Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam With Lavender Biscuits

maddaddm“There’s the story, then there’s the real story, then there’s the story of how the story came to be told. Then there’s what you leave out of the story. Which is part of the story too.” 

– Margaret Atwood, MaddAddam

Perhaps it’s best to call MaddAddam, the third in Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam Trilogy, the parts of the story that have been left out from the two previous books.

With Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood, Atwood takes us on a dizzying ride through a dystopic world where bio-engineered species rule the world after humans have been wiped out by a plague.

Those two books tell us different sides of the story–from those who were within and those who were without. These parallel story lines meet together, finally, in this last installment.

Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam follows the last remaining people as they stake out a small place to continue on and figure out what happened. They are joined eventually by the Crakers–Atwood’s bio-engineered humans. The Craker’s ridiculous antics fill the pages with humor. The rivalries, loves, and losses of the remaining humans fill them with heartbreak (and a dash of optimism).

If you’re keen on reading it, it’s necessary to read the other two books to understand all the different plot lines going on here. If you’ve already read the other two, but it’s been a while, you may want to go back and re-read them as I should have. It’s a complicated narrative, but a fantastic one once you untangle it all.

In honor of Toby, the resident beekeeper in the novel, I raided my garden for some bee friendly lavender to include in a recipe. Topped with honey, these biscuits are light, lovely, and the perfect snack to munch on while reading your way through these novels. Perhaps with a mug of tea?

lavendar_biscuits

Lavender Lemon Biscuits (Adapted minimally from Homesick Texan

Two cups of flour Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon of baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons of sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • Zest of one small lemon
  • 2 teaspoons dried lavender
  • 1 stick of butter, cold (8 tablespoons)
  • 3/4 cup of buttermilk
  • Honey to serve

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  • Mix all the dry ingredients together.
  • Cut the stick of butter into pieces, and work into the flour mixture with your hands or a pastry blender until it resembles pea-sized crumbs.
  • Add the liquid, mixing until a bit loose and sticky.
  • Pour dough out on a floured surface, and knead for a minute. Dough should be smooth and no longer wet. You can sprinkle more flour on the surface if you find it’s sticking.
  • Take dough into a ball, and hit it with a rolling pin, turning it and folding it in half every few whacks. Do this for a couple of minutes.
  • Roll out dough until it’s 1/4 of an inch thick, and then fold it in half.
  • Using a round cutter (can use a glass or a cup if don’t have a biscuit cutter) cut out your biscuits from folded dough.
  • Place on a greased baking sheet or cast iron skillet close together (so they rise up not out), and bake for 15 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.
  • Makes 10-12 biscuits. Serve with a generous dollop of honey as it makes the flavors shine.

Have you read any books from Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy? 

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Food Riot Rewind: The Scandalous World of Olive Oil

This is a repost from Food Riot that I thought might be a bit apropos for our discussions here. And who doesn’t love a bit of scandalous oil? Happy Friday!

extra_virginity

I know, right? *points to title*

I saw that on Tom Mueller’s Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil and was all, “Tell me MOAR.” Because there is nothing more exciting than highly loved Mediterranean foods and a scandal. I’m imagining adventure on the high seas style. Sex with the wrong person style. Government conspiracies style.

Did it deliver to those expectations?

No.

Did I learn a shit-ton of stuff about olive oil I never knew before?

Yes.

Did it make me drink a small shot glass full of olive oil at 8 PM on a Wednesday night?

Um, yes.

Moreso, was I satisfied?

Yes.

Overall, Mueller presents a really fascinating look at olive oil from its historical origins, its current production, medicinal uses, flavor characteristics, and really quite a bit more. In the book, you’ll journey to the Mediterranean where olive oil was first produced and then to Spain and, surprisingly, Australia where new techniques and methods of cultivation are being used to create the stuff.

As he promises with the title, Mueller really does delve into the seedy underground of olive oil production nowadays. Enough to make you reconsider purchasing that $7 jug of EVOO that, as he writes, is really a bit too fantastical of a price to believe its true. Enough to make you second guess that charming guy at the boutique to make sure that it really is olive oil produced in Italy (but, if you’re like me, you’ll hold yourself back before asking about the specific region).

Mueller’s love of olive oil does permeate the book, however, and as you read it, you too may begin to gain a deeper appreciation for the oil that is prized by so many.

Before reading it, I was totally all about the $7 jugs (full disclosure here). Now, I may not always buy boutique and I may not always buy organic, but I do take some time to figure out where the oil’s from and to make sure that it’s really extra virgin. I’m planning to also take a trip pretty soon to a local place in Arizona–Queen Creek Olive Mill–to get some of my own locally produced stuff.

More though, I really learned some great everyday tips in the final section “Choosing Good Oil” on how to find the best olive it, how to store it, and how quickly to use it before it goes bad.

Have you read Extra Virginity yet? Have a sudden hankering to sip on some olive oil? (I won’t judge.)

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Further Reading for Call the Midwife

Call the Midwife …

I’m hooked on BBC’s Call the Midwife. 

Now, I’ve been seeing hints of it, thanks to some of the other book bloggers out there, and so I set aside some time this week to really hunker down and watch a few episodes. It’s a period drama about new midwives in London set in the 1950s.

I love it. The characters are charmingly sweet. The stories are courageous. The period is fascinating to watch–those people had just woke from the daze of World War II and would soon be approaching the levels of technology that we take for granted today. It’s amazing stuff and I can’t wait to gobble the rest of it up.

The reason I had to wait so long is that I knew I would love it (don’t you love when you just know?). 

See, I’ve been on a midwifery kick lately while researching a novel that I’ve been writing. I’ve probably gone way too much in-depth because I went from memoir to case studies to midwife medical manual.

baby_catcher

It really is fascinating stuff, though, and one of the more interesting books I read was Peggy Vincent’s Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife.

When it comes down to it, Baby Catcher really is the perfect read to pick up after binging on Call the Midwife. Vincent was a midwife in California in the late 1960s to late 80s. She picks up on the U.S. side where Call the Midwife drops off and instead of tenement slums, she’s catching babies for the counterculture hippie mamas of the time and performing births in bathtubs.

Vincent’s stories of midwifery are as varied as the ones you’ll find in the show. She talks about cat attacks while she’s trying to deliver, labors that take place in a rocking boat in the middle of a storm, and the many nights spent driving through unknown areas to find the one house on the street where a life is being born. Her descriptions are great, and often funny, as well.

“Many women reacted to labor musically, and it was fun trying to identify the primal origin of their songs. A few produced high, bell-like tones, but most gravitated toward the deeper pitch of Tibetan monks.”

As Jenny Lee so often notes on Call the Midwife, they are dealing with the stuff of life. Both the show and Vincent’s Baby Catcher cover that topic with humility, reverence, and a bit of humor. If you’re willing to go even farther into the rabbit hole of midwifery, consider checking out The Red Tent by Anita Diamant for a biblical look at midwifery, Ina May Gaskin’s fundamental Birth Matters, or Heart and Handsa manual on the practice by Elizabeth Davis.

Have you watched Call the Midwife or read Baby Catcher? 

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Friday Wrap-Up: Best of February

*stretches out*

I believe I’m back in the swing of things again. We’ll just consider the end of 2013 a bit lost for BookPairing, mmkay?

February in numbers was a bit exciting, especially considering the shortened month. There were four book reviews:

I also talked a bit about the things I LOVE (one of which is the Tucson Festival of Books), the joy of book browsing, and books that have, well, pissed me off.

let_me_go

I’ve finished three books (and like back-binged on Sunset magazine):

  • When God Was a Woman by Merlin Stone
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • The Hungry Gene by Ellen Shell

I’ve also gabbed a lot around the interwebs. I announced earlier that I’m now a contributor over at the rockin’ Insatiable Booksluts, I’ll be writing some guest posts for the Tucson Festival of Books, and just this week, started working as a contributing editor over at Food Riot.

Seriously fun writing times all around, folks.

And, I’m out. It’s too damn beautiful here in Arizona right now to be behind a computer screen. ;)

What have YOU read in February? How was your month?

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Bubbly to Light Up Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities

invisible_cities

Some of my favorite books are those ones that measure the line between poetry and prose, those ones that are imaginative yet fiercely real.

Winding down the lines of these books beckons more towards poetry, and yet, we can follow a string of narrative to a far distant point and still feel that satisfaction, that finality, upon finding the end of a novel.

One such novel is Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. In it, Marco Polo talks to Kublai Khan about the cities he has visited. You’re probably already shaking your head and walking away, I know, but stay just a moment longer.

See, they are all description of cities–simply that–but in them, Calvino manages to pull forth love, betrayal, aging, and society. Like any city, there are layers to each and we see them through the whimsical tales that Polo tells the Khan.

Consider this one:

“When a man rides a long time through wild regions he feels the desire for a city. Finally he comes to Isidora, a city where the buildings have spiral staircases encrusted with spiral seashells, where perfect telescopes and violins are made, where the foreigner hesitating between two women always encounters a third, where cockfights degenerate into bloody brawls among the bettors. He was thinking of all these things when he desired a city. Isidora, therefore, is the city of his dreams: with one difference. The dreamed-of city contained him as a young man; he arrives at Isidora in his old age. In the square there is the wall where the old men sit and watch the young go by; he is seated in a row with them. Desires are already memories.”

Right? Right. See, these cities sit squarely in the magical realm, where extravagance and mysticism actually point to some deeper truths about our own lives. Take this one: “You take delight not in a city’s seven or seventy wonders, but in the answer it gives to a question of yours.”

Or this: “Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.”

I actually won’t be telling you much more about the book at all, because there is no more to tell. The joy in reading it is in picking it up for a few moments a day and journeying to one of those cities that Polo describes and then thinking upon the things that were said just as much as the things that were written.

And when you do, I hope you’ll have a glass of wine in your hand. To match the whimsy of the book and to give a nod to Calvino himself, I’d recommend an Italian Prosecco for the job.

Proseccos are a light, crisp bubbling wine that can have a lemony finish. I’ve liked most that I’ve tried, but one in particular, Nino Franco Prosecco (recommended by Wini over on Food Riot recently) is outstanding and decently priced.

Have you read Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities? Any of his other books (I hear If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler is luscious as well)? 

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Friday Wrap-Up: Browse On Book Lovers

I went to the VNSA Used Book Sale last weekend (Phoenix’s largest used book sale) and faced rows and rows and rows and rows and rows and rows and rows of books to buy. One of the volunteers told me that there were about 600,000 books for sale that weekend.

600,000. A number that could be rounded up to, oh, a MILLION. 

The VNSA volunteers do a fantastic job putting the whole thing together, but when you get to those kinds of numbers in one big consolidated weekend, there’s really no way to keep much organization.

Books were arranged in loose topics (cookbooks/science/fiction/etc), with some smaller subtopics sprinkled in (fiction=suspense/romance/mystery/sci-fi), but beyond that there wasn’t much.

No alphabetical ordering. No Dewey.

book_browsing

It was terrifying, but also a bit exciting at the same time. See, I’m all about the spreadsheet to-be-read list and the strategized library trips. Rarely do I go into a bookstore or library without having a list of the books that I want to get. It’s best that way because it keeps me from getting too many.

But, going into the VNSA with little more than a rough outline allowed for some of the off-the-wall browsing that can be so rewarding for readers as well. I picked my way through the health section, detoured into mythology, jumped over to classics, and then to cookbooks. I came. I bought books. Now, I will read.

All of this got me thinking about the importance of a bit of unleashed browsing in our book lives. Do you think it’s important? Do you hit the book store with a list or are you all wavy gravy about it? 

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Get Movin’ With Spark by Dr. John Ratey

sparkCertain books bring out the inner geek more than others. Certain books ends up impacting actual day-to-day activities more than others. Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John J. Ratey, MD did both for me.

The book has a simple, yet pretty profound, concept: exercise impacts the brain in the same way it impacts the biceps. 

Instead of thinking of exercise as something to do to lose weight or boost fitness, Dr. Ratey encourages people to begin thinking of it as a prescription for overall health and wellness, one that he prescribes often for his patients. Spark shows how the actual brain benefits from exercise–both structurally and chemically–and how it can be used to treat conditions from ADHD to stress to addiction to depression to anxiety.

Even if it is a bit dense at times (it is neuroscience after all), Dr. Ratey manages to make the topic approachable with great case studies throughout and specific exercise recommendations for each of these populations. Moreso, he shows how exercise can impact our overall cognitive functioning and provides evidence (in the case of the Naperville PE program) on how exercise can make us smarter or at least much more focused.

It’s a fascinating book that I first heard about from Marie Forleo (also, heads up, if you’re entrepreneuring, you should watch her as well), immediately went out to read, and have been talking about ever since. Much more importantly though, it’s motivated to get off my ass more often during the day and I’ve seen improvements in my focus already. No joke.

For the pairing, then, I want to share some of the tools that have helped me move a bit more and track that movement. These are pretty obvious ones, but I’ve loved using these apps and watching these videos in order to get moving, more often.

YOGAmazing video podcast 

I’ve also been talking everybody’s ear off about this great podcast series I found for yoga. Chaz, the host, produces a free yoga class every week that touches on specific areas (low back pain, stress, TMJ, concentration, etc, etc). I love the topic specific approach and also really like that most of them are between 10 and 20 minutes long, as it allows me to sneak at least one, if not more, in during the day. He’s also doing this high-intensity interval yoga stuff that is kind of amazeballs.

Nike+ Running App

Yes, this one has been out forever, but I really like it. Super easy to use, a fun way to track mileage, and it has little motivational prompts throughout. I didn’t think I would really have a reason for this app (which is why I waited so long to get it), but I’m so glad I have it now.

MyFitnessPal

Where Nike’s app tracks mileage and runs, MyFitnessPal helps you track all of the food you eat along with any cardiovascular activity for an overall calorie/exercise goal. I talked a little more about why I started tracking food over on Food Riot, because it’s such a strange activity to do, really, but I’ve also seen a lot of benefit from doing it.

What apps or others tools do you use to get moving? Have you read Spark by John Ratey?

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Friday Wrap-Up: I’m in Love!

Like last year, I thought it would be fantastic to cut through some of the Valentine’s Day angst with some of the stuff I’m super in love with. (And reading last year’s post at this point is a fun reminder of all the fantastic stuff that happened.)

So, in no particular order…

dontcarewhoknowsit

I love the Sandman series by Neil Gaiman. Yep, I’m re-reading it and it’s still mesmerizing.

I love all the fantastic nonfiction I’ve been reading recently which is, of course, paralleled by my romance novels. Don’t judge. Appreciate.

I am loving all the upcoming bookish events–VNSA Used Book Sale is TOMORROW and the Tucson Festival of Books is a month away. (Side note, I squeed a bit when TFOB asked me to be a guest writer for the conference so expect to start seeing those posts come out soonly.)

broccoli_flowersI am loving dawgs. My dawgs. Your dawgs. These dawgs. I want to hug all of them at the same exact time. I mean, the Internet may be full of cats, but dawgs rule the home. Amirite?

I am in love with broccoli flowers. Who knew? It’s part of my general gardening giddiness out here in Phoenix right now, but once those so-so veggies burst into happy yellow flowers, well my heart grew two sizes bigger.

I also love Mr. BookPairing’s blog, The Lonely D12! Sometimes a wife can only listen to tales about werewolves for so long before you’re like, here, do that here. And, oh hey, it’s actually super fun to read. Win, win folks.

What are you totally in love with this week? 

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Get Corned With Chuck Wendig’s Under the Empyrean Sky

empyrean_skyCorn. Never has a grain been so hated and, perhaps, a bit feared. In Chuck Wendig’s Under the Empyrean Sky, he takes that fear to yet another level in his dystopic world where the rich sit idling above the poor who labor in fields of corn. Just as may be expected in anything resembling a world in our current trajectory, corn now has a capital C and it’s big, mean, aggressive, and apt to take over the world with enough time.

Enter Cael McAvoy, a teenager who is just a bit pissed off at the system. Make that really fucking pissed off.

McAvoy runs a scavenging crew that picks up the remains of equipment from around the fields, fights with his dad about his failure to fight the system, and swoons around Gwennie, the love of his life.

It’s got all of the parts of a classic coming to age story, with just enough angst and cursing to actually feel like teenagers for once. Because, it is a YA story, and a breath of fresh air at that. Wendig holds back a bit from his normal language, of course, but the story still feels fresh, a bit daring, and irreverent enough to sound as if it actually was written by a teenage boy. Enough that Cael sometimes irritates or disappoints you in the same way that a teenage boy typically does.

(I wonder at this point just why we have this national obsession with dystopic coming of age YA stories right now. What is it about those stories that feed a certain part of us? Is it the uncertainty? The challenging of The Man? The need for reminders of what we could become?)

Under the Empyrean Sky is just the first in Wendig’s Heartland trilogy and in it he’s shown just the barest tease of what’s to come. It’s a peep show, with shots of those elite Empyrean flotillas, perhaps a fomenting revolution, and most certainly some bad ass vegetable gardens.

And, since this is a world of corn, it only makes sense to pair the book with a substance that actually takes corn to a higher place. Perhaps this is corn at the flotilla level and we must drink it to counterbalance the fear pervading this book. Perhaps not all corn is bad, right?

az_distillingTwo bourbon whiskeys then since, contrary to popular belief, the major thing setting these whiskeys apart isn’t their place of distilling, but rather their corn content. Bourbons require at least 51% of corn in their grain mixture to produce the sweet, mashy taste so unique to these whiskeys. Since Under the Empyrean Sky is a quicker read, you can go ahead and pour yourself two (or four) fingers of Arizona Distilling Company’s Copper City Bourbon or, if you can’t find that where you are, Lincoln Henderson’s very fine Angel’s Envy.

Both are fantastic with a dark caramely color and loads of flavor. The Copper City has notes of vanilla and a bit of spice, while the Angel’s Envy gains depth from time spent finishing in Port wine barrels. So, have at it folks and enjoy your time among the corn.

What’s your favorite bourbon? Have you read Under the Empyrean Sky or any of Chuck Wendig’s other books? 

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Friday Wrap-Up: What Books Have Pissed You Off?

pervI just finished Perv by Jesse Bering, a book that promised to expose the sexual deviancy in all of us in order to establish that there is no normalcy when it comes to sex. I was intrigued. Bering maintains a very funny tone through the book and handles some really touchy topics with delicacy and respect. However, I finished the book upset and disappointed.

It wasn’t the topic itself that upset me, it was the absence of certain topics. The lack of any studies of female sexuality in the book, the blow by blow (rather than complete) descriptions of sexual deviants that did nothing to humanize them, and a fizzling ending.

Above all, it felt like a book that didn’t deliver on the promise it had originally set out and which could have been incredibly interesting.

I try not to review books that I don’t like because it gives them exposure and wastes my time that could have been better spent on books that I did enjoy. For this one, however, I felt like I had to make an exception, mostly to bring to the light other books that have upset us.

So, tell me in the comments. Which books, though well-written and solid, just ended up pissing you off or disappointing you? I’m not talking disappointments like 50 Shades of Grey variety, but books that could have been great but fell flat.

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