When it comes to liquor and libations Milwaukee-based food and drink writer Jeanette Hurt knows her stuff. So I was only too delighted to come across her book Drink Like a Woman: Shake, Stir, Conquer, Repeat.
Drink Like a Woman provides over 70 cocktail recipes and so much more. It goes beyond the fruity, sweet, pink and girly drinks like the Cosmopolitan popularized by Sex and the City to provide cocktail recipes for all kinds of palates and tastes.
After a foreward by Ann Tuennerman, founder of Tales of the Cocktail, Hurt share a few words on so-called “girly drinks,” in which she claims there are no “girly drinks.” Women like what they like and we don’t have to apologize for it.
But before we can make a cocktail we need to get our home bar together. Hurt provides a very thorough list of needed accessories like jiggers, muddlers, shakers, strainers, pourers and glasses to make your home bar top notch whether you’re new to the cocktail game or an experienced mixologist. And you don’t have to break the bank. Many of these items can be found at thrift stores, estate sales and rummage sales.
Okay, now we’re onto the fun part-the cocktail recipes, which are inspired by fierce femmes and our herstory, which spans from the 1600s to the modern age.
Chapter One, Witches and Bar Wenches covers the years 1600-1900, which celebrates the Revolutionary War, authors Jane Austen (Jane Austen’s Zombie) and the Bronte Sisters (Bronte’s Brew). You can also make a toast to trailblazers with drinks like Nellie Bly-Tai, Curie Royale and Amelia Takes Flight. That time of month? Ditch that Midol and enjoy a Monthly Medicinal instead.
Chapter Two, Votes for Women, Whiskey for All, covers the years 1900 to 1950. Drinks celebrate flappers with Flapper’s Firewater, Rosie the Riveter with Rosé the Riveter and the iconic artist Frida Kahlo with a Frida Kahlúa. Do you need a virgin cocktail for non-drinkers or those underage? Stir up it up with a Suzy B’s Virgin Voter, which honors Susan B Anthony, famous suffragette and a proponent of the temperance movement.
Chapter Three, Libations for the Liberated, covers the years 1950 to 2000. Pop culture icons like Mary Richards, Princess Leia and Buffy the Vampire Slayer get their own drinks (Bloody Mary Richards, Kissed by a Wookie, and Buffy’s Stake), feminism is in fine form with the Bra Burner, Sister Solidaritea, and the Gloria Stein’em.
Chapter Four, Stirring Up Cocktails and Shaking Up the World, covers the 2000s. You can also make a toast the LBD with The Little Black Dress, denounce manpslaining with Mansplainer Antidote and celebrate friendship with the BFF.
Drink Like a Woman also provides recipes for all kinds of syrup, the rules for creating creamy drinks, and hangover cures in case you indulge too much. And Drink Like a Woman also provides a list and brief bios of the ladies of liquor, the mavens of mixology who shared these cocktail recipes.
Drink Like a Woman is also a fun read for its quotations, lists of music and movies to love while enjoying your cocktails and Paige Clark’s charming illustrations. Drink Like a Woman is a welcome addition to any one’s book shelf whether one imbibes or does not.
2016 was an immensely difficult year for me and so many others. And as 2017 rolls along I still feel a certain sadness personally, professionally and politically. And I’m not the only one. So it was truly a blessing to find Meik Wiking’s book The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living.
Hygge (pronounced “hue-guh”) is the concept of happiness, fulfillment, well-being, and contentment. Denmark is considered one of the happiest countries in the world, and Wiking is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen so needless to say, he knows what he is talking about.
And just what is hygge to Wiking and many of his fellow Danes? Well, a lot of it has to do with warmth and light, which is not surprising considering it can get pretty cold and dark in Denmark. Danes love their fireplaces and wearing comfy bulky sweaters. They also have a love of soft lighting from well-placed lamps and burning candles. Only the candles Danes prefer are unscented.
Danes also find hygge in togetherness, whether it’s with their families, friends or just their communities as a whole. Just connecting with a loving soul via actual human contact (not social media) can fill a Dane with contentment and joy.
One way Danes connect with through food and drink. Having tea or coffee with a cherished loved one is a great way to inspire hygge, and so is throwing a dinner party or having a potluck with friends. In The Little Book of Hygge Wiking generously shares some beloved recipes, which as a total foodie I can’t wait to try out. And I now for myself, one way I connect with others is through my love of baking (my sugar mint cookies should be declared a national treasure).
Here are few thing the Danes feel are hygge:
Holidays like Christmas
I must say I agree with a lot of things on that list. I love to listen to music, and I often use it as a healing balm when I’m feeling a bit down. It’s no secret I love books (or else I wouldn’t have this blog). I love Sundays. I start off my Sundays watching one of my favorite TV programs CBS Sunday Morning, and then I head off to my church First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee, where I am not only treated to a wonderful service, I also connect with a like-minded community. I adore my fur baby, Pokey Jones whose purrs and unconditional love fill me with hygge.
Other countries have their own concepts and words for hygge. Canadians call it hominess. In Norway it is called koselig. German’s call their concept of hygge (yes, Germans want to be happy, too) gemutlichkeit. What would I call hygge as an American? Well, I call it niceties.
Hygge is practiced all year around and Wiking mentions hygge for each Month. January is a great month for having movie nights. In March, you can have theme nights; my theme for the month of March? My birthday, of course! May is a great time for a week-end getaway to a cabin or maybe a lovely bed and breakfast place. Summer picnics are ideal in the month of July. Wiking inspires us to have soup cook-offs in November.
Hygge doesn’t have to be costly. Often they are free or very inexpensive. Wiking suggests making your own “Hygge Emergency Kit.” His suggestions for such a kit include candles, chocolate, your favorite tea, books, a collection of treasured hand-written letters, warm woolen sweaters, a notebook and pen, and music.
In the past few days I have been feeling sad with the state of our world and some personal issues I’m dealing with. But reading about hygge reminded me to think of good things that filled me with happiness and joy. The eclipse filled me with hygge, reminding how inspiring the galaxy can be and how one moment can fill the world with joy and wonderment. This morning I woke up to find a text and an IM from two friends, which lifted my spirits. I’m currently reading some good books. I made a fabulous meal last night. Heck, even a decent night’s sleep helped me feel hygge.
I truly loved The little Book of Hygge and am so grateful for Meik Wiking. This book and its ideas will inspire me for quite a long time. We should all feel and practice hygge.
Not too long ago, the lovely people from Eventbrite burned up some cyberspace and contacted me on writing about my ideal book panel discussion featuring my favorite authors and/or characters. I Googled Eventbrite to see if it was legit or not. Looking pretty darn legit, I quickly contacted them and said I’d love to do it, just give me some time to figure out what authors and/or characters I’d like to have on my panel.
Saying yes to this project was the easy part…coming up with authors and characters was quite another. There are so many authors and characters I adore and nearly worship. I would need a round table as large as Lambeau Field to house them all. What authors and characters do I pick? There are times when just picking out what earrings to wear on a particular day is a monumental task.
First I decided to pick authors only. And then I decided the authors would all be women. This is no slap at the male authors I adore or men in general. It’s just four authors popped into my lady brain and they just happened to be women.
What else does a panel discussion need? Well, moderators, of course! We can’t let this discussion run amok, right? Now who would I choose to moderate (well, besides me, of course). I immediately thought of my favorite journalist, Bill Moyers, a lovely gentleman whose curious, thoughtful and empathetic interviewing style would be perfect for this panel and our sure to be scintillating discussion.
Afterward the panel discussion I’d host a post-discussion casual meet and greet for the authors and the audience. I’ll even bring snacks.
Following are the principle players in the Book Self’s First Women of Words: A Celebration (and Potluck).
Moderators: Bill Moyers-see pic (and me, of course)
Audience: Men and women who love to read (and maybe even write). I’d pretty much invite fellow bookworms who have a mad love of the written word.
Special VIPs: My mom who got me to read in the first place and introduced me to the wonders of libraries and book stores. My friends, both in my off-line universe, and those I adore via the Internet. They include long-time friends Nora and Elaine Takagi, Jen Locke, Rosie Blythe, Cobalt Stargazer and Tari. I chose these ladies because they are talented writers who have written guest reviews at both my blogs, have blogs themselves and are just incredibly talented writers as a whole.
As for the potluck I’m providing post-discussion and during the meet and greet? Well, I’d offer various types of cookies and brownies, including my treasured sugar mint cookies and dark chocolate brownies with a sea salt caramel glaze, chocolate chip cake, zesty pretzels, various chips and dips including my goat cheese dip, veggie with dill dip, guacamole, hummus and salsa, fruit and veggie platters, a tasty cheese plate with homemade crackers, and various liquid refreshments including my mom’s Brandy Smash.
As I mentioned, I selected four distinct ladies of letters-Judy Blume, Dorothy Parker, Roxane Gay and Caitlin Moran. The following are reasons why I want them on my panel:
How could I not have my discussion and not feature Judy Blume? When I was a mere lass feeling like a 4th grade nothing, battered by bullying, confused by puberty, and vowing to never name my future male offspring Ralph, Judy was the Man…I mean Woman!!! Whereas other writers wrote about tweens and teens in a way that were both saccharine and unrealistic, Judy wrote about the adolescent experience in realistic ways, which never sugarcoated the issues we faced whether it was getting our periods, sex and masturbation, schoolyard bullying, family strife, religion and social issues. She knew these distinct moments in our lives were of monumental importance and treated the topics and her readers with so much respect.
No panel discussion of mine would be complete with the ghost of Dorothy Parker, whose poetry continues to inspire me. However, I must admit I was initially not a fan of Parker’s. I first heard of Parker when, as an insecure, bespectacled pre-teen, I read her line saying, “Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.” Stomping in my Nike sneakers, I thought to myself, “What a mean lady!” But it wasn’t long before I realized the Divine Dorothy was just being snarky and probably pitying those men who didn’t quite get the erotic allure of a girl in glasses. I’m now a huge fan of Parker’s and I consider her to be the patron saint of all witty women too smart for their damn good. How could I not invite her to Women of Words.? You know she’d have plenty to say, and she’d love the Brandy Smash!
Then there are two of my favorite writers I have recently grown to appreciate who are not only fabulous writers, but who are also very proud to claim the word feminist. These women are Roxane Gay and Caitlin Moran. Both of these women write about the female experience, with clarity, wisdom and richness fully capturing the beauty and ugliness of what it means to be a female in the 21st century. Both Bay and Caitlin have written non-fiction and fictional books that are near and dear to my heart. Both Gay’s collection of short stories in Difficult Women and Moran’s novel How to Build a Girl received rave reviews by the Book Self. And their individual collection of essays, Bad Feminist and Moranifesto are two feminist-minded must-reads.
This discussion could also be a way for Gay to promote her memoir Hunger, which chronicles her experience as a survivor of a gang rape and how it led her to using food as an escape, comfort and shield. Interestingly enough, in Moranifesto Moran tells men two things they need to know about women one is we fear them, that they will hurt us physically, sexually, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. This topic alone could make for a very intriguing and mind-blowing discussion.
However, I want this to be so much more! So even though I want this to be a free floating discussion of writing, I also have some questions Moyers and I could throw out to the panel. They are as follows:
What did they read when they were little girls and why?
When did they start to write and why? What did they write? Who are their favorite authors and books from their girlhood to today? Who are these authors and books and authors their favorites?
When did they realize writing was their vocation?
What inspires them to write?
Describe their version of writer’s block. How do they cope with writer’s block?
Describe the good, bad and the ugly of being writers, especially women writers.
Describe what it is like to write non-fiction, fiction, poetry, journalistic features, and so on, both the similarities and the differences.
What is the one book they wish they wrote?
Discuss their future plans.
Advice for writers.
After the panel discussion we’d have a Q & A session where the audience gets to ask the panel their own questions.
Later, we’d sum up the occasion with a casual meet and greet/potluck. However, we’d have to tell Dorothy Parker she has to smoke outside and keep her from bogarting the Brandy Smash.
I must admit I had fun writing this and I’m so happy Eventbrite asked me to be a part of this. I also realized there is so much I want to discuss with these ladies that it might take up more than one session. We could make this a week-end event!
Eventbrite offers great book-related events all over. If you ‘d like to find a book event near you check out this registration online tool.
A few years ago Cathy Erway made a decision — for two years she would not eat out in any of New York’s five boroughs. Instead, she would discover the pleasures of cooking and eating at home, and she’d keep a blog called Not Eating Out in New York, tracking her culinary adventures.
Her foray back into the kitchen is now chronicled in the book The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove.
I can’t imagine never eating out in New York, one of the best restaurant cities in the world. I was intrigued on how Erway was going to accomplish this monumental task. Cooking can be a lot of fun, and there is something very satisfying about eating a meal you made yourself. At the same time, cooking large meals with lots of ingredients can be time-consuming and costly, and constantly trying new recipes that are both delicious and nutritious can be a challenge.
The Art of Eating In started out strong. In the beginning, Erway gives a brief history of restaurants — the first of which began in the Middle East during the late tenth century. The first known restaurants appeared in the Western world in Paris (where else?) in 1766. Today, we have our pick of everything from fast food joints to high-end eateries anywhere in the world. Needless to say, this is having a huge impact on both our wallets and our waistlines.
Dollars and pounds aside, what Erway really wanted to do was start a blog about her project (ah yes, the blogging-your-way-to-fame tactic). She tried her hand at freeganism, dumpster diving for food restaurants and shops just throw out. She was appalled by the amount of food she found, many of it still safe to eat. Erway also foraged for edible plants at a local park.
Eventually, she got involved with New York’s supper clubs, underground clubs where people share all kinds of meals. Before long, she became semi-famous in these circles, both for her blog and for her dishes, even winning an award for her no-knead bread.
But as the book went on I found myself getting irritated, not inspired. Rarely does Erway mention a mishap in the kitchen or a recipe gone awry. Even the most seasoned gourmands make a mistake. Furthermore, despite being just out of school and nebulously employed, she seems to have oodles of money for supper club fees, exotic and expensive ingredients and fancy cookware. Never does she really break down a budget for her two-year experiment, so there’s little commentary on the economic side of the project, which would have been helpful.
Plus, every one of Erway’s friends seems to be a hipster “foodie” and completely bowled over by every single dish. This seemed highly unrealistic to me. Surely someone must have turned their noses up at something.
Furthermore, it doesn’t help that Erway’s writing is rather dry and not very engaging. After a while, I just didn’t care about her little experiment, and ordered Chinese food in protest. I would have liked to read some of her initial blog posts to compare to the actual book. Even the recipes interspersed throughout left me rather cold.
In the end, The Art of Eating In is like fast food meal — you feel stuffed, but you won’t feel satisfied.
I’m a big lover of food, finding great joy just puttering in my kitchen with a pot roast in my slow cooker and making and baking a couple dozen of my buttermilk cheesy biscuits.
I’m also a big lover of memoirs of all kinds, thoroughly enjoying the stories of people from all walks of life with interesting stories to tell.
So I was pretty thrilled to find Poor Man’s Feast by food blogger Elissa Altman. Would Poor Man’s Feast be a fully-satisfying literary meal or would it leave me hungry for more?
The answer? Well, both.
Altman is a native New Yorker, and throughout Poor Man’s Feast she never lets you forget it. Her love of food is something she shared with her father, and it was how these two bonded as parent and child.
On the other hand, there was Altman’s mother, a total glamour puss who didn’t just disdain food and refrain from eating; she actually seemed to fear food and her own appetite.
Once Altman got older she refines her love of food by working at Dean and Deluca (hmm, just like Felicity), working throughout various departments and spending a big part of her paycheck on Dean and Deluca’s culinary delights. Dean and Deluca is a touchstone for Altman, one she harkens back to throughout Poor Man’s Feast.
Altman also comes to terms with being a lesbian and Poor Man’s Feast focuses a great deal on her relationship with Susan, a woman who would become the love her life.
On paper, Altman and Susan couldn’t seem more different. Whereas Altman is a sophisticated city slicker, with a finely-tuned taste and palate only a place like New York City could offer (yeah, right—Milwaukee has just been named a great food town), Susan is a small-town gal whose love of food is too low class for the likes of Altman.
And it was these aspects of Poor Man’s Feast that left me unsatisfied. Though Altman tells us of her love for Susan, she never really seems to show it. Altman, at turns, is dismissive of Susan and her family, and their less sophisticated lives and food choices. Perhaps, Altman’s dryer than baking powder humor was supposed to be witty but I found it way too sarcastic and not funny at all. Only as Poor Man’s Feast come to a close did I truly feel Altman’s love for Susan and her growing acceptance of Susan’s family and their plebian taste in food.
Perhaps I would have liked Poor Man’s Feast better if Altman would have focused more on her relationship with her father and how they bonded over their love of all things food. It was these lovingly-written passages that truly touched my heart and made my mouth water with beautifully written
“Let’s face it, a nice creamy chocolate cake does a lot for a lot of people; it does for me.” ― Audrey Hepburn
When I learned of Audrey at Home-Memories of my Mother’s Kitchen by Luca Dotti last year, I just knew I had to put it on my reading list. It’s no secret I am a huge fan of the late Audrey Hepburn. I also find great joy puttering in my kitchen with a pot of chicken soup on the stove, a pot roast in my slow cooker and my much beloved sugar mint cookies baking in the oven.
Most people know Audrey mainly through her film work and her humanitarian work with UNICEF. She is also notable for her Givenchy-honed sense of style. But to Luca Dotti, Audrey’s son with Andreas Dotti, she was simply his mother who loved him and his elder brother Sean. Audrey also love gardening and puttering in her kitchen discovering new recipes and savoring the tried and true.
But Audrey at Home isn’t merely a collection of recipes; it is lovingly written book filled with family photos and Luca’s sweet (and sometimes bittersweet) memories of being Audrey’s son. I always thought I knew her, but Audrey at Home gave me insight into a delightfully singular, yet everyday woman more than I could ever know.
After creating a career, most notably in movies like Roman Holiday (for which she won an Oscar), Sabrina, Funny Face, A Nun’s Story, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Wait Until Dark, Audrey decided to dial back and focus on being a wife, mother and homemaker. First in the country of Luca’s birth, Italy, and later in Switzerland, in a home called “La Paisable,” (The Peaceful Place). I can’t think of a better name for a home owned by Audrey Hepburn, especially considering how she barely survived the Holocaust as a child and spent her later years as a tireless advocate for children through her work with UNICEF. Audrey desired peace, not only for herself, but for others.
“There is a science of war, but how strange that there isn’t a science of peace. There are colleges of war; why can’t we study peace?” – Audrey Hepburn
Audrey also brought her desire for peace to her home, making it a welcoming place not just for her sons and the love her live, Robert Wolders. But also for her extended family and close friends (both famous and not famous). Food was just one way Audrey used to express a place of peace, love, comfort and joy.
Though Milwaukee is a great food town, and I have access to a wide-range of ingredients and food products in my east side neighborhood, I like Audrey’s idea of simplicity and less is more when it comes to cooking. Most of the ingredients in Audrey’s recipes can be found at your local grocery store, your garden and your favorite farmer’s market. While reading the book, I made note of Audrey’s recipes – flourless chocolate cake, mac and cheese, cutlets and various seasonal salads.
This past May 4th (Audrey’s birthday), I made the book’s first noted recipe called Hutspot, which sounds like a slightly elevated version of Pocket Stew. I learned how to make Pocket Stew when I was a freckle-faced Girl Scout and I still eat it to this day. Here is Audrey’s recipe for Hutspot:
HUTSPOT (Serves 2)
Ingredients: ½ pound (225 grams) beef shoulder or chuck roast
Salt and Pepper
2 large eggs
2 large potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
Whole grain mustard for serving
Add 1 cup of water (250 ml) to a braiser (I used my slow cooker). Add beef, lightly salted and peppered. Cook at a low temperature until tender.
Remove and set aside.
Increase the heat to medium and stir to thicken the gravy. Pour the gravy over the meat to keep warm.
In the meantime, place the potatoes in a pan and add water to cover the potatoes, then add the carrots and onion. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat, cover the pan, and cook the vegetables until tender, about 20 minutes. Mash the vegetables until tender, about 20 minutes. Mash the vegetables into a puree, and season with salt and pepper. On a platter, place the sliced meat on top of the puree and serve accompanied by mustard.
I have to say the result was very delicious, and quite comforting on a cold, windy day. I’m sure I will make Hutspot again and again
While reading this book I couldn’t help but think of my mom cooking for my sister and me. To this day, I still think she makes the best chicken soup ever. And though my mother was no Julia Child (too short) and no Martha Stewart (she’s never been to prison – well, not as far as I know), she made sure her kids got a decent meal while growing up. Though my sugar mint cookies should be declared a national treasure, I was inspired to make a favorite since childhood that my mother taught me- the classic chocolate chip cookie. Delicious!!
Interspersed throughout Audrey Hepburn are handwritten notes on gardening, food and actual photos of index cards with various recipes written on them. Remember when we used to have little boxes filled with index cards of recipes?
Audrey Hepburn at Home is a nearly-perfect book, one that not only celebrates Audrey Hepburn as the multi-faceted woman she was, but also one that celebrates the two greatest gifts we can give to our families, our friends, our communities and our world as a whole- our love and our labor.
On this mother’s day I would like to dedicate this post to my mother and my sister, Julie. I would also like to dedicate this post to two non-moms, my foodie friends Nora and Elaine who inspired me to trust myself more in the kitchen.
“The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.” ― Audrey Hepburn
What is it about French women? They eat rich, calorie-laden food, yet are impossibly thin. They are effortlessly stylish, doing more with one scarf than most women do with an entire outfit. They are sophisticated and intellectual, not crass and fatuous. French women just have that, how does it go? Ah, oui, je ne sais quoi.
Yes, I do know I just described French women using a few clichés (great French word, cliché, non?), but sometimes clichés are clichés because they are true. And being a huge Francophile, I couldn’t help but be drawn to Debra Ollivier’s primer Entre Nous: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl.
Ollivier is an all-American girl married to a French man, and she spent a decade living in France. So needless to say, she got pretty familiar with the French way of life, and how French women can inspire us to make our lives richer and more fulfilling.
Ollivier divides her book into several parts. She describes French women and how they view food, family, fashion, work and the home. French women view food as both sustenance and celebration. You probably won’t find French women freaking out over carbs or living on power bars. They eat food that is seasonable, fresh and probably local. Yes, French women love their cheese, bread and wine, but they eat smaller portions and truly savor what they are eating. Plus, most of them do not snack between meals (wait Doritos and Red Bull aren’t a balanced meal?).
French are practically synonymous with fashion. And French women look totally chic. They often do this with a few quality items rather than a bunch of mediocre pieces bought in haste at a huge sale or a store like Wal-Mart. Their clothing is rarely hyper- trendy, but always flatters their figures and their unique style. French women work with what they got, and don’t try to fit into some narrow mold of what they think they should look like. And yes, French women really know their way around a simple scarf. Fortunately, Ollivier adds some scarf tying tips scarves for our perusal.
In the home, French women surrounds themselves with items that give their lives meaning and have an element of history. It’s not rare that a French girl has trinkets in her home that have been handed down from generation to generation. When it comes to careers, French women work to live, not live to work. In their interpersonal relationships, French women open themselves up slowly. They don’t reveal things to quickly whether it’s to a potential lover or a potential best friend. This is quite a difference from some people who have to reveal their life stories right away or are TMI on Facebook.
Sprinkled throughout Entre Nous are factoids about French women like Edith Piaf, Catherine Deneuve and Coco Chanel. Ollivier enthuses over French movies, both the well-known like Chocolat and Jules et Jim, and small gems like 8 Femmes and Contes Des Quatre Saisons. Ollivier also mentions good books that help you delve into the French experience.
Does Ollivier stereotype? Perhaps. There are French women who do get fat. I can walk around my neighborhood and find plenty of stylish people. And many Americans have adopted eating locally-grown produce and quality food over overly-processed junk food and Burger King. Ollivier has embraced the idea of the French woman, but she doesn’t bash her American sisters. She appreciates America’s friendliness, diversity and openness. And guess what? There are plenty of things about America the French like, and not just Jerry Lewis. For instance, the French have embraced our pop culture, especially our music. And I can’t say I blame them. Have you ever heard French pop music? Total merde.
I guess you could say Entre Nous is a self-help book, but most self-help books just lead to more self-loathing. Entre Nous is about loving experiences, good quality in both food and fashion, and appreciating one’s desires and appetites. It’s a fun and inspiring read that you might refer to again and again. Entre Nous is très bien.
Not so long ago, if a gal wasn’t married by the time she was in her early twenties she considered a pitiful, washed-up spinster. Helen Gurley Brown thought this was a load of hogwash, and told young women to embrace single hood and have the time of their lives. And she wrote all about it in her ground-breaking, and back in the early sixties, quite scandalous book Sex and the Single Girl.
There is a chance you aren’t familiar with Helen Gurley Brown. However, you are probably aware of the magazine she ran for several decades—Cosmopolitan. She was highly responsible for making Cosmopolitan the huge success it is to this day. And she did it by convincing readers there is more to life than getting a wedding ring on your finger and changing poopy diapers.
I’m not the biggest Cosmopolitan fan. On my coffee table are magazines like Bust, Martha Stewart Living, and The Nation. But I always appreciated how Ms. Gurley Brown (who didn’t marry til later in life and never had children of her own) told readers that men are wonderful, but not all that life to offers. Women should have fulfilling lives that include careers, entertaining, hobbies, and a fun social life.
Now in 2015 this advice is hardly earth-shattering, but in the pre-feminist days, when the Pill was in its infancy (yes, pun intended) and women thought college was a way to get an MRS degree, Gurley Brown’s outrageous talk was truly revolutionary.
I picked up Sex and the Single Girl at my local library not knowing what to expect. Would it be salacious and dirty or would it offer some smart and useful advice? Well, Sex and the Single Girl was probably considered pretty darn salacious and dirty when it was published in 1962. But today it offers pretty darn good advice that wouldn’t look out of place in any current lady mag or any self-help book endorsed by Oprah.
Now, don’t get me wrong. In Sex and the Single Girl, Ms. Gurley Brown still thinks it’s very important the ladies get a man. Marriage is a good goal for any girl. She even has no qualms about girls dating married men or having affairs with one’s male co-workers. Needless to say, I’m not exactly thrilled with this advice. And I’m not exactly thrilled with how she views other women as competition and adversaries, not as a much needed support system. I know I couldn’t make it without my girlfriends.
On men, Ms. Gurley Brown discusses several types, the dreamboat (aka Mr. Right or maybe Mr. Right Now), the eligibles but who needs them type of men (guys who are dull, creepy or just completely hopeless), and the Don Juan, who today we’d call a Man Whore (guys who are exciting, but will tear your heart to shreds). Other types of men Ms. Gurley Brown discusses are the homosexuals, the divorcees, the younger men and the married men. Ms. Gurley Brown is a bit offensive when she refers to homosexual men as basically “girls” and I didn’t like how she encouraged readers to date married men. Plus, nothing wrong with guys who are divorced or younger than you. You can find Mr. Right in these demographics.
Beyond that, I actually liked a lot of what Ms. Gurley Brown advises in Sex and the Single Girl. She told women that having a job is a good thing and to embrace financial independence. She told women to get passionate about work for everything from the sense of accomplishment it could give you to the access of the men you could meet.
She told women to be financially savvy, discover what works for you fashion-wise, decorate your apartment to suit your taste and budget, learn how to entertain (and the book includes recipes), and to travel the world. She also told women to embrace fitness and good eating habits, even extolling the virtues of health food stores. You don’t have to wait until Mrs. is in front of your name. Do these things now!
And guess what ladies? Ms. Gurley Brown also told women you don’t need Mrs. in front of your name to embrace your sexuality and have an enriching erotic love life. Now this is hardly controversial today, but in the early sixties is was quite shocking. I’m sure some uptight pearl clutchers claimed, “Why should a man buy the cow when he can get the milk for free?” To which I’m sure Ms. Gurley Brown thought, “Why buy the pig when all you want is a little sausage?”
Certain aspects of Sex and the Single Girl are quite out-dated (and some of it offensive), and at times I found Ms. Gurley Brown’s writing style to verge on total purple prose (however, I do want to insert “pippy-poo” into my every day vernancular). However, like with any self-help book, Sex and the Single Girl is one to take with a grain of salt (and a bit of tequila). A lot of Ms. Gurley Brown’s advice is spot-on, which makes Sex and the Single Girl a fun and vital read even in 2015.
In the past few years we’ve been bombarded with messages about eating organic food and shopping local farmer’s markets. Vegan and vegetarian cookbooks dot our bookstore shelves. And we only need to walk around our communities to find out what overly processed foods are doing to our waistlines and our health. All this information can be overwhelming. Where do we start in improving our food choices?
Thank goodness for Lisa Jervis’ Cook Food: A Manualfesto for Easy, Healthy, Local Eating!
Jervis is like your best foodie friend guiding you in the kitchen. In the first half of the book, she discusses the importance of eating local foods and embracing a meatless diet and manages to do so without getting preachy. She seems to understand that not everyone has access to farmers’ markets, and some people can’t give up an occasional burger. She also tells the reader the kitchen equipment and ingredients they should have on hand. Most of us probably have a majority of these things in our kitchens already, and the rest aren’t hard to find.
Cook Food also gives tips and techniques for cooking. Confused about sautéing, steaming and blanching? Jervis tells you how to use these methods in a way that is easy to follow. She also discusses things like adding spices and herbs (both dried and fresh) to your dishes, plus how to brown, deglaze and prepare tofu and the easiest way to peel garlic.
Now we get to the fun part, the recipes. I feared they would be flavorless and bland but just reading them made my mouth water. Spices and herbs play a big part in the recipes, and Jervis allows for a lot of flexibility to suit your taste buds. Cook Food recipes includes everything from main meals to side dishes and yes, desserts.
One of my favorite go to recipes is a corn, tomato and basil salad, which I love to make when both sweet corn and tomatoes are at their peak. And as for the basil, well, I have a basil plant on my window sill. Here is the recipe:
Corn, Tomato and Basil Salad
3 ears of corn
1 large tomato or two medium, three small, or one basket of cherry tomatoes
1 small handful of torn or chopped basil
1 lemon for both zest and juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Husk the corn. Steam the corn for five minutes in an inch or two of boiling water. Turn once or twice. You can also fully boil the ears of corn. Both methods work.
Place the cobs of corn in the fridge until cool. Cut the kernels off the cobs.
Cut the tomatoes into bite-sized chunks and place in a bowl with the kernels and the basil.
Zest half of the lemon into the bowl. Then juice the lemon into the bowl.
Add the olive oil and toss. Adjust the lemon zest and juice if needed. Add salt and pepper to taste.
There are a lot of variations to this salad. If you’re not a basil fan, you can always another herb. Mint and cilantro are good. You can also add other veggies. I’ve made this salad with cut-up cucumbers and purple onions. If you don’t want to go fully vegan, you can add a bit of feta cheese. Though this is considered a side dish, I’ve often made this salad into a meal with toasted pita bread or cheese and crackers.
Jervis also provides helpful resources for everything from vegan cooking, food politics and social issues to gardening, local farming and activism (including a shout-out to Milwaukee’s very own Growing Power).
Jervis’ writing style is very engaging and down-to-earth. She never lectures, but only inspires. Cook Food: A Manualfesto for Easy, Healthy, Local Eating is the perfect primer for both budding foodies and experienced gourmands alike.
Just checked the email account I have for this blog, and Emily Matchar, author of Homeward Bound, emailed me back to say she loved the review and she re-tweeted a link to my review. Here it is (scroll down):
Ms. Matchar also mentioned in her email that my sugar mint cookies sound amazing. Well, they are! Here is the recipe.
Sugar Mint Cookies
1 cup butter
1/2 cup of sugar
2 cups of flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp of peppermint extract
2 tbsp of crushed dry mint leaves (or 4 tbsp of crushed fresh mint leaves)*
In a mixing bowl, cream butter and the 1/2 cup of sugar. Add flour, salt, extract and mint. Chill dough for at least an hour. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Form chilled dough into 1 inch balls and roll in additional sugar. Place the balls on an ungreased cookie sheet. Press each ball with your thumb. Bake for 12-15 minutes.
*The original recipe (which I believe I found in the Milwaukee Journal’s “Food” Section) calls for dried or fresh mint leaves, but you can also use chocolate chips (Nestle makes a great dark chocolate/mint chips combo), Andie’s Candies chips or mint M & M’s. They’re all good!!!!