Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Adventures in Book-Related Cooking (aka I Have No Life)

I've been reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  They're super-addictive books.  I can't put them down.  It's been awhile since I've read a series and I forgot how enjoyable it was to follow characters through a couple of books.  I think I'm going to have to re-read Harry Potter next.

For those who don't know, Hunger Games takes place in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic future.  What was once North America is now one large nation called Panem, divided into 12 districts and ruled over by a large, dominant city called The Capitol.  The Capitol puts on an annual event called the Hunger Games every year in which two "tributes" from each District, a boy and a girl, are randomly selected to compete to fight to the death.  The Games are televised and the whole country is forced to watch.  They're supposed to be some kind of horrible punishment for all of the Districts rebelling against The Capitol decades ago.  The plot is eerily similar to Battle Royale, but it's still a good read.

ANYHOO, a big point in the books is that The Capitol is wealthy and advanced and its citizens live in luxury, while nearly everyone else is starving.  Which is why I kind of scoffed when I saw a Hunger Games cookbook in the store a few weeks ago.  I thought, "What the hell are they going to have in there?  Tree bark and squirrel and gruel?"  Later, I went on Pinterest to see if there were any good HG-related pins and found some videos on Youtube of people making recipes based on food that's mentioned in the book.  And then I realized that they do talk about food all the time in the series.  So while the cookbook is clearly capitalizing on a trend, the idea isn't THAT far-fetched.  Or maybe I'm just trying to justify my foray into Hunger Games related-cooking.  I dunno.  I thought it would be fun and decided to try some of the recipes I found online.  Here are the results!

All of these are from a Youtube user named "Schemestresses", who did a series called "Hungry For The Hunger Games".  They're all foods that are specific to certain scenes in the book.  Here are the relevant links to the ones I've tried, if you wanna watch.  They might come in handy for your next book club meeting


First off, I tried making "Springtime Soup", which is described in the book as being a clear, green broth that tastes like springtime.

Basically, you need a bunch greens. Watercress, spinach, parsley, green onion, and celery, to be exact.

Also, some vegetable stock.

You cook the celery and green onion on the stove for a few minutes in some oil, then add your greens.  Once those are cooked, you can add your vegetable stock and let simmer for a bit.

Once that's done, blend it all together until it's a super green liquid that resembles something that you feel like you shouldn't be eating.

Add some salt to taste, and you're done!  Huzzah!

Despite the fact that it looks weird, it was quite delicious.  A nice, herb-y soup.  Good for vegetarians.  And perhaps people on a liquid diet.

I also made District 11 bread, which is given as a gift to the novel's protagonist, Katniss, during an important scene. 

I'd never made bread before, so this was a challenge.

Here are all the ingredients.

The most important thing to make bread, apparently, is knowing how to use yeast.  The tiniest mistake with the yeast, and you get crap bread.

You take your yeast.

And mix it with some warm water.  It's very important that the water be just slightly warm.  Not too hot or cold.  Otherwise, CRISIS.

I lucked out on my first try with yeast though.  Here it is all nice and foamy, which means it's activated and ready to go.

You mix the yeast stuff with all your other stuff.  In this case - warm milk, oats, flax seed, poppy seeds, honey, and brown sugar.  Oh yea, and flour.

Once it's all mixed and dandy, sprinkle some flour onto your counter top, take the dough out, and KNEAD KNEAD KNEAD.

Do this for 6-8 minutes.  Or until your wrists and hands wanna die.

Roll the dough into a ball, cover loosely, and put in a warm place.  After a long, long time, the ball of dough will rise and look twice as big.

Shape the dough however you want it to look, then let it sit and rise some more.

Cover in a glaze of egg and seeds. Pop in oven for 25 minutes.  And then you're done.  Voila!  Homemade bread!

This turned out very tasty.  And on my first bread try!  Hopefully one day I'll graduate to French baguettes.

So those were some of experiences in literary-themed cooking.  Any other famous book foods I should try?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Top 5: Albums of 2011

Soo....I totes lied about updating my blog while I was Maine.  Oops.  Sorry, got busy.

But now I'm back south in Virginia after a crazy experience doing documentary radio at the Salt Institute in Portland, Maine.  And I'm back to what's really important...making Top 5 lists!

Which maybe will help me in my life goal of being a relevant alt/indie blogger, surpassing the fame of Carles or Aquarium Drunkard

I realized while compiling this list that I've actually listened to a ridiculous amount of music this year.  Probably not as much as I feel I should have, but enough that narrowing this list down to five was actually quite difficult.

So, without further ado....my Top 5 of 2011.

5. tUnE-yArDs - w h o k i l l

I got irrationally pissed off at this band that I had to look on Wikipedia to make sure I typed out their name and album correctly with the correct lower-case and upper-case spacing and whatnot.  But this album is crazy and amazing, fusing together different musical genres and playing around with different arrangements.  Horns come in and out.  Sound cuts out sharply and comes back in.  In "Gangsta", vocalist Merrill Garbus layers her voice to sound like a police siren.  There's a sense of calculated randomness to the proceedings which turned me off at first, but then after 2-3 listens I was completely sucked in.

4. Wild Flag - Wild Flag

I was a big Sleater-Kinney fan and was super-stoked when I went to see Wild Flag in concert this year, curious to see a sort of girl band super-group, taking Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss from the aforementioned Sleater-Kinney, along with Mary Timony from Helium and Rebecca Cole who played with The Minders.  This band made me so happy and this album is pure, catchy, energetic rock.

3. Destroyer - Kaputt

Please forgive the video posted above, which starts out like an ad for American Apparel and then just gets weirder.  Kaputt combines elements of smooth jazz (a genre I normally find repellant) with 70s/80s-esque dream pop to create a rich collection of songs that wash over you.  I feel like it's something that shouldn't work but it totally does.

2.  Active Child - You Are All I See

Active Child is the moniker of Pat Grossi.  And I have a hard time describing this album, but the best sort of genre description I can come up with is "ethereal R&B".  There's beautiful orchestrations, and Grossi's vocals sound sort of church-like, if that makes any sense.  Everything here is lush and ghostly.  Also, Grossi plays the harp.  THE HARP.  You gotta love the harp.

1. Twilight Singers - Dynamite Steps

It's the Twilight Singers and motherfuckin' Greg Dulli.  There's no way this could NOT be my favorite album of 2011.  After most of the members of TS took time to do the Gutter Twins (the Dulli/Mark Lanegan collab of awesomeness), they came back this year with an album that was well worth waiting for.  Dynamite Steps is a dark, hypnotic brew of solid, cinematic rock songs, the perfect soundtrack for a bar fight with your ex-lover who did you wrong or a melancholic last call on your last day on Earth.

In related news, the freakin' AFGHAN WHIGS are reuniting for at least two shows this year - one in London and one in New Jersey.  I need to find a way to go.