of the Vancouver Art Gallery, is opening in Toronto split between the Royal Ontario Museum and the Museum of Canadian Contemporary Art. Coupland is one of Canada’s most celebrated contemporary artists and writers, dealing with the “21st century condition,” a condition that affects us all. In anticipation of the exhibit I am re-reading Generation X, a salute to the generation born between 1950-1960, but which remains eerily relevant to us today.

Veronica Roth – Divergent Trilogy (2011-2013)

Divergent

(This Review Contains Spoilers)

I was a bit late to jump on to the Divergent bandwagon, but did so dutifully. I read all three books in quick succession but did not overly enjoy the series as a whole. The series is often compared to the Hunger Games, which is fair when it comes to genre and style, but the two worlds are dramatically different from one another.

The first novel Divergent was actually quite good. You meet Tris Prior, a teenage girl living in a world where you must choose a “faction” to belong to. The factions are split along personality traits, the Eurudite value intellect; the Amnity value peace, Candor, honesty; Abnegation, selflessness; and Dauntless, Courage. Tris, an abnegation girl finds herself drawn to Dauntless and leaves her family to join them. There she discovers that her Divergence, the fact that she could belong to multiple factions, and just how dangerous this is.

The Second and Third novels, Insurgent and Allegiant, were not as stellar. The plot gets murky in a scenario similar to “the Village” where it is discovered that there is an outside world that has been watching and observing Tris’ society as a social experiment. There are genetically damaged and genetically pure beings and a war between the two seems imminent. Overall the series ends a bit depressingly not only because Tris dies, but simply because she went from being such a strong character to becoming a passive witness to the events happening around her.

This is something that the Hunger Games trilogy also struggled with, as in the third book, Katniss similarly loses some of her spunk and energy. In the Hunger Games however, this is more a realistic portrayal of Revolution. Katniss can no longer control it, and she instead becomes passive in the events happening around her rather than a catalyst for them.

I can see the appeal of this trilogy for those who love young adult fiction, but personally it didn’t really do it for me.

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Recipes – Adventures in Crisco

A few weeks ago I posted about a great vintage cookbook I found published by Proctor & Gable from the 1930s. It featured Crisco as a prominent and versatile ingredient and I promised to try out some recipes. I keep a separate blog for my food related adventures so if you’d like to check out my attempts at making Crisco Biscuits as well as Crisco Sandwich Spread you can on that site.

Overall cooking with Crisco was similar to cooking with margarine, only slightly more greasy and messy. I really had to soak everything to get it clean. Taste-wise there’s a bit of a difference. The biscuits were flaky and tender but lacked that buttery-taste. While it makes sense to use Crisco for pastries when flakiness is a desired trait, but I don’t see Crisco Sandwich Spread becoming a household staple any time soon.

Linda Lafferty – The Bloodletter’s Daughter (2012)

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I applaud Linda Lafferty for what she attempted to do with her novel. The characters and events are actually based on a somewhat true/folkloric tale, that tells the story of Don Julius and his infatuation with Markéta Pichlerová, a Bohemian bath maid and daughter of his bloodletter. Don Julius was a real person, and the illegitimate child of Emperor Rudolf II. He had an ill-balanced mind, and was sent to seek treatment from the bloodletter to “balance his humours.” It is not known whether the character of Markéta existed, but the story goes that Don Julius was so infatuated with her but threated to kill her many times, due to his ill balanced mind, and finally he did, disfiguring her body terribly.

Lafferty attempts to construct a fictional narrative of Markéta’s life, as a strong willed smart young woman not content to simply be a bathmaid like her mother for the rest of her life. At the same time however, Markéta is still young and naïve and her belief that Don Julius would protect her may seem crazy, but is also understandable. Lafferty does a good job crafting her characters.

There were however, some stylistic problems as the dialogue was choppy and did not always flow naturally. While Lafferty does a good job with the profiles of Markéta and Don Julius, the other characters seem a bit cliché and scripted. I also wish Lafferty talked a bit more about the medical history of the time; the beliefs surround bloodletting and the balancing of the humours is so interesting, but is only slightly touched upon.

Still, Lafferty does a good job, telling a compelling story from a time period that does not gain a great deal of attention in the realm of historical fiction (17th century Bohemia). It’s a fast read for anyone interested in the time period.