persimmon, pistachio & mascarpone danishes

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Lately, my reading list has been dominated by non-fiction – Eating Right in America by Charlotte Biltekoff Maynard, Unsetting Canada by Arthur Manuel, and Superior: The Return of Race Science by Angela Saini to name a few. This list rarely gets shorter; half of them have are annotated with what page I’ve left off on, started but never finished. I read a bit and get distracted, or life gets in the way as it always does (or as I always let it) and then they’re due back at the library so I have to return them and place another hold…

They are all books I very much want to read, but I suppose what I’ve actually been craving is fiction! Immersive fiction! Thorough engrossment with no cracks in concentration for life (i.e. news articles and texts and instagram and oh yeah – responsibilities) to get in the way. Or rather, more so than fiction specifically, it’s character-driven stories.

My most recent complete read was one of those books you sit down and find yourself devouring as smoothly as a croissant or a slice of cake (like – they’re there in front of you and then somehow they’re gone), the memoir We Have Always Been Here by Samra Habib.

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pumpkin pasties (sort of)

some sort-of pumpkin pasties – maybe more accurately pumpkin turnovers – and thinking back to the Harry Potter days

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I felt like I grew up alongside Harry Potter. Upon reflection I was wondering about the literal accuracy of that statement, so I mapped out my and Harry’s ages using the book publishing dates. There is a bit of truth to it, albeit perhaps less than I had imagined: he was quite a bit older, with the series concluding when I was still quite young (my entry into the fandom only coincided with the publishing of the last few books), though given that sometimes it would take a few years for him to age one year, I caught up a couple years.

The reason I was still able engage with the series at the time was because my older sister read the books to me (she more properly grew up alongside the books!). Despite that, I still remember very well what a longitudinal presence an ongoing book series can take – aching, after you finish the latest book, dulling over a year or few of waiting, and the beating return of anticipation as the next release date approaches. It felt like a special time, and something that I’m not sure I’ll see again: not just the anticipation about a new book coming out, but also the camaraderie that accompanied it as so many others were waiting with you.

My impression that I had grown up alongside Harry Potter throughout my childhood speaks to the enormity of the series’ presence. Finishing each successive book (irregardless of publishing date) felt like a milestone in my own life – and it’s easy to start correlating my own growth and development to his when the books map along Harry’s life for seven years.

I’ve since read the series over several times and they are just as good as the first time through, when the reading was a rushed flipping of pages, while also unabashedly savoured in the way that reading aloud facilitates.

Every time I noticed something new and charming in what she’s written – and of course, the mentions of food always pop out, including one of the exchanges to open up the first book:

“Go on, have a pasty,” said Harry, who had never had anything to share before or, indeed, anyone to share it with. It was a nice feeling, sitting there with Ron, eating their way through all Harry’s pasties, cakes, and sweets (the sandwiches lay forgotten).

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spiced poached pear and buckwheat mille crepe

a pear-forward mille crepe with a pastry cream made of the pear-poaching liquid, slices of poached pears, and a spiced pear-poaching liquid caramel overtop. plus a review and summary of the thought-provoking Food Bank Nations by Graham Riches.

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Crepe making is definitely a book-requiring process. Unless I have a distraction, such as a book, I get a bit too impatient and end up turning the heat too high.

With Canada’s first national food policy recently established, sustainability, food security, justice and the right to food are coming more into focus nationally. With that in mind I recently read Food Bank Nations: Poverty, Corporate Charity and the Right to Food (2018) by Graham Riches while making some crepes – and despite the title, which reminded me uncomfortably of Fast Food Nation, I found an interesting overview of food banking history and its implications in wealthy countries. It was thought-provoking and convincingly argued – recommended, particularly if some of the points I summarize below interest you.

“While recognizing the moral imperative to feed hungry people, Food Bank Nations challenges the effectiveness, sustainability and moral legitimacy of globally entrenched corporate food banking as the primary response to rich world food poverty.”

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lemongrass, strawberry and black glutinous rice semifreddo

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It’s been a while since I’ve read any, but I’m still very fond of young adult fiction (high school dramas aside, though!). It’s probably that YA fiction tends to be populated with coming-of-age type stories with characters that are decidedly still in flux. They undoubtedly doubt themselves and unmistakably make mistakes. They’re rarely set in their ways, and even if they are, they will rarely reach the end unchanged. It’s this vulnerability to change and openness to learning about themselves in YA fiction that draws me in.

In many ways, I think that’s a stage in my life that I still identify with. I remember, when I was younger, thinking that at this age I would really be myself – in the terms of humanistic psychologists, I might have been thinking about self-actualization. Though perhaps I set my goals a bit too lofty and such confidence in the stasis of my identity isn’t age-dependent. Regardless, it’s my desire to grow as a person — whether through fantastical adventures or day to day struggles or forming relationships or finding what makes one care — that brings me back to YA fiction.

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some cookies, for the next time i read a book

oatmeal cookiesSAM_6074SAM_6098Oatmeal cookies, in all their lumpy nooks-and-cragginess make me think of old libraries and crowded bookshelves (I have some screencaps of my favourite book-ish scenes for you below). It’s an odd association, but they seem to be the right cookie for reading dusty hardcovers or thick block-ish softcovers.

As I’ve rambled about before, I hardly read anymore. So while I think these cookies are best with a novel, odds are that I’ll usually settle for a textbook. This summer I’m hoping to do some reading and overall it hasn’t been a bad year.

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pear, fennel and rosemary cake: a learning experience

So it’s been a few months. What has happened in between is summarized quite well by this cake: not much, and not much super delicious either. Though, while an underwhelming cake, this was a fairly productive learning experience.

There is a tendency for me to lean towards the richer and heavier cakes. I’ve internalized a caricature of genoise and biscuits as dry and tough, and consequently have also developed a slight prejudice against all butter-less cakes (though with a notable exception).

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golden beet, chamomile & rye iced cake

Brian Jacques’s Redwall was one of the beloved series of my younger reading days.

They were, in some ways incredibly repetitive and problematic (for example, how an individual’s moral compass is almost invariably determined by their species–foxes were sly, mice were brave, stoats were mostly mean minions–somehow I never noticed the issues with this until I read the Wikipedia article and thought about it), but they were also insatiably good in other respects. They were absorbing, in the same way that some fantasy series are, characterized by strong world building as you become privy to another history, set of norms and traditions–and stereotypes.

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white nectarine black sesame mochi tart

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There was a time when I was a voracious reader. I read with a burning passion and an aggressive fury (well, at least in my memories of my younger self). I would take a book and sit down for as long as need be to finish it; then I would pick up the second; luckily I was at the age where you only needed a couple hours to finish a book. When I went to the library it was more about quantity than quality, (though there was this one book about a stray dog that I read at least five times over, and cried in the same four identical places every time—it was a tragic, tragic story).

My parents supported my hobby completely; it kept me quiet and out of the way, and they probably thought it meant I was smart (so sorry that didn’t turn out). I sometimes would read through dinner and if I started reading just before I went to bed, it also meant I read through the night.

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