I am, apparently, not the only person to wonder (usually under the fluorescent, changing-room lights) what it would be like to magically become the most conventionally-hot, sample-sized version of yourself. In her new novel The Regulars, Georgia Clark uses this premise to keenly examine beauty standards while leading readers through a taut, dynamic, and entertaining parade of bittersweet plot points.
A banana meringue inspired by One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez.
Usually when a book is good we say “you can’t put it down.” This is reserved for books that you miss your subway stop for, that you stay up all night reading, and that you inhale in twenty-four hours and tell all your friends to read. But on very rare occasions I have read a book so good I had to put it down; had to read it slowly, savor it, come up for air. Of those books, One Hundred Years of Solitude was the most difficult, it took me two false starts and almost a year of off-and-on reading to finally get through it. But there is a truth and vitality to it that reaches into the small, scared, vulnerable, utterly human part of you, grips you buy the soul, and drags into the vibrant depths of its emotion.
An ice cream tart with a potato chip, pretzel, and cracker crust inspired by Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, part two (tart two!) of a two-pie special!
You can read about my old gods pie, a beet and pork pasty, over here.
When my sister was in high school she used to make these outrageous baked goods, lining glassware baking pans with store bought cookie dough, plopping a layer of Oreos on top, and then covering it in brownie batter. Her junk food Frankenstein monsters were a huge hit at pep rallies and bake sales, but there was always an element of fear and awe, the quiet knowledge that these things were probably killing you softly. For the second half of my American Gods pie I followed her lead and created something I’ve been casually referring to as “Trash Tart” for the past few weeks.
A strawberry rhubarb pie inspired by Alice Hoffman’s The Red Garden and Practical Magic.
I’ve been reading Alice Hoffman’s work since I was a preteen, starting with her YA novel Aquamarine when I was about twelve. From there I’ve grown with her heroines whispering in my ear. Because of her subject matter and the high volume, I think some people write Hoffman’s work off as upmarket women’s fiction. If that’s the case, I would like to see more of that genre with her bravery, literary craft, and flair, please.
Ginger and honey margarita pie with a saltine crust, inspired by Annihilation, by Jeff VanderMeer
I was irrationally afraid of everything short of my own shadow as a kid. This still holds true in some ways; I prefer subtlety to gore and sensationalism doesn’t play with me. But somewhere along the way I peeked out from between my fingers and realized that I could learn the narrative patterns of grotesque stories. I realized that by arming myself with knowledge things became less scary (like allowing my eyes to adjust to the dark) and I found that familiar problems seem intriguing in the light of the uncanny.
So I consider myself pretty adept at predicting where a story is headed. With that in mind, I want to tell you that Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation is utterly unpredictable and kept me awake at night. Unable to put it down at first, and unable to sleep once I did, it sent ice down my spine on more than one occasion.
A raspberry lemonade icebox meringue, inspired by Pierce Brown’s Red Rising Trilogy (or at least the first two books). When I recommended Red Rising to my friends, I said things like, “it is so good, you have to read it!” But when I tell people about the recently-released Golden Son, the second book of Pierce Brown’s action-packed trilogy (Morning Star to come), I simply deadpan: “it’s orgasmic.” Vivid, rich, and with pacing as sharp as a razor’s edge, this is definitely one of those series I will be recommending for years to come.
A cognac crème brûlée tart inspired by Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita.
Magical realism is probably my favorite genre; I like how introducing the fantastic into an existing political or social context engages both my imagination and my (somewhat pretentious) analytical sensibilities. I think in spite of unusual occurrences in Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, most people would describe it as a satire or political novel before they would call it a fantasy. But I think it is both, and so much more besides!
I wasn’t a very strong reader as a kid and it was hard for me to find books that I found engaging. J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit bridged the gap between the casual reading of popular literature, and a lifetime literary obsession. I discovered a whole genre, a lineage, of fantasy and a way of thinking I had thought particular to me. Disappearing inside this world, which was somehow the joint creation of a man thirty years gone and of my own imagination, was magical.
A variation on hunter or shepherd’s pie; a savory lamb pie inspired by The House on the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods, by Matt Bell.
When you crave “green space” in New York City, you head to a park where hundreds of other sweaty (often shirtless) people are fighting for a place to lay their picnic blanket. The operative word for most people is “green;” that desire to get out, get a little sun, and wiggle their toes in cigarette-butt-studded grass. Throw a Frisbee around. For me it is the opposite. When I crave trees and running water, what I really need is the space. I love being alone in the woods with nothing but leaves and rotten logs and spider webs strung between blades of long grass. Give me a lake! God, the things I can do with a lake.
So when I read the title of Matt Bell’s The House on the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods I thought, “that sounds like a house I’d want to live in.” I was grossly, painfully, disturbingly wrong.
Pumpkin spice hand pies inspired by the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling.
It’s almost Halloween; goblins, ghouls, and ghosts are abroad in the muggle world. If you’re like me then you’ve done your apple picking, your pumpkin hunting, and your woodland hiking. But at the end of a long day of jumping in leaf piles, you need something a little sweet to go with that cup of hot apple cider. I wanted to get this recipe out before that particular flavor of witchy October magic passes, while there’s still time to curl up with a pumpkin beer before we start mulling cider and delving into winter holiday territory. So here it is! This one goes out to anyone who spent their preteens waiting for their Hogwarts letter.