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When I started my current job reading young adult literature, I knew that there were certain books I needed to read. Top of the list was Ransom Riggs’ modern classic, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Combining old photographs featuring optical illusions or odd distortions with a masterful imagination, Riggs weaves a strange world into the fabric and under the surface of our own.
After the brutal and mysterious death of his grandfather, Abe, Jacob travels with his father to a remote island off the coast of Wales where his grandpa spent time at a children’s home during World War II. The home was the source of many of Abe’s bedtime stories, featuring the children who lived there, their peculiar abilities (super strength, fire, invisibility), and their caretaker, the enigmatic Miss Peregrine. It is only after slipping through a crack in time, into what Miss Peregrine and other ymbrynes (women whose peculiarity it is to manipulate time and turn into the birds for which they are named) call a loop. The day is September 3rd, 1940, the day before a German bomb fell on the home and supposedly killed all its inhabitants. But as long as Miss Peregrine is around the bomb never falls and the children are safe from the peculiar-hunting creatures called hollows. Of course, as a notorious hollow killer, Jake’s grandfather drew a lot of attention from some unsavory characters, and it turns out his grandson has inherited that particular aptitude.
Notes from the Piebrary:
Riggs does a flawless job of integrating his found and vintage photographs into this book, almost as if the text is a dialogue with these forgotten pieces of time. He doesn’t write whatever he wants and try to shoehorn these photos in, but neither does he work solely within their prompting. He starts small, simply explaining both the seen peculiar content and unseen context of each photograph, and then frees himself of its confines and takes it with him into the greater scope of the book at large. The technical aspect is wholly unique, but Riggs also takes a swing at the kids with superpowers trope and smashes it out of the park. Invisibility, flight, the fire-starter; you recognize these kids. But the boy who animates and re-animates objects and bodies with pickled hearts? Necromancy isn’t exactly high on the list of popular wonder-kid powers. Not to mention the combination of time manipulation and avian transfiguration is also pretty damn unique.
Parsing This Pie:
Second only to a full English, my favorite breakfast meal to come out of the UK is toad in the hole. Partially because of the name, and partially because it’s a savory pudding with whole sausages baked in. For my Miss Peregrine pie, I wanted to riff on this classic breakfast fare, making a quiche with all of the things a peculiar child might need to jumpstart the same sunny day over and over again. I started with the most peculiar, vaguely English vegetable (I always associate them with Tolkien) I could think of: mushrooms. I used green onions for their flavor, but also because their rooty little heads look a bit like the mouths of the Hollows! I chose some young sunflower sprouts to sprinkle atop the quiche giving it the same swampy, verdant look of the bog near the home. Finally, I procured some aged cheddar and some lovely lamb sausage seasoned with garlic and thyme.
I will admit, I’ve been sitting on this recipe for a while: I baked it back in June. After much deliberation, I decided to wait until October to post, smack dab between the release of the Miss Peregrine’s movie (which diverts from the book, but enthusiastically builds on Riggs’ world) and Halloween. The unfortunate side effect, is that this quiche is more than a little out of season at this point. Sure, in modern supermarkets it’s easy to find green onions all year round, and you could easily substitute the sunflower sprouts with a little bit of arugula, but I’m usually so careful to bake and post in-season that I was a little disappointed in myself… then I realized that this is perhaps the most peculiar thing about this pie! Like the children of Miss Peregrine’s home, it is totally displaced from time: it exists in a sunny and mild early June, while I’m writing from a chilly Autumn. This, and perhaps a feather tucked into my lapel, is the closest I may ever be to a Ymbryne.
-1/3 cup of butter
-1 cup flour
-2-3 tbs of water
-1 cup of half and half
-3 cups of mushrooms
-1/3 cup green onions
-3 large sausages* halved
-1 cup cheese (aged cheddar or gouda very nice!)
-a handful of sunflower sprouts
*Again, I chose lamb, which is a very rich meat, but pretty much anything else would be acceptable by your preference! I will recommend adding a bit of chopped garlic and a sprinkle of thyme, as these were already mixed in my sausage and I think add a certain something to the quiche at large
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cut the rust ingredients together, and knead until they come together in a shaggy dough. Roll out on a well-floured surface, line your pie tin, and pre-crimp the edges.
Halve the sausages and arrange them strategically (gotta make sure every Peculiar child has a bite of sausage!) along the bottom of your pie crust. Arrange the mushrooms and chopped green onions around and over the sausages.
Whisk the eggs and half and half together in a large bowl. Working in small spurts, pour the egg mixture into the pie crust, pausing to layer in and distribute the shredded cheese throughout. Finally, top with sunflower sprouts!
Place on a baking sheet and bake for 45-55 minutes, rotating 180 degrees halfway through. The filling should puff up and brown!
Serve with black tea, no sugar (don’t you know there’s a war on?) at the start of an excellent day so sunny it seems uncannily like the day before it.